Travel Planner: New York

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What can you say about New York that hasn't already been said? New York is a vast,  imposing city packed with history and culture, energy and vitality, and it's always on the move, but for visitors there is always something new and a bit different to see and experience. Think of an activity and the best of it will likely be in the Big Apple, from museums and shopping, to dining and live music.

Need to Know

Location: The east coast of the United States.

Language: English.

Money: US Dollar. ATM’s are practically on every corner of the city, and currency exchange bureaus are safe to change money.

Time Difference: GMT -4 hours.

Getting Around: Taxis are plentiful in New York, and charge by the mile rather than by time, which is a good thing. Due to legendary traffic congestion, however, the subway system is comprehensive and a cheap as well as better way to go (avoiding the rush hour), and if you don't mind walking, exploring on foot in most areas is easy. 

When To Go: The summer can be extremely hot with temps in the mid-30s C and longer days, while winters are cold and can often be snowy with shorter days. Spring or autumn can be the best times to visit especially if you enjoy exploring on foot.  

Tipping: It not optional in the USA, and can be confusing. As a general rule, leave wait staff 18–20 per cent of the total bill unless a gratuity has already been included, and leave bartenders 15–20 per cent per round, or around $1 for a beer or wine increasing to $2 for a cocktail. When it comes to taxi drivers, leave 10–15 of the fare rounded up to the next dollar, for hotel and airport porters leave $2 per bag, and hotel maids should have $2–4 per night left in envelope on the bed. 

Where To Stay

Hotels in New York are among the most expensive in the world, and it doesn’t matter which time of year you travel! Holidays and peak travel times are expensive, and in between hotel rooms are busy with business travellers and conferences. The best advice is to do your research well in advance to try and secure a reasonable deal. There are hundreds to choose from, especially at the luxury and boutique end of the scale, but you can expect to pay a high price for a small space. The location of your hotel can also matter, with the best neighbourhood for sightseeing being Midtown, the best for foodies being Tribeca and Soho, and the trendiest being the Bowery. In terms of hip hotels to check out, some new, put the Soho Grand Hotel, Crosby Street Hotel, The Greenwich Hotel, Ace Hotel New York, and The Ludlow on your list.

Sightseeing Essentials

* Times Square: There's not exactly much to do at this landmark spot except for see the lights, drink in the energy and take that must-have photo. Fun by day, it’s an area which really comes alive at night, with flickering neon and lights. That said there is a huge visitor centre there, so if you are planning to explore independently you can get all the maps and brochures you need here.

* Empire State Building: It can take ages to get to the top, thanks to long queues and heightened security these day, but on a good weather day the views are well worth the wait in line. If you don't fancy going to the 86th floor Observation Deck, you must at least get a photo from down below.

* Central Park: If you feel like some exercise, this huge wide open space encompassing rolling meadows and lakes stretches between Fifth and Eighth Avenues, and from 59th to 110th Streets. It is so big it is home to two zoos, a small castle and the famous John Lennon memorial. If you are in a particularly romantic mood on a nice weather day, take a ride in a horse and carriage.

* American Museum of Natural History: Comedy films aside, this is famous for being home to the largest collection of dinosaurs and fossils in the world, and not just for kids. Don't miss the life size blue whale replica.

* Ellis Island: History buffs will love this spot out in the harbour, but like many major landmarks it is usually busy with long queues. You get there by ferry from Battery Park, and once there you'll learn all about the some 12 million immigrants which were processed there between 1892 and 1954. 

* Metropolitan Museum of Art: This is home to an impressive collection of more than two million works of art spanning some 5,000 years. It's so big you could wile away your entire day here alone.


* If you are a first-time visitor, Big Bus Tours is a top choice, combining transport, a live guide, points of interest and more. And if something catches your eye you can just hop off to go exploring.

* Getting on the water is essential, and for a stunning view of the New York skyline,you can’t beat a Circle Line cruise. Boats cruise down the Hudson River to get up close with the Statue of Liberty before rounding Battery Park and heading for the Brooklyn Bridge. 

* The High Line and Chelsea Walking Tour was formerly an elevated railway and is now one of New York's most photogenic landmarks. It’s a public park, a rotating art gallery and a tourist attraction which takes a couple of hours to experience. 

Best Happy Snap

New York has so many options you’ll have your work cut out fitting them all into your schedule! But just a few to put on your list include the skyline from the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, the interior of Grand Central Station, Atlas at the Rockefeller Center, Times Square at night, and Central Park including the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace and the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Also save time to visit the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Centre, One World Trade. It’s the tallest building in the western hemisphere rising above the New York City skyline, and it has an observatory on the 102nd floor offering uninterrupted views across the entire city and harbour.

Shopping And Souvenirs

New York has a well deserved reputation as a shopper’s paradise, with its lineup of world-renowned department stores, boutique shops, high-fashion and outlet centres. The Midtown shopping district, which includes the Times Square area, has Macy’s on 34th and Broadway, also a Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, and that famous Tiffany’s on 57th and Fifth Avenue. Also look out for Century 21 in Lower Manhattan and the Financial District, a discount department store attracting people from all over the state. The flagship stores of many leading U.S. brands are also found in New York, including Victoria’s Secret, Coach, Michael Kors, Nike, Calvin Klein, Apple, Ralph Lauren, and Vera Wang. As for souvenirs, just a few to put on your list include an iconic “We Are Happy To Serve You” deli cup, a Statue of Liberty foam crown, Salty Road salt water taffy (in many flavours), or a bottle of Queens Courage Old Tom Gin. 

Eating And Drinking

New York truly is a city which has it all when it comes to culinary diversity. Pick any ethnic variety of cuisine, from Ethiopian to traditional Italian or Japanese, and you will find top quality restaurants dotted all over town. Chinatown is good for a meander as well as a spot of lunch or dinner, with cobblestone streets packed with family owned eateries. Try the Peking duck or stuffed dumplings, and finish off with a spot of souvenir shopping for kitschy Chinese goodies. Also try a hot dog from a street vendor - a classic NY experience - or a 50’s style diner. In terms of new restaurants to check out, try Farida Central Asian in the Garment District, the Italian Misi in Willamsburg, Manhatta in the Financial District, Holy Ground in Tribeca, and the new French Bistro Pierre Lapin in West Village.

Hot Tip

If you’re big on sightseeing, and you are keen to fit all of New York's top attractions in to your schedule, buy a CityPASS which allows admission into up to six main venues including the Empire State Building for a discounted price. 

Got An Emergency?

New York Police: 911

Australian Consulate: +212 351 6500 


Ben Hall


  • 3
    Exchange Rate

    Posted by Teresa on 22nd Oct 2018

    It's a great place but between the cost of hotels and the current exchange rate I reckon you can do much better as big city holidays are concerned.

  • 4
    My Fave City

    Posted by Marco B on 15th Oct 2018

    My favourite US city, have been a couple of times most recently at Easter....but you need to include some different restaurants, including vegetarian!

  • 5
    Want To Go Here

    Posted by DeniseV on 15th Oct 2018

    I really want to go to's been on my bucket list for years, but now the exchange rate is so crappy I think it will have to wait a bit longer! Love the tips here though LOL