19 New York City Mistakes to Avoid: How to act more like a New York City Native

May 1, 2017

New York City Mistakes to Avoid as a Tourist

Welcome to New York City and the 19 mistakes to avoid when visiting New York City.

So, what are the New York City mistakes to avoid as a tourist? Well first, let me just reassure you that we have all been there. You visit a foreign city and then bam, you do something that is totally normal at home, and you think nothing of it. But then you  see women crying in the street, desperately covering their children’s eyes to shield them from your blasphemous behavior. At first glance, you think it couldn’t possibly be you, but then you see everyone within a 100 meters giving you the stankiest evil eye of all time. Then it hits you, the things you do at home just won’t cut it here.

Sure, you can read all the guidebooks you want, but most publications won’t emphasize the subtle nuances inherent to various local cultures. These books may also fail to warn you about all the mistakes that a lot of first time visitors make. Well, being the kind, loving, caring, and considerate New Yorker that I am (if you have anymore positive adjectives to describe me, don’t be shy. My ego loves it), I have created a list to help you navigate the mean streets of New York (they’re really not that mean anymore). Sure, some customs may be the same as your home town, but there are a lot of subtleties to New York life that are quite different from many regions of the United States, let alone the entire world. So here is a list of 19 New York City Mistakes to Avoid when visiting as a tourist (Ta da!!! Insert falling jazz hands here).

1. Getting into an empty subway car (especially during rush hour).

Another one of the mistakes to avoid in New York City is riding  in an empty subway car. If you could imagine a tumble weed rolling through your subway car, then stay away.

Stop! Do not enter, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200, and yes, that’s an order! It’s a trick. If there is an empty subway car, there is a reason. Usually it’s because the air-conditioning is broken or maybe there is some icky bodily fluid lurking within. Either way, you don’t want to find out. Just stay far, far away.

New York may be known for many things, but being the cleanest city in the world is not among them. Therefore, avoid totally empty subway cars at all costs (Also, if you are traveling to the suburbs via train, DO NOT take the last train. This is commonly known as the “drunk train” and is filled with annoying, drunken hooligans who are projectile vomiting everywhere. It’s like the Exorcist come to life in there. Avoid this suburban phenomenon at all costs.)

2. Waiting for the pedestrian crossing sign to say “Walk”.

As they told you in pre-school, always look both ways before you cross the street. Another one of the mistakes to avoid in New York City is waiting for the crosswalk sign to say go.

Yeah, no. We don’t do that here. We look down the street and cross when we think we’re not gonna get squished by oncoming traffic (and if you hit us we’ll just sue you for all you’re worth). New Yorkers are busy people and we don’t wait for a pedestrian sign to tell us that it’s okay to cross the street. This also
means that you can’t cross the street just because a pedestrian sign says it’s safe. New York drivers are crazy and treat driving laws more like  irrelevant suggestions. So if you don’t want to get named by a rogue yellow cab, always look before you cross the street. .

3. Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take pictures or look at a map.

This is the worst thing you can do to New Yorkers. I can also guarantee that if you do this, New Yorkers will hate you forever. This is actually the singular reason why most New Yorkers avoid Times Square at all costs.

Now, you may wonder why impeding the flow of foot traffic is such a big deal. Well, all New Yorkers are in a rush, at all times. Therefore, anyone who gets in the way is either openly scorned or is abruptly pushed out of the way. We are a fast paced city that chocker box full of stressed out, high strung individuals. So just don’t mess with us as we speed walk down the sidewalk.

4. Making small talk with locals.

Yeah. No. We are in a rush and don’t really care where you are going or how excited you are to visit New York for the first time. Talk to someone who cares about these things, like a tour operator or the concierge at the front desk of your hotel (This isn’t all New Yorkers but you get the idea).

Also, if we say, “Hey, how are you?”, we don’t really care how you are. It is more of a greeting and you are just supposed to reply, “Fine thanks. How are you?” Most likely this will all happen while we are both walking rapidly, so just keep it moving. The answer doesn’t even really matter because it’s all just a curtesy question.

5. Staying in Manhattan.

Another one of the mistakes to avoid in New York City is staying in Manhattan. Give Brooklyn a chance because you know what they say, “No, sleep, till Brooklyn!!!!”

Manhattan is the most expensive and most crowded of all the boroughs in New York City. That’s why it’s
essential that you embrace you’re inner Lewis and Clark (I’m a US History nerd so if you’re not American you may not get the referees but it’s humorous. I swear!) and go on a little adventure. I mean, Arthur Avenue has the ABSOLUTE best Italian food in the city, and that’s ALL THE WAY in the Bronx. Plus, if you travel into another borough, the prices are cheaper and the quality of the food can get even better.

6. Eating at a chain restaurant.

New York City is known, the world over, for it’s excellent food. Therefore, it is a human right’s violation if you come here and get a sandwich from Subway, or order some pasta at Olive Garden. I mean, you came all this way, so why not take advantage of all the awesome food we have to offer? And I’m not just talking about Michelin star rated restaurants either. Some of my favorite places to eat are little holes in the wall like Mac Bar or Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles. Soo good and both are only $10 an entree.

I am getting hungry just looking at this sign. Mac Bar is so good and all they serve is Macaroni and Cheese. Yum!

7. Eating anywhere in Times Square for that matter.

Times Square is so expensive and all the restaurants there are just giant tourist traps (which doesn’t even factor in the insane lines to get into some of lame places). Seriously,  all the restaurants here cater to tourists who cannot navigate the city. Therefore, they settle on the familiarity of Times Square because it’s so easy to get to. But don’t get suckered into eating here. If anything, ask a local or someone at the hotel concierge where the best places to eat are . They will steer you in the right direction when no other New Yorkers have the time or inclination to talk to you.

8. Telling a taxi driver where you’re going before you enter the cab.

Never tell a taxi driver where you are going BEFORE you enter a cab, because if you do, they can say no. Just get in the cab and tell the driver once he or she starts driving. This way, they have to take you wherever you want to go.

I know this because this is the only way that I can get a cab in the city to drive me ALL the way to White Plains (it’s in the suburbs and no cab driver wants to schlep all the way out there). It literally takes like 3 bridges, 2 toll booths, and a whole lot of traffic to get there. But this plan never fails and I always get to White Plains safe and sound.

9. Paying full price for Broadway shows.

First rule of New York City, never ever pay full price for broadway tickets. Second rule of New York City, never ever pay full price for broadway tickets (Fight Club anyone?).

Seriously, why would you EVER pay full price to see a broadway show? Between the TKTS booth in Times Square, the Today Tix phone app, and Broadway Roulette, you can always find discounted tickets to the show of your choice.

Now, if you want to see something like Hamilton, that’s an entirely different story. I don’t have any off-shore bank accounts at my disposal so I am going to have to wait to see that show until the theater resembles a ghost town and not a Lady Gaga concert (For a list of what to see and how to get the cheapest tickets possible, click here)

10. Skipping a museum because of the price.

I know, you go to some museums, like MOMA, where you see the price of admission and think, “Does that price mean I get to take some of the art home wth me?” I get it. Museums in New York can be insanely expensive, especially if you are on a limited budget.

Another one of the mistakes to avoid in New York City is skipping out on museums because they are too expensive.

But remember, most museums in New York offer free days or evenings, so just check their website for detailed information about when their free admission times occur. Plus, a lot of museums have admission prices that are suggested donations. They have this policy at the MET (They  suggest $25), but I never take their suggestion. Instead, I choose to donate a $1 so that I can visit this insanely epic museum.

11. Eating in Little Italy.

It’s so not worth it. Just go to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx instead. The food is way better, the lines are shorter, and the prices are much cheaper because you’re not in Manhattan. Seriously though, if you listen to only one piece of advice I give, this should be it. I really wish I could tell you otherwise but the Little Italy of your dreams is not a reality (Sorry to burst your bubble but it’s for your own good).

12. Paying for the Statue of Liberty Tour.

O-M-G no (Sorry, my inner millennial is shining through). You could feed a small third world country with the price of admission to the Statue of Liberty Tour. Besides, once you get on Liberty Island there really isn’t that much to do. You just wander around, take a bunch of selfies, and cry because you just took out a second mortgage on your house, just to see Lady Liberty.

Another of the mistakes to avoid when visiting New York City is going on a Statue of Liberty tour.

So instead of annihilating your credit score, hop on the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free, operates 24 hours a day, and the views  of the Statue of Liberty cannot be beat (For a full list of tourist traps to avoid, click here).

13. Wearing an “I love NY” shirt.

Okay, I know we all love New York and want to say it loud and say it proud, but not with an I love New York shirt. By wearing this shirt, you are broadcasting to the entire city that you are indeed a total tourist and that everyone should feel free to try and take advantage of you.

To scammers this shirt screams, “pillage me because I am not from the area and am totally susceptible to any and all of the ways by which you can separate me from my money”. Once you wear this shirt, there will be no shortage of seedy New Yorkers trying to swindle you. So to avoid this kind of negative attention,  wear the shirt once you get home (Click here for a list of souvenirs that you must buy when visiting New York City).

14. Giving money to beggars or aspiring rappers.

This happens to me all the time. You get on the subway and inevitably, some shaggy looking dude shuffles on through and sings about how his dog ran away, his sister got eaten by a tiger, his mom dated his brother, and his home got step away by a tsunami. After this heart wrenching musical performance, he asks for a small donation to help him buy a sandwich (if you give him your social security number and access to your kid’s college fund that would be even better).

Trust me, you never need to miss another Yankee game again. Some mistakes to avoid in New York City are not going to events that are sold out. Hello stub hub.

This is all probably a lie. Sure, I bet there are some real people out there who are struggling to get by, but nine times out of ten, these con artists just prey upon tourists by tugging at their heart strings. Don’t fall for it. Plus, the more money you give these people, the more they are encouraged to keep up this charade of dishonesty (and if you’re a resident of the area, it get’s annoying after about the 500th time). So do us all a public service and just say no to scammers!

15. Not attending a sporting event or concert because it’s sold out.

Come on guys, this is the age of computers and technology. Who would fail to attend a sporting event or concert just because it’s “sold out”? What sold out really means is that entrepreneurs have bought up all
the event tickets and are now reselling them on sites like Stub Hub (that’s how I got my Lady Gaga tickets. So excited!). So if you really want to attend a sold out show or game, just search the internet and all your dreams will come true (okay, maybe not all but you know what I mean).

Now, if you want to get great ticket prices (I used to do this all the time for Yankee tickets), wait to buy your tickets until like two hours before the event. You will see ticket prices drop dramatically as sellers try and unload their tickets so that they don’t lose money on their purchase.

One of the mistakes to avoid when visiting New York City is not bringing warm clothes in the summer!! Bundle up because the air conditioning could give you frost bite!

16. Not bringing a sweatshirt around with you in the summer.

It’s hot out so you thought you wouldn’t need a winter coat in New York. Aww, that’s so sweet and totally not true. Here, they pump up the air conditioning in the summer so it feels like the ouster reaches of Siberia in most indoor spaces. That’s why any seasoned New Yorker will tell you that you always need to bring a warm sweater, fleece, or jacket around with you in the summer. If you don’t, you will end up hugging random strangers in an effort to absorb some of their body heat. To avoid this potentially awkward situation, just come prepared with warm clothes.

Check out some of the clothes I carry with me to stay warm in the summer (funny I know)!!!

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17. Using an ATM in a store.

Do you want your identity to be stolen by a twelve year old girl in Nigeria or by an unemployed fifty year old man in Arkansas named Butch? What do you mean that doesn’t sound like a good time? Come on, live a little!

Okay, no one wants to have their identity stolen but that can happen when you use these independent ATM machines in convenience stores . Don’t use them because if the identity theft doesn’t get you, the inflated $10 money withdrawal fee sure will. Stick with reputable bank ATMs if you really need some fast cash.

18. Taking a cab to or from the airport.

This is the worst and most expensive way to get to and from the airport. There are seriously about 50 other and much cheaper ways to get there, so slowly back away from the cab. Trust me, you’ll thank me later (I made this mistake once and ended up
paying like $100 to get from JFK to my house in White Plains. Never again. I now depend on the kindness go strangers or public transportation). To find out
how to get to and from the airport for the best price, click here).

19. Referring to New York City as New York City.

All native New Yorkers refer to New York City as, “The City”. For us, this is the one and only city that really matters. Therefore, there is no need to say which city you are referring to because obviously it could only beNew York City (Are there even other cities in the world? LoL.).

Therefore, if you want to blend in, just say that you’re visiting the city and we’ll all know what you’re talking about an gladly accept you as one of our own (Welcome to the inner circle! You’ll love it here. Now move out of my way. I’m late for work!).

That’s All Folks!

I’m sure there are a ton more mistakes you could make in New York City, but this list should be good enough to help you survive here, at least for a week or so. Now go forth and enjoy all the wonders that New York City has to offer. Just keep an eye out for all the mistakes to avoid when visiting New York City.

 

girlwiththepassport

Nanny by day and travel blogger any other time.

I love writing and traveling and bearing my soul on the page.
I want to inspire others to face their fears and join me on an adventure.

https://www.instagram.com/girlwitthepassport/
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51 Comments

  • Maegan 7 months ago

    Haha this isn’t perfect! Just what I needed before I visit the city 😜

  • Maegan 7 months ago

    Is perfect (stupid autocorrect)

  • Julia K 7 months ago

    Lol and dully noted about the tickets. The taxi tip was also helpful. Loved your post😊😅 where does one stay at normal prices because Brooklyn is strating to look like Manhattan on Airbnb.

    • girlwiththepassport 7 months ago

      I know. There are some cheap hotels out there. i am gonna do a post on them. Are you looking just at air bob r would you be open to staying at a hostel as well?

  • Donna Meyer 7 months ago

    And please don’t pronounce Houston Street like the city in Texas. People wil imediately know you are a tourist. Not what you want in the City. It’s House-ton. Great list!

  • Kesi 7 months ago

    This list is great and I’m from NYC! Macbar is sooo good!

  • Charlotte 7 months ago

    What a great post! It really made me laugh! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Krysti 7 months ago

    This is so helpful! Definitely saving these tips for my first trip to NYC!

  • vivomigsgee 7 months ago

    it’s interesting to know that staying in manhattan wud be a mistake and therefore should be avoided.. haha.. great article!

  • Dhini 7 months ago

    This is great to know. Thank you for sharing

  • Jodi-Ann 7 months ago

    Awesome read! Will definitely keep all this in mind for my next trip to New York.

  • Megan 7 months ago

    Great post thank you!

  • veggetti recipes 7 months ago

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  • you.theworld.wandering 7 months ago

    I absolutely loved this – i read it from start to finish and was giggling my way through. I visited NYC back in 2014 from Aus for 2 weeks and loved it. I helped my mum plan her trip at the end of last year and reading this list brought back a tonne of memories. Well done and nice to connect!

    • girlwiththepassport 7 months ago

      Oh I am so glad that it brought back such great memories for you. New York is a funny place for sure.

  • Rosemary Palmer 7 months ago

    Always love suggestions like this. Hope to go to NYC next year.

  • passport seva kendra 7 months ago

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a
    colleague who has been conducting a little research on this.
    And he in fact bought me lunch because I stumbled upon it for
    him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this topic here on your website.

  • Mayochup 6 months ago

    Thanks for this. I just hate being “the tourist” in any city

  • Shera 6 months ago

    Love your style of waiting, fast, witty, and still give a full advice.

  • Kunal 6 months ago

    Really great suggestions.. will keep all this in mind during my visit later this year. Thank you.

  • sky 5 months ago

    Sure some good tips. Personally, I always take a taxi from the airport. I’ve just spent $2000 on my plane ticket to get there, an extra $65 for the convenience is just added to my total transport cost. And of course I stay in Manhattan. I want to be able to fall into bed 10 minutes after I’ve had enough of tramping around the city/come from a bar/show. I pay the ‘suggested’ price of admission at museums because I want them to keep open. I’m only here once every two years, so it’s no big deal (and so locals can have the benefit of free/discount access). Many times, locals have stopped and asked if I would like assistance and had a chat about where I am from. Sure, they aren’t the busy ones. I AM a tourist, not a wannabe local.

  • Best Budget Hotels 4 months ago

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

  • Carissa Lucas 3 months ago

    SO helpful!!! Visiting “the city” (hah) in September with my husband for the first time, and could not be more excited. I am going to try my best not to be an obnoxious tourist thanks to your post!! Haha! Thanks a ton!

    • girlwiththepassport 3 months ago

      Haha. I hope you have an amazing time and I am so glad that you found this helpful. Have an absolute blast,

  • Kimberly Kruty 3 months ago

    I am not a New York native but I visit enough to agree to everything written here ! haha. People visiting should read this !!

  • Gabriele Burchielli 3 months ago

    Very funny and nice and most of all useful. It is really nice that still somebody focus on local culture and the sensibility needed in order to understand people and blend in as local. I ve to add I never went to USA… Think is time to cross the Atlantic

  • Gabby 3 months ago

    Ok first of all… this was hilarious! Great writing. Although I’m not a New Yorker I can totally agree with almost all of them although I have broken your rule of eating in Little Italy! I’m on the same side with you of not staying in Manhattan though – no clue why everyone thinks that is all there is to NYC!

  • WhodoIdo 3 months ago

    Really enjoyed reading this! Really good tips here – I’m sure I will use when I plan a return visit to ‘The City’! I remember the first time when I was there, I couldn’t believe how expensive the broadway tickets were. Didn’t realise that most museums had free days. Am saving this post!

  • Stephanie | Adventures in Aussieland 3 months ago

    One of my best friends lives in NYC. Once when I was visiting, I stopped to take a picture, and she cracked it at me. Definitely learned that mistake the hard way! I also second not missing out on the museums! I went to the Museum of Natural History for free because I went in the arvo. It was incredible!

  • Shaily 3 months ago

    Great post! Thanks for the helpful tips! I’ve saved this page for future reference. Maybe some day I’ll visit New York and I’ll be a smart traveller using these tips. I love the humour in your writings! This makes the post even more interesting!! 🙂

  • Lyf&Spice 3 months ago

    Wow!! You’ve covered everything one needs to know before visiting NYC! While on one hand it’s always good to talk to locals, on the other hand one wouldn’t want to get shooed away for trying to strike a conversation. I particularly like your point of ‘watching’ out for ourselves while crossing the busy streets. 😉 Cheers!!

  • Helene 3 months ago

    Haha this is so awesome and relatable!:) I’ve been to “The City” 3x now and I’m pretty sure I’m avoiding all of these mistakes. The crossing the road one still gets me though because I end up doing this awkward chicken run across the street fearing for my life every time. Thanks for sharing:)

  • Shannon 3 months ago

    Some great tips – a few of which I’d known before our last trip! We definitely regretted eating in Little Italy, the food everywhere else was SO much better! We’re planning to head back to the city in a year or so so will definitely bare this in mind for our next visit!

  • Sandy Dobbs 3 months ago

    I wish I had read this about 3 years ago! I went with a group of teachers (history teachers!!) to “The City”, and I am sure we made a lot of these mistakes, especially the one about eating in Times Square and making small talk (we are from Texas, after all!). Sure wish we had know about Arthur Avenue when we were looking for Italian food. Saving this for when I get to go back!

    • girlwiththepassport 3 months ago

      So glad to hear it and I would have made small talk with you!!! And yeah, I have made that mistake in Times Square too and lets just say i’ll never do that again

  • Jenni Ruehl 3 months ago

    Do you have any hints on where to stay outside of the city? We will be leaving Brooklyn terminal for a cruise. And driving in to get there from Ohio. Thinking about maybe in New Jersey? But are also trying to figure out transportation… possibly bus? Love your other hints. It is my first trip to New York. Thanks in advance!

    • girlwiththepassport 3 months ago

      I really wish I knew. The last cruise I went on left from Jersey I think and I leave here so we didn’t need a hotel. If I were you, I think you’re best bet might be to look for an AirBnB. That way not only will the room not be super bad, but the person can help you with details on how to get to the terminal. Wish I could be more helpful but have a fabulous time!

  • Margareth Vasconcellos 2 months ago

    Lol I’m happy to see that in my first time in NY I just made one mistake on the list: I paid full price to go to Broadway. But it was the week that my mother and mother-in-law were there, so … I ended up doing what was more practical. I spent three weeks in NY last month and definitely plan on going back. The city is incredible! I stayed in Hoboken, Brooklyn and Journal Square. All with public transport nearby, it’s just a shame that the PATH didn’t work very well on the weekends… it takes so long to get in Manhattan if compared with normal days. =/

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