New York Minute: Tips to avoid stress in NYC

2018-06-29 15:30
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Prep for your NYC trip with these tips from Pauline Frommer. (Photo: iStock)

New York City can be an intimidating place for visitors. But travel expert Pauline Frommer is here to help with a new book, "Frommer's EasyGuide to New York City 2018."

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Here are some tips and advice from Frommer's recent interview with AP Travel's "Get Outta Here!" podcast:


Are New Yorkers scary? Will they step over a body lying in the street or will they help a stranger?

"New Yorkers are incredibly busy people. But kind as well," Frommer said. "So if you walk up to somebody who's rushing by, and ask them to stop, they may not stop. But if you stand on the street corner with a map, within seconds, you will have three people offering to help you."

As for crime, New York is statistically one of America's safest big cities, but do keep an eye on your wallet and your purse.

And here's Frommer's advice for dealing with people who approach you on the street, like costumed character actors in Times Square who offer to pose for photos and then demand payment: "Pretend you're deaf. You just keep walking. ...You maybe can be polite and say, 'Sorry,' and keep walking, but you can't give them an opening."

nyc travel crowds

When push comes to shove, busy New Yorkers are willing to lend a hand. (Photo: iStock)

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The idea that you'll be in walking distance from everything if you stay in Times Square or midtown "is a myth," Frommer says. So consider staying in downtown Manhattan or even in Queens, including Long Island City, which is just a subway stop or two away from Manhattan. You might end up in "a chain hotel, it might not have that much character," but rooms can be had for about R2 077 (or $149 @R13.94/$).

To really save money, "visit in January or February," Frommer said. "You can get a really nice hotel room in February for $99 (about R1 380) and that same hotel room in October will cost you $329 (about R4 586)."

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"Don't be scared" of the subway, Frommer says. New Yorkers love complaining about their trains, but Frommer says compared with cabs, they're cheaper ($2.75 or R38 per ride) and usually faster. The trickiest part: Make sure the train is going in the right direction before you swipe your fare card. If not, you may have to exit and pay again on the other side, depending on the station (some provide free transfers in either direction).

By cab, Frommer says, it's often faster to hail yellow taxis on the street than wait for Uber or Lyft drivers to arrive. Another option: the Via ride-sharing service, which charges a few dollars a ride.

CitiBike, a bike-sharing system, is about R167 (or $12) a day "for as many half-hour rides as you want," Frommer says. "Biking is the fastest way to go anywhere. And there are certain streets now that have really good bike lanes that are separated from the traffic."

nyc travel cabs

Hail a cab - they tend to be faster than waiting on your Lyft or Uber. (Photo: iStock)

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The Metropolitan Museum. "Not only does it have some of the greatest artworks in the world — Vermeer, Rembrandt, Sergeant — but it also has things that will engage the imaginations of history-lovers. You can go into an actual Egyptian temple. You can go into a room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. And for those who don't love museums, try this:

  • You go into a gallery.
  • You find one thing that interests you and
  • just stand in front of that one thing for two minutes and let it work on you. ...
  • Try and commune with it."

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The Staten Island Ferry and Shakespeare in the Park.


"The Circle Line hires out-of-work actors as its guides. So they're also very well-spoken. They love the history. They know how to tell a story. The key is when you enter, sit on the right side of the boat so you're facing inwards toward Manhattan."

PS: "The three-hour tour is too long; take the shorter one."

When you realize it's only Tuesday ... ???? @spoilednyc #nyc #nyccruise

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"I'm a big history buff so I love taking friends down to the Financial District." Sites include St Paul's Chapel, where George Washington prayed, and Federal Hall, where he took the oath of office.

Inexpensive restaurant:

Dhaulagiri Kitchen, 124 Lexington Ave, serving Himalayan food including fiery curries.

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The Aviary NYC, on the 35th floor of 80 Columbus Circle, with "spectacular" views. "Every drink there foams or steams or changes as you drink it... It's like a Broadway show!"


Smoke, 2751 Broadway. "They have great barbecue while you're listening to the music," she said. "They have really varied programming so one night Brazilian jazz, another night a classical guitarist and it's a real neighbourhood place."

Weekend itinerary for first-time visitors:

"Get up high and go to the top of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. ...Go to one of our great museums, maybe take a walking tour. There's some really good ones, some of them are free. And then, I think it's not really a weekend in New York if you don't see a show. It doesn't have to be Broadway. ...And don't forget New York City is incredible after dark. So also go to one of our great bars."

Plan Your Trip to New York City

  • Do SA residents need a visa: Yes a tourist visa is required - Read more about that here. It costs around R3 000 and takes about two weeks to process.
  • Currency & exchange rate: Dollar (USD - $) - $1 = R13.94 (presently)
  • Main Airport: John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • Airlines that travel there: South African Airways, KLM, Delta Airlines, Air France, United Airlines, Qatar etc. Search for flights here.