Tips for Visiting New York City for the First Time

The Big Apple, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, empire state of mind… Whatever nickname or pop culture reference you cast across New York City, it’s a popular bucket list destination for almost everyone! There’s something about the Statue of Liberty, fast-paced street culture and bright neon lights in Time Square that keeps people coming back over and over again. If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, I’ve put together some...
Kathryn D. Lewis June 4, 2019
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The Big Apple, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, empire state of mind… Whatever nickname or pop culture reference you cast across New York City, it’s a popular bucket list destination for almost everyone! There’s something about the Statue of Liberty, fast-paced street culture and bright neon lights in Time Square that keeps people coming back over and over again. If you’re visiting New York City for the first time, I’ve put together some helpful tips regarding safety, areas to visit and other things to know when traveling to New York!

The Best Travel Tips for Visiting New York City

1. Get around the city by foot or the subway

If you love spending time stuck in traffic, take a cab or Uber around New York City. If you love spending time exploring or if you just value your time in general, stick to getting around by foot or the impressive subway system.

The gridlock pattern of New York City streets is what traffic nightmares are made of. Parking is a headache, too! If you’re going to New York City for the first time, save your sanity (and your time) and plan on packing comfortable walking shoes!

Fun scary fact: did you know that accidents are the third cause of deaths in NYC? That being said, with such a busy city, transit accidents can happen. You probably don’t want to get seriously injured during your holidays, so let’s cross our fingers together!

2. Don’t just stay in Manhattan

New York City has so many incredible neighborhoods. Each with their own vibe and list of attractions to visit so there’s no reason to stick to one place. If looking for the best area to stay in New York, first-time visitors may decide on Manhattan due to its central location. While it’s a fine choice, I encourage you to go out and explore places like Brooklyn and the Bronx as well!

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, eat some pizza and explore the streets yourself. Or maybe watch a Yankees baseball game in the Bronx — there’s more to New York than Manhattan!

3. Beware of petty crimes

Is New York dangerous? Overall, no. New York City is used to lots of tourists so the streets are quite safe for walking!  But just like London or Madrid, pickpocketing is quite common. Be mindful of the items on your person while walking through busy crowds in Time Square or tight spaces in the subway.

Another petty crime in NYC can be unmarked taxi cabs trying to scam you, which can be quiet scary! The only flag down and take rides from clearly marked yellow NYC taxis.  Other than that, New York City is quite safe and well policed! Just use your best judgment and you’ll have no problems.

4. Give yourself plenty of time to truly explore and appreciate the city!

When visiting New York for the first time, you’ll come with a long list of “must visit” places. The Met, Brooklyn Bridge, that fancy cronut store…the list goes on. New York City is not a destination you can rush through. You need to slow down and savor the bustle of the city and the culture and sights that surround you. How many days in New York is ideal? I’d say at least four full days.

To see all the hotspots and eat at every restaurant recommended by friends and Yelp, four days should give you a good overview of the city. Of course, more is always better but time isn’t always on our side!

5. Don’t overspend on trendy restaurants!

New York City often gets a rep of being a costly city to visit. While it may not be the most budget-conscious city, it doesn’t have to break the bank, either!

Sure, there are Michelin star restaurants and the Kardashian’s favorite spots all around but honestly the smaller mom and pop joints are so much better. When eating in New York City, here are some great tips to eat amazing food at a lower cost:

  • Eat at the cheap pizza corner shops! Nothing taste as good as a $1 slice of New York City pizza. Plus the carbs are the perfect fuel for all your sightseeing! (Don’t forget to fold it down the middle and shove it in your mouth — just like the New Yorkers do).
  • Adjust your meal times to coincide with happy hours! Love sushi but don’t love the price tag? Hit up the trendy rooftop sushi restaurant for an early dinner to scarf it down for half the cost.
  • Ask the restaurant if they have any lunch specials. Lots of New York City restaurants offer a combo deal around lunchtime — no harm in asking!