Wanna travel to New York in June on a 260 € flight from Frankfurt? So said a friend of ours a couple of weeks ago. It was April, and we definitely said yes about visiting New York for the first time! This is how the trip started and how we learned about what not to do in New York and things to know about New York before visiting. Keep reading…
We just got home yesterday after the intensive one-week trip, yet I didn’t lose time to sit down and write. As it is easy to find blogs about what to do in this 8,6-million inhabitant city, I decided to share with you what NOT to do and things to avoid in New York, based on our experience.
1- Don’t book your stay outside of the state (1# of what not to do in New York)
We had a look at the hotel prices in NYC and then quickly decided to go for an Airbnb apartment as they are way cheaper. We were spoiled by cheap apartments with great views in New Jersey (neighboring State of NY).
The location itself is great and offers great instagram content in NYC. However, and according to the host, it was only 18 minutes by bus from Times Square. We were surprised by the bus not coming in time. Sometimes it arrives crowded, so it wouldn’t stop. And if you have the chance to get on it. You will lose a lot of time stuck in traffic. Buses are among things to avoid in New York. You learn about this only after visiting New York for the first time.
We spent on average 1,5-2 hours one way. So that is why it is worth it to book your stay near a subway station, somewhere cheap in NYC.
2- Don’t rent a car is one thing to know about New York before visiting
Here comes our second mistake among what not to do in New York. Upset with the time lost in public transportation between NYC and New Jersey, we compared the costs of bus tickets (3,5$ x 4 people one way) to the car rental offers.
That is how we went for a rental car and gave up public transportation. Then guess what? We forgot that we have to pay tunnel fees of 15$ one way to get to New York from New Jersey. It is not obvious to know this if you are visiting New York for the first time.
New York has a huge traffic problem. Such fees are supposed to solve it. However, it seems it didn’t work out. We knew about this before, but sadly we forgot about it. Cars are also one of the things to avoid in New York.
So if you are planning a Broadway night, for example, make sure to be there in time after all what we said 🙂
3- Don’t pay for parking on site (another thing to know about New York before visiting)
You have to rent a car or knew too late about the point above like us? Here is our next advice: parking in NYC has crazy prices. Some even suggest 20$ for up to half an hour. So a day could cost you more than the rental car day price itself.
Our advice for you is to book online in your parking place. In most cases, you can find a good location for 10-15$ a day.
3- Don’t forget to buy a SIM card (2# of what not to do in New York)
Given that free WiFi is almost everywhere in NYC. We thought we don’t need a SIM card for mobile data. As a result, we sometimes lost hours looking for free WiFi to know about transportation schedules and cheap parking areas.
We also had to use Google Maps offline, which didn’t have access to real-time traffic info. So we spent too much time stuck in traffic.
That is why you should buy your SIM card as soon as you arrive there, in order not to lose time and money.
4- Visiting New York for the first time: don’t go to Brooklyn Bridge in the afternoon
I know this sounds a little unrealistic. But if you want to really enjoy Brooklyn Bridge, have a walk on it in the early morning. It is the best time of the day to take photos and enjoy the skyline of NYC. I wish I knew this among things to know about New York before visiting.
We had a walk on the bridge in the afternoon, and it was so crowded that we hardly found our way through. Another thing I learned about what not to do in New York.
Alternatively, you could visit one or some of the many free museums in the city. Here is a good list of free museums in NYC to help you better plan your day.
5- Don’t buy subway tickets from the ticket machine if you are in a group
I don’t know if it is me or that ticket machines in NYC are not practical. We were a group of 4, and the machine allows only to buy one ticket at a time. So yes, we had to choose our fare and pay for every single ticket separately.
On the last day, I found out that I can buy a group ticket one time from the ticket officer sitting in the ticket box nearby.
6- Don’t pay the “suggested” tips is also part of what not to do in New York
Tips in the US are obvious, and it is considered to be mean not to pay them. However, although it is not necessary to pay them, some services sometimes go too far requesting them.
I saw a taxi driver requesting at least 25%, some restaurants go for 18%. If you are not one of the 380.000 millionaires living in NYC, you will also think it is too much. No shame to offer only the common 10%. The important thing to avoid in New York: exaggerated tips.
7- Don’t cross states with Uber or Lyft when visiting New York for the first time
This point relates to the second point of my post about what not to do in New York. Crossing neighboring states of Manhattan is expensive, also for taxi drivers. The 15$ fees will also be included in your Uber or Lyft fare. Cross-state tunnels are another thing to avoid in New York.
I advise having a drive to the furthest bus or train station in Manhattan. Then buy a 3$ ticket to cross the state borders with public transportation. Knowing about New York before visiting will save you a lot of money if you have to do this several times.
8- Don’t miss the sunset in Brooklyn
New York is a rich city with a bunch of attractions and things to do. However, watching the sunset from Brooklyn was one of my best highlights. While in Brooklyn, make sure you walk by some of the best street art in New York.
I recommend this public park which is not very crowded and offers a breath-taking view on the bridge together with the skyline of Manhattan.
9- Don’t go to the Statue of Liberty on a cruise (#3 of what not to do in New York)
On the streets of NYC, you will find everywhere people selling cruise tickets to the Statue of Liberty. My advice to you: ignore them. As I have seen there, such cruises are too touristy and expensive and do not offer something special.
My recommendation is to take the free ferry to Staten Island from Battery Park. The ferry takes 20 minutes and offers a great view of the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately, this was for us among the things to know about New York before visiting. Here is the ferry schedule and where to take it from to skip cruises as things to avoid in New York.
Speaking of free things, here is a guide to what you can do in New York for free.
10- Don’t forget your umbrella if you are visiting New York for the first time
Last but not least of what not to do in New York, the city weather is moody and constantly changing. If you don’t want to spend the rest of the day with wet socks and pants. Don’t forget to bring your umbrella. Also, when the weather forecast tells you, it is only cloudy, and there is no rain.
Final Thoughts about Visiting New York
I hope my advice helped you guys! There are so many things to do in New York City. I am sharing my favorite attractions soon. New York is also attractive during Christmas and is known for its unique decoration. If you are visiting for the first time and looking for which pass to get for the city, read this New York pass comparison to find out what pass is suitable for you.
If you are traveling with family, have a look at this handy post about things to do in New York with kids. It might be helpful for you.
Depending on how long you are staying, be wise choosing the attractions to visit in this huge city. Of course, you could discover New York in one day if you are in a hurry or you have a tight budget. But also, you can take your time and follow a proper detailed guide, in case you plan to stay 4 days in NYC.
If you guys are planning to visit neighboring cities, here is how to get from New york to Washington DC. Bus rides in the US are quite common as there are not many long-distance trains.
Looking for more inspiration and attraction in the neighborhood because you are staying longer in New York? Check this post about activities to do in Lake George. (only 3 hours drive from Manhattan) or this great 7-day scenic road trip to Maine.
If you would like to try some nature immersion experiences, New York also has many cute treehouses around. They are worth it!
Cheers, Ach & Rym.