Before You Decide to Go to NYC, Read This (+ a bit about entering the U.S.)

My personal favorite, NYC. In this article, let me tell you a bit about this magnificent city and also some important info when you enter the States. Here we go!

(Difference between “NYC” and “NY”)
NYC stands for New York City. It includes 5 boroughs: Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and, of course, Manhattan.

On the other hand, if you say “NY”, it may mean the State of New York, it may mean Manhattan or it may mean other boroughs. A lot of times, when people talk about NY, they imagine Manhattan solely. But don’t forget that NYC is part of the State of New York.


Entering the U.S

If your nationality is eligible for entering the States without a visa, congrats! Awesome! BUT, you still have to apply for ESTA which is a system that allows you to enter the States without a tourist visa. ESTA can be applied online and costs c. 14$. (Wow, what a good business)

If you have a passport that is non-eligible for visa-less entry, then just go to your local American embassy and get a tourist visa.


Be Careful on Transfer Flights 

This was my personal experience, but one time on my way to NYC, I missed my domestic transfer flight because the passport control and customs had an insanely long line. The airport staff 10 out of 10 times do not care that you are in a rush and will not make a special case just for you. They won’t listen to your explanations, so if you miss your flight, don’t panic, just go to the airline desk and ask for a boarding pass for another flight. They will pity you and will give you another boarding pass without any additional fees.


Troubles at Airports 

The only rule is: be assertive & moderately aggressive. If your flight is delayed and they lead you to another flight, follow them and listen to what the airline staff says. Don’t just sit there and look dumb. If you don’t understand what they are saying, ask! Ask and it shall be given to you. And another important advice is:

PLEASE, FOR GOD’S SAKE, DON’T TAKE THE UNAUTHORIZED TAXIS!


Sightseeing in Manhattan 

The Most Diverse City: Melting Pot
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That is what Manhattan is. The most crowded, diverse city as small as 60 square kilometers. Rich, poor, somebody, nobody, celebrities, homeless, young, old… You can find anyone in that city. NYers say Manhattan is full of energy, is competitive, is fast-paced and is always full of tourists lol

NYC: Smelly, dirty, old
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Sorry to crash your dreams or expectations, but Manhattan is old. Some parts of it are being redeveloped, but the subway is c.150 years old and the city itself is 200+ years old. I don’t know why, but the whole city smells like sewage. Maybe because the sewage system is old too or maybe there is something wrong with my sense of smell.
Occasional Language Barrier
Yes, although you may think “it’s America!”, in some places (local diners, street stands) I bumped into people who couldn’t speak English and yet were working as shop staff. Use easy words, much body language, and loud voice will be fine.
In most places, however, you HAVE TO be able to speak English (or Spanish), but they will help you out if they know you have trouble with English.
Gourmet
It’s Manhattan! You can literally find any restaurant of any cuisine. Italian, Korean, Chinese, Greek, Mediterranean, Russian, Ukrainian, Japanese, local American and so on. I suggest trying some hotdogs, bagels, and some fast-food when you’re there just to get that feeling of having an American meal. Be careful when buying from the street vendors as you may get food poisoning from the not-so-fresh ingredients served in not-so-clean vans.  In restaurants, look for A or B food safety rating.
Museums
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If you’re an arty person, you can’t stay in Manhattan without visiting all the art museums and art galleries. Brooklyn is the hippie spot and is worth visiting. Chelsea in Manhattan is the art galleries area and just walking around there, you’ll find different kinds of galleries with many modern art pieces by fresh & powerful artists.
MET and some other museums have the Pay What You Wish system where you pay the amount you want to pay to enter (Not anymore from March 2018: see here).
In the Museum of Natural History, you can join the FREE 90mins tour which is SO DARN GOOD! It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it’s informative! And it’s FREE! Join! Join! Join!
Some interesting activities may be found online as well, e.g. art classes, sketching and drawing meetups etc.
Famous & popular museums are MoMa, MET, AMNH, 911 Memorial Museum, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim Museum. My personal favorite was Morgan Museum.
911 memorial is a very heavy, heartbreaking one where you can’t go through without crying so be prepared.
Touring the Filming Locations
If you’re a film lover, why not tour the famous locations where movies were shot? SATC filming location touring is popular among ladies. I once visited an Italian restaurant where they shot one of the scenes from MIB2. They had a poster inside the restaurant, but people didn’t seem to care much. Maybe it’s not something grandiose, but still for movie-loving souls, like me, it was a pleasant surprise to be there.

Sightseeing in Other Boroughs

So far, we’ve talked about Manhattan. Yes, Manhattan is the center of the Universe, but let us not forget the other boroughs either. There is a botanical garden/zoo in Central Park and larger ones up in the Bronx, Yankee Stadium in Bronx is worth the visit while you’re in NYC. I don’t know the good touristy spots in Queens, but you can let me know in the comments. My personal favorite is City Island! It has a very chill atmosphere in the winter season and is very calm. It is known for the fishery, restaurant dining and overall is a nice, cozy place.  A bit far from Manhattan, but if you have spare time, you can escape the chaotic Manhattan to spend some calm hours there.

Service, Prices, Tips, and Safety 

 

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As for safety: surprisingly Manhattan is one of the safest cities among others in the States. The only advice I can give is not to go out alone during the late night. (Duh) Subways run 24hrs and are, I’d say, 50% safe. If you’re with someone, then it’s better. Try not to be alone in the subway car. Be vigilant.
In major tourist spots, you can see NYPD officers patrolling the place. Terror attacks and random shootings are difficult to avoid but if you plan to attend a massive event, always have the courage to leave early even if it’s so, really, fun.
Avoid dangerous and crazy people and don’t risk. In airports, again, DON’T TAKE UNAUTHORIZED TAXIS. The only taxis you should take are yellow cabs or UBERs.
Also, Manhattan is full of soliciting which is very annoying and troublesome. Don’t get into a conversation with the person no matter how pretty or hot or glamorous or kind-looking or dying-looking he/she is. If you get into a trouble, go to a local embassy of the country you’re from.
Prices are high, same as in other big cities.

Tips: this can be very bothersome to people who come from a country where tipping is unusual. Remember that you are paying for the service and if you feel that the service was SHIT, then you do not have to necessarily leave a big tip. You can’t NOT pay tips either, (you’d be a kind of a jerk and it’s a manner to pay the tips and you know what they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”) So decide wisely.


Souvenirs and the Best Time to Go

 

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Christmas in Manhattan is speechless, beautiful and gorgeous and momentous and the airplane tickets are also gorgeously expensive. Summertime is a good time to go, but also very expensive. Good time to go is spring/fall season. If you manage to get a ticket under $1000, you’re a genius. The average is around c.$1500 for a roundtrip. It can go as high as $3000 for an economy class roundtrip ticket during the holiday season.

The best place to buy I ❤️ NY goods and souvenirs is, of course, Times Square. POTUS goods are popular and are only for a limited time (4 years!) You can find lotsa small shops that sell local NY goods so it might be a good idea to do your own research and purchase unique NYC souvenirs. I like to buy vegan food that is only sold in the U.S., and also I like to stroll around Duane-Reade drugstores and find stuff that is not sold in Japan.


Endnotes About Sightseeing in NYC

You can chill in the Central Park eating your favorite local street food. You can jog or do yoga there. You can walk along Fifth Avenue and do some lux shopping. You can visit all the coolest coffee shops or even go to the Top of The Rock (East 50th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth aka Avenue of the Americas) to see the most beautiful view of Manhattan. In the evening, you can hit the bars or clubs and have fun all night in the city that never sleeps. NYC is energetic. NYC is powerful. If you’re slow, people will be pissed and if they see you being confused and lost, they will help you out no problem. You’ll see a lot of weird people, and creative people, and rich people, and unique people and drug addicts and many awesome people. You won’t get everything in one trip, but you’ll get used to NYC as you go there more and more. Get out of your comfort zone, and visit New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made.

Welcome to the Big 🍎, Millennials.

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