10 Survival tips for NYC | Part I

After nearly three years in New York City it’s safe to say you get to experience many new things. Among learning a lot you also start to become far more accepting of the odors, noises, and speed of life here. If it’s your first time in NYC however, here are 10 tips that will help you navigate and survive the city as if you were a true local!

For more tips & tricks check out Part II of our survival guide here for some of the best NYC life hacks.

  • Escalator etiquette

I remember my mother’s first visit to New York and our first escalator ride. Unfortunately, I forgot to mention that the New Yorkers (just like Londoners) place great importance on their escalator etiquette. Although you might be familiar with this one, it is nonetheless one of the biggest pet peeves of NYC locals if you stand still on the left side of the escalator. If you want to stand still, keep to the right – the left side is purely reserved for those who want to walk up the escalator!

  • NYC /mph

The speed of NYC is definitely something that you need to get used to! For many the walking pace in the city is almost a light jog, which especially if you are taking the sights in for the first time can be a little bit hard to keep up with. While the New Yorkers love the tourists, just make sure to not make the mistake and walk in the middle of the path – make some room for everyday life in NYC too.

  • Don’t be that one person…

Evil looks and incomprehension are common if you don’t take your backpack off in a busy subway to make more room for other passengers. Don’t block the seat next to you with your bags or eat either – this is seen as rude and inconsiderate. Just be respectful of others, thats all the New Yorkers ask.

10 NYC Survival Tips

  • Tourists are not exempt from queuing!

All New Yorkers have learned one thing since childhood: queuing and patiently waiting their turn. I have often seen tourists trying to cut the queues or not realizing there even is one in a variety of situations. If you’re not sure, just ask: “Excuse me are you in line?”. You will often see that everyone in the queue is either chatting away or busy on their phone, but don’t make the mistake of thinking no one is paying attention to who is next and who isn’t.

  • Know the intersections

Whether in the Yellow Cabs or in the case of asking someone where you want to go – try to memorize the street that crosses the avenue or vice versa instead of things like house numbers. If you give the Yellow cab driver an intersection rather than something he is going to clarify you won’t immediately be labeled as another lost tourist.

  • Be careful when crossing roads

While this sounds obvious, I have often been almost flattened by a cyclist coming the wrong way up a one way street! With the many bike messengers/couriers you need another level of awareness when crossing the street in NYC. Also, in the winter watch for the puddles! Often obscured by sludge, make sure you don’t step into a deep puddle on the side of the road and ruin your day of sightseeing.

  • Wellies as a fashion accessory

This brings me to my next point – Wellies are completely acceptable footwear in NYC. After the first “shower” (more of a monsoon to me) in New York, I realized that I had to adapt my footwear. Thanks to all the sludge in the winter and giant puddles, there is no normal footwear that can keep you dry. There’s no shame in wearing wellies out in NYC and if you need some inspiration – look around on a rainy day for ideas on how to include them into your outfit as a fashion item!

10 NYC Survival Tips

  • We don’t bite

Never be afraid to ask for directions. If we don’t know you’re lost, we can’t help! Every New Yorker will be friendly and helpful if you ask them politely for some help.

  • Beware of the empty subway car!

Watch out! There is usually a reason a half or full subway car has been left completely empty. Many homeless sleep in the subway wagons and this can often lead to some uncomfortable sights and smells. If you ever discover a completely empty subway car have a quick scan of why this may be before you settle in!

  • Do not disturb!

If you see someone wearing headphones, they do not want to be talked to. In a culture of small talk and noise it is often refreshing to be able to let your guard down and not have to worry about talking to anyone. While many headphone wearers are of course actually listening to music, many are also silent Headphones users. Don’t disturb someones moment of piece and ask someone for help who isn’t wearing headphones.

10 NYC Survival Tips

Profilbild Steffen Kneist
About the author

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 25 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!

Did you like this article?