Travel Hacks for Visitors to New York City

Ah, New York City, where traffic can be a beast, parking is at a premium, local slang confuses, subways and buses take what feels like forever and it always seems like you're right behind the world's slowest tourist. Here's how to hold onto your sanity:

Subways and buses
Get directions from MapQuest so you don't spend hours staring at a subway map, wondering how the hell you wound up in Queens.

The MTA may not be good at recording understandable subway announcements, but they're fantastic at warning New Yorkers about changes. Check their online Service Status report daily.

In addition, they also have a text message and e-mail service that lets you know about important issues like last-minute delays and if the air is safe to breathe. Particularly helpful, that last one.

MTA's best invention, though, is Bus Time, which tells you exactly how far away your bus is. Simply look for the sign on your bus stop, text away, and then figure out if you have enough time for a coffee and/or getting the feeling back in your extremities.

Don't take heavy packages, anything that could be considered a weapon or a big, bulky backpack on the train unless you enjoy being searched by police.

Other transit options
Taxi drivers don't always know the city that well (or sometimes they do, but will drive a longer route to get a bigger fare). If you're driver seems like he doesn't know where to go, direct him politely.

Pedicabs are a cross between a bicycle and a carriage and you'll see them all around Manhattan. In addition to being dangerous, they're also expensive.

The pedicab's less respectable brother is the dollar van. These are cheap but unlicensed and possibly dangerous. Take one and you may well wind up on the evening news.

Driving? You'll probably have to eventually use a parking garage. allows you to search for the best deal.

Walking around
Certain areas of Manhattan tend to be more congested with foot traffic than others. Times Square is one of the worst. If you must walk there, approach it from Hell's Kitchen.

If you're in Times Square, you will likely see Elmo, Mickey Mouse and their friends. Take a picture with them if you like, but they will ask you for money after.

See a long line forming? Find out what it's for. There are all kinds of cool events happening around the city and if there's a line around the corner, it's usually for something good.

New York is fast-paced and you're expected to keep up, especially during rush hours. If you're feeling lethargic, don't walk in crowded areas.

No matter where you are, you are probably never more than a few blocks away from a McDonald's, a Starbucks, a Dunkin' Donuts or a Subway.

Local life
New Yorkers have a reputation for having no manners, but don't believe it. You can still find considerate folk and you should show your manners as well, whether that means holding a door open or thanking someone.

Food trucks are a big thing here and they can be very convenient when you're on the go. Trucks post their schedules on Twitter, so do a little research to find when they'll be open.

You can get a full day's entertainment without paying a dime. Keep your eyes peeled for public art and street performers.

Understanding the language
When people say "the city," they are referring to Manhattan, even though, technically, all five boroughs are part of New York City.

New Yorkers can be very specific when referring to a location. Someone who lives in the East Village may say he lives in Alphabet City, a certain part of the Village.

You probably have heard that New York is called "the Big Apple," but did you know the Bronx is the "Boogie Down Bronx"?

Know your abbreviations: The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is also called the BQE and the George Washington Bridge is sometimes called the GWB.

Gena Hymowech is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Go Magazine and Lambda Literary.
Follow her at @genah.