A Beginner’s Guide to New York City

New York City. The Big Apple. The fast-paced, most intimidating city ever? Hi everyone! This week I am writing my posts from the Big Apple itself as I am here to check out a few colleges for next year, but in between campus visits and information sessions, I am exploring and enjoying this incredible city. Now I’ve been privileged enough to have travelled to New York City a few times, and anyone who has been to NYC knows that there are some tips and tricks to making your time more fun and the experience less intimidating. Sometimes I still get nervous that I’ll be trampled by sprinting busy people on the sidewalk or get lost in a lesser-known area. But, the city doesn’t have to be intimidating if you have the right mindset and a few tricks and tips up your sleeve. With a few adjustments to how you spend your time, you’ll be tackling the city like a local with no fear and all the confidence in the world. So today, I’m going to be sharing some tips for how to manage a trip to the Big Apple. Here is my beginner’s guide to New York City. I hope you all enjoy it and if you have comments or tips that I missed out, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section.

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Best time to visit

Every location has its best and worst times to visit, and New York City is no different. If you have the luxury of choosing what time of year to go, I’d recommend going in either Spring or Autumn. While both Summer and Winter are beautiful months to visit in, temperatures can be brutally cold in winter, and not everyone wants to be fighting frostbite every second they are outside. Summer also has its pros, but the sweltering heat is why most locals tend to head for cooler places during the Summer months. So, if you’re looking for reasonable temperatures that aren’t battling the extremes of boiling or freezing, Spring and Autumn are really your best times to get the most joy out of your visit.

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Getting into the city

There are many ways to get into the city from one of the three major airports. Many people would say that public transport is the cheapest and easiest, and I’d agree, except when travelling in a big group or with lots of luggage. There is nothing more challenging than trying to get a big family with heaps of luggage into the city via public transport. If you are travelling solo and don’t have bags to wrestle with, then go with public transportation because it will be cheaper and more reliable (not so much in the way of traffic down there). But, if you’re coming from the airport with luggage or a group, I’d recommend either a cab or an Uber. Uber may be slightly cheaper than a cab, but this is the easiest way to get into the city hassle-free and with all your bags in tow. Just be aware – don’t accept taxi rides from anyone as there are plenty of scammers. Let the signs guide you to the correct line and the official staff outside the terminal will assist you.

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Easy to navigate

One thing you should know about New York City is that it is quite easy to navigate. Street signs are always obvious, and it is easy to get around the city if you just pay attention to which street you’re on. The basics of street navigation are that most horizontal streets are numbered, most vertical streets are called avenues, and 5th avenue is the great divider line that splits Manhattan into East and West. The best advice I can give you when you are navigating New York City is just to continually be aware of what street you are on (it is easy to correct yourself) and download a map of NYC, and the top locations you want to visit before you get there. That way, you can still orientate yourself and follow a map if you get a little lost.

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Walk or use the subway

NYC is another great city that is perfect for people who are willing to put on their shoes and walk places. Even though it is a huge place with many places to visit, if you organise your activity log right, you can actually walk to and from quite a few places. Yes, riding in that iconic yellow cab is a must for first-time visitors, but I wouldn’t suggest getting in a taxi or uber every time you need to go somewhere. The costs can add up very quickly, and with the stop-start traffic that is quite regular in Manhattan, you might find that it is actually faster to walk (and it’s free, which is always a bonus). So, don’t be afraid to walk places. It’s not so far, and you’ll be surprised how quickly the distance can go when you are taking in all the sites. But, if a walk just seems impractical and you are going too far for your feet to take you, instead go on the subway. The subway is far cheaper than a taxi or uber and more reliable because there isn’t traffic. Just remember to be vigilant when walking or taking the subway – your safety always comes first.

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Don’t plan too many activities (especially if they are across the boroughs) in one day

As I said earlier, NYC is a huge place, and it can take quite a bit of time just to get to one of your planned activities, let alone actually enjoy it. Be careful not to overpack your daily schedule because you might find that time runs away from you faster than you ever thought possible. Just getting from one place to the other takes a lot of time (I mean walking ten blocks doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you aren’t going at running speed, it can still take you a fair bit of time). Plus, if your day is so stuffed that you are racing to and from locations, that leaves you no time for the unexpected or exploring, or just taking some time to relax and enjoy the city.

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Wear comfortable walking shoes

This is an error that I cannot stress enough. Do not be crazy enough to attempt to walk New York City if you are not in comfortable walking shoes. In NYC, you are going to be walking a lot, so even if you think your feet are strong, be kind to them and wear good shoes for walking. Trust me when I say your feet will not give you any thanks if you make the trek through the city without comfortable, supportive shoes. If you want to take photos and don’t think your comfortable shoes are runway material, rather pack an extra pair in your bag than put yourself through the agony of walking everywhere in shoes that will kill your feet.

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Make reservations

If you are looking forward to going to a particular show, event or restaurant, make sure to call ahead and make a reservation. This isn’t to say that you can’t walk in and find a table in most restaurants, but depending on the time things can get pretty busy, and I’m sure you’d rather have called and reserved a table than to turn up, there be no space, and then you have to struggle to come up with a plan B. For shows and events, it’s always a good idea to make bookings quite well in advance (just because you lose out on discounts and good seats the longer you wait) but if you have your heart set on a restaurant, make sure to make a reservation for that too otherwise you’ll risk not getting to eat there at all.

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Be vigilant and walk with purpose

No city is a utopia of safety. As much as New York City is a beautiful place that has many fast and efficient parts to it, that doesn’t mean there is no such thing as theft there. Make sure to be vigilant at all times when walking around, sitting on the subway etc. I’d advise keeping valuables like your phone and wallet out of your back pocket (because it is easier to pickpocket) and preferably in your front pockets or bag. Keep your bag zipped at all time and just be aware of what is going on around you. Also, when I say ‘walk with purpose’, I don’t mean you have to walk like you are in the military. As much as it is nice to walk at a leisurely pace and take in all of the beauty in the city, you sometimes need to walk with a bit more confidence and speed in your step, or you’ll risk getting pushed around and left behind. You’re in NYC, so that means that you sometimes need to walk at NYC pace (which is a little faster than everywhere else in the world).

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Time your touristy activities

There is no harm or shame in wanting to do touristy activities or see the iconic spots in New York. I mean, that is part of the reason why we all go is to see those iconic, fantastic sites. A tip though, so that you don’t end up wasting entire days waiting for something instead of actually doing it is to time your touristy activities. Weekends and holidays mean that double, even triple the number of people are likely to be heading towards the same touristy activity as you. So, instead, try to do those types of activities during the week and leave exploring and ‘relaxing’ for the weekends. Of course, if you don’t have the luxury of having many weekdays to do your touristy activities, then, by all means, do it on the weekend. Just be aware that the weekends do tend to be busier.

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Ask for help

This is a surprising one that people tend to forget. As intimidating as a city like New York can be, the people are generally very friendly. If you are lost, looking for a particular place or just need a little bit of help, I’d be surprised if you can’t find someone nearby you to give you a hand. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask someone for help because what could happen? They could say no, and you ask someone else, or they say yes and you are on your way. Either way, you aren’t going to get more lost if someone says no so there is nothing genuinely terrible that can come from asking for help. At least by asking it saves you the mission of struggling on your own right?

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And so there you have it! For those of you travelling and New York City is on your list, I hope that this post has helped you out and for those more seasoned travellers, maybe this post has reminded you of some advice you had forgotten? Either way, I hope that this has been an informative blog post, and you’ve enjoyed it. Please don’t forget to hit that little like button at the end of this post if you enjoyed the read and to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on any future blog posts. Have a great week, everyone!

Lots of Love

Blondey on a Mission xxx

Author: blondeyonamission

Hey everyone! I'm a lifestyle and travel blogger from South Africa and about to relocate to the UK for university. My blog is all about stories, tips and advice with topics ranging from university, organisation, friends, books, travel and more. Please check it out and I hope you enjoy xxx

9 thoughts

    1. Thank you! Hmm there are a few suggestions in my other blog post (fun things to do in New York) but even though it is cold I would still recommend central park. You can visit the zoo, do a carriage ride and it is a close walk to lots of great shops.

      Liked by 1 person

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