Tourist Trapped? 3 Ways To Survive Visiting The Big Apple

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Lower Plaza Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

Visiting this winter wonderland? You’ll have to worry about more than just skate rentals.

This past weekend, I journeyed outside my college bubble to visit some friends in New York City. I hadn’t been to New York in about 12 years, so I was excited to see what the Big Apple had to offer an almost-adult.

Frankly, it offered quite a few things. Most of them being very expensive things.


Living in New York definitely does not come cheap. Yet, 8.3 million people “make it work” every day. They’re not all rich or privileged, but most of them are money savvy. Below are three strategies I quickly learned while spending a few days in a city full of savers.

1. The Subway Is Your (Most Annoying) Friend

When in New York, study the subway system like it’s going to be on your next midterm. Now, you might be saying, “But Mike, isn’t this advice applicable to every city anywhere?” To that point, I say yes. However, it is extra important in New York.

I messed up the subway every single time I was on it alone this past weekend. There are a ton of different lines; terrible things called “express trains” that skip certain stops; and the signs say “uptown” or “downtown,” rather than inbound or outbound.

It’s really confusing; so confusing, that you may be tempted to give up and grab one of the hundreds of cabs lurking about, waiting for your business. Cabs have their own utility, but hailing one would have cost me ten times as much as a subway ticket.

So, if you want to save on transportation, study up and stick it out. You might get lost from time to time, but in New York, that’s not always a bad thing.

2. Be A Picky Eater

The first day I got in, my friends and I went to this really cool sandwich shop for lunch. Trendy atmosphere, delicious food, and most importantly, a hearty lunch for around $10.

Fast-forward to the end of the trip: My friend and I are looking for a place to grab a quick dinner around Penn Station. We find a similar-looking sandwich shop, sit down, and look at the menu.

They list the same exact thing I had at the other place for $22. We promptly got up, left, and settled for some cheap pizza next door.

Moral of the story? Food prices vary a lot in New York, especially depending on location. Think it’s a coincidence that the expensive place is located close to a major train station? Tourist traps are everywhere in the city—don’t be afraid to do a little exploring to find some culinary gems.

3. Don’t Look Down On The Street Fare

In New York, you are guaranteed to see quite a few sketchy guys and girls selling their wares on any given street corner. Goods range from leather jackets to purses to lamb doner kebabs, depending on where you are.

While I can’t necessarily recommend the street food, I’ll make a case for the street clothes.

Every single fashion item at these places is clearly a cheap knockoff. However, I draw your attention to the word “cheap” in that description. New York is a cosmopolitan city, and one of the fashion capitals of the world. Everybody wants to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue rather than at the corner stand.

However, unless you’re a 20-something aspiring to be America’s Next Top Model, let’s face it: You can’t afford the real deal.

So, if you need a new leather jacket or purse, don’t look down at the knockoffs. They serve the same function, look passable, and cost a lot less. Investing in one now will only make that first real fashion purchase years later after you’ve “made it” feel all the better!

All right, actual New Yorkers, what tips do you have to share? Post them below!

(Photo: Christopher Chan)

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  1. Sasha November 19, 2013 / 2:05 pm

    Haha @ “terrible things called express trains.”

    NYC in my experience, is actually much easier to navigate than some other cities. Everything there is a grid and it’s numbered!

  2. Josie December 2, 2013 / 4:52 pm

    If you are trying to navigate the subway system (or NYC in general) and you are above Houston St, just think of it this way:

    Uptown: (north) street numbers go up – last stop queens/Bronx
    Downtown: (south) street numbers go down – last stop Brooklyn

    5th Ave and up = west
    5th Ave and down = east

    But most importantly, never buy a comedy club ticket from anyone on the street… Ever.

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