As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve started my year the best way possible; with a spontaneous trip to ‘The big Apple’ aka New York. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Considering that my post about my one day-trip to Amsterdam was already quite lengthy, I’ve decided to split my overview of New York in several parts. This way I can already give you the first part now (instead of next week because it will probably take me ages to write everything down because I’m already heading back to work tomorrow morning) and it will also be less heavy for you all to read.
This first post in the series will be all about the practical aspects of my trip, which includes the transportation to and in New York, the hotel I’ve stayed in, the city card I’ve used, and all the documents and other paperwork you need to be allowed in The United States of America. Then later on, in the following posts, I’ll tell you more about what I did every single day of my trip.
So, to get this party started; Which documents and permissions do you need to go to New York?
I’ll list the things that I needed to travel from Belgium to New York, and I guess this will correspond for people travelling in the same conditions from any country of the European Union to The United States.
Before you’re able to leave for the USA, you will need a passport. A passport can be requested at your local town or city hall. It will take a while for it to arrive so request it early enough, because if not you’ll pay a lot to have it before you leave. You will have to present this little booklet ID a lot of times during your trip as well, so it’s one of the most important documents.
Everyone travelling to the USA will also need approval to be allowed into the country. This can be done with an ESTA (= Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) application. You only have to register online on this website for that, follow the steps and then they’ll tell you if you have permission to go. If you don’t have permission, you’ll have to request a visa.
For people outside of the United States, you’ll also need dollars. I don’t think this needs any more explanation as to why you need them. 😉 You can of course also pay with your credit card, but keep in mind that you might need actual money for tips (It’s common than you always tip at restaurants and of course the lift boys etc) and at food stalls.
So, now that the paperwork is arranged, we can move on to actually getting in New York. I’ve flown with Jet Airways because they had an offer I couldn’t pass on. Jet Airways is an Indian airline and is one of the two big ones in India. We’ve checked in really early so we had a really good seat in the back. The entertainment provided on the flight was really good. There were movies, games and television series available and I of course made good use of it. The food was a little less in my opinion, because I’m not such a fan of spicy Indian food.
After a lengthy eight-hour flight, we finally landed on Newark Airport, which is about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from Manhattan, the center of New York. Newark Airport is one of the best choices as an airport because it’s close to the center and there are good connections from and to the airport. To get to the center, we had made reservations via Viator for a minivan to bring us to our hotel. Those little buses have a capacity of 11 people and everyone gets dropped of at their own hotel. It costs about 15 dollars (tip not included) and the service is excellent. We were the last to be dropped of, which gave us the opportunity to see a lot of Manhattan already. It took us about an hour and a half to get from the airport to our hotel, but that didn’t matter because the weather wasn’t that good upon our arrival so we weren’t very rushed.
Our hotel was the Pod 51 Hotel. This trendy hotel is situated on – surprise – 51st Street and is about a twenty minute walk from Times Square. The check-in went really smooth and soon the lift boy was taking our luggage to our room on the fifth floor. We reserved a bunkbed room with shared bathroom. I’m not a person who needs a lot of extras in a hotel. If I have a comfortable bed an a clean room and shower, I’m all set. The rooms in Pod 51 are really small but it’s perfectly manageable if you bring normal sized luggage. The shared bathrooms were really clean and because it was low season we really didn’t have any trouble with the shared-aspect. If I ever go back to New York, I’d definitely consider going back to this hotel.
So now that we had checked in, we were ready to explore New York. To do that in the most comfortable way, we had ordered a New York City Card in advance. For 103 dollars (= about 78 euros) we were allowed on six different attractions (and were able to choose out of eight); Top of the Rock or Guggenheim, Empire State Building Observation Deck (Once during the day and once during the night), Liberty and Ellis Island Cruise or Sightseeing cruise, American Museum of Natural History, MET and Moma. This card is definitely recommendable when you plan on doing all these attractions – and considering those are all highlights of New York, those are things you certainly must do. It saves you a lot of money and allows you to skip the –sometimes long- ticket lines at the entrance of the attraction. We were lucky enough that it was the calmest period in New York in a long time – due to the snow – so those lines were practically non-existant for us. Nonetheless, it’s the best option when you’re visiting New York for the first time.
Also keep in mind that when you want to visit the 9/11 memorial, you can register in advance on this website. The entrance is for free, but this reservations costs 2 dollars but it makes it a lot easier to access the memorial. The only thing that’s a bit annoying about this, is that you are tied to a certain hour.
Another thing you have to reserve in advance if you want to go, is the entrance to theCrown of the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t do that, because we thought we’d already have an amazing view from Liberty Island which was indeed true. When we arrived at Liberty Island though, we were a bit sad that we didn’t have tickets to the crown, but it was already too late then. So if you have the time, I think it’s another great way to have an amazing view on Manhattan and New York.
To get from point A to point B, we mostly walked because in my opinion that’s the best way to get to know a city, but for the longer distances, we took the subway. New York has a well-worked out subway system that allows you to travel quickly from one place to another. One ticket costs $2.75, but for an entire week ticket you pay only $30, so I wanted to take that alternative considering we took the metro at least twice a day to get from and to our hotel. But my dad conviced me to take a metrocard on which you load money, and that way you pay $2.5 each time. And in the end, he should have listened to me, because we paid a lot more his way then we would have my way. (He’ll never live this one down!)
There are of course also the famous Hop On Hop Off buses, but we never used those because it was way too cold for those and considering Manhattan traffic is crazy, it would take a lot of time to get from one point to another.
So that was the practical – and probably most boring – part of my trip. In my next post, I’ll talk about our first evening in New York and my first impressions of this big city.
Until next time
With love, Ellen