10 Things NOT to Do in New York City
This post contains affiliate links to things I genuinely like and recommend to make your trip better, but no need to buy anything at all. Reading about my local tips is what’s most important.
With so many things to do in New York City, it can be easy to miss out on the things not to do that can actually help your trip be that much more awesome. So…
Here’s a list of 10 things NOT to do in New York City based on hiccups by friends, family, and tourists.
1. Don’t eat at McDonald’s, Olive Garden, or other large, corporate fast food establishments.
For the love of god (I only use god’s name in vain when it’s really important…), you’re in the foodie capital of the world. Get the full New York City experience by eating anywhere but large, corporate fast food establishments. It absolutely makes me cringe when I see tourists in Times Square wait in a huge line at Olive Garden when there’s a great northern Thai place just a few blocks away in Hell’s Kitchen.
If you don’t know where to go, then pull up Yelp (my go-to foodie app in the US), and find a place with 4+ stars near you,
Tip: If you’re looking for inexpensive places to eat ($10 and under), try these 15 Cheap Places to Eat in New York City. If you’re on a budget, try these cheap eats for less than $5. They will blow your mind with how little money can get you a fantastic meal.
2. Don’t go to Times Square in the middle of the day or even in the evening.
The best time to go to Times Square is after 11PM, or if you’re out at a bar for awhile and can swing by the area, it’s even better at 3AM. You’ll have Times Square (almost) to yourself without the sardine-packed-cow-herding-baby-step-shuffling mess you have to deal with during the day.
I usually bring my guests to Times Square after hours. It’s so surreal and quite calming being surrounded with such bright lights shining solely on you!
3. Don’t hang out or walk slowly on the left side of the sidewalk or the left side of the escalator.
Yes, you want to spread your arms wide and circle around with glee as you take in the NYC scenery and breathe in the excitement in the air (scratch that, minimize the breathing– it’s polluted as fck in NY), but do it on the right side of the sidewalk.
This helps minimize traffic congestion and keeps the pedestrian flow moving efficiently, which is important in a city with almost 9 million people. This will also help you avoid the impatient business men rushing off to the so called most important meeting of their lives and their startling ‘yell at that tourist to get out of my way’ anger.
When in doubt, think of driving rules, and apply them to the sidewalks and escalators of NYC– right side is for the slow or still guys, left side is for passing!
4. Don’t rely solely on credit cards and debit cards.
There’s a lot of mom and pop shops in NYC, and a lot of them still only take cash like my main boo, Saigon Shack, when I was living in Greenwich Village. Don’t miss out on the good spots to eat just because you don’t have cash.
Also, you never know when you’re going to need to pull a single out for some attention grabbing, soul singing street performers. Cross your fingers, and hope the barbershop quarter finds its way to whatever subway you’re riding on!
5. Don’t make plans all over New York without considering travel time.
Even though visiting New York sounds like it’s easy to get around ’cause you’re in New York (mentally, it’s all one place), the travel time to multiple places can be unexpectedly consuming. Try planning a few things in the same borough, same neighborhood, or at least on the same side of town (west side vs. east side).
I learned this tip from family members (with a kid in a stroller) who came to NYC for a day. They made plans to see us in the Upper East Side, Financial District, and back up to Times Square. Travel time to each of these places took about 20-30 minutes (especially with a kid in a stroller), which ate up 1 and 1/2 hours of their short 10 hour visit.
6. Don’t forget to use the toilet when you can.
Hahahaha! I’m laughing at myself for putting this one up, but seriously, there are not many convenient public toilets like there are in Europe and other parts of the world. You either have to go in a restaurant or bar that you’ve already bought something in or have to pretend you’re a customer to go to the bathroom*.
I’ve seen multiple friends have this issue of not being able to find a bathroom when they need one so whenever there’s a bathroom available, I ask them if they need to go like the good
mommy friend I am. This is such an apparent issue that some McDonald’s has bouncers at their bathrooms (but you wouldn’t know that because you’re not going to step into a McDonald’s while in NYC), and there’s even an AirPnP app where you can pay someone to use their toilet just like you would a place on AirBnB.
Edit 11/20/16– Thanks to Casey, we have another great tip! Use the bathrooms at any public library. If you’re going to the winter village at Bryant Park, skip the long lines and head to the NYPL.
7. Don’t tip 15%.
15% might be standard tipping etiquette in other parts of the United States, but in New York City where the rent prices are ridiculously high, one subway ride costs $2.75, and a god damn cocktail can cost $15, the standard tipping rate is a minimum of 18% but on average 20%. I only tip 15% if I get bad service, which my husband makes fun of me for because none of the servers I’ve disliked will ever know that they sucked balls at serving food.
Tip: You can make up the difference you spend on tipping by saving up to $78 on NYC sights such as the Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and more.
8. Don’t accidentally go on the express subway.
It cracks me up when I’m supposed to meet a friend in 20 minutes of which only 10 minutes is supposed to be on the subway, and then an hour later, I finally hear from my friend who says she’s in Brooklyn when she’s supposed to be in Manhattan– hahaha!
Ok, not that funny, but here’s how to prevent it. Don’t accidentally go on the express subway. There are express subways and local subways. The express ones only go to the more significant stops and skip a few of the local stops.
The express vs. local are clearly marked with signs, or just ask someone around you for help! New Yorkers love helping people get to their destinations, and basically, showing off their street cred/knowledge (maybe that’s just me…).
9. Don’t forget to tip the street performers.
If a street performer, musician, guy in a freakishly weird costume that’s supposed to resemble a Disney character in a horror film type of way, or any busker holds your attention for more than a minute, then throw some change his (or her) way! These performers do this as a living or for extra change so if they made you smile, laugh, dance, or question your life in mysterious ways, help them help others out. It’s the nice thing to do.
On that note, you might run into five awesome performers in one day, and if you ran out of change at street performer #2, it’s ok! Give them good vibes.
10. Don’t forget to pack these items I use everyday.
There are some items I couldn’t live without in New York so don’t forget to pack them!
Sneakers are a must in NYC because you walk a lot. The average New Yorker could easily walk 5 miles in a day. Even when you’re taking public transportation, you have to walk up and down stairs or a few blocks to get to it.
If you want to be fashionable while being functional, I like these black & white Nike sneakers available in both men’s and women’s sizes.
Whether I’m in NYC or traveling abroad, I always have a portable charger on me. I’ve had this Anker travel sized charger for at least four years now and have used it 3x a week, but it still works great! It holds 1.5x charges for my iPhone and is very compact so it’s an amazing value at only $12.99 .
Daypack or Backpack
Purses look nice, but I find them to be burdensome so I usually carry a daypack or backpack on me instead. The daypack is great because it’s compact while the backpack is good if I’m shopping or running errands. For a daypack, I own this Everest Junior backpack ( $11.17 ), but I’ve been eyeing thisthat my cousin has. For a backpack, I have this Herschel backpack, which is functional but also a trendy brand in NYC. To see what lightweight bags and suitcases I use while abroad, check out this post.
Reusable Water Bottle
Since I’m cheap, water bottles can cost up to $3 each, which can add up quickly, and New York has some of the best tap water in the world (or so I’ve heard), I usually have a reusable water bottle, which I fill up at home or work before heading out. I like this one because it’s stainless steel, and it has a ring I can attach a carabiner to attach it to the outside of my backpack if I need.
Foldable, Reusable Bag
This is an odd one but having a foldable, reusable bag that doesn’t take up space in my bag has unexpectedly come in handy time and time again. For example, when I want to take off my jacket and don’t want to carry it, I’ll unfold the reusable bag , put my jacket in it, then tie it onto my backpack or hold it ’cause it’s easier to hold than the jacket itself, or when it’s raining and a paper shopping bag bursts from raining too hard, I have a reusable bag to the rescue (true story: this happens far too often to New Yorkers)!
The carabiner and foldable, reusable bag is part of my 10 useful travel items under $10 post. Check it out here.
During rainy season, you can’t predict when it’s going to rain so carry an umbrella. I like this umbrella that automatically opens and closes and is windproof. The windproof part is key when you get caught in the wind between buildings.
These are Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my links, which is at NO extra cost to you, then the fairy blogmother (aka Amazon) will sprinkle a little bit of money on my blog so I can keep writing helpful posts like these. You could also bookmark one of these links, and whenever you shop on Amazon, go to the bookmarked link to help me out, but it’s all up to you! Either way, I’m happy you are even here and that I can help you discover NYC better.
Bonus Tip: Don’t assume that people in New York are cold hearted grinches!
Yes, New Yorkers have a reputation for being cold-hearted and mean just like Los Angeles has a reputation for being superficial and materialistic, but guess what? They are just stereotypes!
Here’s what I think. If you go into a situation assuming people will be cold and mean, then most likely you’ll get the same energy you put out there.
For all my warm-hearted, life-loving friends who’ve visited in New York, they always share their stories with me about how the nicest New Yorkers ever who helped them find their way or gave them excellent recommendations on things to do. I think they got back the loving and happy energy they put out.
So love and be loved (and ignore that occasional business guy on a rampage to get to the office).
If you’re looking for things TO do such as visiting the Empire State Building and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, save up to $78 on 6 sights by buying a CityPass with this link.
Want a list of touristy things to do? Check out the Crazy Tourist’s page.
If you need a reliable and professional car from the airport, try Blacklane cars!
If you have any other suggestions for our awesome travel community to make their New York trip more enjoyable with things they shouldn’t do, then comment below!
Thanks for stopping by! xo.
Featured photo is copyrighted by Unsplash of Pixabay.
Thank you to Blacklane cars for a complimentary ride from JFK to Queens during my last visit to NYC!
If you choose to make a purchase through these links, a magical fairy blogmother will sprinkle a tiny bit of commission towards my blog hosting costs. But that’s up to you if you want to make it happen. If you do (or don’t), thank you!