Things You Should Not Do in New York City


Visiting New York City can be an exhilarating experience with its iconic skyline, vibrant street life, and diverse cultural attractions. However, tourists should be aware of certain behaviors that can disrupt the flow of the city’s fast-paced lifestyle or even offend its residents. Acknowledging and avoiding these missteps not only shows respect for the local customs and people but also ensures a more enjoyable and smooth experience during your stay in the Big Apple.

There’s a set of unspoken rules that can make the difference between a typical tourist experience and an authentic New York adventure. While the city welcomes visitors with open arms, blending in with the locals involves more than just seeing the sights; it requires an understanding of the daily etiquette and cultural nuances that make New Yorkers proud of their hometown. Heeding these cautions will make your journey through the bustling streets of Manhattan, the parks of Brooklyn, and the diverse boroughs beyond more pleasurable and respectful to those who call NYC home.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding local customs and etiquette is essential for a respectful visit to NYC.
  • New York City’s unspoken rules are key to an authentic and enjoyable experience.
  • Blending in with New Yorkers involves observing the city’s daily life and culture.

Standing in the Middle of a Sidewalk

Standing in the Middle of a Sidewalk

New York City is known for its lively sidewalks that act as arteries for the urban flow. Avoiding disruption of this flow is key to maintaining the unwritten code of conduct on the city’s walkways. Here are some considerations for those traversing NYC’s sidewalks:

  • Keep Moving: If you’re admiring the city’s architecture or sights, step aside rather than standing in the pathway.
  • Be Mindful of Groups: Larger gatherings can inadvertently cause blockages, so it’s courteous to keep the group tight and off to the side.
  • Rush Hour Awareness: During peak travel times, extra vigilance is important to not hinder the hurried steps of commuters.
  • Photo Etiquette: When capturing the perfect snapshot, quickly moving to the fringe of the footpath can prevent obstruction.

Remember, the subway’s accessibility and sidewalks are communal amenities essential for the daily life of New Yorkers. Upholding this sidewalk etiquette ensures a harmonious coexistence between locals and visitors alike.

Leaning on Subway Poles

Leaning on Subway Poles

When traveling in New York City’s intricate subway system, riders have the responsibility to follow certain etiquettes for the safety and comfort of everyone. Subway poles, designed to provide stability for passengers, should not be used for leaning. Here are essential considerations:

  • Personal Space: Occupying a pole by leaning restricts access for others who might need to hold on, especially during crowded trips or sudden stops.
  • Safety: Maintaining an upright position without leaning ensures that you can adjust quickly to the subway’s movements, reducing the risk of unbalancing yourself or others.
  • Consideration Post-COVID-19: With health precautions paramount, minimizing surface contact, like not leaning on poles, helps reduce potential transmission of viruses.

In essence, riders are encouraged to simply hold the poles with their hands, leaving ample room for others to grab onto as well. This practice fosters a more considerate and efficient commuting environment within the bustling transit network of the city.

Avoid Evading Subway Payment

Paying the subway fare in New York City is an indispensable part of using the public transportation system. It may be tempting for some to not pay the subway fare, possibly by vaulting over the turnstiles at times when the booths are unattended. Even though the cost for a single ride ticket is relatively low, at $2.75, the consequences of fare evasion are considerably severe.

  • Penalty for Fare Evasion: A hefty fine of $100.
  • Potential Consequences: Risk of arrest and possibly spending a night in jail.

Visitors and residents should always pay the fare using a MetroCard or through cash at a booth, where available, to prevent any negative repercussions. Credit cards are also accepted at some stations for purchasing MetroCards. While credit card use is on the rise, some booths remain cash-only. Evading the fare is not worth the risk.

Apparel Etiquette in NYC

In New York City, attire preferences among residents lean towards the understated rather than the ostentatious, except for special occasions. To blend seamlessly with the locals, opt for an ensemble that doesn’t scream ‘tourist’. This means setting aside those “I Love New York” tees for something more subdued.

  • Everyday Wear:
    • Jeans are a fine choice for day-to-day activities.
    • T-shirts and casual tops work well, provided they’re not excessively flamboyant.
  • Broadway Evenings:
    • When attending a Broadway show, smart-casual attire is a safe bet.
    • It’s not necessary to dress up elaborately, but do step up from your daytime wear.

Remember, the key is to embrace simplicity; your clothing should strike the right balance between blending in and personal expression.

Dine on Unique Delights

One should take advantage of New York’s rich culinary tapestry by eschewing international fast-food franchises in favor of local flavors. For those fond of regional chains, seek out New York-exclusive eateries for a true taste of the city, from authentic pizza joints to cozy coffee houses.

Culinary Exploration:

  • Pizza: Savor a slice of New York-style pizza, allowing the cheese’s richness and the crust’s crunch to transport you to culinary bliss.
  • Coffee & Bagels: Start the morning with a hand-rolled bagel and locally roasted coffee, a staple for busy New Yorkers on the go.
  • Street Carts: Indulge in the variety of street cart offerings; these mobile kitchens offer everything from hot dogs to pretzels.
  • Unique Eateries: Forgo the familiarity of global brands for unique, New York-only chain restaurants.
  • Global Dishes: Step into Koreatown, Chinatown, or Little India for a delightful dive into authentic Korean BBQ, succulent dim sum, or rich Indian fare.

For a diverse tasting experience, one could visit the Williamsburg Food Market where a smorgasbord of local cuisines awaits. Here, the adventurous diner can explore New York’s food scene, one delicious bite at a time.

Don’t Stay In – Go Out and Explore the Nighttime Splendor

Don't Stay In - Go Out and Explore the Nighttime Splendor

New York’s vibrant night scene is a must-see, with many of its famed locations offering a different experience under the stars. Those staying in the city are encouraged to venture out after dusk to discover unique nocturnal views and activities.

  • Utilize Various Transportation: Opt for an Uber, taxi, or car service to navigate the busy streets; evenings, especially on weekends or during events, can bring heightened traffic congestion.
  • Plan for Transit Time: Allow ample time for travel to avoid tardiness for nighttime reservations.
  • Consider Transport Costs: Note that prices for cabs and car services can surge during high traffic times, so budget accordingly.
  • Williamsburg and Upper West Side: Enjoy a walking tour in areas like Williamsburg or the Upper West Side to experience the city’s charm without the hassle of driving.
  • Skip the Drive: If possible, forgo driving to bypass the stress of searching for parking and navigating busy roads.
  • Bus Tours: Look for bus tours that showcase the city’s illuminated landmarks, a perfect way to see much without the concern of traffic.

Remember to augment your day expeditions with these night explorations for a comprehensive New York City experience.

Falling for a Scam

In New York City, especially around bustling Times Square, tourists can be easy targets for scams. Common strategies include:

  • Well-Dressed Frauds: Individuals posing in suits, urgently asking for change for a train, convincingly stating they’ve misplaced their wallet.
  • Tipping Cons: Performers or costume wearers coercing onlookers into giving large tips for a quick photo.
  • Tourist Trap Warnings: Overpriced attractions near major landmarks offering subpar experiences.
  • TKTS Mix-ups: Some might sell fake tickets for Broadway shows, emphasizing the need to purchase from the official TKTS booths.
  • Carriage Rides: Ensure you negotiate the price before enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride, or you might be overcharged.
  • Chain Restaurant Pitfalls: Predominant in tourist hotspots, luring with familiarity but may lead to food poisoning due to lower hygiene standards.

Stay vigilant to protect yourself and your finances while enjoying the city.

Don’t Forget Your Sneakers

When packing for New York City, sneakers are a must-have. The city’s culture of exploration on foot makes them indispensable. While other footwear like loafers or dress shoes might not offer the necessary comfort for prolonged walking, sneakers stand out as the ideal choice for their comfort and versatility.

  • Essentials for NYC: Always include sneakers in your luggage.
  • Footwear for Comfort: Opt for sneakers to navigate the city’s streets with ease.

Though it’s wise to have options like dress shoes, sandals, or casual footwear for varying occasions, neglecting to bring sneakers could detract from the overall experience of the bustling city life.

Don’t Walk Slowly on Left Side of Escalator

In the bustling environment of New York, swift transit is a norm, and this includes the use of escalators. There’s an unspoken yet broadly understood rule for those using these moving staircases—keep a brisk pace if you’re on the left, so others can pass without delay. If you’re not in a rush, it’s courteous to step to the right, allowing a clear path for the hurried commuters.

  • Right Side: Ideal for standing
  • Left Side: Designated for walking swiftly or passing

Adhering to this etiquette extends beyond escalators and applies to pedestrian navigation as well. To provide a smooth passage, New Yorkers often indicate their approaching direction audibly.

  • Audible Cue: “On your Left” signals pedestrians to move right
  • Prompt Movement: Facilitates an orderly flow for all

Frequently Asked Questions

Typical Tourist Errors in New York City

  • Not diversifying their itinerary: Visitors often focus on the well-known attractions and overlook the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
  • Overreliance on taxis: Relying solely on taxis can be costly; exploring other transit options is beneficial.
  • Dressing impractically: Inappropriate footwear can cause discomfort given the amount of walking typically done.

Areas to Exercise Caution in New York City

  • Certain late-night spots: Some areas might be less secure late at night. It’s wise to be cautious and aware of the surroundings after dark.

Safety Measures for Pedestrians in New York City

  • Stay alert: Always pay attention to traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Keep personal belongings secure: Use bags that can be closed securely and avoid dangling purses or cameras.

Cautions for Visitors in New York City

  • Beware of scams: Be wary of street performances or ticket sellers that may be scams.
  • Mind the traffic: Never assume vehicles will stop for pedestrians; always wait for the walk signal.

Inconspicuous Attire for New York City

  • Avoid tourist staples: Rather than wearing I ❤️ NY shirts and bulky cameras, opt for casual, comfortable clothes.
  • Practical footwear: Sneakers or comfortable walking shoes are advisable given the city’s walking culture.

General Safety Tips for Travelers in New York City

  • Utilize resources: Take advantage of the city’s resources like tourist information centers.
  • Be familiar with emergency numbers: Know the local emergency contacts in case of an incident.

Final Thoughts

New York City, with its vibrant tapestry of cultures, offers a unique experience that requires some insider know-how. Employing these suggestions ensures a smoother journey, whether for a fleeting visit or an extended stay, allowing for a seamless integration into the city’s dynamic lifestyle.

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