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New York City: 5 Things Every Traveler Should Know

New York City Times Square

New York City: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere — here are my five tips to help you do just that:

In This New York Article You Will Discover:

  • Vital Tips for a NYC Vacation
  • Insider Information to Make Your Trip Go Smoothly
  • And More!

For any tourist who doesn’t hail from Sao Paulo, Tokyo or Mexico City, the size and scope of New York City can be overwhelming. It is one of the world’s quintessential metropoli, and also one of the most dynamic, exciting and breathtaking vacation destinations on the planet. If you’re heading to New York City, here are five things you need to know before you go:

The Subway is Easy-Ish

New Yorkers or the regular NYC visitor will claim the subway system in New York is so easy to navigate a monkey could do it. Credit where credit is due — for the world’s largest underground system it is easy-ish, but my first item for the traveler is: do not underestimate confusion caused the subway. Standing at Times Square/42 Street, be sure you understand whether you’re boarding the 1, 2 or 3 train, for example, as some of these units will stop at virtually every block and some are express trains that will take you dozens of blocks past your intended stop in the blink of an eye — sometimes even right into the Burroughs. The N, Q and R trains run on the same line, and seem to go to the same place. Do they? Better find out… Furthermore, don’t expect to see a subway station everywhere you look when roaming the streets. There are 468 of them — but that can often be like finding a needle in the massive, Manhattan haystack. Final thought: Use the subway, but pack a map.

Taxi Drivers Prefer Plastic

Unlike virtually every taxi I’ve ever set foot in, New York City cab drivers seem to prefer you pay with plastic. Some even add a surcharge when paying with cash! Perhaps the reason is so they aren’t required to carry change, limiting robbery chances, but regardless, plastic is the easiest way to pay for a New York cab ride. NYC taxis are outfitted with digital terminals in the backseat — simply slide your card, add the tip and you’re out the door, faster and easier than cash. It’s better for you — and for the cabbie.

The Museums Are Massive

…And so is everything else. For many visitors, though, strolling through iconic museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the American Museum of Natural History, The Frick Collection and others are the reason for an NYC vacation. Here’s my first tip: each museum is a day in itself. Don’t even think about planning a “museum day,” where you hit two or more. These places are huge, and even if you can rush through the Met and the MoMA in one day, you’ll be too exhausted to appreciate them. (Second tip: many admission prices are “suggested donations” only. Feel free to pay only what you can afford.)

Shop The Fringes

New York is a shoppers’ paradise. From the 2.2 million square-foot Macy’s department store on 34th Street, the Sacks Fifth Avenue, to SOHO… you can wander the streets for weeks, maxing out every credit card you own. But here’s a tip, while Macy’s on 34th street is worth a visit for any Miracle on 34th Street film fan (who isn’t?), it’s really just a department store like any other and shops in popular areas like SOHO can disappoint. Why? Because chains like American Eagle, The Gap, Puma, Quicksilver and more dominate the landscape — and we all have those stores in our local malls. If you want a real NY shopping experience, search out vintage stores on Christopher Street or boutiques in the East and West Villages. Leave the Gap for when you get home.

How to Get a Broadway Best Buy

My ultimate recommendation for New York City is to take in a Broadway Show. Seems obvious, but there are many among us who don’t fancy themselves a fan of musical theatre, and who may pass on this. Don’t — I’m no great lover of musicals and I absolutely loved Promises, Promises. Broadway shows are some of the finest entertainment in the world; I’ve never heard of a disappointed customer. Speaking of customers — the tickets are a tad pricey. Lower-priced seats ($75 or less) are usually snapped up uber-quickly, leaving only the best seats ($140-plus) left for the tourist. My tip? Find the TKTS booth at the South Street Seaport (or Times Square, but that one is very busy) and you can buy half-price day-of tickets for nighttime shows and day-before for matinees. The only catch is that they sell the expensive seats, so half-price still can mean $65 to $80 per, but trust me… it’s a steal, and you can sit smugly knowing the rube to your left probably paid double.

Now get into that Empire State of Mind!

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

3 comments… add one
  • Noseenjoync Oct 3, 2010 Link

    Hello new member in acrossandabroad.com community.
    Happy to become member of this boards

    PS Mod: Help take away this thread if it isn’t the right place this category:

  • KBG Sep 26, 2010 Link

    Just a quick note. For the record I am NOT an NYC cab driver. The author says cabbies prefer credit cards. That is NOT the case. They lose 5-10% on every credit card transaction. On top of what the card issuer takes cabbies pay usurious fees for the use of the credit machine. It’s certainly convenient but don’t fool yourself. Truth be told I use my card 95% of the time but I add 10-15% to the typical tip to make up for the loss. It’s only fair. They work just like the rest of us. This is no different than paying your restaurant bill on credit and leaving the tip in cash.

  • NYC Guy Sep 21, 2010 Link

    NYC Subway – Like J-lo says… “ride the 6”!!!

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