New York virgin

(42 Posts)
petal2008 Wed 05-Sep-12 18:16:32

Not a virgin from New York but my first visit!

Has anyone got any great tips, do's and don'ts?

Am feeling a bit nervous about trip and don't want to upset the natives.


BellaVita Wed 05-Sep-12 18:25:21

Get the New York Passes.

We went in June and they saved us money. We booked them from here, picked them up on our first morning there (very very early). When you have these, it saves you queuing in normal queues.

Work out a plan before you go of your say 5 must sees. Then work out in which order to do them to maximise your time.

Wear comfortable shoes!!! You will walk for miles and miles and miles.

We LOVED NY and am envy that you are going,

midoriway Wed 05-Sep-12 19:33:59

Cheap ass food is simply the best blog for eating in new york. Eating on the cheap in new york, from food vans, ethnic dives, authentic little out of the way places is one of the best thing to do in New York. We picked a place from the blog every night for dinner, and it was always an adventure. One of my favourite food blogs ever.

PandaNot Wed 05-Sep-12 19:44:12

If you're there for the first time pick the sights you want to see before you go and book the tickets in advance. Walk. Lots. You'll fall in love with the place if you walk it rather than cab everywhere. And then it will cost you lots of money when you want to return every six months...

PandaNot Wed 05-Sep-12 19:45:45

Oh forgot - Top of the Rock is MUCH better than Empire State Building, but somehow just not the same.

BellaVita Wed 05-Sep-12 19:53:21

Panda - you are so right about Top of the Rock!! This was our first stop.

We took a ride around Central Park in a little carriage behind a push bike, boy the guide we had did earn his tip. He was fantastic. You could choose which route to take and we did about half of it - the main picture points. He would stop and let us get off and explore for 10 mins or so.

PandaNot Wed 05-Sep-12 20:02:04

The boat trips around the island are good too (so long as it's not January, I have never been so cold!) and the bus tours, they help you get yourself orientated and spot places you want to to explore more. Staten Island ferry also excellent...oh I wish I was going!

shottspar Wed 05-Sep-12 20:02:31

I went with a group of friends a couple of years ago and we made up a timetable of what we were going to do each day blush. It did make us feel like tortured tour guides, but it was so worth it when we got there. We had a definite plan for each day, what we would do morning, afternoon and evening and we stuck to it - no matter how tired we got!

What we really enjoyed was:

The open topped bus - we did it the afternoon we arrived and it really allowed us to get our bearings.
The Staten Island Ferry - it's free and allows you to see the Statue of Liberty and get a great view of the city
A wander round Central Park for a couple of hours one morning
Broadway Show - we went to see Wicked, it was great!

Londonista1975 Wed 05-Sep-12 20:02:40

Agree on the New York Pass and getting comfortable shoes - you really will want to walk alot as it's all such a fantastic buzz being there, though going on the very safe and fast subway is an experience, as is getting a taxi!

Staten Island Ferry is free and especially worthwhile if you're a fan of the film Working Girl.

Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery in the West Village for your Carrie moment (if you're a fan of S.A.T.C) or Billy's Bakery in Chelsea.

Don't be nervous about asking New Yorkers for help as they're not rude as you may think, though they are generally very direct, which I appreciate.

Will post more later.

PandaNot Wed 05-Sep-12 20:05:39

Definitely spend some time exploring Central Park, it's one of my favourite places in the world.

alarkaspree Wed 05-Sep-12 20:27:20

When are you going? With or without kids? The autumn months are lovely and it doesn't usually get too cold until late in December. Although I believe this winter is expected to be quite snowy.

I actually like the statue of liberty/ellis island crossing, although a lot of people think it's over-rated. It's true that you can get just as good a view of the statue from the staten island ferry but on liberty island you can really get a sense of the scale of it. And the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island is very interesting. The Top of the Rock is indeed much better than the Empire State Building, with significantly shorter queues, but the ESB is a wonderful building. If you do do the ESB, if it's at all windy make sure you have warm clothes for the top. Otherwise you will spend 3 hours queueing for the top only to come down again after 5 minutes because you're freezing!

If you like art galleries, MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are both amazing, and the Frick Collection is also well worth a visit (doesn't allow kids though). The Guggenheim is less good, although it's a wonderful building, unless it has a special exhibition that you're interested in. Both the Met and the Guggenheim are right by Central Park so combine well with a walk around the park. Turtle Pond is one of the park's nicest features imo, and don't bother to spend much time finding strawberry fields.

Also don't bother going for a walk along Wall Street. Unless you are fascinated by the finance industry, but even then, there's nothing to see really. Imagine if you went to London and went for a walk along Fleet Street... like that.

If the weather is okay the walk across Brooklyn Bridge is well worth doing, and there are some nice green spaces being developed along the East River in Brooklyn that you can explore, and lots of nice places for lunch. And a carousel.

The tenement museum is fascinating, I strongly recommend it. You have to do a tour, and you can book online, but they have additional tours available if you just turn up I think.

alarkaspree Wed 05-Sep-12 20:32:12

Oh yes, and as londonista says, don't worry about asking for directions. People always get disoriented as they come off the subway. You will not seem in any way unusual or like a tourist.

Don't be nervous about using the subway. But familiarise yourself with the map to make sure you understand the system of express and local stops. If you're using the subway at a weekend, try to check in advance for any maintenance that might affect your route because it can be maddening.

Don't bother with an umbrella, get a hood instead. When it rains in New York it is almost always windy as well and your umbrella will break.

Don't go to Times Square. It's horrible.

mathanxiety Wed 05-Sep-12 20:41:55

YY to the Tenement Museum and the art. I also recommend the High Line for a gorgeous walk and unique experience of the city. Times Square is truly horrible, I so agree. And you will just be bothered about poking people in the eye with an umbrella.

New Yorkers are friendly and chatty and took pity on me went out of their way to be very helpful last time I was there.

ohmeohmy Wed 05-Sep-12 20:43:10

walk the high line gives you a different perspective on the city. We like the photography museum and the film museum in the bronx

ohmeohmy Wed 05-Sep-12 20:43:44

Great minds , math anxiety....

Londonista1975 Wed 05-Sep-12 20:55:15

High Line is wonderful, such an oasis.

I do think everyone should go to Times Square once in their lifetimes. It's perhaps the closest you'll ever feel to feeling like yiu're in a scene in a New York set film. It is utterly mind-blowing but apart from seeing a show on Broadway, most of midtown is too stuffy, touristy, and crowded for me. Downton is much more interesting, apart from the Financial District, as alarkaspree says. Little Italy is a tourist trap. But SoHo, Chelsea, ad everywhere else in the lower part of the island are great to walk around and soak up the atmosphere.

BobbiFleckman Wed 05-Sep-12 21:05:56

stay somewhere through air b&b rather than a hotel. If you're going with children - THE PARK! there's a nice day out to be had at the Natural History museum, walk through the park, FAO Schwartz and Serendipity, also Dylan's Candy Bar.

for cocktails with a view, the bar at the top of Beekman Towers with a view over DUMBO and the top of hte Peninsula HOtel are nice. For real NY food experiences, the Waverly Diner on 6th ave in Greenwich Village / Carnegie Deli in midtown near the Carnegie Hall for giant stacked bagels / gallagher's steak (also midtown, 52nd & b'way)

petal2008 Fri 07-Sep-12 12:41:57

Blimey, thanks for all your advice!

We are going half term week - 27th Oct for a week. Me, DH and DS16. Have just ordered the New York passes and have arranged for them to come here so we can plan 6 day's worth of trips and perhaps decide the night before which "day" we will do.

We want to do all the usual touristy things ESB, Statue of Liberty (thinks it's due to reopen in October) Ellis Island, Staten Island, Central Park etc. Also seen some good boat trips and perhaps the bus night tour. Never heard of Top of the Rock? Would like to go to the 9/11 memorial but not sure. Definitely going to a Broadway show - probably Mama Mia.

Do you just tip in cafes/restaurants, cab drivers etc? Don't want to offend anybody.

PandaNot Fri 07-Sep-12 13:40:18

Worth every penny/cent.

October will be a lovely time to go, you should be able to get some good shopping done too, in time for Christmas.

Tipping is expected everywhere and I have no problem with this is the US, you just factor it in when deciding where you want to go. I haven't been for a couple of years now so don't know what the sales tax is now but when eating out we used to just give double what the tax was which helpfully worked out on the bottom of the receipts, worked out at about 16%. When ordering drinks it is expected that you tip the bar staff. Cab drivers also, tend to round up to nearest convenient figure.

Ooh I loved New York, was amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone was! and it's dead easy to find your way around because all the streets are on a grid system.

alarkaspree Fri 07-Sep-12 14:00:21

Cab drivers have a payment screen in the back now, which is useful if you want to pay by credit card. The default tip options are 20%, 25% and 30%! Some of them will actually tell you off if you fail to tip them enough too. Even if they went the wrong way, got stopped by the police for speeding, or had no back window.

Can you tell I prefer the subway?

BellaVita Fri 07-Sep-12 14:08:43

911 Memorial comes under one of the ferry rides on the new York pass. It comes with it's own guide - well worth it. They also take you to Wall Street and the chapel where the services made a station out of. Well worth it IMO.

petal2008 Fri 07-Sep-12 15:39:51

Ahh - the Rockerfeller Center - should have realised! Yes, this looks good - definitely one for the list.

MrsJohnDeere Fri 07-Sep-12 15:41:39

Another vote for the High Line. Just perfect.


Re Statue of Liberty, an official reopening date has still not been announced.
(It can be a right pain to visit this anyway due to all the security restrictions that you undergo to get onto Liberty Island).

Let your son know that he will be fingerprinted and photographed at immigration on arrival into the US (as will you).

The TKTS ticketbooth in Times Square sells cheap Broadway tickets.

If you have a photocard driving licence bring that along with you as you may well be asked for photo id when paying by credit card. Infact in NYC that is pretty much a given.

Do not forget to tell your credit card provider that you are going to the US as not doing so may get your credit card stopped.

Buy an international phonecard in Walgreens if you wish to make calls to the UK (a lot cheaper than either using mobile phone or hotel rates and you receive hours of talk time).

This may or may not apply but bear in mind as well that many Wii games are not compatible with our UK system. Always check before purchase.

Try and get some sleep on the return flight.

mathanxiety Fri 07-Sep-12 20:26:27

Go out to Brighton Beach for 'neighborhood' atmosphere of the recent immigrant variety (very Russian/Ukrainian).

People who work in service occupations in the US are taxed not just on their official income. The Internal Revenue Service estimates their tip income and demands that estimate be paid. They base their estimate at a rate of about 20%. If you tip less you are actually costing the taxi driver or waiter.

International phonecard is a very good idea. You can buy minutes online too - look at celtictel . com for instance.

Photo ID very important also.

Don't buy DVDs as they are not compatible with European/British players.

You can buy DVDs if you already own a multi region DVD player; such players can play region 2 (US) discs.

Blu-rays are different; many of these on sale are only compatible and for the US market. If you do not see on the reverse a triangle with the letters A B and C on it then do not buy. US Wii games on sale are also not compatible with UK systems.

petal2008 Sat 08-Sep-12 14:34:33

Someone suggested getting a money "passport" and paying for everything on that. You load your dollars on and it's either visa or mastercard and apparently loads of places take them that take visa etc. Has anyone used one? A lady in money exchange here said that they don't have chip n pin over there (?) so you sign for everything which can get a bit dodgy - but are the money passports chip n pin?

Thought about taking one and some cash for drinks and tips etc. Plus credit card for emergencies.

Checked with our mobile provider here and the USA roaming rates are astronomical a rip off. DH and I probably won't take a phone as it won't bother us but DS will think his arm has been cut off without his iphone. Guy in phone shop suggested taking a phone and just buying a SIM card over there and using it as pay as you go just for sending txts etc. It's the internet that costs the most - about £3 per mb and as DS uses about 100 week so that's totally out of the question! I suppose you could disable the internet and just use wifi that's available - bit rubbish with all this techno stuff.

Great tips - thanks everyone!

petal2008 Sat 08-Sep-12 14:38:51

Another question - sorry!

Realise immigration at airport will probably be lengthy (fingerprinted shock) - how long is the "average" time to get through do you think?

mathanxiety Sat 08-Sep-12 15:54:39

That would be a prepaid visa 'gift card'. They are accepted wherever you see the visa sign. They are all signature cards afaik. You will need some sort of photo ID with a signature included if anyone asks you for proof of identity when you use one.

You can reload them. You can register the card and report if it disappears -- keep the phone number and card number separate from the card so you will have it if you need it.

Tips on buying a SIM card. They are not cheap.

Advice from the British Embassy -- see esp the instruction on the ESTA requirement if you are travelling under the visa waiver programme.
ESTA website.

MrsJohnDeere Sat 08-Sep-12 16:08:17

We queued for about 2 hours last year.

PandaNot Sat 08-Sep-12 18:21:42

We've always waited between 2 and 3 hours at JFK, bit less at Newark.

Which airport are you flying into?. At JFK you may well be herded about or shouted at.

Newark's lines tend to be a bit shorter as they have more immigration staff on duty. You will all be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival into the US - this is what the Americans do these days. This is also why I suggested you tell your son beforehand so you are not surprised.

No chip and pin machines in NYC - all credit card purchases are signed for. This is also why photo id is requested beforehand - to try and cut down on such fraud.

American banking is not as sophisticated as the UK system; I know of the cards that have been suggested but have never used one there. I tend to use cash and credit cards instead.

Visa pre-paid cards are expensive in terms of fees so would avoid. The ones I have seen for sale in Sainsburys are particularly expensive and only are for a small sum.

If you have a photocard driving licence bring that. It is handy for photo id purposes.

Your son may well have to do without his Iphone for a few days, the rates for such usage is astronomical. Also his IPhone may not work in the US anyway even with a new SIM (incompatible phone systems). I would therefore ask him to leave his IPhone at home; he is on holiday with his parents after all and so can live without it for a few days!.

A mobile phone is only useful to check if the taxi driver is in arrivals on return to the UK (this is the only time we use a phone on holiday). We buy an international prepaid phonecard from Walgreens (big pharmacy chain) if you want to call the UK. $20 for at least 4 hours of talk time is a bargain!.

petal2008 Sun 09-Sep-12 12:32:53

Flying into JFK. Am prepared for the wait but after a seven hour flight not looking forward to it.

Think will leave the phone at home and perhaps just take mine for emergencies as it is not a smartphone. I hardly ever use it anyway as I have few friends

Will I have to prebook a taxi bearing in mind there will be three of us with at least three suitcases and two lots of handbaggage?

hifi Sun 09-Sep-12 12:53:09

theres loads of cabs outside,you may need a people carier type tho. we went last year and a cabbie asked us if we wanted a ride,he took us to the car park and we got in a very swanky car. cost double the normal fare as it was a "luxury car". does your hotel offer a transfer service?

times square a night is a great expierience. theres the huge toys r us and Disney,all super low prices compared with here.

buy all your american brand cosmetics on the way out at duty free,clinique is well cheap.
also if you are buying loads to take back your luggage will be weighed in pounds not kilos.

What you will need is a taxi van rather than a standard taxi but these are available at JFK, you need to look for "ground transportation". Would not think you need to pre-book as there are also taxi dispatchers who organize the taxis.

You will not see a sign saying "Toilets" anywhere; they are called "Restrooms".

(BTW if you happen to bank with Barclays you can use the Bank of America ATM machines without incurring a whole load of extra charges as they are linked)

One more thing; if you take a debit card with you do tell the card provider beforehand so they can set the appropriate marker on it, failure to do so could see the debit card being stopped.

petal2008 Sun 09-Sep-12 15:00:26

cost double the normal fare

What is the usual fare - the hotel is about 15 miles apparently?

For trips between (to and from) Manhattan and JFK International Airport, the flat fare is $52.00 plus any tolls using Rate Code 2 on the meter. A NY State Tax Surcharge of $.50 will be added to each trip.

blue2 Sun 09-Sep-12 15:34:22

I would book your seats as far forward as possible on the flight so that you have a reasonable chance of being somewhere in the middle of the immigration queue rather than the back (Speaks from experience)

BellaVita Sun 09-Sep-12 16:03:11

We paid $45 plus tolls which came to $51 plus tip each way - it is the same price from JFK to wherever you go in Manhattan.

We had no problem in getting a cab.

petal2008 Sun 09-Sep-12 16:34:48

Thanks for all advice and tips.

mathanxiety Sun 09-Sep-12 21:22:04

On top of the fare plus tolls you would need to tip.

It might be cheaper to take public transportation even though you will be knackered and lugging baggage. Air Train pros and cons and general info here.
AirTrain website here.

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