Planning a visit to NYC for the first time? Here are 12 Common Mistakes to Avoid as a tourist!
As someone who was born and raised in NYC, I’ve seen tourists make the same common mistakes over and over and over again! For once, I have yet to see tourists who are actually well-prepared before they come visit the Big Apple. So, to equip all of you first time visitors, I have decided to come up with a list of 12 common mistakes to avoid in NYC. These mistakes are solely based on my own personal experience and nothing else!
Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk
Stopping in the middle of the sidewalk is something I think almost every tourist is guilty of making…and honestly… I get it. You’re in New York City!! How can you not be mesmerized by the urban jungle?? You could be walking down the sidewalk one day and all of sudden… a beautiful building catches your eye. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture. New York is not the city for that! New York is full of people who are always on the go. If you were to stop in the middle of the sidewalk not only are you disrupting the flow of pedestrian traffic but you are also slowing down the person behind you. And… depending on who that person is.. they might share a few unfriendly words with you. So to avoid this, please stop on the side of the sidewalk if you need to stop walking. This is one of many common mistakes you don’t want to make.
Not checking the subway line before you board it
When you don’t check the subway line before you board it, you’re setting yourself up for a major headache. The NYC subway is already confusing enough for the average tourist, so don’t make it harder on yourself by making this common mistake. Always check the subway line and the direction (Uptown or Downtown) it’s going before you board it. If you still need some help, please ask any NYC transit employee for directions and they would be more than happy to help you! You can also download the MyTransit NYC Subway app here for more navigation or The Transit app for iPhone users.
Buying hot dogs from Central Park
Don’t buy any NYC hot dogs at any of the hot dog stands in Central Park! Many NYC street vendors have been known to manipulate tourists and it’s really misleading. They can either do this by making the price of their hot dog really expensive or by not displaying any prices on their stand at all. This tourist trap only leaves you with less money in your pocket and more money in the vendor’s. So, to avoid making this mistake, always remember to go to street vendors that list their prices on their stand. If you see a street vendor who is not doing this, I wouldn’t recommend buying any food from them. You’re just going to fall into a trap that every first timer wants to avoid. Also, never pay more than $2.00 for a plain hot dog! If a street vendor is charging you more than this, than I would recommend looking elsewhere.
Giving out money to “homeless” people on the subway
It’s very common for the average New Yorker to run into a homeless person while riding the subway. Usually, they’ll stand in the middle or at the end of the train car to draw attention to themselves. Their speech may sound like this…
“Hey, my name is Jerome and I’ve been on the streets for the past two years and I’m very hungry. I just wanted to ask if anyone would like to spare me some change from the bottom of their heart? I’m hungry and I would like to get something eat. Thank you and God bless!”
As a tourist, you have no obligation to give any money to a stranger especially if they’re asking for it on the subway. I know their speech may sound really convincing at first but odds are it might just be another scam. Please don’t fall for this! Most of the time, these homeless people are looking for gullible tourists who would be willing to open their purse for them.
Using outdoor ATMs
Using outdoor ATMs is definitely a no-no for all of you first-timers. Outdoor ATMs are usually pretty easy to tamper with and makes it so much easier for someone to steal your money. If you need to go to an ATM, please make sure to visit one inside a bank. That way, when you need to withdraw your money, you won’t have to worry about someone stealing your debit card information. Every bank also has security cameras surrounding the premises. So, if anyone ever tried to tamper with an ATM machine, they would be caught on camera.
Driving into NYC
If you’re planning to drive into NYC for the first time, I would highly advise against it. As an urban jungle, New York City is known for being overpopulated and very dense. As a result, the average driver may have a hard time finding parking in the big apple. Most of the time, this is usually due to nonexistent street parking or expensive parking garages. Overall, I don’t think it’s worth it. You are better off booking a flight to NYC on Skyscanner or Momondo!
Talking to strangers at transit hubs
In New York City, you can never be too comfortable with a stranger, especially if you’re at a transit hub. Transit hubs, like Port Authority Bus Terminal, are known for having many creepers lurking around. So, unless you need help, there’s no reason for you to engage in conversation with someone you don’t know. God forbid, these creepers might just trick you into getting into their car or giving them your money.
Walking at a slow pace
Another common mistake I see tourists make… is when they’re walking on the street at a very slow pace. So just as I mentioned before in common mistake #1, New York City is full of people who are always on the go. It’s not enough to just walk… you need to walk with alacrity and speed. If you don’t, just like common mistake #1, some locals will likely share some unfriendly words with you. As for me, I don’t really get irritated at the sight of this. If the person in front of me is walking too slow, I’ll usually just find a respectful way to pass them. However, not every New Yorker is like me. So, please avoid making this mistake at all costs!
Wearing an I LOVE NY shirt
Wearing an I LOVE NY shirt is another common mistake I see first timers do. This shirt practically screams the word “tourist” and many first timers are so ignorant to this! If you want to blend in with the locals, please don’t wear this shirt. Not only are they tacky but they also leave a huge target on your back.
Pronouncing Houston St wrong
As one of NYC’s famous streets, Houston St isn’t pronounced the way you might think for all you first timers. Different from the Texan city, the word “houston” in Houston St is actually pronounced [how-stin]! Many first-timers are actually quite guilty of making this mistake but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Since they’re both homographs, it’s really easy to get the Texan city pronunciation confused for the famous NYC street. So, if you want to appear less touristy in NYC, remember to pronounce Houston St the right way.
Going to Little Italy for authentic Italian food
Out of all these common mistakes, this is the only mistake I made as a New Yorker! After studying abroad in Italy for 5 months, I thought visiting Little Italy in Manhattan would comfort the nostalgia I was going through at the time. However, once I got there, it only took a short amount of time for me to see Little Italy for what it truly was… AN IMPOSTER! The Little Italy in Manhattan is nothing like Italy for real. In fact, I was even shocked at how they misspelled a lot of Italian dishes and desserts on their menus. Like… are you kidding me??!! I’m not even Italian and even I know how to spell Italian dishes the right way. As a travel tip, you can usually tell if the Italian place is fake if they forget to add specific “double consonants” in certain words or if they add any Italian-American dishes like lasagna, fettuccine alfredo or spaghetti and meatballs. So, please don’t make the same mistake I did by going to Little Italy for authentic Italian food. It will just disappoint you over and over and over again!
Only visiting 1 borough (Manhattan)
And last but not least… visiting only Manhattan is another common mistake I see a lot of first timers do! I know Manhattan is usually advertised as The City but… New York City is actually made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and The Bronx. If you just stay put in one borough, you’re only seeing a fifth of New York City. So, to avoid this common mistake, check out some touristy spots in the other boroughs. For instance, the Bronx is famous for its lovely Bronx Zoo and Brooklyn has the original Rainbow Bagel Store! Queens has the Museum of the Moving Image and Staten Island is known for its lovely ferry. Altogether, these boroughs make up all of NYC, so it would be a shame miss out on any one of them.
Overall, I hope learning about these common mistakes made you feel more prepared about your trip to New York! Leave a comment down below and let me know which one of these common mistakes surprised you the most.