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New York City Travel Tips

New York Airport Tips:

There are three principal airports servicing New York City. John F. Kennedy International is the primary arrival port for overseas flights. LaGuardia airport and Newark airport have fewer international flights and a preponderance of domestic routes. Each of the three airports is located 6-12 miles (10-20 km) from the center of the Manhattan business and tourist center of the city. The commute into the city can take 30 to 60 minutes or longer.

Taxis and limosines offer the most convenient transportation into the city. The fare is typically a flat-rate of about $35 plus an extra $4 for the bridge or tunnel toll. For about $12 you can get efficient transportation from any of the airports into Manhattan on one of the airport buses. They commute to Grand Central Station, To Pennsylvania Station or to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. From those locations, you can easily get to your hotel or any other Manhattan location via a $5-7 cab ride or an inexpensive subway trip.

From JFK airport, you can now take the Air Train from the terminal to the Jamaica station of the subway then take the subway to any destination in Manhattan. The total cost will be about $7, but you will have to carry your bags with you. From Newark airport, you can take the airport Air Train to Liberty Station and then take a New Jersey Transit train to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan. It will cost about $7. From LaGuardia Airport, you must first take a local bus to a nearby subway station, then take the subway into Manahattan. The cost is about $5.

New York City Subway Metro Card vending machine © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
You can purchase subway or bus tickets (Metro Cards) from the attendants in subway stations, from vending machines or from select merchants throughout the city.

Public Transportation Tips:

You should avoid driving a car into Manhattan. The traffic can be horrendous, on-street parking is almost non existant and parking garages charge up to $30 per day. Public transportation is very good in New York City. A subway or bus ticket costs $2.00 and is good for any destination on the system and even includes a transfer from subway to bus. You can purchase subway or bus tickets (Metro Cards) from the attendants in subway stations, from vending machines or from select merchants throughout the city.

You can purchase a Metro Card for multiple rides, and you will get a 20% discount on any purchase of $10 or more. i.e. a $10 ticket gives you 6 rides instead of 5, etc. You can buy an unlimited-ride "Fun Pass" for $7 that allows you unlimited access to all of the city subways and busses for one day. You can buy a 7-day unlimited pass for $24.

New York City Taxi Tips:

New York taxis are seen everywhere in the city expecially on Manhattan Island. They provide convenient transportation except during heavy traffic periods when they become entangled in the pervasive grid lock. You can hail a cab anywhere in the city by simply stepping to the nearest curb and raising your hand to signal the taxis that you are seeking a ride.

If you are traveling from one location in Midtown to another in Midtown, the ride will cost you about $5-7. A trip from Midtown to the downtown tip of the Island or to Uptown near Harlem will cost $10-15. A trip the whole length of the island from Downtown to Uptown will cost $20-25. A trip to one of the airports will cost about $35. If the cab driver is friendly, courteous and helps you with your luggage, it is customary to reward him or her with a few dollars as a tip.

Broadway Theater Tips:

New York is famous for its Broadway theater shows especially its Broadway musicals. If you want to see one of the more popular Broadway hits, order your tickets on-line or by telephone weeks in advance as the popular shows generally sell out. Tickets for the top Broadway shows cost about $100 each. Tickets for the lesser productions "off Broadway" sell for about half that price.

If you don't mind seeing one of the older Broadway productins or the less popular shows, you can go to the TKS booth in Times Square on the day of the performance and purchase half price tickets. Such tickets are also available on the Internet.

Manhattan Hotel Accommodation Tips:

New York City is one of the most expensive places in the USA for hotel accommodations. It is difficult to find any really nice hotel rooms in Manhattan for less than $150 per night. Most tourists would prefer to stay in Midtown Manhattan especially near the Times Square theater district as this is near many attractions and is close to the center of the public transportation hub. There are some inexpensive hotels with rates under $150 per night scattered throughout Midtown and on the Upper West Side. These hotels tend to be a bit older with smaller rooms and shabbier decor. A few of them offer shared bath accommodations at bargain rates.

If you don't mind a bit of inconvenience, you can stay at a hotel near one of the airports. The prices are a bit more reasonable, but you will face a 30 to 60 minute commute into the city center. If you drive to New York City, it is best to stay in Newark, New Jersey or in Secaucus, New Jersey. The hotel prices in New Jersey are much more reasonable, the rooms are more spacious, you will have free parking and you can ride public transportation into the city.

New york City sidewalk Bagel vendor © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Street vendors operate food carts all over Manhattan and offer a wide variety of foods at inexpensive prices.

New York Dining Tips:

There are about 25,000 restaurants in New York City. You can find restaurants featuring cuisine from nearly every country and every ethnic group in the world. Prices vary from modest to very expensive. If you want to try something special, check one of the restaurant review sites on the Internet for reviews of many New York City restaurants. Many of the New York Delicatessens offer hot and cold food buffets with amazing varieties of ethnic specialties at very inexpensive prices.

Street vendors operate food carts all over Manhattan and offer a wide variety of foods at inexpensive prices. A typical New York worker's breakfast often consists of a cup of coffee with a bagel or muffin from the local street vendor. For lunch, New York hot dogs, Italian hot sausage sandwiches, Greek Gyros, Middle Eastern falafels and many other delicacies are available from the street vendors. Some of them are quite delicious.

New York City Shopping Tips:

There are many shopping opportunities in New York City. Fifth Avenure between 49th and 59th streets is the home to all of the great designer houses and the upscale merchandise in the city. It takes plenty of money to shop there, but you can always look for free. The grand New York department stores are great places to find a variety of quality merchandise at reasonable prices. Their end-of-season clearance sales where merchandise is often discounted by 25% or 50% offers some of the greatest bargains in the city. The most famous department stores are Macy's, which claims to have the world's largest deparment store at Herald Square, and Bloomindale's on Third Avenue at 59th Street.

The famous "Garment District", between 34th and 40th streets and between 5th and 9th Avenues, contains many corporate offices and wholesale showrooms for clothing designers and manufacturers. It is famous for its exclusive "sample sales" where the public can purchase left-over merchandise, one-of-a-kind samples and defective items at bargain prices directly from the designer or manufacturer. Unfortunately, you must know the exact location and the date of the sales to find them. They are usually publicized in some of the city papers and magazines under fashion news.

New York City Shopping bargains © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The grand New York department stores are great places to find a variety of quality merchandise at reasonable prices. Their end-of-season clearance sales where merchandise is often discounted by 25% or 50% offers some of the greatest bargains in the city.

There are numerous shops and boutiques scattered throughout the city. The South Street Seaport has a great collection of shops in a tourist oriented environment. The Greenwich Village, Soho and Chelsea neighborhoods all have large selections of shops featuring various sorts of clothing and merchandise. For inexpensive merchandise and bargains including genuine imitation "knock-off" designer goods, Chinatown has plenty to offer.

You will see a lot of souvenir shops, consumer electronics stores and camera shops around the Times Square area. They are typically tourist traps that often charge inflated prices. They are fine places to buy souvenirs and trinkets, but you can typically find better quality merchandise at much lower prices in the department stores or at neighborhood shops.

If you are interested in doing some serious shopping during your visit to New York City, you should visit one of the discount outlet malls. The nearest one is the Jersey Gardens Mall (100 shops), located at Elizabeth New Jersey, approximately 45 minutes from Manhattan. Two more malls are located approximately 1.5 hours south of New York City in central New Jersey. Two very large outlet malls are Woodbury Commons (200 shops), located approximately 1.5 hours north of the city and the Tanger Outlets (150 shops)on the tip of Long Island about 1.5 hours east of Manhattan. Some tour operators offer bus trips to several of these malls. If you are a serious shopper, it is worth spending a day excursion to one of these outlet centers.

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Tour Tips:

Gray Line tours offers double-decker bus excursions around New York City with stops at numerous points of interest. This is a great way to get an overview of the "Big Apple". You should allocate at least one full day to such a tour, as it takes that long or more just to see all of the highlights. Circle Line Cruises offers several boat excursions around Manhattan Island and through the harbor past the Statue of Liberty. This gives you a unique view of the city and takes from two to four hours. They also operate the ferry to Liberty Island for close-up visits to the Statue of Liberty. There are typically long waits to get on these boats, so allow at least 4 hours for a visit to "Lady Liberty". Another unique way to see New York is by taking a helicopter tour over the city and the harbor. The flights take less than an hour but are very exciting.

The best tour bargain in New York City is by far the Staten Island Ferry. You can see the New York skyline, the great harbor and the Statue of Liberty without the long wait for the Liberty excursion boats. You can even see Lady Liberty after hours when the Island is closed to visitors. Just go to the ferry terminal adjacent to Battery Park, hop on the next Staten Island ferry for a 30-minute ride across New York Harbor and past the Statue of Liberty; then catch the next ferry back. It costs nothing! The ferry ride is absolutely free!

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: New York City