From the creation of this baby-blog, less than a year ago, a lot of you guys contacted me to get info about your upcoming trip in New York, and I loved helping you planning the perfect stay! I also noticed that a lot of questions / worries were shared by almost all of you!
After a few months of
intense research and long hours to write it, I am so thrilled to reveal you the new category on the “Travel” section on the blog : “New York”. I planned it in several parts and I really hope it will help you while planning you next visit. Of course, you still can contact me whenever you need! A new chapter will be released on Saturdays, and I am also working on a few surprises! Ready? Follow me, c’est par ici:
Choosing the time of the year
Winter is terribly cold and the icy wind is sometime barely bearable. However, Christmas time is gorgeous, New York under the snow is a must see, the streets are beautifully decorated and the New Year’s ambiance is great!
Spring is quite brief, but it’s a wonderful time, with all the trees blooming. New Yorkers are especially in good mood during spring,
probably grateful for surviving the terrible winter that just passed on them!
Summer is rich in thrilling activities. However, it’s often crazily humid and almost unbreathable! (And insanely cold in the stores and the subway!)
Fall, like spring, shows beautiful colors and a lot of great celebrations, such as Thanksgiving and Halloween. But it’s also a propitious season for rain and hurricanes.
I would advise you to visit New York during May – June and September- Mid-November.
Choosing your arrival airport
I will put aside the basics (don’t book 5 days before your trip or you’ll need to sell a kidney, avoid weird airlines like Nouillorc airwouaise, …) but I want you to know about the 3 airports around New York City.
First of all, and except if you can save 40% of your travel budget, for God sake, don’t choose Newark! As I already told you here, going there from The City in one piece (and with all your nerves) is almost a miracle. Either it’s terribly long, or expensive, but in both case it will be boring as hell!
Laguardia, Queens is located one hour away from Manhattan, using subway + but. It’s a good alternative but the airport is quite old and it seems to be always crowded!
Or, you can do as everyone else and choose JFK. Of course, you’ll face a queue at immigration (but not that long, if you are lucky!) but at least a lot of planes are landing at JFK and it’s easy to get there. (Just try not to go out the subway too soon, the neighborhood is not that welcoming around here!)
Getting an ESTA
If you are not American, nor you have a Greencard/Visa, you’ll need to get an ESTA, to be authorized to enter the US territory. The simple form has to be filled at least 72 hours before taking off, and it costs $14 per guest on the Government website here. (Or $70 if you decide to be adventurous and to get it on a website that ends with .ru! Don’t be fooled!)
More importantly, be careful that all your names on your passport match all your names on your ESTA. Second, third and middle name included! (And one day, maybe, I will tell you how Switzerland provide me an inexact passport, which rebaptized me when I moved here!)
Before choosing a place, I would advise you to make a list of what you want to do / see during your stay, and to match it with your budget (both hotels and rents are terribly expensive and the size of the hotel rooms are inversely proportional to the price you’ll pay!)
Staying in Manhattan will be expensive, but it’s central, which can be a huge asset, especially for a first visit. If you want to spend less, you can try Long Island City, Brooklyn or even New Jersey, which are really well-connected. Don’t forget to add the price of the subway / PATH, when calculating your final expenses, since it’s going to be the only way to reach those boroughs!
If you decide to sleep in Manhattan, I would avoid a few neighborhoods, such as Times Square, China Town, Port Authority or West Harlem. Of course, it’s completely subjective, but try to gather info – price and safety – before booking!)
Unfortunately, I can’t give you any hotel name, since I did not had the chance to get free nights testing I have been living in apartments since day 1.
So, if you have a good – or a bad – address to share with us, write a comment!
Most importantly, travel light: you’ll need a lot of space to bring things back!
If you are visiting during spring, summer or fall, take both summer clothes and a few winter pieces (the temperatures can change drastically and the public places are using A/C like crazy!), a good pair of shoes (sneakers would be perfect, no need for hike shoes) and a pair of “classy shoes” to enter fancy restaurants and rooftops.
During summer, a good sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, to prevent sunstroke.
During fall, an umbrella or a hooded plastic cape would be a good idea.
During winter (December to February), get the thermic underwear, lined (and waterproof) shoes, big coats and all the winter accessories you can think of (gloves, scarves, fingerless gloves (to put over the gloves! Seriously.), earmuffs, hands-heater, portative fireplace, nothing will be too much, believe me!)
Don’t forget your camera, blister Band-Aid, a safe bag to avoid being stolen from, your ESTA and… the Foodetcaetera food and tricks and tips 😉
Going through immigration
Sit down and take a deep breath, I am about to tell you the exact opposite of what you usually hear about US immigration. I entered the country 6 times, 3 times with ESTA, 3 times with Visa and I’ve never had any problem. Worst case scenario, the guy was just polite, but usually, they are really nice!
Here’s how it will go: you’ll be queuing – 1 to 6 hours (worst case scenario but it can happen) and then showing your passport and your ESTA to the guy (by the way, if you already entered the country with the same ESTA, you will have a “private” line, and usually, it’s an empty one!) Keep your ticket back home to hand, and prepare yourself to answer a few questions (usually is whether or not you’ve ever been in the country before, what you do for a living or where you plan to stay.* He will then take a picture of you as well as your fingerprints and that will be it!
If things go “wrong”, though, stay calm, don’t raise your voice and don’t ask questions (you don’t wanna mess with US government agents). Perhaps you’ll be brought in a separate room to give them time to check a few things (I don’t precisely know what). No one will explain you or tell you how much time it will take. So if you are travelling with friends, discuss before about a solution if one of you must stay at immigration longer than the others. Most importantly, be patient, I bet you’ll be out of there in no time, without any other info than “it’s the law”.
You also must know that you’re not allowed to use your phone, camera or recording device in the airport.
So, take a deep breath, smile and be nice even if you just spent 4 hours queuing. Oh, and use the bathroom in the plane! (< Best advice ever!)
*sometimes, he will even inform you that you’ve got the same name than his favorite cheese brand before letting you go! Heu, thanks, I guess?
Any question? Remark? Suggestion? Something is missing? Write a comment or contact me directly with the contact form!