Travel Basics 100: 3 Things to Know Before Visiting NYC (For July 2020)

MTA MetroCards

With the pandemic still raging around the globe, and circumstances being especially bad in the United States, traveling to and from NYC is difficult. That said, the city is a popular destination that millions will flock back to once things get under control. To get you ready for that, here are three things to know before you start packing for your NYC vacation. This post will focus on the bare basics of getting to know the city. I’ll have additional posts about navigating the city, New Yorkers, and suggestions for things to do.

First, New York City is made up of five different boroughs, spread across three different islands. All NYC addresses will include a specific borough. Input full addresses, including borough names, into apps like Google maps, as some street names are duplicated across boroughs. No matter the length of your trip, you’ll only be able to see a small fraction of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island in one trip. However, depending on what you’re trying to see, do, or eat, you can get away with just seeing one or two boroughs. Many famous sites – like Times Square – are located in the borough of Manhattan. Including Manhattan, each of the boroughs have their own rich culture and diversity, so make sure to do your research and find what’s best for you and your trip to NYC. If you want to visit all the boroughs, booking a trip for a week will allow you to comfortably explore parts of the city.

Second, picking the wrong airport could cause major hiccups on your trip. John F. Kennedy airport is best connected to the New York City mass transit system, making it the cheapest airport to get to and from. However, LaGuardia airport is closer to Manhattan and may be the better option if you plan to stay there. And lastly, there’s Newark airport in New Jersey. If you’re light on luggage and trying to see two states at once, Newark airport might be right for you. As I mentioned in a previous post, picking the wrong NYC airport could be very costly and time-consuming. Try to book the airport closest to where you’re staying. Also on a more personal note, LaGuardia is the worst airport. All real New Yorkers agree. Only non-New Yorkers voluntarily entertain flying in or out of there because they don’t know better. The city has been doing construction on the airport for YEARS! It is (still, as of December 2020) a mess. JFK (John F. Kennedy) is the best, EWR (Newark) is a distant second, and LGA (LaGuardia) exists.

Third, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of NYC is the largest transportation network in all of North America. There are a whopping 27 subway lines. However, if you’re visiting New York City from anywhere with a developed and efficient transit system prepared to be disappointed and unimpressed. If you’re from a place with a less robust transit system, you may be falsely enamored. The MTA is trash. The trains and buses regularly run behind schedule. The station display may say the bus or train is arriving in 15 minutes, and 30 minutes later you could still be waiting. If you’re enjoying a leisurely vacation, this may not matter much. That said, if you want to be on time for a scheduled event, give yourself plenty of time to get there, especially if you’re moving in between boroughs. If you’re on a work trip to NYC and trying to add in some sightseeing, I would highly recommend saving the fun for the end of your workday or, keep your sightseeing within walking distance of your job.

MTA MetroCards

Currently, fares are $2.75 per ride on trains and buses, and you get one free transfer from trains to buses and vice versa. (Within a two-hour timeframe.) You also get one free transfer between different bus lines. (Within a two-hour timeframe.) Get a MetroCard. Do not get the single-ride tickets. They cost more in the long run and you don’t get those free transfers. Get a MetroCard. Yes, many tourists struggle with the swiping and it’s one of the ways New Yorkers can tell you’re visiting. But, get a MetroCard. The MTA’s new tap and pay feature, OMNY, is not widespread across the entire transit system. (As of December 2020) Meaning, you’ll still need to get a MetroCard. If you plan on really relying on the MTA for transportation, get a 7-day or 30-day unlimited MetroCard. There is one flat fee for an unlimited amount of rides per person instead of $2.75 per person per ride. (With unlimiteds there is a 20 minute or so wait time in between each ride, except for transfers.) Also, make sure you pay for your MetroCard with a credit or debit card!


More content on NYC coming soon. Make sure you follow Voyages of Tea here on WordPress, and across social media, for more.

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