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New York is a cosmopolitan city inhabited by people from all over the world. People and businesses here are generally very welcoming to international tourists. Most of the tourist attractions and larger department stores have information, brochures and tours in major world languages. Many even have staff who speak these languages.
When you are ready to plan your trip, be sure to check with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for the latest information on requirements for entering the United States, as these may change with little notice. You can find one near you by visiting the U.S. State Department’s web site. From the same web site you may also obtain a visa application and other information online.
We get a lot of questions about visas—how to apply, how long they are valid, if you can work here—and we regret that we cannot answer them. Instead, you should check the website of the U.S. State Department http://www.travel.state.gov/ , which also has information about the Diversity Visa lottery (also called the "green card" lottery).
If you are concerned about what you may carry into or out of the United States, we urge you to visit the U.S. Customs web site, and click "Traveler Information." Please note that if you are taking medication it is a good idea to have a prescription from your doctor demonstrating you need the drugs.
Some basic facts about what you may carry in to the U.S. duty free:
- 1 liter of wine or hard liquor;
- 200 cigarettes, 150 cigars (but not from Cuba), or 3 pounds of smoking tobacco;
- $100 worth of gifts.
These exemptions are offered to travelers who spend at least 72 hours in the United States and who have not claimed them within the preceding 6 months.
In addition, foreign tourists may bring in or take out up to $10,000 in U.S. or foreign currency with no formalities; larger sums must be declared to U.S. Customs upon entering or leaving.
Banks in New York are typically open weekdays from 9am to 4pm, and many now offer branches with open hours on Saturday and Sunday.
If you want something in New York, chances are that no matter what time or day it is, you can find it. You will find restaurants in nearly every neighborhood open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need a pharmacy or other emergency supplies, you will also be able to find a store nearby that is open at all hours. Typically, most retail stores open between 9 and 10am, close around 7pm, and are open seven days a week. Please note that most stores are open on Sundays!
It will shock some international visitors to learn that the legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages in New York is 21 years of age! If you want to purchase alcohol, expect to be required to show proof of age at bars, nightclubs, restaurants and stores. Further, please be aware that carrying an open container with alcohol in public places is illegal!
Be warned that the United States and Canada use 110 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220 to 240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. If your small appliances use 220 to 240 volts, you'll need a 110-volt transformer as well as a plug adapter with two flat parallel pins to operate your appliances in the United States. As transformers that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts are difficult to find, we strongly suggest you bring one with you. Visit Korjo.com's adapter guide for further information.
The United States has fewer national holidays than other countries, so the chances of one inconveniencing your trip are small. Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and museums will be closed in New York on the following legal national holidays:
January 1 (New Year's Day)
Third Monday in January (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
Third Monday in February (Presidents' Day, Washington's Birthday)
Last Monday in May (Memorial Day)
July 4 (Independence Day)
First Monday in September (Labor Day)
Second Monday in October (Columbus Day)
November 11 (Veterans' Day/Armistice Day)
Fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day)
December 25 (Christmas)
Finally, the Tuesday following the first Monday in November is Election Day and is a federal government holiday in presidential-election years (next: 2008). NYC schools are closed on Election Day.
There is no value-added tax (VAT) or other similar national level tax, but every state, county, and city has the right to levy its own local tax on all purchases, including hotel and restaurant checks, airline tickets, and so on. Sales tax is usually not included in the price tags on merchandise but is added at the cash register. These taxes aren't refundable upon leaving the country. Not surprisingly, New York City has some of the highest local taxes in the country. The sales tax is 8.625%, the hotel tax is 13.25% plus $2 per room per night, and the parking garage tax is a whopping 18.25%!
The continental United States is divided into three time zones: eastern standard time (EST), the time zone New York is in, which is 5 hours behind Greenwich mean time (GMT); central standard time (CST); mountain standard time (MST); and Pacific standard time (PST). For example, noon in New York City (EST) is 11am in Chicago (CST), 10am in Denver (MST), 9am in San Francisco (PST).
is in effect from the first Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time. When daylight saving time is in effect, New York is only 4 hours behind Greenwich mean time.
Please take note that tips are NOT automatically added to restaurant and hotel bills! In restaurants, a tip to the wait person of 15% to 20% of the total check is customary. In New York City, you can easily leave the appropriate tip amount by doubling the 8.625% sales tax.
Some other tipping guidelines:
15% to 20% of the fare to taxi drivers
10% to 15% of the tab to bartenders
$1 to $2 per bag to bellhops
$1 to $5 per day to hotel maids
$1 to $2 per item to checkroom attendants
$1 to $2 to valet parking attendants
15% to 20% to hairdressers
Finally, you are not expected to tip theater ushers, gas station attendants, or fast-food restaurant employees.
Americans refer to their coins as follows: one cent = penny; five cents = nickel; ten cents = dime; 25 cents = quarter. Try to familiarize yourself with these coins, because New Yorkers are notoriously impatient when standing in line behind a foreign visitor counting out a handful of coins of various sizes. Try to avoid gold dollar coins because they are infrequently used and some stores and restaurants do not accept them. Although New York is quite safe these days, do not count your money in open/public areas and try to keep $50 and $100 bills completely out of sight.
The United States does not use the metric system. We have compiled this brief list as a rough guide to help you convert our standard measurements and sizes into metric equivalents.
1 litre = 1.057 quarts A quart of milk is equal to slightly more than one litre of milk.
29.57 milliliters = 1 fluid ounce A 12 fluid ounce soft drink can holds approximately 340-millilitres.
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds Two pounds of ground beef equals slightly less than one kilogram of beef.
2.54 cm = 1 inch A foot-long hot dog is about 30-cm-long.
0.9 meters = 1 Yard A yard of fabric is just a bit less than a meter of fabric.
UK and European clothing and shoe measurements into the American system can be confusing. You may use the charts below to quickly convert measurements from one system to the other. Of course, we encourage you to try on any article of clothing before buying!
Ladies shoe sizes
Mens shoe sizes
Girls shoe sizes
Boys shoe sizes
Men's Suits & Jackets
Men's Shirt/Collar Sizes
The climate of New York State is broadly representative of the humid continental-type, which prevails in the northeastern United States. The state enjoys pleasantly warm summers. Daytime temperatures usually range from the upper 70s to mid 80s (20 to 25 °C) over much of the state, making the climate favorable to recreation and outdoor activities. Cold temperatures and abundant snowfall in the winter provides for some of the best skiing, snowmobiling and other winter activities in the eastern United States.
The weather can change dramatically in a matter of hours, and tourists and visitors should take this into account when planning their trip. Plan and pack accordingly! As a rule of thumb, follow the following advice on what to pack for your trip:
Fall Season September, October, November These are some of the most pleasant months in New York City. The air is crisp and clear, and the sun shines often. Pack light slacks and long sleeve tops. You will also want to pack a warm sweater or coat for the evenings. Especially for November, as the evenings can dip below freezing.
Winter Season December, January, February During these months it can get very cold and very windy. Snow and/or sleet can also make walking slippery and your clothes may get wet. Pack heavy, warm and waterproof clothing and shoes.
Spring Season March, April, May These months are often quite pleasant. Pack light slacks and long sleeve tops. You will also want to pack a warm sweater or coat for the evenings.
Summer Season June, July, August The summer months can bring stifling heat and humidity to the city. Even at night, temperatures may remain in the 90s. Pack shorts and short sleeve shirts, preferably cotton.
Choosing when to visit New York City will obviously depend on your preferences and budget. If money is your biggest concern, consider visiting the city during the winter months of January through April. While the weather is far from ideal, you will get the best hotel rates and shorter lines at major city attractions.
The most expensive time of year to visit the city is during the late November through December holiday season. Not only do foreign visitors come in droves, but many people who live near the city come in for a day or two of holiday shopping. Expect to pay top dollar for a hotel room if you visit at this time.
Other than the holiday season, Spring and Fall are the busiest in terms of tourists, and hence more expensive than the summer or winter months. Spring and Fall are also the months when the weather is most pleasant.
The summer months, while busy, are not quite as busy as fall or spring. If you visit in July and the first half of August, you will find the hotels are significantly cheaper. The weather, however, can get quite hot and humid, so bring appropriate attire. And because of school holidays, the summer is traditionally when most families visit New York.
Please be aware that the minimum legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages in New York is 21 years of age. Liquor and wine are sold only in licensed stores, many of which are closed on Sundays, holidays, and election days. Beer can be purchased in grocery stores and delis 24 hours a day, except before noon on Sundays.
In addition to the local newspapers, many newsstands in New York City carry a selection of newspapers and magazines from around the world. If you want to find your hometown paper, try Universal News Magazines, 977 Eighth Ave., at 57th Street (tel. 212-459-0932).
Private corporations own telephone systems in the United States, so rates for wireless and fixed-line long-distance service and operator-assisted calls can vary widely. Therefore, we suggest you never place a long-distance or international call from a pay phone using your credit card without first knowing what rates you will be charged! We also recommend that before using your hotel phone, you ask your hotel what surcharges and taxes they apply to long-distance and local calls. You will find that they are often much more than what you would like to pay, and a simple trip down to the hotel lobby pay telephone may be well worth the hassle.
International visitors might find it economical to purchase SIM cards with New York phone numbers here rather than receiving calls with their home country's wireless number. However, it pays to shop around as there is enormous variety of both calling plans and pre-paid services available. Always ask for a written contract and ensure you know exactly what service you will be receiving and whether you can cancel the contract if dissatisfied!
Public payphones use US coin currency, and in New York City generally cost $0.25 or $0.50 for a local call. The most reliable way to ensure you get good phone rates for long distance and international calls is to purchase a prepaid phone calling card. These prepaid phone cards usually will offer very competitive rates, and they may be purchased in a variety of denominations. You will find them at most convenience stores and newsstands.
In the United States, all telephone numbers are seven digits long. In New York City you must dial an additional four numbers before the main seven. These are the prefix 1 plus a three digit number know as the 'area code.' There are four area codes in New York City: two for Manhattan, 212 and 646, and two in the outer boroughs, 718 and 347. To place calls in New York City, you must always dial 1 plus the area code and number. This means every time you dial, 11 digits will be pushed (1 + the 3 digit area code + the seven digit number). If you ever have a problem, simply dial the number 0 and ask for the operator who will further assist you. However, if the operator places the call for you, note that substantial additional charges may apply. Do ask first!
For local and national directory assistance ("information"), dial 411. This service will aid you in finding both phone numbers and addresses; however there is often a fee, even from payphones. If you haven't got any coins handy, dial 1-800-FREE-411, but note you'll have to listen to an advertisement before you hear the number requested.
Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. For calls within the United States and to Canada, dial 1 followed by the area code and the seven-digit number. For other international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, city code, and the telephone number of the person you are calling. Toll-free voice-activated directory information may be obtained by dialling 1-800-555-1212. Just say what you are looking for (example: "American Airlines"). If your search is unsuccessful, then say "operator" to be connected to a live operator.
VoIP services are increasingly popular in the United States, but can be difficult for a first-time traveler to navigate. In any event, Vonage and Skype are two quite distinct yet frequently used services. The former requires a subscription but the latter can be used by anyone with a credit card to purchase minutes. Lonely Planet's ekit also remains quite popular among the backpacking warrior crowd.
Most public libraries offer internet access, and there are many Internet cafes throughout the city that rent workstations by the minute. The biggest is located in Times Square. In addition, if you have a wireless laptop or PDA, many cafes and restaurants now offer wireless internet access for little or no fee. One of the most reliable networks is offered by the coffee chain Starbucks, which has outlets conveniently located all over the city. Some great places are Kinko's with numerous locations; various Midtown mom-and-pop Internet places like Internet Café at 3 East 33rd Street with its famous $1 access. You might also find wireless networks you can utilize free in some places in Manhattan. If you have a wireless laptop connection, you will be astounded how many places in Manhattan can pick up free wi-fi service. Some favorite places are: Bryant Park behind the public library at Sixth Avenue and West 42nd Street or in Central Park, Union Square Park, or the Greenwich Village section of Hudson River Park. You can people watch, send emails and IM at the same time.
The bane of New York City tourists, public rest rooms are scarce and poorly maintained in New York City. Thankfully, in recent years the coffee chain Starbucks has provided some welcome relief. They have stores all over the city, and offer clean well maintained rest rooms. While inside refuel on their coffee! Other options are large hotel lobbies, the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble, and McDonalds restaurants.
New York City has become decidedly anti-smoker in the past decade. Aside from a steep tax on all Cigarette purchases in the city, new smoking laws have steadily pushed smokers out onto the streets. Smoking is prohibited on all public transportation, in taxis, in office buildings, in stores, in restaurants, in bars (yes, that's right, no smoking in bars!) and in most public spaces.
Travelers Aid is an organization that helps distressed travelers with all kinds of problems, including accidents, sickness, and lost or stolen luggage. Their telephone number is: (718) 656-4870
• Emergencies (police, fire or ambulance): 911
• NYC government agencies (non-emergency): 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (639-9675)
• Directory assistance: 411
• Multilingual visitor information counselors: 212-484-1222
• Printed NYC literature: 800-NYC-VISIT (692-84748) or 212-397-8222
The City’s 24-hour public transportation system is accessible for passengers with hearing, visual and mobility impairments. Subways have automated voices indicating the next stop, and all buses and select subway stations are wheelchair accessible. For more information in English, go to mta.info.
Also, many attractions, museums and Broadway theaters offer services for hearing or visually impaired guests and are fully wheelchair accessible or offer physical-assist mobile seats.
How to act like a native
Resist the urge to stop in the middle of a crowded sidewalk and stare at the skyscrapers. They are indeed impressive, but find a quiet spot away from the crowds to contemplate these giants. Study the map in your hotel room or at the restaurant, but not on the street, and certainly not while your wallet is hanging out your back pocket and your camera strap slung over your shoulder. Be alert; that keeps pickpockets away. And yes, that $20 Rolex or Kate Spade handbag really is fake.
What to wear
Comfortable clothes and shoes are great. But matching track suits mark you as a tourist, as does the combination of faded blue jeans, white t-shirt and white sneakers. If you make a slight attempt to blend in, you might just succeed. Also check out our section on weather and when to go, because summers can be very hot and winters very cold.
How not to get dissed
While you want to be comfortable wandering around this huge city, just don’t expect that every fancy restaurant and bar will have a table for you if you’re wearing the casual tourist outfit. Making the effort to blend in doesn’t mean you have to wear all black or Gucci shoes, but it sure does help if you’re not wearing off-the-rack from WalMart. Dress smart for success.
New York is one of the world’s greatest citys for staring at people, except on the subway. Follow subway etiquette by either reading, staring at the advertisements or down at the ground. Making extensive eye contact is generally a bad idea. As for celebrities, New York is not L.A. and we tend to leave them in peace. So if you see one, do what New Yorkers do...ignore them. You'll be surprised at how New York this makes you feel!
Crossing the street
Go with the flow, follow the crowds. But just remember: most New Yorkers cross so many streets each day they tend to have street sense you haven’t got. So do look in both directions, even when crossing a one-way street, because chances are good a bike messenger or delivery boy might be approaching from the wrong direction. And just to set the record straight: when the orange hand starts blinking on the pedestrian signals, you’ve still got at least 5 to 10 seconds to cross before the light turns red, and even then a few more seconds before oncoming traffic roars out into the intersection. Well, make that theoretically you have that time!
Hi, it’s me!
Ran out of minutes? Cellphone battery died? Need to call Tanzania, Albania, or Pennsylvania? You’ll find great deals on cellphones, accessories, pre-paid calling cards and wireless just about everywhere. Want to know more about calling cards and pay telephones? If you buy a calling card or SIM, make sure to read the fine print carefully to ensure you’re paying for exactly what you want. Some intrepid travellers swear by Skype, others wouldn't be caught dead without their own cellphone from home. Also check our section on shopping tips about deals that sound too good to be true.
I am so wasted
While drinking might be an important component of your trip here, keep your limits in mind. Let's just say you ain't in Kansas anymore, and it would be unwise to stumble around this city drunk. Fortunately, with around 12,000 yellow taxis, drinking and driving are an uncommon mix here. But do remember to drink plenty of water after your big night out on the town if you want tomorrow to happen. We are proud of our nightlife but more proud of our amazing culture. So don't miss all our world class Attractions.
Why can’t I smoke here?
The short answer? Health laws now forbid it. And please do not put the bartender or waiter in the position of playing cop. The establishment they work for risks steep fines if caught with patrons smoking, so they have no choice but to enforce these laws. If you smoke in a bar or restaurant in New York City, you are almost certainly breaking US law; do keep that in mind. Many American cities have smoking bans, and New York forbids smoking in restaurants and bars, with a few exceptions. The biggest (and best) exception is outdoor seating at restaurants, where you can feel tres European and puff away. However, do expect at least one or two passersby to frown at you or comment—that’s part of NYC’s vibrant life!
My room is too small!
Many NYC hotel rooms, just like many NYC apartments, are indeed small and costly to boot. In a vertical city like this, we are all challenged to maximize use of space. But if you are deeply unhappy with your room, a polite chat with the reception desk or concierge might just get you a better room. Then again, it can indeed depend on the rate you paid. While checking in, if you have specific needs or preferences, it’s best to make that known right away. (“I need to be on the third floor” or “I want to be at the end of the hall.”) But if you’re here during United Nations General Assembly week in September, then forget about your demands; you’ll be happy to have any room at all.
How do I do it all?
You don’t! Plan well in advance, and set forth each morning from your hotel with the stuff you need to get through the day. You might spend half a day in one area (or museum) before heading somewhere entirely different. Having a plan helps you strategize. On the other hand, wandering around with no set destination can be great fun too.
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