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For many travellers, visiting the Big Apple, as New York is affectionately known, can be the defining moment of feeling like you’ve made it. New York is the famed city where small town people go to build their big dreams, the city sung about in countless songs, and idolised by celebrities. It’s a popular name to cross off travel bucket lists, and hardly a name unrecognised. For those of us who’ve never seen the city, we’d love to know the fuss, while others like Capetonian, Leana Van Rooyen lives to tell the adventurous tale.

Read Leana’s five essential tips for survival in New York, below:

  1. Research activities that may interest you before you go.

There is so much to do in New York it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. The idea of seizing the big city alone definitely left me feeling slightly anxious. I turned to Google and began planning activities before arriving in the city. I researched which tours I thought would interest me, as well as for maps that I could save to use offline. I researched activities, attractions and restaurants, the fares of the train, and the Subway prices.

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  1. Learn how to use the Subway

New York City Subway (photo/ Leana Van Rooyen)
New York City Subway (photo/ Leana Van Rooyen)

I stayed in Stamford Connecticut and took the train into the city. Living with a friend helped me save greatly on accommodation. Also, knowing someone who is willing to show you around makes things easier. I explored the city on my own most days. My friend was able to travel into the city with me on the first day to show me how to use the Subway.

Subway survival hacks:

  • Learn how to read the subway map.
  • Identify which line you would be using the most and try to use that as a starting point.
  • A week pass (as opposed to a daily pass) will save you money and you can use it as much as possible.
  • If you accidently miss your stop, get off at the next stop and get back on a train going in the opposite direction.
  • You may encounter one or two strange characters but it’s pretty safe.
  1. There’s no need to splurge on tours of the city

LR2There are many city passes to choose from. When deciding what pass to buy, bigger is not always better. I found an amazing website called Free Tours on Foot. Here, you can take guided tours for free and tip the guide at the end of the tour with what you are able to afford. I also planned my own walking food tour.

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  1. Make copies of all your important documents

I bought a New York 10-day pass as it seemed to be the best option at the time (even though it didn’t come cheap). I used the card for a walking tour of Greenwich Village but on Day 2, in my rush to catch the subway train to Chelsea Market, I lost the pass in Grand Central. I was absolutely devastated, thinking about how much money I had just flushed down the drain. Thereafter, I bought certain sightseeing activities on the New York Explorer Pass. This pass allows you to choose activities that you would like to do and is not limited by an expiry date. Also, the pass is sent directly to your phone so you won’t lose it!

Note:  If you buy a New York pass, take a photo of it and write down the number of the card. This way if you lose it, you can cancel the card and will be issued with another.

  1. The food portions are huge

LR4I loved tasting different types of food in New York. I had the good stuff: corn dogs, hot dogs and food from food carts. I’d planned a self-made walking food tour starting in Soho.

A friend from Cape Town had said that I should try the Dominique Ansel Bakery for cronuts. Unfortunately, by the time I’d arrived, all the cronuts were sold out. So I had their second most popular item: DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann).

After Soho, I headed to Little Italy to try a thin slice of Sicilian pizza. The pizza slices were as big as my head. Then off to Chinatown for strange and interesting foods on display. I visited the Chinatown Ice cream Factory and tried litchi-flavoured ice cream.


Must-see Attractions:

Brooklyn Bridge

The bridge was buzzing with tourists, cyclists, pedestrians and people going about their daily routines. The architecture of the bridge was impressive, and so was the view of the Hudson River below it. I could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. I walked over the bridge and then walked around the park, also spotting the Seaglass carousel.LR5

Central Park

I had to see all the sights that we usually see in movies. I walked to Belvedere Castle and went up the tower. Central Park was a lot bigger than I’d imagined. There were people everywhere (like anywhere else in NYC). The Museum of Natural History is situated next to Central Park so I took a break from my stroll to the museum in search of Dum Dum( a the statue I’d seen in the film, Night at the Museum).

I saw Bethesda Fountain and the famous statue of Alice in Wonderland.

There were artists everywhere painting landscapes. If I were to return, I would definitely want to take a white row boat onto the lake. Ironically, the activities that I’d enjoyed the most, were the ones outdoors.

What’s your take on New York? Do you have a local or International travel story to share?

I’d love to hear from you. Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Author: Robyn

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