Simple cultures you didn't know about New York City!

When someone asks me what they should know when visiting New York for the first time, I don’t always know where to start as there’s so many things to do in New York. I’ve decided to take a different approach here with some NYC local secrets to help you navigate your trip better. Expect some humorous tips for first time visitors to New York (although those on their fifth trip to NYC might find this travel advice helpful). I sincerely hope that these New York travel tips come in handy and help you avoid some of the mistakes that people make on their first trip to New York. 20 Insider tips for New York under the cut.


1. You have not seen all of New York City until you’ve left Manhattan.  

Most people only associate New York City with Manhattan, however New York has so much more to offer, including four other boroughs. That includes Brooklyn and Queens.  I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that they’ve been to New York and they’ve done everything.  When I ask if they’ve been to Queens, it’s always a no.

2. NYC taxis are slow due to traffic and there is a proper way to call a taxi.

You know the movies where the hero calls a cab in New York and rushes to tell the one that he/she loves her/him? You won’t make it in time in real life. Taxis are generally very expensive in New York and if you’re in a rush, traffic will make it about the same speed (or slower) than the subway. Sometimes, walking is even faster.

If you want to call a taxi in New York City, this is how to do it: Stand on the curb NOT by a bus stop, put your arm confidently UP and stand there intensely looking at the cars.

3. The Public Transit in New York is great, including the subway.

Don’t be afraid of the subway in NY besides the handrails [more about this later].  I’m not really sure where the stigma of the subway comes from, but I promise you: I’ve never met a mole person (although I admit: count the rats is a real game that I play with friends).  The week unlimited subway pass is worth it if you’ll be taking the train a lot over 4-5 days.
  . Subway etiquette includes NOT making eye contact. Like, you’re allowed to look around ~subtly, but don’t be that creep who stares directly at someone the whole time. It’s weird and creepy. It’s only okay if someone has a kitten that they’re carrying on the subway. In that case, feel free to go crazy over it.
  • Express v. Local Subway Trains (or Buses). Don’t get on the express subway or bus unless you’re sure that it’s going to stop off where you want it to.  The regular train will stop at majority of the stops (with skipping some) while the express trains will skip on average half the stops. Don’t get on the local train because it will take twice the time.
  • You need to know which entrance you need for the subway via the direction that you’re headed. Check before you pay to get into the subway station as you might need to exit to get to the other side. East Bound/ West Bound  and Uptown / Downtown can be a bit confusing if the endpoint is in a different borough, but a good subway map should help you figure out the endpoint.

4. Should you bring your car to NYC? No.

You will regret it and hand over your life savings for parking your car. If you want to bring your car, consider driving it to one of the airports, parking it there, and taking public transit around.

5. Don’t walk everywhere.

I consider this an important tip for first time visitors to NYC.  It takes a while to get around New York, so take public transit in between neighborhoods.  Although you might think that walking is a good idea (and you can see a lot), your feet will be killing you by the end of day 1.  It’s good to see one neighborhood, hop on the train to the next, and then hop back on the train once you’re done.  Don’t worry: You’ll still be walking enough to burn off those bagels and delicious meals, but you’ll be able to see SO MUCH more than if you decide to walk just for hours on end. (Also it gets tiresome to walk past the millionth office building in between SoHo and Midtown.)

6. Avoid Times Square unless you’re a Broadway fan.

I think of Times Square as a light bulb as it attracts the worst of NYC: the crowds, overpriced things, and chain restaurants.  Don’t bother visiting Times Square during the day or rush hour. Besides it being a must for most visiting tourists (especially at night), there’s only overpriced chain food directly on the Square. Instead, get a last minute ticket at the TKTS booth in Times Square for a Broadway production (clear your morning) and once you’re in a Broadway show, you’ll finally understand why New Yorkers endure this area.

7. Check if restaurants have an “A” rating from the NYC health department.

Only eat at restaurants that have an A rating from the NYC Health Department. If you do not see an “A” posted outside of the restaurant, LEAVE immediately and do not eat there. Simply: A non-A rating means that they do not have a clean kitchen. Food carts do not currently have ratings….so eat a street hotdog at your own risk.

8. Eat all the delicious food in NYC! Don’t eat at chain restaurants and don’t feel like you only need to go to the ~instagram cool places.

There’s about a millioncooleateries and the best places to eat in NYC list is ever-changing, however there is something to be said for the foods that make me miss New York.  That list is fairly constant and includes bagels, pizza, and Chinese food.  Just take out some cash as many cheaper New York restaurants that mostly cater to locals are cash only.


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