Visiting New York City for the first time....part 1

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip

If you are planning your first trip to New York City you need to read this! Although we were able to plan quite a lot ahead, there were things we discovered along the way that would have been helpful to know to start with. In this two part post I'll guide you through what went well and what could've gone better for us so that you can smash your first visit.


Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip

Hotel location


We chose a hotel in Times Square. This really is the centre of the tourist area; pretty much all transportation passes through here and you can get to most attractions easily. If you are booking a hotel and want to stay close to everything, look for descriptions that use Midtown or Times Square. If you are looking for a more chilled out location then the Chelsea area might be more to your taste. Our hotel was the Westin Times Square. We emailed ahead to request a room on a high floor so that we could have a good view of the city; we ended up in a corner room on the floor below the penthouse with an amazing view that included the Empire State Building all the way across to the river.

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip

Travel


First - you need to get to your hotel. In terms of transfer time; JFK is further away than Newark and La Guardia is closest. Transfer time also depends on your method of transportation. You can hail a yellow cab right out of the airport, or pre book a shared minibus. If you book shared transportation you will have to wait up to half an hour once you have checked in, but it is a lot cheaper.

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip

Whilst in the city you can get around a few ways. We tried to avoid the taxi cabs (as iconic as they are) in order to keep our spend low. We used the subway for some of our longer journeys and did quite a lot of walking. Because New York City is constructed on a grid network it is quite easy to navigate your way on foot, and estimate how far a walk you are letting yourself in for! The subway works on a pay per trip basis. You load up a metro card ($1 initial outlay) with $2.75 trips. One trip gives you entrance to the subway network; this is the only swipe you have to make. Theoretically you could spend the day travelling underground off this one trip. You are allowed to share the card so you only need one between you, so long as you have put enough trips on it! There is a 7 day unlimited card you can buy - we didn't make anywhere near as many trips as this equals so I would say stick to pay as you go.

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip

Part of the reason we didn't spend a lot on the subway was that we used the Hop on Hop off buses for transportation too (more on this in part 2). There are two main operators for these buses and they have stops all over the city. We used the Big Bus company, which have three loops stopping at key points regularly. Their hub is in Times Square, which is another reason why a hotel in this area was a good choice for us. Whilst on the bus you can plug in the free headphones and listen to the tour guide talk you through your journey, finding out more about the city as you go.

Eating out

Food and drink isn't cheap in New York City! We weren't out for 5 star dining but still found it fairly expensive. We did manage to get some New York classics on our way....

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip. Eating out in NYC

Pizza in Little Italy - Lots of people recommended Lombardi's for a good New York City style pizza. It was a good pizza, but cost $30! You can also get single slices for about $4 around the city which are pretty filling.


Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip. Eating out in NYC

Burger from Shake Shack - another popular place to go. This and 5 Napkin Burger were always busy. One of the best burgers I've had though! (corner of 8th Ave and 44th St)

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip. Eating out in NYC

A Hot Reuben Hero - I have seen quite a lot of Man V Food episodes and always wanted to try a Reuben sandwich. It's made of corned beef, pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and russian dressing. So good. Ours was from a small deli on the corner of 8th Ave and 43rd St.

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip. Eating out in NYC


Breakfast Stromboli - this was a new one on us...pizza dough encasing sausage, egg and cheese, served with potatoes, onions and peppers for under $7. Breakfast of champions!  (corner of 8th Ave and 42nd St)

The stretch of 9th Avenue up from Times Square is known as Restaurant Row, and is full of restaurants and bars. We didn't make it to all the ones we wanted to try there!

Money stuff


New York City does not use technology to the extent that London does. A lot of places operate only in cash; Chip and Pin is not as abundantly available as it is in the UK. Do make sure you have hard currency with you.

Tax - clothing under a certain amount is tax exempt. Everything else has tax added afterwards. After a while you get used to it but we forgot a lot at first!

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip. Eating out in NYC

Happy Hour - lots of bars and restaurants have discounted food and drink at certain times of the day. When we visited Guy's American Kitchen and Bar we had one of the $6 bar snacks....it was a meal in itself for us!

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip. Shopping in NYC

Shopping - there are tours up to the outlet centre Woodbury if you are really looking for a discount, or Century 21 in the financial district. You can pick up a pair of Levis for $20 there, but be prepared to spend time looking! We visited on Memorial Day, which meant that lots of stores had massive sales. I also had a wander down to the garment district (5 minutes walk from Times Square). There are lots of great fabric stores with amazing discounts. I could have spent all morning (and a lot of dollars) in Mood fabrics. Seamstresses must visit this store!

In part 2...not only things to see and do, but how to save money doing it too! Please add your tips in the comments, or anything you have a question about too.

Visiting New York City for the first time; essential travel tips for your New York trip.
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Hi, I'm Laura. Welcome to my journeys with modern, feminine dressmaking and delicious food.
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