Essential Travel Tips to New York City for First Timers

Travelling solo to New York City (NYC) can be a scary thought at first, daunting for most. I wouldn’t even recommend NYC for first timers solo travellers, even navigating the subway will scare the wits out of you! Time Square was in my bucketlist for the longest time, so NYC here I come! From my experience and many months of pre-trip research, I came up with a list of essential tips for conquering NYC solo.

Using the Subway in New York City

The colors don’t matter here even though when you ask questions around they say take the red or blue line, note the numbers and letters for your destination. On the map, you will also notice white dots and black dots on the train stop. Black dots are trains that stop at every train stations, while the white ones are the express trains ones. You can download the New York Subway map here.

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Be a new yorker for a day or while you’re there.

Dine local. Dress local. Blend in. And try the hotdog stand!

Ask around

New York city is full of people! The sidewalk crowd can be overwhelming at first but if you need directions, smile and ask around. They can be helpful and accommodating. One specific road rule though: Never, ever, suddenly stop on the busy sidewalk to take a selfie or read your guide book or map or suddenly stop at the entrance of the train on the busy subway to take a selfie.

This irate most the busy New Yorkers who are always on the run to somewhere and when you have to suddenly stop, they bump into you. Trust me you will be the at the receiving end of  i-hate-tourists-look.

new york city

Set aside a free museum day

This city abounds with free museums depending on which day of the week it is. Do not just go to one museum expecting it to be open and offer free entrance to visitors. There are days that they do open for free to visitors. Here’s a link to the website that can guide you which museums are free and on which day.

Be alert

New York is a beautiful, enthralling city but still watch out for negative elements around here. Watch your stuff and valuables especially in crowded department stores and shops. One of the most known strategy here is some elderly asking for your help to fit tight gloves while someone else is taking a peek at your handbag while you’re distracted. Watch out also for pickpockets in a crowded and packed subways. Just be alert always and trust your guts.

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Buy the city pass online.

If you want to experience the top of the rock 360 degree view of NYC and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island then get the New York City Pass. Included in this city pass is also the entrance to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and 9/11 Memorial. It’s valid for 9 days and you can save up to around $70.00.

Before getting one, decide first on what activities interest you most when you reach the big apple. Because if you are not the museum type of person, then this city pass is not for you. I enjoyed the Top Of The Rock most because its one of the best places that you can get a view from the top of New York. Plus I was able to do my trademark 360 degree video 🙂


A lot. Manhattan is a big huge sidewalk. It’s the best way to learn the many one way streets here and where the landmarks are and when you get tired, sit and people watch in the many coffee shops that have mushroomed in the outskirts of Manhattan.

Plus if you do flag a taxi here, you will be transported to a place where time stood still because you’re stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. In front of Times Square New York

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I have long dreamed of seeing New York City and the taking a selfie at Time Square. I am a big fan of crime TV series with locations shot in New York and I would sigh and say to myself, “I would get to see that NYPD neon light someday.” And I did. Solo!

From some of the forums that said the city would be scary and dirty and crowded, I still see it as a city of beautiful approachable people, and they were just going on their way to home or work or school. They’re just that. People who needed to get on with their day. Like me, just someone who needs to be on my way. If its your first time to go to NYC, just blend in, be new yorker for a day, smile and have fun!

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Megan - last year Reply

New York City is an amazing place and as long as you’re smart about it a great place for solo travel. I also agree with the walking! It’s the best way to get to know any city.

anna - last year Reply

I loved my time in NYC. First time I went it was too cold. This time, I came for spring and we had the perfect walking around weather. Great tips!!

Meg Jerrard - last year Reply

Great tips! Right there with you on the recommendation to walk – NYC is one of the world’s most walkable city’s and there’s no better way to soak up the unique atmosphere and enjoy the street scenes 🙂

Kathrin - last year Reply

I haven’t been to New York so far but I guess it’s one of those “once in a lifetime” destinations where you just have to go one day. The advice with the public transport is very helpful, I’ll keep it in mind and thanks for sharing 🙂

Lotte - last year Reply

Perfect post for me as I have never been to NYC… I love just strolling around and seeing where I end up. That’s how you see the best parts of the city. Off course I would visit Times Square as well, some places you can’t skip even if they are touristy;-)

LeAnna Brown - last year Reply

I’m from the US and have seen more of the rest of the world than America (pitiful, I know!) However, when I do start traveling the US, NYC is obviously at the top of the list. As a former drama nerd, you just know I have to see a Broadway show!

Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren - last year Reply

Setting aside a free museum day is great advice! I love NYC. Great post, thanks for sharing.

Happy travels 🙂

Jennifer Melroy - last year Reply

I didn’t really enjoy New York. It was just not my thing as a tourist. This is great advice do. I wish I had known about free museum days since that was one of my gripes about visiting. I thought the cost was super high compared to other places I have been in the world.

    Carla Abanes - last year Reply

    Aaaawww, sad to hear that. I hope you can come back soon and time it on the free museum days!

Carly Moore - last year Reply

Great tips! Walking is the best way to see any city, and I’d be all over that hot dog stand!

    Carla Abanes - last year Reply

    Thanks and yes I am with you on the walking part! It is the best way to see any destination. Thanks for dropping by!

Vicki Louise - last year Reply

Great tips and I loved NYC! These will be really helpful for first timers – the subway can be a bit confusing without checking the numbers and letters!

Julie - last year Reply

As a former New Yorker, I can second your note about ‘do not stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look at your phone or map.’ There is no worse way to get a bunch of angry looks from masses of people hurrying around. Do what I do and discretely ‘pull over’ to the side. There are also a few good email newsletters you can sign up for before you visit (my fave is The Skint) where you can get tips of free/cheap activities happening every day all over the city.

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