Trip to New York City by yourself – tips for travelers, prices, what you need to know before going to the U.S.
Trip to New York CityA trip to New York City is one of the most interesting trips to the US we’ve ever been on. We’ll share not only our impressions of New York, but also practical first-hand information and helpful tips for travelers and tourists who are just about to see New York.
Traveling to New York City on your own
It is said that you shouldn’t come to New York for two or three days, but you should live in it for at least a week to get to know it better and feel its spirit. Of course it would be better to stay in New York for a month or two so you can stroll around the city and watch the life of the metropolis closely, taking note of all the details, in addition to sightseeing and visiting cafes and restaurants. But it would be too expensive, and not everyone has so much free time.
We planned our trip to New York for four days by ourselves.
How to go to New York on your own – 4 easy steps:
- The first thing to go to New York is to get an American visa. To do this, you must first apply for a U.S. visa, pay a consular fee of $160 and make an appointment for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in any country. You should prepare well for the interview so that you can answer the consul’s questions calmly and truthfully. If you will have a comprehensible story, supported by the appropriate documents, there will likely be no problems with obtaining a U.S. visa.
- Then you need to buy plane tickets to New York.
- And then choose and book a hotel in New York. You can read our recommendations for hotels below, or go straight to Hotellook.com and choose your own accommodation.
- And finally, prepare a detailed plan of your trip to the USA and make your own walking routes around New York City for each day, so you won’t miss the most interesting things.
What you need to know about New York before you travel
New York is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world (like Los Angeles and Bangkok), very popular among tourists. Geographically it is located in the state of the same name on the East Coast of North America, 328 km north-east of the U.S. capital – the city of Washington. To get to New York from Europe, you have to cross the Atlantic. We have flown there many times, and we can say that usually the transatlantic flight to the USA is quite easy, but when we came back from the States, we struggled with the jetlag for another week.
The population of New York City comes from all over the world, about 9 million people in all. Mostly purposeful people who come here for a career and represent all peoples, races, and continents. It also attracts 65 million tourists each year. They include both U.S. residents and travelers from all over the world.
New York City has a large number of attractions and many different museums, and the theaters on Broadway give dozens of interesting performances every day. Unlike Las Vegas with its world-famous circus shows and musical concerts, musicals and various theatrical performances are especially popular with New York audiences. All tourists must visit Times Square in downtown Manhattan. And, of course, there is simply a huge Central Park, where residents and visitors love to spend their free time when the weather is good in New York City.
New York is also considered one of the most expensive cities in the world, with hundreds of billions of dollars in circulation and major financial institutions such as the Federal Reserve Bank and the New York Stock Exchange. Although it’s cheaper than Hong Kong, you can’t do without money. Hundreds of billions of dollars roll around in this city, and tourists in New York also leave a lot of money behind, contributing to its continued prosperity.
How much does it cost to travel to New York: prices and budget
Before going on a trip, we decided to figure out, how much would a trip to New York actually cost? It turned out that if you go just for a few days or a week, a lot depends on how to fly to New York (in economy with a connection or a direct business class flight) and at what hotels in New York to stay. If you stay in the city of skyscrapers for a long time, food and entertainment will also make a big contribution to the final cost, because the prices in New York are quite high on everything, except for street food. And transportation isn’t cheap either. But there are plenty of events and places to go for free in New York.
For an example of our budget trip to New York for 4 days:
As an example, here is our budget for a four-day trip to New York City:
- Hotel Accommodations Room at Howard Johnson for $130 per night (with hot breakfast and coffee)
- Food and Drinks Roughly $15-20 per day for two people
- Admission to Central Park Free
- Sightseeing, museums Free, with Annual Pass America the Beautiful, or for $1 per person at NYC museums where available.
- Transportation in NYC Took the subway in NYC (1 trip $2.75) and walked a lot
- Shuttle to/from airport $15 for 2 people one way (Air Train + subway)
- Entertainment Wanted to go to a Broadway musical for $80, but changed our minds. Everything else is free.
- Shopping, souvenirs: we spent about $50 in total.
Thus, an independent tourist trip to New York cost us about $1300 (not including the cost of the visa, which we already had, but including the cost of the tickets)*. It wasn’t the most budget-friendly trip to New York, as we stayed in a good hotel (which we paid a good price on time), but we didn’t go in luxury either.
- Read more about NYC vacation prices in other articles about NYC on our website.
Recommendation: Planning an independent trip to New York is best started well in advance (2-3 months or even earlier). If you can find cheap airline tickets and book a hotel at a discount through the link you can save half the entire budget or even more.
Flight New York
New York has as many as 3 airports:
- John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK).
- LaGuardia (LGA)
- Newark (EWR) – located in New Jersey
Most flights from Europe arrive at JFK International Airport. JFK International Airport, which is located in the southern Queens area of Long Island.
The cheapest and fastest way to get from New York Airport to downtown is by Air Train and subway ($7.75, about 1 hour with 1-2 transfers). Taking the subway during rush hour with suitcases is not very convenient, but it is possible. A cab to Manhattan costs $50-60 and takes more time because of the constant traffic jams.
Where to stay in New York – recommend hotels
The key to a successful trip to New York City is choosing the right hotel to rest after walking around the city. It is located on several large islands, and if you look at the scheme of New York, you can see that its territory is quite large and includes 5 boros (boroughs): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island. They are all very different, and in terms of safety it is best to stay in a hotel closer to the center, close to the subway station.
The main problem for tourists in New York is the lack of cheap housing and a lot of old hotels with shabby rooms. And when we were preparing for our trip to the U.S., we were very careful to choose a cozy bed and even wrote a detailed guide on how to choose a hotel in New York.
Since the most interesting things in New York are in Manhattan, it is best to stay there for a few days. We recommend checking out hotels in advance here. Although you are unlikely to find a cheap hotel in the center of New York (they don’t exist!), you can certainly book a good room close to the most interesting sights.
We’ve chosen a couple of good hotels in Manhattan that we would definitely like to stay at when we are in New York again:
- Warwick (starting at $175) – a 4* hotel with cozy rooms near MOMA, the least expensive option among decent accommodations near Central Park
- Marriott Marquis (prices from $280) – comfortable “four” in the center of New York in Times Square.
If Manhattan hotel prices seem too high for you, here’s a simple tip for where to stay in New York City for cheap:
Before our first trip to the U.S., we solved the issue of housing in New York City for ourselves very simply. We looked at different options not in expensive Manhattan, but in the west of Long Island, because small hotels there are better and twice cheaper, and the city center is within walking distance.
In the end we chose a good Howard Johnson Hotel in New York with clean and comfortable rooms and hot breakfast in Queens, just two subway stations from 5th Avenue and Central Park. We were put on the 8th floor, with a beautiful view from the window right over the skyscrapers.
We really liked this hotel in New York, so we now recommend it to independent travelers (read our detailed review). It is in a quiet area, 300 meters from the subway and close to the Queensborough Bridge which takes about 40 minutes to walk to Manhattan (as we have done many times ourselves). That said, the price for the room was only $130 per night with all taxes included.
By the way, there were a couple of other good options next to our hotel. So we can advise you inexpensive hotels in New York, where you can stay in comfort at a price of $110-140 – Hotel Vetiver and The Vue.
Sightseeing in New York
A vacation in New York City will be of interest to anyone who has studied English, immersed in a linguistic environment, permeated with the concentrated spirit of the American way of life and modern culture.
Unlike a vacation in Miami hotels right on the ocean, there is no good beach vacation in New York. This is a city of skyscrapers, so do not count on carefree lying on the sand, even in the summer, despite the presence of several city beaches. For this is better to fly to the beaches of Los Angeles or book a 5-star hotel in Hawaii.
But when you travel to New York, just as in Hollywood, you can meet a world celebrity, a popular actor or a TV show star (for example, while walking in Central Park, jogging with your favorite dog or right in the subway). This is another reason why tourists love New York City so much.
For independent travelers, it’s good to know that the best prices for vacations in New York City are during the low season, when there aren’t many tourists in the Big Apple.
- It is cheapest to go to New York in winter – in January and February, as well as in late summer (in August).
- The most expensive vacation in New York – in December for Christmas, as well as in May and June.
- The most beautiful New York – from late March to late April, during the cherry blossoms.
Lately, there is a trend that newlyweds often go on an independent trip around the U.S. after their wedding and start it in New York (and then fly to Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles).
Compared to a wedding in the Maldives, expect a romantic setting from the Big Apple (that’s the most famous nickname of New York) is not worth it. But you can have a good time walking around the city and discovering something new in America every day. But we’d recommend taking a romantic drive across the U.S. right away.
By the way, driving in New York is quite difficult (especially in Manhattan). Because of the narrow streets in the city center to find a free parking space where you can put the car during the day is very difficult and it takes a lot of time. In addition to paying on time, you need to watch road signs carefully and not exceed the maximum allowed parking time. The fine for improper parking in New York City is quite high.
And with food in New York City is no problem, because so many eateries and fast food is nowhere else in the world. We met quite a few street food booths on the streets of the city. You can also buy food from food trucks, where all sorts of hot dishes are prepared.
The most common fast food in New York City is the traditional hot dog, fried sausage, and pretzel. There are many analogues to our shawarma (kebab), halal food, including falafel in many different forms, rice with chicken or lamb. We saw whole trays of fruit and food for vegetarians. All the portions are quite large, you can take one for two. Of drinks, in addition to the coffee loved by Americans, there are often fruit shakes and smoothies, as well as plain bottled water and soda.
Important to know: New York City is a very expensive city, especially for family vacations. Family travelers have repeatedly told us that the best hotels in New York for vacations with children, such as the Plaza Hotel, known to all in the movie “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” cost at least $1,000 a night, and virtually all cheaper hotels are not suitable for parents with a child. So only well-off people can spend a family vacation in New York City, preferring to rent apartments in Manhattan for a month or rent inexpensive apartments and rooms for $100-400 on AirBnB.
What to see in New York City first
We started our New York City trip in midtown Manhattan. We took the subway to Rockefeller Center and walked the evening streets. I won’t write here a detailed guide to all the sights and museums of New York, you can read about that in separate articles on our website. I will try to highlight only the most important things to see and do, so that you can say with confidence: “I was not just in New York, I saw it”.
Here’s the first thing to do in New York:
- Visit downtown Manhattan’s Times Square and 5th Avenue.
- See Madison Square Garden, the Chrysler Building and the United Nations Headquarters
- Take pictures of the Uttle Skyscraper and St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Climb the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock on the roof of Rockefeller Center for the best clear-weather views of New York City from up aboveA trip to New York 37
- Walk through New York’s Central Park, take a boat ride, and go to Strawberry Fields
- Choose to visit the Metropolitan Museums (MET), the Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Guggenheim, Madame Tussauds, or see a private collection of Western European paintings by FrickA trip to New York 50
- Buy tickets to see one of the musicals on Broadway
- Go to Manhattan’s main square – Union Square.
- Stop by Grand Central Station and the New York Library.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for photos of the Statue of Liberty.
- Walk to Wall Street for your photo with the famous bronze Charging Bull.
- Visit Ground Zero which is the National September 11th Memorial and Museum on the World Trade Center site.
- Go to a New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx
- Eat in NYC’s Chinatown and walk the streets of SoHo and Greenwich Village
- Shop at Macy’s, the Lego Store, M&M’s World, or major fashion labels
And, of course, stop by the Apple flagship store in New York City, located on 5th Avenue right across from the Plaza Hotel (on the southeast corner of Central Park) to check out the latest Apple innovations – the handy iPad, the new iPhone, the MacBook Air or the Apple Watch. Or maybe even buy something for yourself or a loved one as the best gift from America.
The Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge
One day in New York City, right after breakfast at the hotel, we took the subway train to the York Street station, which is in Brooklyn next to the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. From there we quickly walked to the Brooklyn Bridge (clearly visible directly from the subway), never ceasing to marvel at how, back in the 19th century, engineers could design, perform all calculations without computer modeling tools, and then successfully build such a huge suspension bridge, which is 1,825 meters long.
The Brooklyn Bridge is an architectural masterpiece and a must-see in New York City (like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco). It crosses the East River and connects Brooklyn and Manhattan. It took nearly 13 years to build and was opened on May 24, 1883. However, it was soon rumored that the bridge might collapse, and then the New York authorities, to demonstrate its strength, carried 21 elephants from the Barnum Circus across the Brooklyn Bridge, led by the world’s most famous elephant Jumbo, whose skeleton is now in the Museum of Natural History of New York.
On the way from the Brooklyn Bridge to Wall Street we wanted to see a piece of old New York and came to Battery Park, which today contains Castle Clinton (in the 19th century it was on a separate island where immigrants from other countries landed, but later it was reclaimed and became part of Manhattan), a memorial to sailors and a monument to immigrants. To the right is another memorial to those who died in the Korean War and an old pier with a beautiful historic Pier A Harbor House overlooking the Hudson River.
By the way, it is from Battery Park in New York that ferries depart to one of the most important symbols of the United States – the Statue of Liberty, located 3 km southwest of Manhattan. It is clearly visible from the shore, so if you don’t want to spend money (the ferry ticket price is $18.5, plus $3 to climb the crown), it is best viewed from this park from afar and photographed with a good zoom lens.
And if you don’t have any time to spare, here’s another useful tip for you. In the very south of Manhattan on Whitehall Street is Whitehall Terminal. There you can take a ferry to Staten Island past the Statue of Liberty and see it up close for free.
Useful Tips for Tourists in New York.
Next, let’s share a practical experience that will help you prepare for exploring New York City.
- You’ll have to walk a lot in New York City, so take comfortable clothes and shoes and a backpack for personal items with you on your walk.
- You can take a bicycle rickshaw ride near the city’s landmarks, especially near the large parks, and a carriage, horse-drawn carriage, or boat ride in Central Park.
- Listening to live music on the streets of New York or watching small performances by emerging artists is free in squares and parks, as well as in subway crossings.
- The easiest place to eat is at any fast-food restaurant or café. Or buy ready-made food on the street and eat it while walking or sitting in a park or square.
- You can buy groceries at small stores throughout the city and even at CVC Pharmacy or Walgreens.
- New York City is a vertical city. To take a good photo, don’t forget to rotate your camera. A phone, on the other hand, will do just fine.
- The weather in New York often changes during the day, so it is better to check the forecast for the whole day in the morning.
- The NYPD is quite loyal to tourists, you can always ask them for directions or help in any case.
- The southern part of Manhattan seemed cleaner and quieter to us. It’s the safest place for tourists and downtown we saw a lot of homeless people so you have to watch your stuff in the crowd. We didn’t see any outright crime in New York, but everyone advises against going north of Central Park, where, according to statistics, crime is rampant.
Near almost every tourist attraction in New York there is a small information kiosk where you can get a free map of the city, the scheme of Central Park, or know the route of the tourist bus. There you can also usually order a tour of the city.
The trip through the streets of New York City on a double-decker walking bus (Hop On, Hop-Off), which stops at all the attractions, is well suited for tourists who do not like to walk a lot. There are a couple of sightseeing routes through Upper and Lower Manhattan, and another in Downtown. Tickets are sold for 1, 2 or 3 days. See the website for all the details.
Readers ask us, should I buy a City Pass in New York City? It’s such a combination tourist ticket that makes it convenient to visit the most popular attractions. It’s valid for nine days and costs $126, which is 42 percent cheaper than paying for everything separately. The important thing is that you can save time with this ticket because it allows you to get through quickly instead of standing in line to get in with everyone else. The easiest way to buy it is online at citypass.com.
We ourselves did not buy the City Pass in New York, as we did not plan to go up to the Empire State Building and take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty (which is where it saves a lot of time). So it was not profitable for us to spend money on it, and we paid for tickets to the museums of New York at the entrance.
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