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Top Tips for Visiting New York City

New York City is high on the travel bucket list of many people. However, there’s so much to do and see, it can be an overwhelming and intimidating trip. People worry about seeing everything, get put off by the crowds, or fall into the overrated tourist traps and miss the real New York experience. Here are the top tips for a dream trip to New York City. Travel restrictions are still changing with the ongoing Covid-19 situation, so make sure you check on the current rules and recommendations before you travel. Make sure you have your vaccines or negative test proof that you need, as well as your regular passport, Esta America, and other travel paperwork.

Don’t be Afraid to Wander 

New York City is a safe city to be a tourist in. It used to be that tourists were warned not to venture into certain areas, such as onto the Lower East Side. Now, however, almost all of Manhattan is considered to be safe to explore. It is still a large, urban city, so do use your common sense and keep your wits about you, such as not walking alone at night, and keeping your valuables out of sight while you’re walking around. Most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid system, and there are very few hills, so it’s very easy to walk and find your way around. Walking around the city could be a real highlight of your trip, with lots of buildings, sights, and people to see on every corner.

Take the Train 

The New York subway system is very old, but the trains are still pretty fast and very well-marked. In fact, the subway is often a better choice for getting around the city than a cab, especially if you're trying to cross the city or are travelling during the morning and evening rush hours. The subway runs 24 hours a day, but if you’re travelling alone, you might feel more comfortable taking a cab if you’re travelling late at night, although many New Yorkers do use the subway at all hours. If the subway seems confusing to you, you can use HopStop to work out which line you should take to get to where you’re going quickest. Just keep in mind that there can be a lot of routes that are closed for maintenance or get re-routed, especially on weekends. You can check the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s website to get any updates on subway routes. If you’re in New York for a few days, get the 7-day unlimited MetroCard. This is bound to be cheaper than spending $2 every time you get on the train. 

Eat Dinner Early or Late 

Most New Yorkers go out to eat between 8 and 10pm. If you want to eat in the restaurants that are popular with the locals, it’s a good idea to make a reservation at least a week in advance for most places. For the most popular spots, like Babbo or Daniel, you may need to book up to a month in advance to guarantee a table. Thursday through to Saturday are the busiest, so you might have more luck getting a table between Sunday and Wednesday. If you haven’t booked anything, you could try calling the restaurant a couple of days in advance and try to reserve a table for either before 7pm or after 10.30pm. This gives you a better chance of getting a table, even at busier places. Some of the hottest food spots in New York, like Momofuku, don’t take bookings at all. If you want to eat here, you’ll have to queue up outside!

Eat in Different Places 

New York has an incredibly diverse range of cuisines. With all the different foods on offer, it would be a shame to stick to the tourist neighbourhoods or the same chain restaurants that you have at home. Instead, try to go into some of the different neighbourhoods around the city to find affordable, delicious, and authentic food. In Jackson Heights in Queens, you can fund top-rated Indian food. In Little Cairo, you can eat Egyptian food, which is often hard to find. In Astoria, there are also lots of classic Greek restaurants. For authentic Italian, skip the tourist trap of Little Italy and instead eat on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. In Harlem, you can find incredible soul food. If you love trying new food, you can book a guided neighbourhood food tour to make sure you hit all the best spots and try all the best local dishes. 

Scout Out Smaller Shops 

New York is known as one of the fashion capitals of the world, so if you like fashion, you’re sure to spend some money on clothes, shoes, and accessories while you’re there, unless your willpower is very strong! However, make sure you don’t stick to the popular shopping destinations of SoHo and Fifth Avenue. Both of these are worth visiting, as they have a lot of classic New York charm, but they shouldn’t be your only destination. SoHo is known for its beautiful 19th-century cast iron buildings and Fifth Avenue is famous for its elegant department stores. As well as these popular spots, you should also venture onto the Lower East Side where you will find some smaller boutiques selling clothes by local designers, and new and vintage pieces that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. You can also find some excellent shops in some of the downtown neighbourhoods, such as the West Village, the East Village and Nolita. For something a bit different, head across the river to shop in the artsy district of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

Do Broadway On A Budget 

The prices for Broadway tickets are getting higher each year. If you want to see a popular show, you’ll have a hard time finding anything much below $100 a ticket. However, there are a couple of different ways to find cheaper tickets, so you can see a show without blowing the budget. Look for mailing lists that share details of discounted tickets and cheaper advance tickets, so you can find savings for both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. On the day of the performance, you can also buy tickets for the same day for very discounted prices at a TKTS Discount Booth, if you’re willing to risk not getting your first choice of show. The location on South St Seaport is usually quieter than the ones in Times Square, so you can spend less time queuing. This location also sells tickets for matinees, the day before, not just on the same day. If there is a particular show that you really want to see though, buy your tickets as far in advance as you can, and be prepared to spend a fair bit of money. If your show has sold out, you might be able to find tickets online from a ticket broker where people sell extra seats or sell on tickets they can no longer use. 

See Some Live Music 

You can listen to musicians of all kinds, in all kinds of venues, on just about every night of the week in New York, whether you want to listen to classical music in Carnegie Hall, or rock clubs and jazz bars in areas like Brooklyn. There are lots of listing sites where you can find out what’s going on, depending on the genre you like. Many of these concerts are free to attend, especially during the summer.


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