Travel tips

The Ultimate Guide to New York

Truly a city that never sleeps, you will never be at a loss for something to do in New York.

Here's everything you need to know before heading to the Big Apple, including where to eat, where to stay, what you can do for free and all the key details for planning your trip. 

Before you fly

Travelling to New York

From the UK, the best way to get to New York is by plane. A direct flight will usually take between eight and ten hours. 

 You can fly to the below main airports:

  • John F Kennedy International (JFK)
  • LaGuardia (LGA)
  • Newark Liberty International (EWR)

JFK and LaGuardia are both located in Queens (one of New York’s boroughs), while Newark is in New Jersey (the next state to the west), but it’s easy to get into New York City from either by taxi, bus, train or subway.

JFK is about 15 miles from Midtown Manhattan, and is the biggest airport in the city. It’ll cost you a flat fare of $52.50 (add 15-20% on top for taxi tips) to get a taxi from here, or you can get a combination of the AirTrain and subway connections.

LaGuardia is closer at 8 miles away, and is a slightly smaller airport. Taxis from here are between $20-30 (there is no flat fare). 

Newark is somewhere in between the two airports in terms of its size, and is 16 miles from Midtown Manhattan. It takes about an hour by taxi, costing around $65, but you can also use the AirTrain services here.

The cheapest time of year to fly to New York is between mid-January to the end of February. The best time to go weather-wise is between September and November, or from April to June, however you’ll likely notice an increase in price during this peak time.

What’s the time difference?

New York is five hours behind the UK.

Do I need a visa for New York?

If you’re planning a trip to New York that’s going to last less than 90 days, you’ll need what’s referred to as an ESTA (an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). Make sure you organise this at least three days before you’re due to go. It costs $14, and you’ll need one for every member of your travelling party (that includes babies). You can fill in the ESTA application form here, and check on its progress once complete.

If your trip is more than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a Visitor’s VISA.

Buying dollars

Currency: The US Dollar ($)

Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are easy to find in the city, and most hotels, restaurants, and shops will accept credit cards.

Before you go, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got plenty of currency.

For great rates and maximal convenience, you can buy your US dollars with ICE for home delivery or click & collect on our website. Alternatively, you can load dollars (and up to nine other currencies) onto a Clear Card and use the ICE app to top up and track your spending. It’s quick and easy, and means you don’t need to worry about carrying cash with you when travelling.

Getting around New York

Travelling around New York is easy. It’s a very busy city, so the crowds of people can seem a little daunting at first, but there are plenty of excellent transport links that keep this bustling city moving.

Walking is probably the best way to get to where you want to be – you can see more of the city this way. New York is huge, however, and the trains and buses run 24 hours a day making it really easy to hop on board.

You can get a MetroCard to use public transport here (much like an Oyster Card in London). The only place you won’t be able to reach via the subway is Staten Island, but there’s a handy ferry to get you here.

If you’re staying outside Manhattan, the NYC Ferry is a great way to access Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens. Fares cost $2.75 for a single trip. It’s not part of the MetroCard system, so you’ll need to buy a ticket from the vending machines at the ferry stations (cash or credit cards accepted) or using the NYC Ferry app or website. The view of the NYC skyline on the approach to Manhattan is our favourite bit about taking the ferry!

If you’re unsure about using public transport, taxis are readily available. You can hail a taxi that has its light on, and you can pay by cash, card or prepaid card. It’s also worth noting that it’s pretty standard to tip your taxi driver about 20%. If you’re not sure about hailing a classic yellow New York taxi, you can always opt for an Uber.

Shutterstock 125311292

View from NYC ferry

Your New York budget

New York is a relatively expensive city to visit if you intend to see all the sights, eat all the food and generally soak up as much of the experience as possible. 

In general, according to BudgetYourTrip.com, you’ll need to budget about $238 per person per day. This figure includes your accommodation and travel, so let’s look at a breakdown.

Food and drink 

If you’re on a budget, you can get by on roughly $30-45 a day for food, excluding drinks. There are an abundance of delis and restaurants across the city where you can get lunch or dinner for under $12 (yes $12!). If you venture out of Manhattan to other boroughs like Queens you’ll find meals for half the price.

Our top tips?

  • Check out the food trucks around town which serve some of the city’s most delicious food for just $5-7. Usually located near big parks like Central Park or Union Square, Midtown
  • Try a classic New York slice of pizza, which typically costs between $1-4
  • Grab a hot dog from basically any street corner in the city for between $2-6. Our favourite is Rudy’s, a classic dive bar which gives you a free hot dog with any drink!
  • Bagels for breakfast, like the ‘Everything bagel’ with plain cream cheese at Best Bagel & Coffee ($3.35)
  • Sample the iconic potato knish at Yona Schimmel Knish Bakery ($4.25)
  • Fuel your day with a fried chicken sandwich at Cheeky Sandwiches on the Lower East Side ($6.50).

If you’re on a mid-range budget and want to sit down to eat in nicer restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s best to budget about $100-150 per day (excluding drinks). You can expect to pay $20 for a good breakfast, $20-40 for lunch, and $40-50 for dinner including service.

If you want to blow your food budget, we’d recommend budgeting $200-300 per day.

A main meal at one of NYC’s hottest restaurants like famous American chophouse The Grill or sushi hotspot Shuko will easily set you back $150 per person. Check out Time Out’s guide to the 100 best restaurants in NYC for more inspiration.

Entertainment and sightseeing

There are a lot of landmarks, sites and entertainment to enjoy in New York. It’s worth noting that you can often book tickets for these things in advance of your trip, but otherwise, BudgetYourTrip.com recommends around $77 a day for entertainment.

Travel

Walking is obviously free, but if you intend to travel by public transport, about $15 a day should do it.

The most popular way to travel is the subway as you get to avoid the traffic. Fares are not distance dependent and unlike many other subway systems, there is no zone system. So you can go as far as you want on your single ticket. Single tickets are $3 or $2.75 with a MetroCard.

The MetroCard covers the subway and the bus system and you can top it up as you go. A perk of the MetroCard is that you can transfer to another bus or subway service for free as long as it’s within two hours of your first fare.

New York also has a popular cycle hire scheme called Citi Bike. It costs $12 for a day pass and $24 for a 3 day pass, which can be bought at the station kiosk or through the mobile app.

If taxis are more your thing, the minimum taxi fare is $2.50 and additional charges are 50 cents per 1/5 of a mile (at or above 6 mph) or for 2 minutes of time stopped or traveling below 6 mph. The night-time surcharge is 50 cents for rides from 8-6pm. The peak hour weekday surcharge is $1 and is charged for rides from 4-8pm weekdays.

Translation? A typical 5-mile, 10-minute trip going 25 miles per hour the entire way in a taxi would cost the base fare of $2.50 plus 25 units at $0.50 each, or $12.50, for a total of $15.00.

New York Basics

Where to stay

Where you choose to stay will greatly depend on the areas of New York you’d most like to visit. We’ve arranged our top picks by the four popular boroughs, organised by price, so you can gauge your most suitable option. It’s worth remembering that the dollar signs pertain to how expensive the hotel is within the context of that borough. For example, the most expensive hotel on Staten Island will probably equate to the price of the cheapest hotel in Manhattan.

Shutterstock 1102632755

Brooklyn

Shutterstock 1276001533

Queens

Brooklyn

Brooklyn has a reputation for being one of the coolest places to stay in New York. If you’re keen to live like a local in this edgy borough, you’ll find some excellent options for hotels. We recommend it as an alternative to nearby The Bronx, which you'll likely go to if you’re planning a trip to hot spots such as the Yankee Stadium or the Bronx Zoo, you’ll likely need to travel to The Bronx. However, the area has a bit of a reputation for high levels of crime, and a fair few travel sites recommend staying in nearby Brooklyn instead, and simply travelling in and out to the attractions you want to see.

The Nu Hotel ($)

If you’re on a budget, Brooklyn is your friend. There’s plenty to choose from in terms of affordable accommodation, but a great place to start your search is with the Nu Hotel Brooklyn. You’ll still get to benefit from Brooklyn’s quirky style while staying here, but for about half the price of other mid-range hotels.

The Hoxton ($$)

For somewhere still special but slightly more affordable, The Hoxton is a great find. It’s full of character and modern charm, with that cool ‘New York’ edge you’ll just love to come back to after a day spent exploring.

The hotel is in Williamsburg, giving you a great base from which to explore the hotspots of New York.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge ($$$)

For something truly special, try 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. It’s got a rooftop bar with beautiful views to enjoy, an on-site restaurant, The Osprey, and also an excellent wellness offering, which is perfect if you’re looking for a location to take part in yoga, personal training, spa treatments or fitness classes.

If you book early enough, you can also get your pick of views – choose to look out over the bridge, the city, the skyline or the waterfront.

Manhattan

This borough is a great option if your trip to New York is all about sight-seeing. You can walk to some of the biggest tourist destinations from here – notably Central Park.

Pod 51 ($)

Staying in the borough that brings you closest to the action often means an added price-tag, but with budget spaces such as Pod 51 available, you can save your spends for those attractions without compromising your holiday experience. This hotel is quirky and full of excellent amenities, including a garden and roof deck.

Archer Hotel ($$)

Manhattan is a notoriously pricey place to stay, but there are some great mid-price options available too. With 22 stories to explore, Archer Hotel is affordable, and situated in a great spot for heading out to the likes of the Empire State Building.

With tasteful modern décor and some beautiful views to enjoy, it’s sure to be a comfortable stay here.  

Mandarin Oriental ($$$)

A stunning hotel, the Mandarin Oriental really is a treat. It features rooms with views over Central Park making it the perfect treat! There’s a pool, and the most spectacular views of Manhattan. The hotel is even said to be a favourite of Liam Neeson himself!

Queens

Queens is a much more affordable borough compared to the popular Manhattan. It’s also ideal if you don’t mind a short subway ride into the centre and main attractions, before heading back out to your hotel at the end of the day.

LaGuardia Plaza Hotel ($)

If you really want to keep your holiday spends free for activities and sight-seeing, the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel is a great choice. There’s also a free shuttle service to LaGuardia airport, Queens Center Mall and train station from here.

The Paper Factory ($$)

With classic décor and a great choice of spaces, you can truly live like a local at The Paper Factory, Queens. It’s much more affordable, and offers a tasteful living space with beautiful views of the New York skyline.

Z Hotel NYC ($$$)

The Z Hotel NYC is the best place to stay – and the one of the priciest – in Queens, and with good reason. There are some simply fantastic views to enjoy from the rooms, which have been recently renovated, and the entire space has an edgy, urban feel.

Staten Island

Staten Island provides a little bit of respite from the otherwise bustling New York City. If you’d rather stay somewhere a little more peaceful and ‘out of the way’, the Staten Island could just be right up your street. Thanks to its location, it’s more than affordable too.

Harbor House Bed and Breakfast ($)

For a stay that’s gentle on the purse-strings, and oh-so-relaxing, you may like the Harbor House Bed and Breakfast. It’s right on the Hudson River, which means there are some excellent views of the surrounding area to enjoy.

Comfort Inn Staten Island ($$)

An excellent mid-range option is the Comfort Inn Staten Island. The hotel has a fitness centre on site, and you can easily get to places such as the Staten Island Museum, the Staten Island Zoo and of course, Manhattan, from here.

Hilton Garden Inn ($$$)

With tasteful décor, the Hilton Garden Inn provides a comfortable place to stay in Staten Island. It takes just ten minutes to get to Newark Airport from here, and 25 minutes to get to the main attractions of Manhattan, so you can easily dip in and out of the busier areas.

Where to eat

Shutterstock 323053649

From the world-famous Jewish delis of the Upper West Side, to the dim sum parlours and noodle bars of Chinatown, New York's culinary scene features offerings from every corner of the world. There are around 75 Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, so there's plenty to delve into if you fancy a spot of fine-dining. However, some of the city's best eats can be found on its street corners and market stalls.

One thing you can’t go to New York without trying is the pizza. The city has a huge Italian influence, try Lombardi’s in Manhattan (the first ever pizzeria in the US), Di Fara’s in Brooklyn, Joe’s Pizza in West Village or I Sodi, Carbone, Babbo or Del Posto for a fancier Italian dining experience.

New York is famous for its Jewish delis, serving matzo ball soups, salt beef sandwiches and lox. For the quintessential experience, head to Russ & Daughters, where lox, herring and pastrami spill out of freshly baked bagels. Alternatively, check out Katz Delicatessen on the Lower East Side, made famous for its feature in When Harry Met Sally. 

For dessert, try the cupcakes at Magnolia’s, the cronuts at Domonique Ansel or a classic donut from the Peter Pan Bakery. 

And of course, no visit to New York is complete without a slice of cheesecake, preferably eaten at a classic diner or deli. Junior’s is widely considered to serve the best cheesecake in the city, but Eileen’s and Mah-Ze-Darh are also good options.

New York nightlife

Shutterstock 737245576

Nightlife in New York

Just like its food scene, the nightlife scene in New York is pretty spectacular. Whether you want a casual drink, a club, a cocktail or live entertainment, New York has it all. From jazz clubs to speakeasys and wine bars, you’ll truly have your pick of places here.

For a special occasion, try the Carlyle Hotel. You’ll often find live music and a whimsical atmosphere at the fantastic Bemelmans Bar here. Alternatively, you can try The Bar at Baccarat Hotel – if sipping champagne under beautiful chandeliers is the kind of vibe you’re going for, you’ll love it here.

For a more casual drink, New York is full of Dive Bars. Top spots include Jimmy’s Corner and The Patriot Saloon. Think jukeboxes, boxing memorabilia and country music!

For something in between the two, speakeasys are a great shout. Experience the prohibition era with a relaxed vibe, a friendly environment and plenty of choice on the drinks menu. Try out Village Vanguard or Bathtub Gin.

If you’re looking for something more in line with a night club, New York’s after-hours scene is huge. It’s worth doing your research for the type of night out you’re looking for, because there really is something for every taste. From “good vibes only” clubs, to live music, world-renowned DJs, quirky settings and even outdoor rooftop clubs, some of the best names include Black Flamingo, Good Room, Marquee New York and FREQ.

Drinking in New York

It’s worth bearing in mind that the legal drinking age in America is 21 – you should make sure you carry your ID if necessary as you may be asked for it. It’s also illegal to drink alcohol in public, or even be in possession of an open alcohol container. You can buy wine and spirits in liquor stores only, you won’t find them in convenience stores: only beer can be sold here. There are also time restrictions on when wine and spirits can be sold, it’s usually not allowed after midnight and before 9am.

Top 10 things to do

One of the busiest cities in the world, there’s never a dull moment in New York. Here are some of the must-sees in the city:

1. Check out the art scene

The art scene in New York is huge. To begin with, there’s The Met, MoMa, The Guggenheim and the Frick Collection, but there are said to be in the region of 1,500 galleries to explore. Within those mentioned, you’ll find works by Rembrandt, Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh, Dali, Monet and Andy Warhol among many, many more.

Shutterstock 583063048

The Met

2. Catch a show on Broadway

Whether you’re a fan of musicals, comedies or something in between, there’s sure to be a show for you on Broadway. Catch the likes of The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Beetlejuice, plus many more.

Shutterstock 1029004501

3. New York Public Library

After all the hustle and bustle, head to a New York Public Library for a bit of headspace. There are multiple locations across the city, but the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is considered the “main” location, and it’s a beautiful building too.

Shutterstock 153991310

4. Stroll through Central Park

An iconic part of New York, you can’t miss a trip to Central Park. It’s the backdrop to many a famous film location, it’s free, and provides plenty of activity, such as a zoo, castle, reservoir, boathouse, Shakespeare garden and carousel.

Shutterstock 227318326

5. Experience the High Line

Another place to find a bit of rest among the attractions is the New York Highline. It’s an elevated walkway lined with art, nature and beautiful design – a great way to see the city from a different angle.

Shutterstock 654253627

6. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge

Connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge is another iconic element of New York. It’s open 24 hours a day, meaning you can take the walkway across the bridge at any time – it’s particularly beautiful as the sun is rising or setting.

Shutterstock 148239143

7. Take in Times Square

It’s huge, it’s bright, and you certainly won’t be bored here. Take a bus tour, head to Madame Tussauds, eat at some fantastic restaurants or simply take a stroll and soak in the place.

Shutterstock 248799484

8. Visit Lady Liberty

Another famous landmark, you’ll need to get the ferry across to head to Liberty Island. Here, you can explore the grounds and the monument itself, and take a look at the National Museum of Immigration.

Shutterstock 1397031029

9. Explore Brooklyn’s independent scene

Once you’ve had your fill of the big sights, a trip to Brooklyn is sure to satisfy those that love a more independent scene. It’s full of independent bookstores, that each offer a calm break away from this full-on city.

Shutterstock 749689879

10. Head to the Observation Deck

For simply amazing views of New York, head to the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building. If you can, visit as the sun is setting or rising for a breath-taking view.

 

Shutterstock 532532200 (1)

Other useful tips about New York

Weather in New York

The weather in New York can probably be best described as similar to the UK, but with more of a contrast. Winters are colder – December to February sees an average of about freezing, while summer is warmer – the average high for June, July and August is around 28°C, and average low being 19°C.

The best months for exploring the city are generally around the changing of the seasons in autumn. September to November is a relatively reliable time weather-wise, October being the most comfortable for walking around and seeing the sights.

Take a look at AccuWeather to check the climate for your trip here.

Staying safe in New York

New York is generally a safe place to visit, and it has some reassuring crime stats, with violent crimes dropping by 50% in the last decade. However as with any large city packed with people, it’s advisable to keep an eye on your belongings at all times and be careful not to flaunt anything expensive such as cameras or jewellery too much. If you’re not sure where you’re going or are travelling alone after dark, use common sense and get a yellow cab rather than travelling alone.

While NYC is a welcoming place, it does have its rough spots. They’re not generally considered somewhere a tourist is likely to venture anyway, but places like Brownsville and most of the Bronx are perhaps best avoided. 

FAQs

How long is the flight from London to New York?

Flights from London to New York usually take just under 8 hours.

How long is the flight from Manchester to New York?

Flights from Manchester to London take around 7 hours 45 minutes.

Is London bigger than New York?

Yes. London is 607 square miles, while New York is 302.6.

When does is snow in New York?

Usually in January and February.

How far is Boston from New York?

About 216 miles. That’s a 3 hour 45 minute drive, or about a 1 hour 20 minute flight.

Share with your friends