25 Travel Tips to Know Before Visiting New York City

25 Important Travel Tips You Need to Know Before Visiting New York City

So you’re visiting New York City? Nervous about your first time being in the Big Apple? Well, it’s a good thing you stumbled on this article because today I am going to tell you the most important travel tips you need to know before visiting New York City!

Yep, that’s right, so wipe your worries away knowing these 25 tips come from a local New Yorker with a mission of helping you experience the best of NYC (without looking like a tourist)! And even if you still look a little bit like a tourist, that’s totally ok!

My favorite New York City Travel tips is to get outside of the city and to Brooklyn
New York City Travel Tips

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links where I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

1. NYC is Best Navigated by Public Transportation

If you didn’t know, now you know the best way to get around NYC is by good ol’ fashioned public transportation! Traffic in NYC is insane, I kid you not. You can be stuck at the same traffic light for over 10 minutes and driving through Times Square…kill me!

SOOO while in NYC make sure to get familiar with navigating the NYC Subway here!

Canal Street NYC Train Station
Canal Street Subway Station

2. Don’t Rent A Car

This brings me to number 2 of my NYC travel tips, DO NOT rent a car in New York City! As I mentioned before, the traffic in NYC is horrible, there is nowhere to park, and if you find a garage, it’s super expensive! Also, drivers in the city are crazy!

Additionally, because NYC traffic is so bad, you can usually get to your destination faster by walking or taking the subway.

Besides Google Maps app, you can also use Citymapper for the subway.

3. See Times Square, but Don’t eat in Times Square

As a first-timer in the Big Apple, Times Square is a must-see, but do not, I repeat DO NOT eat in Times Square! It’s over-priced for subpar food! Think about restaurants in your hometown city. The biggest tourist attractions tend to have meh food.

There can be some exclusions like Carmines, but overall, I’d choose to eat elsewhere.

In the Center of Time Square NYC
Times Square NYC

4. Don’t Eat at Chain Restaurants

This brings me to my next point, avoid eating at a chain restaurant (unless it’s Eataly or a famous 5-star restaurant)! NYC is known to be a culinary gem with tons of amazing places to eat that are NOT Red Lobster, Fridays, Olive Garden, or Planet Hollywood.

Also if you do plan to eat at a nice restaurant, remember to make a reservation!

Some top restaurants to eat at in NYC include:

  • Peter Lugers: AMAZING and Famous Steak House in Williamsburg (Only accept cash).
  • Carbone (Italian)
  • Old Homestead Steakhouse in Meatpacking
  • Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse – Nice during the holidays
  • Tutto il Giorno: Italian in Meatpacking District
  • Pietro Nolita: Italian and Instagrammable
  • Katz’s Delicatessen: Classic Jewish Deli
  • Chelsea Market
  • Stone Street – Nice during summer days
  • Catch NYC

When choosing a place to eat, also make sure to look for an “A” rating in the window. This “A” rating means that the board of health believes this is a clean establishment!

A New York City Travel tips is to eat at an authentic restaurant likePeter Luger Steak house

5. Pizza, Bagels and Egg Sandwiches are Life

Now that I’m incredibly hungry you should know that Pizza, Bagels, and Egg Sandwiches are like a religion for us New Yorkers! As a first-timer in New York City, it is important for you to not leave NYC without having these necessities!

Pizza is generally sold by the slice and there are so many different slices to choose from! OH, and if you don’t want people staring at you like you are an alien, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, eat your pizza with a fork and knife! Just sayin.

Pizza is meant to be folded down the middle if it’s a triangle slice. If it’s a square slice just hold it in your hands!

Also, we call a cheese slice a plain or regular slice in New York (but they’ll understand if you say cheese).

When it comes to bagels, you won’t find any better than in New York! Enjoy a big giant fluffy bagel with loads of different cream cheese spreads or have an egg sandwich! The secret to NY bagels is actually our soft water.

The most popular egg sandwich is a bacon, egg, and cheese (BEC), however for my vegetarians, I usually get egg white, spinach, and mozzarella cheese. My favorite bagel place in NYC is Brooklyn Bagels in Chelsea.

Some Pizza Spots are:

  • 2 Bros (super cheap) – if you’re on a budget
  • Joes Pizza – One of the Best
  • L&B Spumoni Gardens – if you’re in Brooklyn
  • Ignacio’s – if you crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. They have really good personal pies

6. Tipping is Important

As a girl who was a waitress in NYC trying to pay my way through college, I can’t stress this enough. And I know this can be annoying but, unfortunately,  business owners refuse to pay restaurant workers a normal living wage, therefore they have to live off tips.

Traveling through Europe and Asia where there is basically no tipping, it’s a huge change.

Tipping is generally 15-20% of the bill. If the tip was already included, it will say so on the recipe!

7. New Yorkers Aren’t Really Rude

Hear me out! For some reason, New York has this image of being full of rude people, but that’s really not the case! If you were to ask for help from a “stable” looking human on the streets, most people will be more than happy to help you!

In general New Yorkers are just in a rush, overworked, and stressed. Kinda sad right? Also with so many people crowded in the city, it’s just easier to not make eye contact with people.

New Yorkers do have some pet-peeves that could bring some rudeness out, but as long as you know these New York City travel tips, you shouldn’t run into any trouble!

8. Sidewalks Have Their Own Traffic Rules

So as I just mentioned before, New Yorkers tend to be in a rush and the city is crowded, therefore, sidewalks need to run optimally!

Firstly, never, never, ever just stop walking if you are on a busy sidewalk! You would basically be like a car, blocking all the traffic for no reason. If you must stop, find a place off to the side or up against a wall.

Also, you will realize the sidewalks will have 2 lanes of people traffic. Make sure you stay on your right side, and if you are not walking fast, make that all the way to the right!

If you are in a big group, do not take up the whole sidewalk by lining up next to each other.

When walking the streets of NYC, just strut confidently down the sidewalk and you will blend right in!

When you travel to New York City, another tip to know is that sidewalks have their own traffic rules

9. Real New Yorkers Don’t Wait for Walk Signs

I love taking people to NYC and crossing the street. The usual reaction is OMG what are you doing?! But in NYC, we cross the street at the intersection when no cars are coming no matter what color the light is.

Also, New Yorkers stand a few feet in the street while waiting for the cars to finish passing. No, we don’t have a death wish, we clearly just have no patience!

If you do wait for the walk sign and stand on the sidewalk while waiting, New Yorkers will immediately know you are a likely a tourist.

Of course, if you don’t feel safe, its totally fine to just wait for the walk sign. I would never want anything bad to happen to you!

10. Beware of Buses, Cabs and the Bike Path

Add buses, Cabs, and bikes to your growing list of New York City travel tips! When I say beware of buses, taxis, or even bikes it might not be what you think!

These people are like drunk drivers swerving down the street! I can’t even count how many times I’ve almost seen accidents with their crazy driving! And you best watch out for that bike path because they will run you over!

New York City Travel Tips - beware of Buses, cabs and bike lanes
Times Square Subway Station

11. Finding Bathrooms Can Be Difficult if You’re Not a Customer

If you are in need of a bathroom, it’s best to use one at the next restaurant you eat at. Most places will not allow you to use the bathroom unless you are a customer.

However, some free places you can find bathrooms are at Starbucks and at Penn station in the Long Island Railroad terminal or New Jersey Amtrak. They may not be the cleanest, but when ya gotta go, ya gotta go!

I’ve also heard others recommend just walking into a hotel like you own the place and they likely won’t question you, but I’ve never tried this one!

12. NYC is Dirty

I hate to say it but it’s true. NYC is dirrrtyyy! You will never catch me touching anything without a bottle of Purell! I’d avoid touching rails, especially in the subway!

Also, don’t be surprised if some streets smell like total garbage. Sorry guys, but this is just the reality of a big city.

New York City Travel Tips - The City is dirty and there is usually a lot of construction
Famous Manhattan Bridge shot

13. Avoid Empty Subway Cars

Picture this, you swipe your metro card, wait at the platform, and see this empty subway car pulling up. You think YES, now I don’t have to bump shoulders with strangers!

But what you actually get is a car with no air-conditioner, smells of a dirty locker room mixed with urine, and has what appears to be an unstable individual.

Now you know why you need to avoid empty Subway Cars! Is this always the case, NO, but its always best to just follow the crowd in this instance!

14. Avoid Tourist Traps

I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, well obviously I know to avoid tourist traps, but what are they! Some of the most common tourist traps in NYC are people trying to sell you anything on the street.

Whether it be tickets to a comedy show to see Kevin Hart for $10 bucks, “Real” Lous Vuitton bags for $20, free entry to places, it’s likely a scam.

The bags are never real and the tickets are usually fake.

Walking through Times Square and they pull you in for a picture? I can promise you it’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. After the photo, they will harass you for a tip. Just tell randos walking up to you on the street No Thanks!

15. To my lady travelers – Don’t be Surprised if you’re Cat Called

To all my ladies! Unfortunately, men in NYC think its totally ok to whistle, call you names and try and stop you to talk and it’s totally not ok, however, I haven’t figured out a way to stop it.

I simply put my stunna shades on and walk by like I don’t have a care in the world and I can’t hear what anyone says!

If you are walking by a construction site, it’s way more likely to happen.

16. Use Bank ATM’s

Want identity theft? I think not! Therefore, it’s safest to withdraw money from a bank ATM. Some of the most common banks you will see around New York City are Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, TD, and Capital One.

Just avoid those random ATMs in the back of a shack of a store! While we are on the subject, credit cards are widely accepted around NYC. It is pretty rare to not have a credit card option in the city.

Empire State Building in New York City
Empire State Building from the Highline

17. Learn Your NYC Street Terminology

You can’t visit New York City without knowing some NYC slang and how to not get looked at with 100 heads.

How New Yorkers Give an Address

When New Yorkers give an address, we generally give the cross streets instead of a full address unless its a super popular destination like Times Square or Rockefeller Center.

So for example, if I was at the Fashion Institue of Technology I’d say I’m on 7th and 27th street or I’m on 27th between 7th and 8th ave. Once you look at a map, it will make more sense!

New York City is called “the City”!

Another one of my favorite New York City travel tips is when people ask you where you are, you say the City! We don’t call “the City” NYC or Manhattan, just plain and simply the City!

New York Travel Skyline

Learn the Way the Streets Run

The City basically runs on a grid  North and South and East to West. There aren’t many curving streets. Also, just about every street and avenue are one-way streets. They switch directions every other street/avenue mostly.

For the most part, it’s all numerically numbered. The further up you go, the higher the numbers. The further down you go, the lower the numbers until you get downtown and it turns into street names.

On the West Side, the Avenues will be the highest, and going towards the East the Avenue numbers will go down.

East Side, West Side Uptown, Downtown

Speaking of navigation, there’s the Westside, Eastside, and Downtown or Uptown. There’s no North and South when explaining where you are or going. For some reason, we couldn’t make it simple and needed to change up the lingo.

The Meaning of a Block

When a person tells you your destination is a couple of blocks down, blocks are streets. So if you walk down from one street, 28th to 27th, that is one block.

View of the Empire State Building in New York City
View of the Empire State Building by Penn Station

18. Diners are Best for Breakfast and Lunch Food

You cant visit New York City without going to at least one diner. Believe it or not, Diners cant be found in many places around the USA.

So when you sit down at the diner, it’s important to know while diners serve dinner food, diners are best for breakfast and lunch foods!

Another cool thing about dinners is that the menu is pretty customizable! You can switch from regular eggs to egg whites, change any of the fillings to your melted, the sides, or even cheese!

However, they may charge additional for the substitutes but at least you can get exactly what you want.

And Diners are usually open 24/7 for those midnight snacks!

19. Shoe Game is Important

I get you to want to look stylish while walking the streets of New York City, but this might be one of the more important travel tips. I urge you to wear comfortable shoes because you are going to be walking A LOT!

If you want cuter shoes for photos, I’d suggest throwing them in your bag to change out!

Soho , NYC instagrammable photo location at Pietro Nolita
Comfy shoes are important! This is outside Pietro Nolita Italian Restaurant! It’s also a super Insta-Worthy Spot!

20. Make Sure to Get Outside the City

When people travel to New York City, they forget there is more to New York than just the city so my tip to you is to get out of the city!

Whether you hang out in Williamsburg Brooklyn for Shmorgasburg, Dumbo, Brooklyn after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, go wine or hit the beaches in Long Island, it’s worth getting out of the city!

While there is really no place like the City, New York does have tons of other awesome things to do!

New York City Travel Tips - Get outside NYC and head to Williamsburg Brooklyn
Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Shmorgasburg

21. Check Out at Least 1 Sky deck

This is probably more of a tourist thing to do, but the views on a Sky deck are really incredible! As a local, I can’t believe it took me so long to go to the Top of the Rock (my fav!).

So yea, make it to a sky deck whether it be Top of the Rock, One World Trade, Empire State Building, or The Edge (very new and exciting)!

Learn more about Sky Decks in my Best things to do in NYC Guide!

Views from the Top of The Rock
Top of the Rock Sky Deck

22. Don’t Rule Out an NYC Sightseeing or City Pass

If you are planning on seeing a lot of NYC’s attractions, I’d consider looking into the NYC Sightseeing or NYC City Pass. If you didn’t already know, NYC is extremely expensive! By getting one of these passes, you should be able to save some considerable dough!

Deciding on which pass really depends on what you want to see and how long you plan to stay. Each pass offers different attractions so you can pick the one that checks most of your boxes! NYC Sightseeing Pass Here | NYC City Pass Here

23. Visit at Least One Museum

I know museums can be expensive but if you travel to New York City, my tip is to make it happen! Whether that be the MET, the MOMA, etc, it’s worth it. Sometimes museums even offer free entry. Learn more about free museum days here!

24. See a Broadway Play

If you have time in your itinerary, make sure you hit Broadway! It’s a spectacular experience and sometimes you can even get a discount on the tickets!

Now if you want to see the top plays, getting a discount is rather hard, but you can always show to the box office early or checking with a TDF location.

25. Take Advantage of Free things to do in NYC

And finally, one of my favorite New York City Travel tips is to take advantage of all the free things the City has to offer! Food alone can cost you an arm and a leg so this is your chance to save your budget a little while still seeing tons of the City!

So, check out my 18 totally awesome things to do in NYC here!

New York City Travel Tips - Make sure to take advantage of free things to do in the City such as crossing the Brooklyn Bridge
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is free to do!
View inside the NYC Vessel
Climbing the Vessel is free, but you need a ticket! Check out my 18 free things to do in NYC for details!

Additional Travel Tips to Know in NYC

With all of this being said, one of the most common things people wonder about New York City (especially first-timers) is if New York City is safe. Just like any big city, it is important to watch your surroundings.

I lived, went to school, and worked in New York City for 5 years and have been a New Yorker for over 12 years and I haven’t had a problem yet. Thankfully pick-pocketing is not that popular (unlike many big European Cities).

In general, I’ve always felt pretty safe. The one big caution I’d take is to not walk alone late at night. Additionally, neighborhoods like Chelsea, Midtown, Soho, Central Park, the Upper East Side, and the Village tend to be great areas to be around.

Another popular question is how expensive is New York City. Well, it’s pretty expensive, especially food. Most items on a menu will usually be above $10 US dollars (and that’s being generous).

However, there are tons of ways to visit NYC on a budget including eating pizza, getting halal food at the street vendors, staying at hostels or outside of the city, and doing a lot of the free activities in NYC.

New York Mural in NYC Soho

New York City Travel Tips Review

Aren’t you so glad you have finally made it to the bottom? I hope that these New York City travel tips not only help you have the most amazing time in the City but also help you feel like you have a little bit of NYC in you! NYC is one huge melting pot after all!

Additional NYC resources you might find helpful!

Where to Stay: MOXY NYC Times Square | Hyatt House Chelsea | Hotel Edison Times Square | New York Marriott Marquis | Lotte New York Palace | NYC Airbnb

Navigating the NYC Subway

Ista-Worthy NYC Spots

25 Best Things to do in NYC

If you found this NYC Travel Tips Guide helpful, I’d love it if you could share/ pin it!

8 thoughts on “25 Travel Tips to Know Before Visiting New York City”

  1. It was so interesting to read this article Sam! It’s so cool to read your insider tips and you make me wanna go to NYC again!!!

    Reply
  2. This is an awesome article Sam! There are a lot of things that newbies to New York need to know in order for them to get the best experience and you were on point with all of these. I miss going into the city now!

    Reply
  3. These are such great tips! Some of which no one talks about, so thank you for noting them! I can’t wait to visit NYC again soon!

    Reply
  4. I was supposed to go to NYC in May but covid cancelled it, these tips wouldve been so helpful1 maybe next year 😀

    Reply

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