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How to Not Look Like a Tourist in New York City

October 26, 2010

This SCREAMS tourist!/flickr.com

Sometimes I will be walking around the city and will just see so many Don’ts that tourists Do that it inspired me to write about it. Yes, NYC is full of tourists but it’s not really the best place to look like one. Like any other place there are muggers, but because the city is so over crowded and high populated, the volume of people who prey on tourists is higher than most places. So I just thought I’d take the liberty of compiling a list of things to keep in mind for anyone who lives out of the state/country and is travelling to the Big Apple for the first time.

DIRECTIONS/GETTING LOST

1. Check for directions to your destination before you leave your hotel. If you do get lost, don’t take out your own personal subway map when you are lost. While you’re in the subway station, your best bet is to look at the maps provided to see where you are going. Essentially people who live here know where they are going and how to get there, but from time to time they’ll glance at these when they need to take alternate routes to their destination.

2.If you are going to ask for directions, go to  a nearby store, restaurant, or hotel and ask one of their employees. As you can see by the crowded mobs of people briskly walking down the street, New Yorkers act like they don’t have time for anything that will disrupt or delay them on their journeys to wherever they are going. It’s a fast paced city to say the least. Not only that, the odds of you stopping someone on the street who happens to be a tourist like yourself are very likely. And they won’t know where the hell you need to go! Lol. At least if you ask someone who works in a nearby establishment, you can assume they live in NYC, they will most likely know the area, they have time to explain directions, and can point you in the right direction at the least.

3. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for directions, Google Maps is always a good, reliable option. And having a phone with internet is gold.

4. Click here for what NOT to do on the subway.

ATTIRE/WHAT NOT TO WEAR

1. Don’t wear Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale, Hollister, or American Eagle Outfitters logoed anything. Out of country tourists always wear these brands and shop at these stores because they are the quintessential all-American brands.

2. And while we are on the subject of attire. Do NOT wear you tie dye “I Heart NY” t-shirt while you are still in NY. Wait until you get back home! Nothing screams tourist more than a huge group of people walking in Times Square all wearing the same t-shirt in different colors.

3. Dress comfortably. You will be doing a lot of walking! You will realize this when you get lost (because you will), and in turn you may realize walking 30 blocks in the city is not as bad (or long) as it seems.

4. Wear your handbag, purse, pocketbook, with the straps slung across one shoulder. I have personally never seen anyone get mugged since moving here, but I know it happens, so it’s always best to keep your belongings close to you.

SHOPPING/BARGAINING

1. If you are purchasing any touristy goods (i.e. NY logoed anything, Louis Vuitton knock offs, perfume, Pashmina scarves) on Canal Street, know that you can bargain. Why? Because 9 times out of 10, if you find something you like in one shop, you will find the same thing in the shop next door. If someone is selling you something at a price you don’t like, first try to bargain. If they don’t budge on changing the price then simply act like you are going  to walk out the store and say “No thank you, I will just go down the street and get this_____________ (enter item here). They are selling it for _______________ (the price you want to pay) anyways.”

They will stop you in your tracks and compromise with you. This always works! Trust me, no Canal Street vendor in their right mind would turn down your money even if it means selling something for significantly less than they want to. These vendors know 2 things:

  • First they know that Canal Street is the epic center of tourist shopping, so in order to capitalize on it, they will charge whatever they can while keeping in mind the competitive prices of their neighbors .
  • Secondly, these vendors neighbors are in competition with each other. And they know that if a shopper doesn’t want to buy from them, they could easily go to another vendor since they all sell the same items.

2. Traveler’s Checks, ATM/Debit cards, and credit cards will always be options for purchasing things, but know that CASH IS KING in New York. You cannot get a quick bite to eat at the hot dog stand, or buy anything you see sold by a street vendor with a traveler’s check or card. Some restaurants only accept cash as well.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

1. If you are going to go to Harlem, go on anyday EXCEPT FOR Sunday. All tourists come to Harlem on Sunday in the morning especially, so they can have the “black church experience”. And if you do go to Harlem on Sunday to attend church, for heaven’s sake don’t take pictures until the service is over. I know there are cultural differences here so you may think it’s okay, but in actuality it’s a bit disrespectful.

2. Do not stare at people on the train. In America it is rude to stare. Even if you see someone unique looking, beautiful, ugly, or someone screaming for attention, just don’t do it. You never know how someone will react. If you are compelled to stare, be discreet about it.

3. To counter #2, the only time it is culturally acceptable to stare, is when you see a performance. It could be a street performance with kids break dancing, or even the infamous magician on the subway who takes a rabbit out of a hat, but these people are performers and want the attention (and monetary compensation), so feel free to look until your heart’s content.

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