Useful Tips for Your First Visit to New York City

As the late Frank Sinatra sings, in “New York, New York”: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

Visiting a city for the first time can be a bit overwhelming – and much more if it’s a megacity like New York City.

You’ll feel literally small while looking up at the skyscrapers in Manhattan. The traffic jams can be mind-boggling, and anywhere is ridiculously overcrowded. It is the city that never sleeps – and neither can you. The cost of living in New York City can take you aback, if not totally shock you. New Yorkers have the reputation of being crass and rude – but is it really true, or do the movies and television only portray them as such?

But despite the inconveniences that can really annoy you – and come on, no city is perfect – New York City still has a lot of great and amazing things to offer to tourists. You only have to know your way to make past those inconveniences and still manage to enjoy the best things from this big, bustling, and dynamic city.

Visiting a place is always a learning experience, and New York City will give you lots of it. We have gathered tips from tourists who have experienced the Big Apple first hand, and you will find them indispensable once you’ve landed there.

1. Wear comfortable (but stylish) shoes

person walking and wearing red Nike shoes

This is crucial. If you still have a few more vacation days left to spare, chances are you’re going to pack your schedule as much sightseeing as you can. It also means you’ll do a lot of walking, which is one of the best ways to appreciate New York City.

2. Be careful when you’re booking Airbnb

Airbnb app and apartment interiors

In New York City (most of it, anyway), it is considered illegal to advertise or rent an entire lodging (such as an apartment) for less than 30 days, unless the host is present and there are one or two guests.

If you decide to rent an apartment room, be extra careful. You have to make sure that the host is present first before renting one. So, for example, if you’re renting one room but if the host has rented other rooms and is not present there, it could be illegal as well.

But likely, you don’t want to risk it and find it safer to book a hotel room instead. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that you cannot stay where you’ve planned to stay, or worse, you have to move out of your lodging. That is why hotels make a better option than vacation rentals in New York City.

3. Be aware of where you’re going

black and white photo of people sitting in front of a moving train

Films, television shows, and even first-hand accounts of the tourists themselves who have been to New York City paint New Yorkers as rude and uncouth. Perhaps some tourists have a general impression that New Yorkers are actually pretty friendly, or at least, civil. Others, though, have sworn never to return to New York because of the people there. Even so, the locals do not hesitate to express their displeasure at the presence of tourists. But at least, you’ve gained a fair idea about what to expect from the average New Yorker.

4. Do not rent a car

person behind a steering wheel

You do not need to rent a car in New York City as it has a good and efficient transportation system. Take the cab, the bus, an Uber, or the subway when necessary. There’s so much to see and visit in New York City that you don’t want to get stuck in a car. Besides, parking there doesn’t come cheap, and you don’t want to waste your time looking for an available space in an almost-full parking lot. Remember — you come to New York City to relax and enjoy, not to get stressed!

5. Use navigation apps

using navigation app on an iPad

We’re fortunate to travel in this day and age because of mobile apps, particularly navigation apps. You’ll find almost everything that you’re looking for literally in the palm of your hands! You definitely don’t want to leave your apartment room or hotel suite without Google Maps and a stable Internet connection. Honestly, navigation apps can save you from so much trouble that it would be a sin not to use them!

6. Find a hotel in a convenient area

cars in front of a large building

You may save some cash if you find a place to stay in New York City’s outskirts, but it’s just not worth it. Especially if you’re staying for a week or a few days, you don’t want to waste your vacation time away by getting to and from the city.

A hotel is basically a place where you will rest, relax, refresh and change clothes before going out to your next itinerary. There’s a lot of walking involved, too, so there’s a good chance that you will want to refresh and rest for a few hours before going out in the night. And at the end of the day, you’ll feel exhausted, so the last thing you’d want to do is to commute to the outskirts to get back to your hotel.

It’s nice to be close to your hotel so that you won’t have to subject yourself to expensive cab rides. Choose a hotel that’s in the heart of the city (or close to it). It’s also convenient to rent a place that’s close to the transportation hub, such as the subway station.

7. Don’t ignore tourist passes and subway cards!

yellow MetroCard

If your main goal of visiting New York City is to see as many places as possible, the tourist passes will be your best bet. The admission prices for tourist spots in the city can add up quite fast. With a New York tourist pass handy, you can save money and skip a few long lines.

If you’re planning to do a lot of subway rides, it’s highly recommended to get a seven-day unlimited Metro Card (which is different and separate from tourist pass cards).

8. You don’t have to fall in line at the TKTS booths to get cheap Broadway tickets

theaters on Broadway Street

If one of your purposes of visiting New York City is to see plays and live shows on Broadway, you don’t have to suffer through long lines at the TKTS booths for the discounted tickets. Try to stay open to seeing any Broadway shows, and there are good ones, too. You can log in to a website, use an app, or join clubs (such as Groupon) to be able to score last-minute Broadway tickets at incredible prices.

9. Research places to eat

burger at a food truck

New York City is a melting pot of different cultures. Thus, you will find a wide variety of cuisines there, from Italian to Southeast Asian. But New York City is also notoriously expensive. When you go to a restaurant or a fast-food place, usually the prices displayed on the menu are pre-tax prices, meaning they’re not the final prices you see and you have to add up on the tax as you order your food.

To make the most out of your money while enjoying the quintessential New York cuisine, do your research ahead of time on the places you want to eat. Try food from the side-street vendors and food trucks, too – you’ll be surprised to find lots of choices there! In New York, locals lining up at the front of food trucks are a pretty familiar sight.

And don’t forget to save room for dessert!

10. Always pay attention – especially when crossing the street

people crossing the street in Manhattan

Drivers in New York City can be quite aggressive, so you really need to pay attention. You don’t always have to trail the person who’s crossing the street ahead of you. It’s still best to follow the traffic lights to stay on the safe side.