How To Boss Being A New York Tourist

Last week marked the – god, 11th? 12th? – trip I’ve taken to New York in the last ten years, and as I spent my six days in the city that never sleeps I realised just how much knowledge on navigating NYC I’ve accumulated.

There’s no-where like it in the world and I’d recommend it to anyone: take these tips with you and you’ll soon be navigating the city like a pro. Here are my New York tourist tips…

new york tourist tips

New York Tourist Tips

Apps Are Your Friend

When it comes to travel and your local area, Apps are your best friend in New York. Ubers are a really quick and budget-friendly way to get around and they can be ordered to your location with the click of a button, without having to hang around waiting to hail a yellow cab (though of course you must do this at least once!). Lyft is great for digitally hitching rides around the city, too.

If you fancy giving the public transport network a go then Citymapper is the one for you. Plotting your journey in minute detail from point-to-point, it’s such a great way to navigate a city (I use it in London lots).

All New Yorkers use Yelp, a ratings-based app, to find food and services around the city. Once you’ve logged on you can use your location to pinpoint whatever you need, whether it’s lunch or a blow-dry, and read real-time reviews to decide whether or not the establishment will be worth your time and dollars. It’s such a great way to decide where to go when you’re flooded with so many New York choices!

Consider Your Hairdryer (and other electrical appliances)
Having just stayed at a hotel with a hairdryer that lacked serious engine power I am a big fan of taking your own on holiday. But when you travel to America this becomes somewhat of an issue: American appliances run on 110 volts while ours in Europe are the much stronger voltage of  220. In a nutshell this basically means that your hairdryer and (potentially) your hair straighteners won’t work, rendering your holiday one big bad hair day.

No more! I travel with a BaByliss dual voltage hairdryer (which at 2000w is stronger than many hotel hairdryers yet is very compact) and my GHDs, hair straighteners that come as multi-voltage as standard.

new york tourist tips

Tip 20% Always

You basically have to tip for everything in America (yellow taxis, food, drinks, blow-drys – not the ones you give with your multi-voltage hairdryer ;) – beauty treatments), and if you don’t it’s a literal sin worse than puppy-kicking. I’m terrible at mental arithmetic so to work out my 20% I just round up my number, work out 10% and times it by two… or I use a calculator.

It still makes my head hurt.

Be aware that most places don’t have chip and pin either, so we’re back to the fun of scribbling our signature everywhere. Don’t try and take the merchant’s copy of the receipt home with you or they’ll get cross – I know this by experience.

Reserve Your Meals
If you want to eat at a certain time then booking is essential. The price of groceries in NYC means most people eat out so restaurants get very busy; they’re better value than in the UK but if you don’t want to wait around for hours you will need a reservation.

Most restaurants work on an OpenTable booking basis which is very easy to use. I tend to book my reservations before leaving the UK and pop them in a spreadsheet like some kind of mega-organized food fan, then chop/change/cancel them as needed if plans change on arrival.

new york tourist tips

Get Walking
On my last trip to New York my friend and I walked almost 40km in 5 days and this is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to see the city. OK, so the constant cross lights are a little bit annoying, but no other mode of transport allows you to take in so many sights, sounds and smells of NYC. A two mile walk across the city will take you about 40 minutes.

Find a Brooklyn Rooftop
The Empire State Building or Top of the Rock are the classic tourist New York lookout points, but my favourites are over the water in Brooklyn. There’s nothing quite like gazing out over Manhattan from a rooftop bar, drink in hand as the sun goes down and the city lights glitter. My favourite is Westlight at the top of the William Vale hotel (book so you’re not waiting around in queues!) as well as Ides at the Wythe and Berry Park.

Go Brunching
I’ve been trying to work out for ages why brunch is such a thing in New York: a meal that seemingly runs all-day from around 11am on a Saturday and Sunday, it’s an institution over there.

Whatever the motivation, it’s a really buzzy meal and, if you decide on one of the bottomless deals, a pretty boozy one too. For something a bit different try brunch at the Filipino/Thai Pig and Khao in the East Village (this restaurant has the trendiest waiters you’ll see anywhere), or the Mexican brunch at Fonda, which has various locations.

Are you going to New York? Let me know and I’ll send you my epic Word document of dreams (and ‘things to do’ recommendations).

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  1. A Paterson wrote:

    This is amazing! ?? And yes please – going to NYC in 4 weeks and haven’t been in about 15 years so need allllll the tips ? thank you!

    Posted 9.3.18 Reply
  2. Jessica wrote:

    Yes, I am going soon so thanks for those great tips! Do you have any advice on affordable places to stay? Everywhere I’ve seen so far seems crazily expensive!

    Posted 9.3.18 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Hotels are so expensive! Have you looked at Air bnbs? I have stayed in a couple over the years and these always work out a lot cheaper – not quite as nice, but they can be a great way to stay in a neighbourhood that might be otherwise too pricey. Otherwise always has 10% off voucher codes floating around, so do google them to see what the most recent is! x

      Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  3. Gemma Sharpe wrote:

    I’m going to New York for the first time early Dec! Would love to read your word doc!

    Posted 9.3.18 Reply
  4. Sophie wrote:

    I’m going the week after next (for the 3rd time!) Send me your Word document of dreams!!

    Posted 9.3.18 Reply
  5. Ali Smith wrote:

    Hi Alice, thank you so much for writing this on your blog. I was contemplating booking to go to NYC & then you popped up on my instagram stories (I’ve followed you for ages- God that sounds cringe ?) & literally sealed the deal!

    I would love your epic word doc, speaking as a spreadsheet loving holiday planner myself!

    Posted 9.3.18 Reply
  6. Holly wrote:

    Yes please! Have been a couple of time pre-children, but going with my mum in March for a girls trip and really want to make the most of my kid free time!!

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  7. Holly wrote:

    Yes please – going for a kid free qeekend in March and would love your word doc.

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  8. Harriet wrote:

    Yes please! Am off in 4 weeks to join my husband who’s there for work. Haven’t been in 10 years so need tips. Thanks

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  9. Ruth Anderson wrote:

    Yes please!!! This is amazeballs ?? Love a good recommendation to save me hours of searching.. I’m hoping to go in the spring – first trip – has been on ‘the list’ for so long. Thanks Alice ?

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  10. Yes please!!! This is amazeballs ?? Love a good recommendation to save me hours of searching.. I’m hoping to go in the spring – first trip – has been on ‘the list’ for so long. Thanks Alice ?

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  11. Sarah wrote:

    I would LOVE the tips to be sent to me please!!! I am taking my husband there in December! First time to NYC for us both! This article is so handy, thank you ! xxx

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  12. Sarah wrote:

    Yes yes yes please !!!!! Going December for first time eeek!!! Xxx

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  13. Katie wrote:

    Yes please, we’re off in December & I’m so excited!! So much to do I can’t get my head round it all. You sound like a pro xx

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  14. Tierni wrote:

    This is fabulous!! Am going to New York for the first time in October with my mum and brother for an early 30th birthday present, super excited!!
    Loving your recommendations but i need more!!

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  15. Paige wrote:

    Yes please! Going in December ??

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  16. Victoria Bourne wrote:

    Yes please! I’m going next year and have not been there for 8 years! Thank you xx

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  17. Peggy wrote:

    please please please can I have the word doc! xx

    Posted 9.4.18 Reply
  18. Soile wrote:

    Oh, yes please! Always planning a trip to NY! Been there three times but I would love to get some tips for my next trip. I hope it’s soon!!!

    Posted 9.5.18 Reply
  19. Cassie Hilton wrote:

    Alice i’m hoping to go to New York early next year and so would love it if you can send me your work doc!!!!

    Posted 9.5.18 Reply
  20. Becky wrote:

    Oh yes please! We go there in 4 weeks for my husband’s 40th! Xx

    Posted 9.9.18 Reply
  21. Marjan wrote:

    I’ve finally got round to reading this blog post after seeing your insta pics a few weeks ago. I’m hoping to book a trip for my 40th next year (what?! How did that happen?) and would love to read the word file of dreams. Thanks!

    Posted 9.20.18 Reply
  22. Pauline wrote:

    Im a little late to the party maybe ? but can i have a looky at your word doc – you are amazing – and i love that you don’t do the typical touristy things – im not into that too ! thanks muchly !

    Posted 9.25.18 Reply
  23. Paula Lee wrote:

    Hi , only just rad this blog post but enjoyed it so much. Would like to take my partner for his 50th next March – so would love to read your word document of dreams please ?

    Posted 10.24.18 Reply
  24. Alexandra wrote:

    Would love your document please. Just planning a trip x

    Posted 11.7.18 Reply