New York, New York, is consistently the most-visited city in the United States ― and for good reason. The Big Apple is home to iconic skyscrapers, top-notch restaurants and shops, and endless opportunities to experience art and entertainment.
But with tens of millions of tourists each year, it’s only inevitable that people make their fair share of mistakes while exploring NYC. We asked locals to share some of the most common faux pas they’ve observed.
From boarding the wrong subway car to sticking to only one borough, here are 17 mistakes tourists often make while visiting New York ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.
Staying In Times Square
“I think a big mistake tourists make is staying in the Times Square area. It’s so crowded and you don’t have good options of restaurants or coffee shops, as most of them are touristy. You end up missing out on many good hidden gems and seeing the part of New York that’s the most chaotic and dirty.” ― Gabriella Zacche, entrepreneur and lifestyle influencer
“I think the most common mistake tourists make when visiting NYC is staying in Midtown/Times Square. There’s so much to see and do in New York, and Midtown ain’t it.” ― Jeremy Cohen, photographer
“When I first moved to NYC and the times I visited prior to my move, I always had a packed schedule. It was filled with events, sightseeing and plans with family and friends. A common mistake I see tourists make is not leaving three to four hours of free time to truly explore the best part of NYC, which is spontaneity. Pick a neighborhood of choice and walk aimlessly, people-watch, ask for recommendations from the locals (store owners, bartenders) and then check it out. Keep hopping around and see where the day or night takes you.” ― Krity Shrestha, content creator
Standing In The Middle Of The Sidewalk
“Don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk. I see SO many people do this, and it drives me nuts! NYC sidewalks are like highways. When you’re sitting in the middle of the road, you’re blocking traffic. It helps New Yorkers (and makes you look like less of a tourist) if you can pull off to the side to look at your phone, figure out directions, etc.” ― Chantilly, blogger at Chantilly Songs
Boarding The Empty Car On A Packed Subway
“As someone who grew up in Brooklyn, there are some things that locals know about the subway that I see tourists do often. One of the biggest mistakes: If a train is packed but one train car is empty ― there is likely a reason why, and you should avoid that car at all costs.” ― ShaunMara Begley, blogger at Shaunie and the City
Alexander Spatari via Getty Images
Resist the temptation to over-plan your New York City trip.
Wearing Uncomfortable Shoes
“Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes. NYC is a walking city, and it’s honestly a really enjoyable way to see it! You’ll be walking around more than you think, so if you decide to wear high heels or a pair of too-tight shoes, trust me, you’ll be in a world of pain. My advice: Wear sneakers or a flat-soled shoe that you’ve already broken in.” ― Chantilly
“Planning outfits for your New York City trip? Here’s a tip: Start by picking out comfy shoes first, then basing your looks to go with them. Although you can always count on cars and trains, you’ll likely still be walking a few blocks here and there while exploring the city. If you rather wear a not-as-comfy pair of shoes because it matches more or want to wear them just for photos, bring sneakers or flats in a tote bag and switch them for walking. Your feet will thank you later!” ― Wendy Sy, content creator, and founder Style Meets Story
Spending The Whole Time In Manhattan
“The biggest mistake we think tourists make in NYC is only staying in Manhattan. Yes, Manhattan has so much to offer — especially for first-time visitors — like Times Square, the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, but the other boroughs of NYC can offer equally (or even sometimes better) amazing things to do. DUMBO in Brooklyn has beautiful views of Manhattan, and we think the best view of the Statue of Liberty on land is in Red Hook. In Queens, Astoria Park is probably our favorite park in all of NYC, with stunning, picturesque views of the East Side of Manhattan. The Bronx also has great things to offer like the Bronx Zoo, and The Bronx Beer Hall is a really fun place to hang out.” ― Gabi & Shanna, bloggers at 27travels
“A major mistake I see tourists make when visiting New York City is limiting their dining experiences and restaurant reservations to Manhattan. While the Manhattan food scene is undoubtedly incredible, there is so much more to experience when it comes to authentic and diverse foods that make up the fabric of this great city, all of which are just a subway ride away in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and so forth.” ― Krisna Bharvani, food blogger at whatKbeats
Only Eating At Sit-Down Restaurants
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that every meal has to be in a sit-down restaurant. I highly recommend visiting some of the city’s best markets to gather a smorgasbord of goodies to share and have a picnic or a lap lunch in the park. Or like any busy New Yorker, eat on the run! Some of my favorite spots to gather an array of goods are Di Palo’s Fine Foods in Little Italy, Butterfield Market on the Upper East Side, Union Square Green Market, Mercado Little Spain in Hudson Yards, Essex Market on the Lower East Side and DeKalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn.” ― Dana Smith, founder of @FoodSmithNYC
Taking A Car To/From The Airport
“One mistake is taking a Lyft or cab at the airport. If you don’t have much luggage, you can take the train. there is an AirTrain that will take you there, and from there, you can take the NYC subway. If you land in LGA, there is a bus shuttle that can take you to the train station where all major lines run. I would use Google Maps for directions.” ― Ivonne Morales, content creator at LatinaChicTravels
“Taxis from the airport to Manhattan can cost you about $60-100+ one way. If you don’t have a lot of luggage, it’s worth the adventure of taking public transportation to your destination. Not to mention you’ll get to your destination faster than a taxi if you travel during rush hour. At times you can be stuck in traffic for more than an hour.” ― Jessica-Kameko Rooks, blogger at Travel with Meko
Alexander Spatari via Getty Images
Don’t forget to venture outside of Manhattan.
Paying For An Expensive Boat Ride
“Don’t pay for an expensive boat tour to see the skyline views along the water. Take a Staten Island ferry for free to see the city views. It’s a 30-minute ride on the water. You get to see views of the city and the Statue of Liberty. You’ll have a bunch of free photo opportunities along the water.” ― Rooks
“Ubers, taxis and subways may be the most popular modes of transportation in New York City, but let’s also not forget the ferry. It feels like a little cruise where you can enjoy scenic views, use Wi-Fi, and buy drinks and snacks at the bar. There are plenty of routes to take, such as the East River ferry, where you can sail to stops like Pier 11/Wall Street. The ticket prices are $2.75 each way and well worth it.” ― Sy
Not Asking For Help
“When lost, don’t be scared to ask for help; we are not all jerks like they portray. Sometimes even I myself will get lost or have a hard time finding an address. I always find doormen or building securities most helpful and friendly whenever I don’t feel comfortable asking a random stranger walking.” ― Morales
“If you’re unsure about which train to take, ask a New Yorker. We don’t bite! One of the biggest misconceptions tourists have when they travel to New York City is thinking that New Yorkers aren’t nice. We can actually be some of the most compassionate and helpful people if you need something. Don’t confuse us with the many transplants who may be less open and friendly! Most of us born-and-raised New Yorkers are happy to have a conversation or give you a helpful tip (as long as we’re not in a rush to catch the train)!” ― Gerry Isabelle, travel and culture blogger at Dominican Abroad
Only Dining At The Most Popular Restaurants
“Too many times, I’ve seen itineraries that include the typical ‘Empire State’ tour or Joe’s Shanghai, Katz’s, and Chelsea Market visits. Sure, those places are great, but a little more research will lead visitors to even better and more delicious gems that many locals frequent! I highly recommend using crowdsourced sites like Reddit, Google Reviews and of course, Instagram, to get a better list of restaurants and places to visit!” ― Lori Luo, founder of Girl East NYC
Renting A Car
“Unless you’re visiting the suburbs, a car is not necessary when visiting NYC. Instead, save time and money by taking public transportation and learning how to navigate the transit system. Taking the bus and train is even more convenient with the OMNY contactless payment system. You can pay your fare by using a credit or debit card, or smartphone.” ― JoAnna E, travel and lifestyle blogger
Alexander Spatari via Getty Images
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try all the amazing cuisine on offer in New York City.
Going To The Empire State Building For Views
“If you want great photos of the New York City skyline, don’t go to the Empire State Building — the observation deck has criss-crossing wires that obstruct the view and are distracting in photos. Instead, go to the Top of the Rock ― it has crystal-clear windows on the observation deck, and you can actually have the Empire State Building in your photos! Book the first ticket slot of the day and go straight up to the observation deck to enjoy the least amount of crowds and unobstructed views.” ― Karya Schanilec, photographer
Blocking The Subway Doors
“Never get in the way of a New Yorker commuting. That’s because a minute could make the difference between us arriving 45 minutes early or 45 minutes late to work. And never, ever, linger or hover in front of the train doors! This blocks people’s ability to get in or out of the train.” ― Isabelle
Eating At Chain Restaurants
“Don’t just eat at chain restaurants in New York. You can find food from all cultures here from around the world. Here are a few ethnic neighborhoods that share culture from around the world: Little Italy, Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Guyana, Little Poland, Little India and more.” ― Rooks
Thinking A Taxi Will Be Faster
“If you’re in a rush, don’t assume that taxis will get you somewhere faster. Due to traffic, and especially during rush hour, it’s likely that the train will get you to your destination much faster. That’s why it’s not uncommon to spot celebrities on trains!” ― Isabelle
Missing Out On Free Events
“New York doesn’t have to be expensive. New York offers a bunch of free entry to museums on certain days and free events all around the city. Any time of year you visit, there’s something going on ― a festival, concert, block party or another event.” ― Rooks
Responses have been edited for clarity and style.
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