Five Travel Hacks for Visiting New York City

New York City

Photo: Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons

Being a tourist in New York can be a hazardous ordeal.  Every restaurant sounds like it cannot be missed…but is it just a tourist trap? Should you go to MoMA or the Met? (Both, actually!) And how exactly does one get from uptown to  downtown?

I live and work near two of the most iconic buildings in New York City – The Chrysler Building and Penn Station – so I encounter confused out-of-towners on a daily basis.  After two years of living in The Big Apple, I have compiled a list of five travel hacks for the weary urban wanderer in NYC.

Which Airport?!

JKF airport

Photo: Angelo DeSantis via Wikimedia Commons

There are three airports that can get you to New York City – JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark.  Making your way to or from the airport can often be more exhausting, expensive, and longer than the flight itself.

The first lesson to learn is: avoid La Guardia like the plague. Not only has it been ranked one of the worst airports in the world, it has no rail service to Manhattan. Instead, do like most New Yorkers and fly into JFK and Newark.  There are trains running from Penn Station in Manhattan in that travel to these two airports in 30 minutes.

Case in point: the last time I travelled out of JFK, I took the Long Island Rail Road  from Penn Station.  It took 30 minutes to arrive at my Terminal and cost me $9.50.  On the way back, I took a cab.  I waited 30 minutes for a car, sat in traffic for another hour, and paid $65 for this exhausting experience.

Get the Free Subway App

New York City subway

Photo: Aspersions via Wikimedia Commons

The subway system looks daunting, I get it.  When I first arrived in New York, I took cabs for a week straight, because all of those colour-coded subway lines just looked too squiggly.  Then, I downloaded the free New York subway app on my phone.  The app shows you the whole subway map imposed on a map of the city without WiFi, so even the most neophyte traveler can find their way from the East Village to Central Park.

Thou Shalt Have a Restaurant Reservation (Or Wait Forever)

No reservation? Sorry, you’re probs not getting into the Russian Tea Room. (Photo: Rubenstein by Wikimedia Commons)

You will never be able to get a walk-in table for a 7pm dinner at a good restaurant.  I repeat, will never be able to get a walk-in table for a 7pm dinner at a good resto.  That’s why I use the website OpenTable to make reservations.  Not only do they have access to some of the best tables in town such as the hotspots ABC Kitchen and La Esquina, but if the table is not free, they can suggest other option.

“Suggested Museum Donations”

Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Photo: Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons

This is one hack I shouldn’t be giving you, but I can’t resist.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art usually asks for a “suggested donation”.  Technically, you can visit the museum free of charge.  However, the “suggested” part is made very unclear, so that most people usually line up for 20 minutes to pay the $25 entrance that they don’t actually have to pay.

This is my alternative “suggestion”: enter the museum store, walk to the back of the store, heading to and through the Exit sign.  Voila, you’re in the galleries.  No suggested donation require.

Air BnB All the Way, Baby!

The Plaza New York City

The Plaza Hotel (Photo: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons)

Hotels in New York are goddamn expensive.  You’re looking at $200/night and up. Always look on Air BnB or Vacation Rentals by Owner for  more options.  Many New Yorkers travel for work, and put up their  apartments on the website.  This is almost always the cheaper and more spacious option.

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