I've been getting quite a bit of emails from you jet setters heading, or planning to head to New York, so I decided to pull some questions for the clueless NYC tourist.
Is it true that subways are dangerous? Truth is - even your bedroom can be dangerous. But if you're wondering if there are rapists and thieves running amok on the subway system, you'll be pleased to know that I've been traipsing in heels and bright red tights and I've been fine. NYC's subway system, compared to Singapore's, is filthy and unreliable, but it is the most convenient way to zip around the city.
Buy a multiple day pass [depending on how long you're there - there are 1-day, 3-day, 7-day, 10-day, etc passes] instead of a single trip one and arm yourself with a subway map that you can get from the information counter of each subway stop. HopStop.com is also my best friend whenever I'm zipping about in NYC - it tells you how to get wherever you're headed to, and points out if any of the train lines are not operating that day.
How do I get from the airport to the city? If you're carrying a couple pieces of suitcases, I suggest taking a cab. You would probably fly into JFK or La Guardia from Singapore, and after all that time flying, I don't think you'd want to bother thinking about public transport. It will cost you between $45 - $50 to get to mid-town.
However, if you are trying to save them moolah and you're flying in to La Guardia [which is closer to Manhattan than JFK], take the M60 bus which picks you up at the airport and drops you off at 116th and Broadway in front of the gates of Columbia University. From there you can take a bus, taxi or subway to anywhere in Manhattan. From JFK, you can take the AirTrain.
How much do I tip taxi drivers? Like all Singaporeans who are used to a life devoid of obligatory tipping, I detest the tipping culture. However, I also don't want to risk getting shot or ran over while getting out of a cab after not tipping [I kid!]. 10 percent of the fare is pretty standard - not all that heart-wrenching, no?
Where should I stay in New York? Can you recommend some hotels? I've never stayed in a hotel in New York - I've either stayed with a friend, or I sublet-ted a room. If you've got some cash to blow, try Andre Balázs' Standard Hotel located smack in the Meatpacking District. If you're on a budget, however, try hitting some hostels, Couch Surfing, or subletting a room.
While I know how important it is to have a comfortable personal space when you're travelling, you'll also be in the city that never sleeps, so it shouldn't be something you're stressing up like crazy about. If you're not a seasoned traveller however, make sure you look up the areas you're staying at and ask friends [or me!] about the places you're looking to stay at. There was a drive-by shooting two blocks from where I stayed, so I know the shady places fo' shizzle!
HOW DO I DO NYC ON A BUDGET?
If it's your first trip to the city, it's best not to be on a strict budget - the Big Apple has so many kickass restaurants, diners, eateries, bars, shopping that you're almost breaking some sort of unspoken rule about popping your NYC cherry if you go on a budget. But if you have to, you can, there are a lot of things you can do for free, or cheaply.
- Musuems like The Met and the Museum of Natural History have a "recommended admission fee", meaning that the price stated is recommended. You can pay a dime to get in and they will still let you in. Museums like MoMa and the Guggenheim have nights where you can enter for free, or with "recommended admission" as well. MoMA has something called Target Free Fridays where admission is free from 4pm - 8pm. They still give out tickets to make sure there's no overcrowding so be sure you're there early.
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, take in the sights at Chelsea Piers at dusk, check out the Highline, drool over the Public Library, fall in love with Central Park! Arm yourself with a cuppa and watch the world go by at Dean & DeLuca in SoHo. So many things to do, so little time!
- Watch a Broadway show cheap by going to TKTS the morning of. TKTS sells unsold seats on the morning of each day, so if you're not fussy about what shows you want to catch, and you're on a budget, this is your best bet.
What airlines should I fly on to get there? If you can afford it - Singapore Airlines. Through and through, the best airlines in the world. However, as much as I love travelling, I detest flying. Nothing is more excruciating to me than having to twiddle my thumbs for over twenty hours to get to a place - and worse, when I have to do it in coach. I just don't know where to shove my legs. I think if you're not fussy, and you find flying a pain no matter what, pick whatever's the cheapest and hope you get there in one piece.
How much should I have for the trip? Honestly, I have no idea. It all depends on how much you want to shop, wine and dine, party, etc. There's a New York City for everyone and it's very difficult for me to tell you how much you should bring. Make sure you do your research prior, think about your budget, and add a little more to that. ;o)
Can you recommend places to shop, eat, must-see, etc? Check out my recently-updated Wanderlust: New York City Guide here.
And a photo of me bundled up like a penguin and sitting on the steps of my home in Bed Stuy, just because. (And yes, that's bits of melting snow in my hair!)
Need to clear doubts, have questions or require survival tips? Comment here, or drop me an email!