Visiting New York City for the First Time? Avoid these Mistakes

Look, when you’re in New York, one of the most happening cities in the world, you need to make the best of your visit. There’s just so much happening over all the five boroughs, and it would be a real shame if you had to miss out on the fun because you were ill-prepared. So let’s have a look at some mistakes you should definitely avoid to have the best experience in New York.

Remember, the key is to act like a local. Do as the Romans do in Rome, and you might just find yourself having a most excellent trip.

Not knowing anything about the subway system

New York’s subway is a sprawling, confusing system that will confound anyone who has never used one before. So a lot of tourists avoid it altogether, which is a monumental mistake. When used right, the subway system can facilitate and subsidize your travel all over the city, a blessing in a place as expensive as NYC.  

Before you enter the underground system, you should already have done a Google search to figure out which train to take, how to pay, and just what all those pesky colors mean. Otherwise there’s an entirely good chance you’ll spend the day being shunted from one station to another.

Buy a seven day unlimited pass if you’ll be using the subway a lot, and always be ready to swipe the metrocard before heading up or down the stairs. Oh, and a word of warning, avoid empty cars like the devil. They’re empty for a reason.

Paying Full Price at the Met Museum

Adults $25, Seniors $17 and Students $12 – that’s what is posted as the admission fees to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And you might baulk at the price but consider it a good deal anyway – after all. It’s one of the largest and finest art museums in the world, boasting an incredible collection of over two million individual pieces of art.

But it’s not actually necessary to pay the entire admission price, given that the posted rates are only suggested prices. There’s a clause beneath them that reads “To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.” You should obviously pay an appropriate amount, since that’s how the museum funds itself, but it’s absolutely acceptable to pay less than $25.

Furthermore, many of the other top museums in New York have free days, and you can visit them to save money.

Spending the entirety of your time in Times Square and Midtown

As amazing as Midtown and Times Square are, they’re not the only places worth visiting in New York City. There’s so much more to NYC that it would be pretty sad if you spent all your time there. Yes, Times Square is loud and exciting and colorful, and you should definitely go there at least once, but you’re visiting NYC, not just Times Square.

There are so many other things to do! Explore the Upper East Side, The Village, the Lower East Side and Union Square to get an authentic taste of that New York flair.

Oh, and definitely don’t make the mistake of missing out on Brooklyn. The borough is chockfull of great museums, not to mention the Green Wood Cemetery and Coney Island. Brooklyn Bridge alone is worth the taxi or train ride, with its unparalleled views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

If you want to go up to the Statue of Liberty, be prepared beforehand

Given how difficult it is to come by passes for the Statue of Liberty, you should ideally buy them months in advance. At all costs, avoid getting on a tourist trap boat that will charge you exorbitant prices to take you out to the statue, circle around it and then bring you back. In fact, if the Statue of Liberty is on your must-see list (as it should be!) just view it from Brooklyn Bridge, or view it from waterfront neighborhood Red Hook.

Visiting the Empire State Building without using the New York Pass

It’s a gorgeous view from the top of the Empire state Building, one that’s clearly worth it. BUT, the lines are the worst, and skipping them usually involves a small inheritance. So don’t make the mistake of going there without a New York Pass. This is the best way to visit the observation deck there, since you can simply visit for absolutely free with the pass, immediately skip the main line and present your card at the access point on the second floor.

Eating at familiar restaurants

Look, you didn’t come all the way to New York City just to grab a seat at a Taco Bell or an Olive Garden. With its incredible cultural and ethnic diversity, NYC is obviously full of a broad selection of ethnic foods and diverse restaurants, one that you need to take advantage of!  Buy yourself an authentic slice of New York style pizza, or go have a gourmet meal by a top chef. Get adventurous with your taste buds!

Waiting in Long Lines

Repeat after me: just because a line is long doesn’t mean that it’s worth it. Tourists in New York make this mistake often, joining in the horribly long lines to go up the Empire State Building (which you already know you should take a pass to), or to new fad restaurants and other attractions. There’s really no need for you to wait in those lines, because the attraction will generally either not be worth the wait, or more easily accessible with a ticket or a pass.  You’d be better off going to a less known place that will offer you the same views for half the wait time and half the price too. If you’re dead set on going to a major attraction, purchase your tickets ahead of time.