Tips to Take Manhattan

Posted by on Jul 31, 2015 in Travel Tips | 10 comments

There’s nothing like visiting New York City, but with so much to do spread out across one of the biggest cities in the world it can be exhausting trying to get around. The sheer size of the city can be overwhelming if you land without a plan, so here are a few tips to make the most of your trip while maintaining your mobility in Manhattan.

New York Taxicabs

New York Taxicabs

Get a MetroCard and Fill It Up

One of the first things anyone spending any amount of time in NYC needs to do is to get a MetroCard. The MetroCard is literally your ticket for the subway and public buses, so make sure you keep it filled. If you’re going to be in the city for a few days it’s absolutely worth it to go ahead and deposit $20 or $30 on your card in advance. For a more specific plan, Gothamist has a handy guide on the magic number to load up your card so you can have enough credits without leaving too much money on unused MetroCards.

Plan for Taxis and Tip Accordingly

One thing many people forget when they go to New York is to set aside a fund specifically for getting around, especially when it comes to taxis. Unless you plan on waiting for a shuttle at the airport you’re probably going to want to catch a cab downtown so be sure to include the expected cost in your travel budget.

According to British Airways, it will typically cost about $55 to get from JFK airport to central Manhattan and then you can expect about $10-30 a ride plus tip for anywhere you’re trying to get in the city.

Learn the Subway

If you’re not looking to rack up a big bill on cab fares then the subway might be your best bet for exploring the Big Apple on the cheap. There are definitely a few unwritten rules of etiquette to be followed when taking the subway but using the metro is nowhere near as intimidating as people make it out to be. The subway is just as much of an attraction as anything else in the city and is one of the best ways to get around quickly and cheaply. Huffington Post breaks down a few pieces of decorum to be observed underground, most of which boil down to knowing where you’re going, being polite, and keeping to yourself. As long as you have a map (and they’re all over the place), just act like you know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.

The Buses are Your Friends

Did you know that you can use the public bus system with the same MetroCard you use for the subway? While not as popular with tourists as the subway, the bus can be a lifesaver for those trying to get around above ground or avoid unnecessary stairs. The bus is also great for venturing up and down the avenues without dealing with the crowds of the subway – and sometimes, when the subway doesn’t follow the city grid as exactly, a bus can even be more efficient.

Hitch a Ride on the Hop-on Hop-Off Bus

While the Hop-On Hop-Off isn’t covered under your Metro Card like other public transportation the sightseeing bus is a fun and easy way to see the city for tourists, especially first-timers. Not only do the buses provide convenient ways to get around the city, they also give you the full tour experience with commentary and guides on all the incredible things to see and do in New York.

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  1. Having just been to NYC a few months ago I fully appreciate these budget travel tips. We mainly used the subways and also did a lot of walking. We only used cabs occasionally. NYC is a pretty expensive place, but we managed to keep our transport costs down by using public transport.

    • Hi Kathy. I do the same when I’m in NYC. I practically walk holes in my shoes. I do like their subway system, and have never had a problem.

  2. Good Tips Nancie. We used the subway and walked a lot too. We caught a taxi from JFK and I totally enjoyed the trip. If I was a dog my head would have been hanging out of the window lol.

    • Hi Jan. Your dog comment made me laugh. I can see myself hanging my head out the window, too. NYC is just so amazing.

  3. Wonderful tips! Other than hiring a private car to take us to/from the airport, we relied on subways to get us around. The MetroCard was definitely swiped numerous time, but I wish I had known about that Gothamist site to figure out how much to load.

    • Hi Michele. Yes, the Gothamist site is really useful!

  4. We used the subway everywhere then only taxi’d home after midnight…(more out of laziness than safety, but probably both)

    • Hi Lydia. The subway is just so convenient. I only took a taxi once or twice. I walked a lot, too!

  5. It’s worth mentioning the time-based metro cards as well. When I visited for just less than a week, I bought a 7-day metro card. The advantage of that is that you don’t have to add money to it; it covers as many rides as you want to take within that time period. I think there’s a 30-day one as well. Definitely saves money if you’re going to try to see a lot in a few days!

    • Hi Rachel. Thanks for pointing that out. I wasn’t aware of these multi-day cards. When I was in Prague a few years ago I purchased a 30 day card, and saved a significant sum of money. I’ll try this the next time I am in NYC.

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