New York City - Travel-Tips and Recommendations
I have spent 9 weeks of my life in New York City. In such a long time, I had a lot of experiences of which I would like to transmit some in the following text. It is about some tips and hints based on my very personal experiences.
Arrival by Plane
There are three big airports in and around New York City. But 95% of all German tourists only know the John F. Kennedy International Airport - a large and confusing airport. The airport does not have a straight subway-connection, one needs to be transferred by bus first. It is an art of its own to catch the right bus. Also the trip back to the airport is firstly expensive and secondly, complicaded. Those who spend the 40-50 $ for a taxi trip should tell the taxi driver not to drive over the Brooklyn-Bridge. This does indeed cost 5-10 minutes more time, but therefore it saves 5-10& $, depending on the traffic.
Those who are a little flexible in the choice of the airline should choose a different airport. For example, those who land in Newark will save 10-20 minutes and a lot of dollars to get to Manhattan and will additionally have - provided having a seat at the window - a dream view to the skyline of Manhattan during the landing and the take-off.
There are in no other city so many accommodation ways as there are in New York City. From the cheap dosshouse letting rooms by the hour up to the luxury hotel, everything is available. Of course, what is chosen depends on the individual taste; it does not really matter where one lives as long as it is in the south or the centre of Manhattan. The subways work the whole night through; At any time, one easily gets back to the hotel from any spot of the city.
I have spent several weeks in the YMCA (a better kind of youth hostel). Those who are not very demanding can stay over night there for very cheap money. There, each guest gets a spacious single room but no individual bathroom. In a YMCA, one can not only stay over night for cheap money, but also easily make the acquaintance of people. This is very recomendable for sociable people. There are several YMCA's in New York City; I have lived in the 63th street. From there, one gets very quickly to the Times Square on foot or to the Central Park in one minute. Moreover, one can also use the in-house swimming pool for free - a nice thing if one has been walking the whole day through and needs some relaxation.
Shopping in New Jersey
A very spacial tip for people who want to go shopping for cheap money: of course, there are countless shops in the centre of Manhattan in which one gets almost anything. But the times where one could shop for cheap money are long gone. It gets clearly cheaper by getting to New Jersey City. From downtown, one gets in ten minutes by subway to the other side of the Hudson River. In New Jersey one not only saves some money because they have better prices there, but also becuse the Value Added Tax that is still applied on the given price is more favourable.
Beside a lower priced shopping, New Jersey also offers the very best view to the skyline of Manhattan. From no other spot it is possible to make such brillant pictures of New York City as from the boardwalk of New Jersey.
Viewing the Statue of Liberty
Now that we are in the western part of Manhattan: each of the tourists chug on the small island with the statue of liberty, and each tourist also takes the stresses and strains to view the statue from the interior. And most of them return totally disappointed and exhausted; Why? Depending on the time of the day and the season, one stands up to two hours at the queue in order to climb then some narrow stairs up to the eyes of the statue of liberty. Frrom there, one gets through some tiny and milky glass windows a modest view to Manhattan; so much for...
I can only emphasize: the statue of liberty's exterior is impressive; also the trip to the statue of liberty is worthwhile because of the view to Manhattan. But one can confidently abstain from the viewing of the statue of liberty, in fact one does not get anything out of it, only the memory of having been in the interior. Too bad for such a long time.
For those who want to enjoy a great view to the skyline of Manhattan, I either recommend to transfer to New Jersey or to take the ferry to Ferry Island. This ferry is free of charge and one has a dream view to downtown-Manhattan.
There is a heliport at the East River at which one can book some helicopter flights. For more than $100 one is taken by helicopter to a trip over Manhattan for a quarter of an hour. In this concern, I can only say: it is not worthwhile! One is dispatched as livestock; one does not have time to enjoy anything, the pilot makes the round too fast. Moreover, there is no better view to the skyscrapers as from the Empire State Building.
Boat trip around Manhattan
The most boring but still apparently the most interesting thing that one can do in New York City is to circumnavigate Manhattan by boat. Such a round-trip takes approximately 3 hours and one can really enjoy Manhattan from all perspectives or maybe not. I can only disadvise this boat trip; as imposing Manhattan's south and center might be, as boring it is in between, specially in the north.
Those who have a pleasant weather of 30° will surely enjoy the boat trip. But those who only do this trip because of the views to the skyscrapers will be endlessly disappointed. At that time, I felt like jumping off the boat and swimming back.
Musicals, Cinemas, Theatre
New York is known as a city of theatres, cinemas and musicals. I recommend everybody to experience as much as it is possible of this. The entrance fee for a musical is in New York City not up to 100 € as it is the case in our country but it is clearly cheaper to enjoy the most current stagings. A small tip: in almost all theatres there are also matinées that are seldom booked off. By buying a cheap seat for such an event, after ten minutes, one has the possibility to move to the most expensive category of seats. This is generally accepted and almost a matter of course.
What I also want to highly recommend is the visit of the Met (Metropolitan Opera). Even if it is not supposed to be an opera event, one should at least view the interior of the world famous opera during an afternoon-tour.
In the area of the Times Square there is one cinema after the next. Those who do not necessarily want to watch a movie that is not shown in our home country yet, should preferrably use the evenings for musicals and other things. As great as the cinemas are, as normal is their interior.
And another tip: in the cinemas and theatres it is really cold in the interior, the air-conditioners provide some autumnal temperatures in the interior. Those who are wearing s t-shirt and shorts with a temperature of 35° in the summer time, should take in any case a jumper into the rucksack, ortherwise the movie will turn into nail-biter not caused by the suspense but by the frost.
Appointments in the City
Why do so many appointments fail in New York City? How many times did I have an appointment at for example the subway line 2 at the station 34th street; Now one should know that the subways are an extremely complex subterranean system. One station has partly umpteem exits that are connected through very long tunnels with each other. Due to this reason, one should never make an appointment at one of such suubway-stations, and if so, then only right down at the train platform but in any case not at any of the exists.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York is one of the biggest museums in the world. Also those who are fans of museums should in any case choose previously exactly which departments they want to view. Each of the departments are too big and too confusing. Those who simply go there just because it is mentioned in the travel guide will soon get frustrated because there are thousand things to see but still not everything and specially not the things that one really wants to see.
once a week there is a kind of museum night in which all museums are free but only ask for donations. Such evenings are, of course, particularly suitable for smart spenders. But for decency's sake, one should at least donate a one-dollar note and not the remaining change.
Electronic Shops in New York City
There are approximately 150 small electronic shops in New York City that all work after the same principle; Even if one partly finds a few of these shops right beside each other, they are not in a real competition. These shops offer any kind of electronic stuff at assumed bargain prices. Caution! These shops have all a very certain trick.
Partly, the labelled prices are the double amount of the normal prices. By this way, one partly gets straight a rebate of 50% after asking the first time. It sounds great, specially as a tourist. Many times, the sellers try to foist one a story about them having been in Germany and even in the city oneself lives. This should foster a sense of trust.
Those who really want to grab a bargain have to proceed as follows: one has to go from shop to shop and bargain. There is a lower price limit for each product that is apparently applied in whole New York City. The feat is to find this out; the best is to bargain in a shop to no end and to go with this price minus 10% to the next shop. By this way, one can slowly approximate to the lowest price. I have bought several items in such shops. Once I had beaten down the price to the lowest, I repeatedely discovered the same price afterwards. No matter if in the north or the south of Manhattan, I got the item in all shops for this price, but not for a cent less.
Once I changed a product and experienced then a very nasty trick: the product that was labelled for 600$, I bought for 250$. During the change I did not get any cash money back but a voucher valued 250$. So far so good. But in order to cancel the 250$ voucher I did not pay the super-price (50% rebate and more) but the labelled price. Thus, the voucher was practically nothing worth. Another product that was labelled with 600$ cost after the cancellation of the voucher 350$, but I would have got this price or even a lower one without this voucher.
The prices are of course so low also due to the reason that they are without any customs fees and taxes. Most of the times, these shops issue an invoice of 50 $ or even less in order not to get any problems with the customs. But many times, the guarantee expires due to this reason and of course, the customs agents know these tricks: those who are caught have to pay for the full product price plus 19% VAT + approximately 10% customs fee.
Those who were 10 or 20 years ago in New York City will certainly still remember the piles of rubbish on the streets; Garbage bags piled as skyscrapers, rubbish spread over the roadsides, jam-packed rubbish bins. It was almost a matter of course to simply throw one's waste on the ground.
This is over since 1995, when a Mister named Giuliani got burgomaster. The city got spick and span (at least for American standards). Those who get caught by simply throwing junk on the street, can prepare himself for a very unpleasant "conversation" with a black cop.
Having once an All-Night...
There is still one special tip I would like to give: for those who want to have once an all-night in New York City I recommend the Cafe Wha. It is not about a coffee bar where one can drink a capuccino while listening to calmed piano music, but rather a bar-restaurant where there is a lot of party.
There is in dit good food there to get, but I do not recommend to get there because of the food. There is an abundance of drinks as it should be for a good bar. It is important to know that beer is extremely expensive, therefore the cocktails are available at a relatively reasonable price.
The best of the Cafe Wha are the live-bands. Those who have experienced a live-band there will never call a cafe-band in Germany a band again. Most of the times, the band consists of 3-6 people who knock each guest of their feet. As there is not a real dance floor, people simply dance between the tables and on the corridors. The bands make sure that also the last newcomer gets his bottom wiggled.
Where is the Cafe Wha located? the exact address is: 115 MacDougal St. One finds it simply between the Bleecker and the W 3rd Street; otherwise just ask: the Cafe Wha is famous in tis area. In the Cafe Wha thare is p0arty seven days a week. While two people can get there without any pre-advise, it is recommendable for groups from 4 people to book a table. Those who want to inform themselves previously about the Cafe Wha can do this at the following webside:
On their Homepage, there is an abundance of imformation concerning the history of the bar, one can have a look at the menue card and read which bands have already played in the Cafe Wha and one also finds a detailed location plan with a map-cutout.
And another thing: never think that you are alone in the subway at five o' clock in the morning. New York is a city that never sleeps. As the trains are a little shorter in the mornings, most of the times, one won't get a seat.
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Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz