Most people have the 'New York' dream; either to visit the city that never sleeps, to study there, work there or even settle there. So when I got to finally set foot there I was just a little more than ecstatic. Of course as a New York newbie in my two weeks I noticed a few things. So if you are planning to visit New York any time in the future, here are a few tips from a rookie.
Tip 01: Know your subway! Rely on the subway if you want to save money and get around easily. From Melbourne to New York, the scale dramatically grows. Walking is great when you can, but this is a huge city grid spanning 155 streets East to West and 12 Avenues running North to South. The subway at first was oddly confusing with random letters and numbers and a myriad of colourful lines running up and down. But it's quite simple when you get the hang of it.
The first most important thing you need to know is if you are going UP the map or DOWN the map. Then you figure out whether you take uptown or downtown. The rest is easy, see the closest station to where you want to go and then keep matching the different lines to see how you can get there with the minimum number of changes! And embrace the randomness of the letters and numbers, don't fight it. It will make your life a whole lot easier.
Tip 02: Tips are mandatory In Melbourne it is quite common to pay the amount on the bill at restaurant or café. Especially if you are a student, it is considered okay not to tip. However here it is quite rude not to put in that extra few dollar bills for the service. It isn't just restaurants; you are expected to tip the famous yellow New York taxis as well. Usually 15%-20% of the overall bill is considered the correct amount for a tip.
Tip 03: Don't forget the tax Price tags are NOT inclusive of tax. I found this quite annoying at first (Yey! its 5 bucks, oh no it isn't?). So always be ready with a little bit extra than the retail price. Having said this, don't be discouraged, shopping is quite good here with decent prices and a wide variety of shopping paradises.
Tip 04: Memorise those coins! Coin sizes are not logical and they are called funny things like nickel, dime and penny. So study the diagram below if you are unfamiliar with how the coins look like. If not you'll find yourself being too lazy to use your coins and end up with a wallet heavier than an anvil. At least it helped balance the weight of my DSLR so that both my shoulders were evenly drooped!
Tip 05: Do you have concession? If you are a student, be sure to ask if they have concession. Often the price boards do not showcase concession fares, but just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there! Most museums go under the policy of 'recommended price', which mean you are free to decide your entry fee. So if you are completely broke I suppose you can be a little stingy. Tip 06: Honey Roasted nuts? YES. New York is famous for hotdogs. But just beside the gazillions of hot dog stands, one will find honey roasted nut stalls. The smell… oh the smell will tempt you to eat them. And you will not be disappointed. They taste just as good as they smell. A great snack while walking the concrete jungle.
Tip 07: When are you closed?
There are several amazing museums in New York. However, it is very wise to check when each of these museums is closed for we had to turn around at a couple of places as unfortunately it is there day off. MoMA: Closed on Tuesdays Dia Beacon: Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
The Metropoliatn Museum of Art: Closed Monday
R. Solomon Guggenheim: Closed Thursday
Tip 08: Take time out to soak it all in
Take a break from your hectic sightseeing and walking. The city that never sleeps is one of pure energy with crowds rushing through and taxis chasing each other up and down the streets. I found myself very much part of this rush trying to pack many activities within a day. But it is good to take a moment to sit back and watch the city move at its crazy speed and savour its electricity. I suggest sitting on the red steps at Times Square. One of my favourite chill-out spots!
Tip 09: Shoes!
Yes, the subway is there. But to truly see New York, a good amount of walking will be needed. Yes, one must look stylish too. But try finding shoes that are both comfortable and sexy. Your feet will be thankful.
Tip 10: Have lots of change? If you are about to leave and you find yourself having a pocketful of dollars, nickels, quarters and dimes… Don't waste it. Throw it in a hat of a street busker. They are everywhere and some of them give a darn good performance. They will most probably be grateful for whatever change you can spare and what better way to bid farewell to New York than with a good deed?