Three Quick Tips to Survive Your First Day in New York City


Cesar Arevalo

Photo of Times Square with Snapchat Geofilter

NEW YORK CITY, NY — On October 11, I found myself at the JFK International Airport in Queens, New York City with other prospective Columbia students. We were there awaiting our transportation to Columbia University in Morningside Heights where we were to spend the next few days learning about life as a Columbia engineering student.

As a resident of the Greater Los Angeles Area for the majority of my life, I was no stranger to city life. New York City, however, is an entirely different beast – the belly of which seems to have no end. New York City seems to have it all. Insane traffic? Check. Searing bright lights that blur day and night? Check. That constant smell of street food or sewage or something in between? Check. Landmarks recognizable by half of the world? Check. Endless possibilities? Double check. From the grotesque to the grandiose, NYC is where you can find it all.  So, without further ado, here is a quick guide to surviving your first day in the Big Apple.

1. Ask everyone tons of questions.

Need directions to the Empire State Building? Want to know where to get authentic New York style pizza? Haven’t upgraded to a cellular device capable of connecting to the web? Fear not, weary traveler! With almost eight and a half million residents, there is never a shortage of locals willing to lend a helping hand.

A view of the New York City skyline from the Hudson River.
Cesar Arevalo
A view of the New York City skyline from the Hudson River.

2. Take your time boarding the subway.

The hustle and bustle of the city is most pronounced in the underground public transportation system in which millions of riders pass through per day. Sure, people might be in a hurry, but if you’re unfamiliar with the environment, don’t feel pressured to rush through the experience. Take it all in, you’re in New York!

3. Remind your cab driver to drive safely

No one likes to feel like their safety is being compromised when they get into a stranger’s car. Besides, traffic coupled with reckless driving can make for a stressful experience. Maybe you’re in Queens and want to get to Broadway but don’t want to get lost on the way there. Maybe you don’t know that NYC is based on a grid system; or maybe you’ve never heard of Google Maps; or maybe you use Apple Maps (in which case you should just stay home) – regardless, hailing a cab is the safest option if you want to avoid getting lost. New York City drivers are not known for their courteous driving style; therefore, it is imperative that you remind your cab driver of how people drive back home and ask them to meet your standards of safe driving. Their appreciation for your constructive criticism will be reflected in the cab fare.

You’re now ready to face the hustle and bustle of the greatest city on earth! Go forth and conquer!

(PS, just kidding!!! Do not follow this guide. If you do, everyone will know you are a tourist. Safe travels.)

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