30 things NOT to do in New York City

A common mistake visitors make when coming to NYC is staying in Manhattan the whole time. Although Manhattan is the heart of NYC, the other four boroughs offer incredible sights and activities you should not miss out on. Don't let the cliched images of fashion designers and trendy European tourists throw you off. New York City is a very wallet-friendly destination, thanks, in part, to its large, 24-hour, public-transit network within and between all five boroughs.

Packing for NYC requires a good strategy. There is a reason why people hire professional packers. It is so easy to make mistakes while packing, and the reality is you won't even know you made them until it's too late. Whether you are relocating or going away on a trip, packing your possessions requires devotion and patience. The best way to help you learn how to pack is to analyze common packing mistakes.

Some of you might think that packing is always simple and easy. However, for some, it is their own version of hell. With that in mind, check the essentials of packing, and also common packing mistakes you can expect when traveling to New York City. Going online and looking for perfect travel destinations is one thing. However, don't let sloppy packing ruin everything for you.

Now, lets see how to do it right. Let's see what kinds of common mistakes you can expect when preparing for a trip to the Big Apple.

1. Do NOT buy a New York Pass

Do not buy a New York City Explorer Pass or a City Pass of New York simply because they offer all kinds of discounts or because everyone tells you you should do so. It makes much more sense to look at what you want to do in New York first and see if one of these passes will be profitable for you. The risk of looking at the passes first is that you get greedy.

You see so many cool activities, museums and sightseeing options that you feel you have to it all. Well, you haven’t. It is also really great to be in a city and to feel the vibes of it and not just tick off boxes on a list. Not everyone thinks alike though, so you may want to compare the three and see which one works best for you!

2. Do NOT go to Ellis Island

Do you have a tight schedule for your visit? Ellis Island offers a beautiful and very large museum on immigration. This attracts many visitors from both Europe (many immigrants came from the old world) and America (many American families have got European roots). This means that the museum is not just very large, but also very busy.

By the way, when you take the Staten Island Ferry to Liberty Island, you will pass Ellis Island and this will at least give you a good view on the outside of the museum.

3. Do NOT skip church on Sunday

Even if you’d hardly ever or never go to church, going to church will give you the opportunity to listen to a gospel choir performing for real (and not just performing for the tourists paying for some kind of tour). A great place to do so is the Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn. They offer 3 services each Sunday, so you can always find one that suits your time schedule.

4. Do NOT go to Central

Plan what you want to see. The park is huge and there is so much to do that it is easy to feel lost (literally and figuratively). You may want to see the famous boats and the boats house at The Lake or enjoy the beauty of the conservatory or get on top of Belvedere Castle to have a fabulous view over the park.

Maybe you are a Beatles fan and you want to go to the strawberry fields or you are a Shakespeare lover and you want to visit his statue and the garden full of beautiful plants and flowers mentioned in his works and those who he had in his own private garden in Stratford-upon-Avon. The choice is enormous, so plan ahead!

5. Do NOT order a whole pastrami sandwich at Katz’s

Unless you are very hungry, an enormous meat-fan (or both) or someone who simply eats more than average, the portions are huge, not so much the sandwich, but the pastrami filling certainly is! Please, do NOT try to imitate Meg Ryan when you are having lunch there. That would be very embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

6. Do NOT forget to dress in layers

Even with Summer temperatures you will be happy with a cardigan or jacket on the boat to Liberty Island and you may want to put them on later in the day and sometimes even in the underground, since temperatures vary extremely in the underground stations and trains. Americans like being comfortable, or in cases of skinny jeans, comfortable.

Many Americans will choose something more relaxed on days they do not work. Also dress shoes are a dead giveaway. Dress shoes are more for special events, work, and dates. Most men outside of work wear tennis shoes or sandals. Most women will wear boots, flats, heels, wedges, and tennis shoes.

7. Do NOT go to the Tenement Museum

Do you prefer exploring a museum on your own or are you someone who finds it hard to make choices? This museum, which aims at bringing immigrant and migrant experiences alive by tours through original apartments, can only be visited with a guided tour and the choice of interesting tours is quite a large one. FYI: the Tenement Museum is NOT included in any of the city passes.

8. Do NOT hesitate to ask for help

The New Yorkers are very friendly and helpful. Mind you, sometimes overly so for European standards, which can be charming or irritating. That’s up to you! If somebody says ‘how do you do’ just smile back and say good or whatever you want to reply. It’s rude to ignore a person.

9. Do NOT despair on how the underground works

In order to buy a 7-day metro card at the machine, you have to type in your postal code. Not your real one of course, but it took a while till we got the information that you should type in 00000. Well, now you know. You should also know that several trains follow the same line, but do not all stop at the same stations. That can be confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty soon.

10. Do NOT forget to bring your walking shoes

You will walk a lot in NYC (it is called the BIG Apple for a reason). Walking offers you the possibility to explore and feel the vibes of a city. Walking 5th avenue is great for a lot of (window) shopping, the Trump tower with its famous waterfall, St Patrick’s (a Neo-Gothic cathedral amidst skyscrapers) and the central library, full of beautiful rooms, cards, globes and books.

Chinatown, especially when you walk far enough to leave the touristic part of it behind you, will give you a very Asian feeling. Brooklyn and the famous Brooklyn Bridge are fabulous too (good to do on Sunday and combine it with your gospel choir experience).

And don’t forget the financial district with Wall Street, the Bull (do NOT try to get a photo with just you on it, unless you are into long waiting for that rare opportunity) and the 911 memorial and museum. Another not to be missed walk is the High Line plus the Vessel. The High Line was once a rail track but went out of use in 1980. In 2009, they transformed a 1.45-mile-long strip into a unique park.

You find wildflowers, greens and art while enjoying superb views of New York’s skyline on the way. When you decide to walk in Central Park (cycling there is a cool option too), you will understand that this is a lot of walking, knowing how huge Central Park is. As you can read, lot of fabulous walks to do in NYC and as you will understand it also great to bring your walking shoes with you!

New York is a place where nobody belongs to, but at the same time everyone does. It’s hard to explain. The Statue of Liberty, Little Italy and Chinatown are proof that New York is a city. You can walk in Manhattan around 3:00 am on a Monday, and you would think is 8:00 pm. This city is 24 hours. New York offers SO MUCH.

There are restaurants from all over the world, many parks, events all the time in Central Park, Bryant Park not even to mention Broadway. New York is totally more vivid. Walking the streets of New York, who wouldn’t recognize those streets where Spiderman, Batman, the Avengers, and all these superheroes used to show us?

11. Do NOT be late

The first on our list of common mistakes to avoid doesn't have much to do with actual planning. However, it is one of the most common mistakes people make. They don't start planning on time! Being behind schedule is never good, and it creates a lot of stress. You start asking yourself if you will finish everything on time, and then you make a mess by planning in a hurry. Next thing you know, you forgot to plan something.

The best way to tackle this issue is to determine how many things you want to do in NYC. This information will help you determine the approximate time you'll need to plan. Furthermore, think about everything you have to do after planning. If you have a detailed plan, you can allocate enough time to finish everything. Always plan in advance, and you will save time instead of losing it!

12. Not having enough luggage

Ah, the wonderful feeling of finding out you don't have enough bags (in case you are planning a longer stay). Now you have to run to the store and buy more. But since you are trying to pack in a hurry, you won't stop to think about what to buy. You will buy anything as long as it serves the purpose.

That is the perfect recipe for spending money on purchasing overpriced luggage. Furthermore, you want to make sure you don't run out of bags, suitcases or boxes again. So, now you buy more than you need. If that isn't a foolproof plan for spending your hard-earned money, I don't know what is!

This is a packing pitfall you don't need. Carefully think about your belongings. Again, time plays an important part in this process. If you don't buy enough packing material on time, you will start rushing things, and that's not good.

13. Packing what you don't need

Here is where you lose the most money and time on packing for a trip. If you are staying in NYC for just one week, you won't need ten pairs of shoes, right? Besides, someone has to carry all that luggage. The more stuff you bring, the harder it will be to maneuver the suitcases through the busy streets of NYC.

When it comes to visiting New York, you should be even more careful with packing. We all have plenty of things we don't use any longer. However, we still keep them because of sentimental reasons. Sometimes, not even because of that, but we simply want to have something. That's called hoarding, the biggest enemy of all packers.

Get rid of things you don't need when packing and the entire process will be much simpler and quicker. Once you eliminate everything you don't need, you'll see how easy packing actually is.

First, you have fewer things to pack, which means you need less luggage. Second, fewer things to pack mean you will finish packing sooner than planned. Third, unpacking will be so easy once you keep only what you need. Voilà! By making the decision not to bring the stuff you don't need, you have saved space, time and money. Now that's a packing continuum I'd like to be a part of!

14. Not reading the Weather in New York

New York is continental and offers all types of seasons. You can even get to experience blizzards, and a beautiful Fall. Summers are normally humid, and Winters can be extremely cold. Those humid summers, those bitter cold winters, and the beautiful fall and spring are all you get to see in New York.

When packing, it is crucial you understand in which order to pack things. For example, if you are moving to Perth in Australia, you know that the weather is hot. While you don't have to throw away your sweaters and winter clothes, you can place them on the bottom. The same goes for NYC. Take the time of the year into consideration when deciding in which order to pack.

Also, your essentials box will have different content depending on the weather. Remember that NYC has hot summers and snowy winters. And the rain is also quite common. If you're expecting to sweat a lot, have a change of clothes within arm's reach at all times. In the same manner, if you are traveling or moving during the winter season, pack warmer clothes last so they are on top, and always have a warm jacket near you.

Of course, your passport, drivers' license, medications and other important items should always be easy to reach. When crossing borders, you might be asked to show a specific item to the border officers. If that happens, you have to find it and take it out of the bag. Imagine having to take everything out until you locate that item. Just no!

Packing electronics and other sensitive items requires the most concentration and planning. Be sure to wrap everything tightly, and use packing foam for added protection. Also, do not forget to label fragile when visiting NYC. If you packed yourself, but you hired a shipping service, they won't know what is inside the luggage unless you specify it.

One of the most common packing mistakes is that people forget to make a list of all the packed items. You have to know the location of everything you packed. This makes unpacking a lot easier and faster. Furthermore, if you need a specific item, you can locate it in no time.

15. Canada Goose in Winter

Almost the official uniform of NYC, Canada Goose is the go to parka for all winter walking. In most places spending $1,000 on a jacket would be a bit outrageous, but in NYC that is how you keep warm on your commute. Just like you might spend $1,000 to fix a broken heater in your car, we spend that much on a jacket to make sure we are comfortable walking in the snow.

16. Do NOT wear cameras around neck

Most Americans just carry cellphones, unless you are a vlogger or an old person.

17. Do NOT ask where to eat the best American food

Then they get confused when you ask what kind of food they are interested in. Describe what American food means to you because they can either point you to a burger place, Mexican, Chinese, Greek, chain restaurants. Many don't know what American food is except for apple pie, root beer, recess cany, butterfinger, hot dogs, and burgers.

It can be overwhelming but it also can be the time to experiment with new food. Spicy jalapeño red refried beans sound gross but don't knock it until you try it. Chicken tenders only go with ranch. Root beer is a delicious soft drink. Root beer floats are lovely. Also don't forget to have apple pies and pecan pies.

18. Do NOT use only cash

Cash is still OK but most Americans use debit cards/credit card. The reason? If you get your card stolen, it's easy to report, cancel your card, and get refunded if somebody used your cards. If you get cash stolen, you are out of luck. Also, going to banks to pull out cash takes time and it just makes sense to use your debit card than go to the bank.

19. Not knowing laws

No American unless a cheapskate or someone brand new to buying things (usually kids) complain because they are used to it. So if you hear a complaint, it's usually a foreigner. Even jaywalking can have consequences. Yes, in your country, the legal age is 16. Here it is 18. If you get arrested for sleeping or courting a underage, you will face criminal charges. If you are under 21, drinking is illegal.

If caught, you will face our criminal system even if it is legal to drink at 16 in your country. Playing naive will not prevent you from getting arrested or tickets. Always look up laws for USA and for the state you are visiting. FYI: in some states marijuana is legal and other states it's still illegal.

20. Do NOT litter or spit

There are trash cans for public use and a fine for littering. Americans may also separate recyclables from refuse, so it’s important to read which trash can you’re using. Some places have no trash cans, and it means you have to carry the trash with you.

21. Do NOT push through people

Americans like a good few feet or almost meter from someone, and always say, I’m sorry if you accidentally bump into someone or Excuse me to ask for walking space. You can learn about American etiquette by observing. For example, if everyone is quiet at a library, there’s a reason why. Also, when traveling in general, you want to blend into your surroundings so you don’t become an easy target.

22. Do NOT stand on the left side of the escalator

When you are exiting/entering the subway, do not stand on the left side of the escalator. Commuters walk up the left side, and stand on the right side. This is especially important to keep in mind during the morning rush (7–9am) and the evening rush (5–7pm).

Let people exit the subway car before you enter the subway car. Only take up one seat, and be sure to place your bags on the floor or in your lap. Do not lean on the poles, as people need to hold on to those. Do not eat smelly food. Do not play music or games out loud—use headphones. Be aware that (even on packed trains) part of American culture is the belief in personal space, so leaning on or touching someone should be avoided whenever possible.

23. Do NOT block the sidewalks

Almost no greater sin in the city that never sleeps than walking slowly on the sidewalk. Be courteous and quick. Most New Yorkers will say, “excuse me” or walk on the street to get around you, but (like with many cities) clogging up our sidewalks is considered poor form.

Stay out of the way. Don’t stand in the middle of a sidewalk, move to the side. Watch out for guys moving dress racks in the fashion district. Don’t try to cross streets without a light until you’re there a few days and get the hang of it (some intersections in NYC are deadly, but they’re trying to improve it). This is particularly true if stopping to take pictures - get to one side of the sidewalk or the other, not the middle.

24. Do NOT eat at chain restaurants

If you’ve seen the restaurant in another town, avoid it. You are in New York City — one of the food capitals of the world! Explore. Use Yelp, Instagram, Open Table, or blogs to find tasty meals. Leave Time Square and check out the East and West Villages for coffee shops, wine bars, real Italian food, and live music.

Don’t eat pizza from just some average place and expect it to be amazing. You also don’t have time to wait an hour for Lombardi’s, America’s first pizzeria, nor Lucali in Brooklyn, although both are amazing! Also, don’t eat touristy Italian food in Little Italy or wander around expecting to see something amazing there, unless you like to see the old MAFIA points of interest.

Do eat pizza at Rubirosa or the real Joe’s on Carmine, both of which are open during the pandemic. To eat good Italian food, do get delivery from Carmine’s on 44th if you’re within their delivery range. Don’t take the train across the river to New Jersey for baked goods from Carlo’s Bakery. You don’t have time for the journey nor the long line, but they do make really good bakery items.

Do visit Buttercup Bake Shop and Orwashers, two fabulous bakeries in the city! Do get a slice of cheesecake from Eileen’s Special! Do get a bagel from Tal or Absolute, or both! Additionally, there are some very authentic restaurants in Chinatown! And nearby Doyers Street is unique and full of history you can Google.

25. Know your food or beverage order

Know your food or beverage order when you get to the counter, particularly at places like Starbucks. New Yorkers are in a rush—to get to work, to catch a train, to make a Broadway show. If you need help with English or currency, just ask! People in NYC are generally very down to help, as long as you keep that line moving.

26. Do NOT take a gypsy cab (an unmarked cab)

These are not regulated, and as a tourist, you will most likely be taken advantage of. It’s better to hop in a yellow cab in Manhattan, a yellow OR green cab if you are in the outer boroughs, or to download an app like Uber or Lyft. There are plenty of ways to get to your next destination, so don’t let someone bully you. Also, be wary of this at the airport and use the taxi line to be safe.

27. Do NOT take a free CD

Don’t take a free CD from someone on the street. It ain’t free, my friend. And if someone offers you a free comedy show, just know that you will probably be expected to buy 1–2 drinks per person.

28. Do NOT take taxis everywhere

Don’t take taxis everywhere unless you’re rich and you don’t mind throwing away a lot of money. Do IMMEDIATELY buy a Pay-Per-Ride metro card at the nearest subway station (which will give you 10 subway rides plus free transfers).

If you’re flying into LaGuardia, have a plan to get from there to your hotel. There’s no real public transit connection from that airport to…. anywhere, although plans are under way. JFK has a paid Skytrain link to the A Train, so it’s fine, and Newark has a train to Penn Station that’s not expensive. From LaGuardia, cabs are expensive ($70+ depending on traffic). There are shuttles (About $11 each way, take about 90 minutes but it’s door to door) and the bus (About $8 each way to the Port Authority Terminal, about 45 minutes).

29. Do NOT see Times Square

Do walk the High Line from beginning to end for a unique perspective on the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and the history of the old elevated railroad. And check out a quiet section of Central Park across from The Dakota apartments where John Lennon once lived and unfortunately met his end. Beatles fans will especially appreciate the tribute to Lennon in the park.

Don’t wait in line to visit the top of the Empire State Building, nor Top of the Rock. Do visit the observation deck of the new World Trade Center if the line isn’t too long. While you’re there, visit the memorial fountains that frame the old foundations of the Twin Towers, the FDNY Memorial Wall across from the southeast corner of the trade center grounds, and DEFINITELY the 9/11 Museum underground, one of the greatest and most poignant museums in New York!

With only 72 hours, you’ll probably have to skip one of the greatest museums in the U.S., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. That can be done on a weeklong trip where you have half a day to burn! It’s massive and you’ll get lost in the art and maybe even lose an entire day. Do pick two of these three: the Guggenheim, the Museum of Natural History, and MoMA. Don’t go out to the Statue of Liberty, nor Ellis Island, nor Wall Street.

Do watch the sunset in Battery Park with a view of Lady Liberty, preferably on a weekend when it’s quiet at the southern tip of Manhattan when Wall Street is devoid of businessmen and women. It’s an easy walk from the World Trade Center if you want to do both together.

30. Do NOT comment on clothing style

Yes, if you come from a modest country, sorry. Women walk around with low cut shirts and their legs and arms showing. Men walk around in shorts and can have tattoos and long hair. They really don't care what people dress like as long as privates are covered. You aren’t really concerned with what others are doing as long as it doesn’t directly impact you.

Someone on the subway is dressed funny, not dressed at all, or reading a crazy book. Its fine, you probably hardly notice or care.

New Yorkers aren’t much for social graces, but are incredibly helpful. There’s no need to say “Excuse me, how to I get to Madison Square Garden”, you can just say “Hey! How to I get to Madison Square Garden”. New Yorkers don’t mind and if they’re going that way they may escort you.

If you’re next to an open washroom, use it. Use the washroom before you leave the airport or your hotel. If you’re in a museum or theatre, use the washroom before you leave. Public washrooms in New York are scarce and in bad shape. Restaurants often have only one for both sexes.

Do not think you can pack everything on your own. While in most cases that can be true, having a helping hand is always useful. It can save you a lot of time. Just make sure to make a plan and divide belongings for easier packing. If you follow these simple suggestions, you will avoid common packing mistakes, and the entire process will be a piece of cake!
Kalyan Panja