5 Travel Tips for New York City

I’ve lived in this amazing city for the past decade and have managed to hold my own when I’m out and about.  I like most people living and working on this island do a lot of walking.  Not only is it the best way to get around but it’s sometimes the fastest (weather permitting of course).  This list gives some advice on how to get around this wonderful city as it’s a little intimidating.

Pay Attention

I’ll say it again, “Pay Attention”.  This is one of the most important thing to keep in mind when running around Manhattan’s busy streets and sidewalks.  The locals are just as guilty but pay attention to everything around you.  Not only will you avoid any run-in’s with a vehicle, skateboarder, rollerblader, dog, bicyclist (not uncommon to see them going the wrong way on a one way street or sidewalk), or other people busy texting.  Accidents that involve pedestrians and moving vehicles happen often throughout the day in the city and some end in fatality.   Here are the most common things that I come across just about everyday.

  • a cyclist is going the wrong way and off-roading
  • taxis, commuters in their own cars, police cars, fire trucks, cyclists trying to beat the red light
  • cars exiting out of a parking garage and traveling too fast and not remembering that they are crossing over a sidewalk

These points may sound frivolous but just beware that the are all common and if you aren’t paying attention then there’s the risk of  having an accident.  The reward for paying attention (if you care about these things) is the not so common spotting of a “famous” person or two.  There are  many well-known personalities who are just like us.  They walk around town like anyone else but they count on the fact that most don’t pay attention and are busy looking at flashing signs and tall buildings.

Pick a lane

One common faux pas city visitors make is they don’t know how to walk on a sidewalk.   In most cities the sidewalk rules are like driving rules.  If you were driving would you travel down the wrong side into on coming traffic?  Hopefully not.  Most drivers travel in a line when traveling with a group of vehicles not side by side.  There are some sidewalks in the city that can fit 3-4 people across but not many.    Be considerate and share the road.

Mind your manners

New Yorker’s disreputably are rude, loud and arrogant but not everyone is and there are plenty back home just like them.   Some bloggers in the city are quick to point this out to get people to click on and read and continue to back the myth up and write posts like this 13 things not to do in New York City written by P. Ling.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  Let’s be fair.  Many New Yorker’s are just busy trying to get to work.  They sometimes have to get up at ungodly hours to get the commuter rail in, go to work, take that 2 hour train ride back home and do it all again the next day.  A slight change in weather, traffic or personal issue can all make a hellish commute even worse.   Be sensitive and considerate to them and try to get out-of-the-way.  This is a crowded and stressful city.  Don’t take it personally if someone isn’t eager to help if you need directions especially at rush hour.  Just move on and find another person to ask.  Storekeepers and police officers are good people to try first.  I would try MTA workers last.  They aren’t usually the most helpful unfortunately.

Study the layout of the city

This holds true with anywhere you visit.  Would you arrive in Paris or Tokyo without any idea of where things are.  New York was reconfigured over a couple of hundred years ago (Commissioners’ Plan of 1811) and it’s streets above Houston where reset into a grid fashion.  The numbered avenues go east to west and streets go north to south.  If you just remember a couple of things like if the streets are higher in number you are going north and if the avenues are getting higher you are going west.  There are some names thrown in there but by memorizing a few avenue names you are all set(streets downtown below Houston and some way up town)  There are always maps inside the subway stations, so they are a good back up if you forgot yours.  A local map and a city-wide map are usually found before the entrance gates down in the station.  They are hopefully in good enough condition to read. Not always guaranteed.

Get Organized before you hit the streets

First, put together a make a list of the places you want to visit while in the city.  Then check out a good city map and chart out each listings address and if some or all are in the same area.  It’s good to see what is where so you can make the most of your time.  It’s also good to figure out when the best hours will be to visit each place.  Like most cities, New York City Museums are much busier on the weekends so it’s best to go during the week.  There are some free hours and many suggest ticket prices so do your homework and save money.

When it’s time to head out for the day, figure out exactly how to get there before leaving your hotel or starting point.  I find that walking the route if is the best way to see the area since you never know what you are going to pass by along the way.  It could be an interesting place to eat, store or museum that’s not on your list or popular enough to put in a guidebook.  I would also figure out when the local hours of commuting are at their peak.  It might be nicer sitting and relaxing for a few more minutes than dealing with morning commuters.

There are so many interesting and fun things to see and do in New York City.  Plan well and don’t worry if you don’t get to all of them.  There’s always next time.

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