New York City Mistakes to Avoid as a Tourist
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).
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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)!!!
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.
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