Those of you who know me on Facebook have probably seen quite a few of the foods I’ve had already on this one week pig fest. I’ve made it my sworn mission to eat at as many restaurants in New York City (NYC) as I can possibly can. How is it possible to have 5 full meals a day you ask? By slowly pacing myself, bit by bit. Don’t worry I’m pretty sure my GI health is doing fine, things seem fine on the bottom end of the world.
Today is my sixth day in the city. Though I feel fine, I’ve decided to take it easy today – on my stomach – and relax at a Starbucks while I write this blog. I thought I’d share with everyone my thoughts on the city and my experiences getting here, living here, and most importantly, eating here. I’ll talk mostly about the first two things and food will come in a later post.
Travelling The Path
Being from Toronto, there are plenty of options to get to NYC. You could take Megabus, which is dirt cheap, but long and can be uncomfortable for most. You could drive if you have a few friends with you. The drive is 9 hours long and can be pretty daunting and stressful if you’ve never done it before. I on the other hand choose to fly over to NYC. I choose to fly because it was super cheap, not as cheap as Megabus, but cheap enough to warrant the decision. WestJet does about 7 flights to NYC everyday, but sometimes they have these sales. Basically my flight came out to $205 after taxes for a round-trip. I have to say WestJet has the best value when flying to the states too, because the price even includes one piece of check-in luggage. Most airlines nowadays don’t even offer one, and can cost anywhere from $20 to $50 a piece. The only downside to WestJet is that they land in LGA (LaGuardia) instead of JFK. It’s outside the city but transit into the city is super convenient.
Ticket stations for the metro and buses are conveniently placed in front of most stations and even accept most major credit cards. For visitors best thing to do is get a regular metro card that has cash on it. $20 is usually enough for a few days, if not more, depending on how much you walk around. Torontonians will find it very similar in the sense that, you pay and get a transfer. The metro card will know if the next bus you take is a transfer or a new ride. Overall, it’s not as complicated as some people make it out to be. Google Maps Transit works here, so you can easily follow the instructions it gives you and people here are friendly enough that they’ll help you find your destination.
There are a few things to know about the metro system here. The first thing is that the subway system or metro runs until about 4 AM. You can definitely stay out late but of course be careful when roaming the streets late at night. You can find all your info about the transit here on http://www.mta.info/
Things I Did on the First Day to Prepare
Landing in a new city is generally very tough. Even though we speak the same language, knowing how to hail a taxi, what to ask, what not to do, and where to go, can be fairly intimidating. That’s why don’t be afraid to ask politely. Information booths are in plenty in the airports. Like I usually do, I’ve been staying at an apartment. I try to avoid going to hotels to get that true local feel. Asking locals what they eat and where they usually hang out is always much more fun then following a guide around the city telling you what to do.
First thing I wanted when I landed was data for my phone. It might seem excessive, but having data on your phone and being able to use Google Maps on the go makes life so much easier and also helps make you look a lot less like a confused tourist. For my needs, T-Mobile fitted the bill. You can get unlimited talk/text/data for as low as $2 a day or $3 for 4G mobile speeds. The SIM card costs about $10 but you can offset this, more on this after.
Now that you have data there’s a few things you can now accomplish. It was my first time in the States with data, so naturally the first thing I signed up for were all the Google products I can’t sign up for in Canada. Google Voice is great to have on your smartphone while in the states. By signing up for it, you can make free calls and even text people back at home in Canada. It’s all FREE through Google Voice. Another one is Google Music. Once you sign up for Google Music you can start loading up to 20,000 songs to the cloud, meaning you’ll never have to remember to load your phone with music again. The last one is the one that can offset the price of the SIM card for your phone, but this only works if you have one of the latest smartphones with NFC (Near Field Communication). By signing up for Google Wallet, you automatically get $10 loaded onto your phone for FREE. You can basically use this at any vendor that has the Google Wallet logo. After tapping your phone to pay, you simply choose “Credit” and payment will be complete.
Cash or Credit
I find myself never using very much cash when I’m in a major city like NYC. I know many fear using their credit cards abroad because they think, “Oh, the charge is so much,” or “My card number might get stolen.” The fact is the charge isn’t very much compared to the spread done at banks, meaning the exchange you get isn’t very different, and to the card stolen, that could happen even back at home. You know what to do if that happens. Usually most people get points on their credit cards too, so that in itself would offset any costs incurred. I do suggest a few hundred in cash on hand. Most of the time you will be using cash to buy the good’ol street meats! Food stands and food trucks are quite literally everywhere in NYC and they’re definitely worth trying but like street dogs in Toronto, I wouldn’t eat it all the time to survive.
Down below are some photos I took of the city. I didn’t really go all out this time but some of the shots are pretty cool. I’ll be following up with another post later on about the food, and another one about some memorable moments are funny facts I learned about the city. If you want to see photos of food though I’ve posted all the images on my Facebook page.