Visiting New York City: 7 Practical Tips
Here’s a short list of practical tips on how to make the most of your time in New York City.
NEW YORK PASS
If this is your first visit, we suggest getting yourself the New York Pass. It includes over 100 attractions, which is way more than you will be able to visit, unless you really want to set this as a challenge! It will save you money, for sure, if you intend to tick all the main NYC highlights off your bucket list - Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, MoMa, The Metropolitan Museum of Art + a lot of other great things you might not have thought of first, like the Brooklyn Museum, Sex Museum, Coney Island. We even went on the super touristy Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing buses for the first time, since it was included in the price, to save our legs and it was worth the experience.
Be smart about planning your time though to make the most out of it. We booked the pass for 5 days so we had to organise ourselves beforehand to make sure we packed in as much as we could.
I think most travellers have found themselves in a situation where they arrive at their destination before the check-in time or it’s the last day of the trip and after the check-out are left to carry their heavy luggage around. So minding your bags is pretty much all the activity you will have for the day. Luckily, we found a NYC based company, Vertoe. To put it simply, it’s sort of an AirBnb for your bags. You can search for the most convenient location for you on the map (there are about 100+ of them) and leave your bags there. The locations can be very random such as souvenir shops, a local convenience store etc. We were very sceptical at first and thought it sounded a bit dodgy but after reading great reviews we decided to put the fate of our luggage in the hands of some people working at a photography studio. We paid online which was so easy and convenient, and it’s a flat rate of $5.95 per day/per item. It was the best decision and our last day in New York was saved! (This is not an ad, in case you’re wondering).
TIPPING & COINS
You have most likely heard the rules of tipping in this city (about 15-20% of your bill) but one thing we learned is that they do not accept coins at some, if not all, bars. Maybe it was a one-off experience that only happened to us but we accidentally ended up paying way less for our drinks as the bar staff would not accept our coins. Use it to your advantage at your own risk, or take it as a warning, some bars do not accept coins so keep them for the metro card machines.
We found subway to be the best way to get around the city. A single ride is $2.75 / 7 day MetroCard is $32.00, see more information on fares here. Be aware that there will be planned closures on the weekends and look out for the informational posters.
We had heard so many horror stories of riding the subway and @subwaycreatures is pretty much our favourite thing on instagram but really it was disappointingly uneventful. Hope you have better luck with that!
WANDER OUTSIDE OF MANHATTAN
Explore as many NYC boroughs and neighbourhoods as you can. We have compiled our own quick lists of neighbourhoods worth visiting or breezing through. Check out our guide to Brooklyn here.
FREE THINGS TO DO
Save your dollars and see what’s FREE. New York is expensive but there are plenty of things to do and places to explore that won’t cost you a thing. Why not spend a rainy (or not) day in a museum, such as National Museum of the American Indian which is completely free to visit or even MoMA, for which you usually have to pay, offers free entry every Friday after 4pm. A lot of must-see places, such as Grand Central Station and New York Public Library are free for you to access as well.
I you want to avoid queues and hordes of tourists headed to Ellis Island and get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty for absolutely free, you can take the Staten Island Ferry.
The ferry runs 24/7 every 15-20 min during rush hour on weekdays or every 30 min after that/on weekends. The trip one way takes about 25 min. When you board the ferry in Manhattan, go on to your right hand side, that’s where you’ll get the best view the Lady Liberty.
You’re welcome! And now you can save some dollars to spend on vegan pizza and drinks - see what we ate and drank here.
We are not here to patronise anyone, we know you know how to book hostels or use Airbnb so just take this as life advice (maybe?) from 2 very mature and seasoned travellers. Avoid booking (expensive) accommodation while in a pub getting a few drinks in, even though it might be already your tradition at this point.
Might be really obvious but Airbnb does this weird thing that it keeps resetting the search filters (or maybe we need to reset our brains after a few pints, it’s one or the other) so we ended up booking a beautiful and quite pricey penthouse apartment that we realised, only when we arrived, was only a small room and and with a live in landlady… It was a great apartment and rooftops views were worth it but we really wanted some privacy and avoid awkward encounters when rocking up at the apartment at 7am after a night out.
Also, if you leave it quite late, we don’t really have to say it again but New York is an expensive city, your options might be limited. It might be possible to save some money by staying on the other side of Hudson river in Jersey City. We did that for the first few days of our trip (also very convenient if you are landing in Newark Liberty International Airport) and it a relatively short ride away from NYC by PATH train.