FEW travel places elicit as much excitement and trepidation as New York City. From deciphering the subway to figuring out where to stay, it can seem like a daunting destination to plan for. With this in mind, here are eight survival tips that will help you get the most out of your journey.
The subway is your friend
Learn the subway system from the outset. Next to walking, it’s the cheapest and most efficient way of getting around New York City. Download the free NYC Subway app by Mapway. It’s an excellent tool to help you understand which lines to you need to take and where the subway stations are. It also helps you work out how long a journey will take. Plus, buy a 7- or 30-day Metro Card depending on your length of stay. It gives you unlimited travel on the subway or bus, so you can hop on and off as needed rather than paying for each individual trip.
Join the queue
Be prepared to queue. There’s a queue for just about every tourist attraction. There are queues to join other queues. It could mean lengthy waits, so leave plenty of time for this and bring your own snacks and bottles of water, along with something to keep the kids entertained.
With so many attractions on offer and covering such a large area, it takes a while to see the sights in New York. It helps to group activities within proximity of each other — such as taking the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty with going up One World Trade Center — to the same day. You don’t want to be rushing across town if you can help it.
You might even want to book different accommodation and move around throughout your stay so that you’re closer to the activities you’re planning. While moving accommodation presents its own challenges, with careful planning, you can make it work in your favour and get to know the different parts of the city better.
At one with nature
New York may be a concrete jungle, but at its centre is one of the most beautiful green spaces of any city. Plan to spend plenty of time in Central Park just simply walking around. Kids will love climbing the rocks, chasing the squirrels and generally just letting off steam away from the busyness of the city streets. You’ll get plenty of great photos here as well.
Get an international SIM card
It may be tempting to think you can just rely on free Wi-Fi in a city like New York where it’s seemingly plentiful. However, connection speeds vary greatly (most are pretty dodgy and slow, not to mention the security risk of using public Wi-Fi) and it’s a pain having to seek out a free hotspot every time you need to look something up.
You’ll be relying heavily on mobile data for getting around via Google Maps, checking the subway times, hailing an Uber ride, looking up restaurant reviews and maybe even booking accommodation on-the-fly. Invest in an international sim with plenty of data before you board your flight. You will be cursing yourself every step of the way if you don’t.
On the subject of mobiles, you might want to think about a portable battery pack for recharging your mobile on-the-go. For example, a LifeProof Fre Power case is waterproof and has a built-in battery that effectively doubles the life of your phone. You’ll never had to worry about running out of juice halfway through the day.
These boots are made for walking
While the subway will get you close to most places, New York is a city best explored on foot. Be prepared to walk. A. Lot. Comfortable shoes are a must, but rather than simply get by on sneakers the whole time, look for a decent pair of walking shoes that can pull double-duty in semi-formal settings with dressier attire. That will mean one less pair of shoes you need to pack and you won’t scream tourist if you decide to dine in a fancy restaurant on a whim.
Choose your season wisely
It may sound obvious, but I’ve heard more than a few travel tales from those who didn’t have a great time in New York — all because it was either too hot or too cold. Even the locals complain about the summers and winters. If you’re not keen on the extremes of weather, it’s best to go in the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn. Look up the average temperatures and rainfall of the period you intend to travel and dress accordingly.
Moving with the Times
Those fluffy cute characters hanging around Times Square? They want your money. Shocking, I know. These costumed characters lure unsuspecting tourists to take a photo with them, then demand an exorbitant amount of cash afterwards for the privilege. If one manages to get a tourist interested, others will quickly jump in the shot and each will demand a payment. Some behave better than others, but it’s best to keep moving if you prefer your money in your pocket. There are plenty of great things to splurge on in New York. This isn’t one of them.