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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
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.
Tip 20% Always
OH GOD THE TIPPING CULTURE.
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.
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.
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).