Last October 2017, I have finally ticked off #1 on my list – to visit the city that never sleeps, New York City.
As mentioned during my highlights video – I wasn’t really expecting to travel to the United States this year but I pushed myself to the limits by filing a visa which turned out to be pretty easy compared to the horror stories they portray online. So if you are still hesitating in fulfilling your travel dreams for 2018, consider this as a sign and I’d say go for it! I hope this guide will also help in case you are going to New York. To add, New York itself is a hugeeeee city. You may get lost without a Wi-Fi (unless you can spare a day studying the Subway or is willing to splurge on taxi fares which is ridiculously priced) special thanks to X-COM Global who helped us with our Pocket Wifi for a hassle free travel! Know more about them as you read along.
ROUND TRIP AIRFARE
Yes, I booked our roundtrip tickets during the Travel Madness Expo even without a visa. I was confident enough to take that risk as we were booking with a non-LCC (Low Cost Carrier) wherein they mostly allow refunds/rebooking for just a small fee. We were able to book our flights with EVA Air – flag carrier of Taiwan and a 5 star airline member of Star Alliance for just Php36k all in including baggage, meals & PH Travel Tax. Total travel time was around 21-22 hours including a stopover in Taipei. MNL-TPE-JFK then JFK-TPE-MNL. We even got an upgrade to premium economy to and from Manila to Taipei and vice versa. Bonus: During the flight we saw a bit of Northern Lights as this fleet took the Polar Route! Comment below if you want a full EVA Air Review. 🙂
WHERE WE STAYED
The hotels in Manhattan are the most expensive hotel rates I have seen so far together along with Tokyo. And by expensive I mean, you won’t be able to book an average hotel for an affordable price. All of the rates are up there hence, AirBnB would be a better option if you are on a budget. Note: Staying at an AirBnB Apartment without a host is illegal in New York City. And that is why you’ll notice that most of the bathrooms are tagged as “shared” or as 1 1/2 in the listings. We were able to find an apartment in Uptown Manhattan located specifically in Washington Heights.
It was a really good deal as the community was very friendly, safe and our hosts were one of the best hosts we have met all throughout our AirBnB experience! The apartment was very spacious, convenient, modern and most importantly clean! The rate that we found was around Php24k for 7 nights if I’m not mistaken, This rate is almost the same as the ones you can find in Brooklyn or other neighboring boroughs. If you can find one in Manhattan, why not stay in Manhattan!
Order a Wi-Fi prior to your travel so it can be delivered straight to your apartment/hotel the day before you arrive. Most Wi-Fi providers do this including XCOM Global.
From JFK to Manhattan you can ride a combination of Airtrain and MTA which can take more than 2 hours. Uber would be more convenient but is shockingly expensive as we paid around Php3,500 for just one way trip from the airport!!! So for Roundtrip Transfers to or from Airport, if there are around 4 of you traveling then just go with Uber. Free Wi-Fi is available at JFK Airport for 30minutes but may not be that reliable for Samsung users.
Subways are the most convenient way to get around Manhattan and Brooklyn. MTA is what they call their subway and buses. You can purchase a 7 day unlimited Metrocard for just $32. Do not lose your Metro Card EVER! You will use this for Trains and Buses. Note that the said unlimited card cannot be used for JFK Airtrain, Metro North etc please read here for more information.
If you have used the MTR in Hong Kong, MRT in Singapore or even JR in Japan, you will easily understand the MTA. I find this beginner video very helpful! Watch and learn before you travel as it will save you time rather than studying on the spot in the city which costs you extra time and that sucks.
THINGS TO DO
Now to the fun part. If you are a budget traveler I will be including free things to do in NYC but I will also recommend activities that are worth paying for! (F= FREE D=Donation $=Reasonable $$=Pricey Yet Worth It $*=Optional)
Day 1 (Be Prepared for a lots of Walking!)
- Walk as far as you can in (F)Central Park starting at (F)Botanical Garden heading to (D)Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Grab a breakfast along the way from Food Trucks (huge Bagel and Coffee around $5)
- The MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) has a good exterior (F) which is perfect for Instagram shots, but is also as good inside(D)
- Take the 79th street Traverse inside Central Park heading to American Museum of Natural History(D)
- Load up before entering the American Museum of Natural History by trying out the famous Shake Shack (Ranges from $4-12) Ahhhhhh the best burger evah! (In n’ Out I have yet to try in LA!)
- Ride the subway going to Times Square(F)
- Visit the National Geographic Encounter($*)
Day 2 (More walking, stretch before you start your day)
- Get up early to ride the Subway to South Ferry Station(F)
- Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty(F)
- Eat a New York Slice at Staten Island ($6-8 for 2 huge slices with small drinks)
- Head back to Manhattan using Staten Island Ferry Again(F)
- Walk through Wall Street and do a little shopping at a Duane Reade chain(my favorite!)
- Head to the New York City Hall(F) for some photo opps
- Continue walking to Brooklyn Bridge(F)
- Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and reach Dumbo(F) for that iconic Empire State inside a Bridge Shot
- Ride the subway back to Manhattan and drop off at 5th Avenue to visit The Plaza(F) and famous Apple Store($*)
Day 3 (Washington DC Day, Yasss!)
I would recommend for you to purchase a Tour but if you really want to save you can still opt for a DIY)
- Reserve tickets via PeterPan or Megabus ($) Note: I wouldn’t recommend Greyhound although they have good timings, they tend to cancel your trip anytime without notice
- Head to Washington DC and arrive at 12pm
- Eat lunch at Union Station and find some photo opps (F)
- Start the walking tour by heading to Library of Congress(F)
- Walk to the US Capitol(F)
- Ride an Uber($) to Lincoln Memorial
- Buy a souvenir at the Gift Shop and Cafe($)
- Ride an Uber to the White House($)
- Head back to Union Station for your return trip to NYC by 5 or 6pm
Note: 1 day is never enough to take in what DC has to offer, but for a 7 day trip this should be okay and the bus ride lets you see beautiful houses in Maryland, Philadelphia depending on the bus route. AmTrak (US Train is also available but is way way expensive almost at the same level of Airfares!)
Day 4 (Sex and the City snippets)
- Have breakfast in Washington Square Park(F)
- Head to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment(F)
- Visit and grab desserts at Magnolia Bakery($$)
- Continue walking to reach Chelsea Market($*)
- Take a rest at the highline(F)
- From the highline take the MTA Bus to Flat Iron Building(F)
- Buy a hot Salted Caramel drink($) at Starbucks and chill during the sunset at Madison Square Park giving you views of Flat Iron and Empire State
- Head to Times Square for Dinner($*)
- Head to Broadway Theater to watch Miss Saigon($$)
Day 5 (Get more Romantic)
- Take the scenic train from Bronx to Grand Central Terminal($)
- Visit the New York Public Library(F) (another Sex and the City filming location)
- Walk from the Library to Rockefeller Center for Ice Skating (Available from November onwards)
- Proceed to NBC Studios for the unforgettable Tour ($$)
- Eat dinner at Gyu-Kaku($$)
- End the night with some posh drinks at Monarch ($*) Rooftop Bar with an exclusive view of the Empire State Building!
Day 6 (Remember This)
- I know you may still be jetlagged so rest more and wake up a bit late
- Visit the 9/11 Memorial($) highly recommended!
- Stand in awe at The Oculus(F)
- Catch the Sunset and Nightlights at One World Observatory($$) (Highly Recommended!)
- Have dinner at Blue Ribbon Chicken($)
- Head to Bryant Park Holiday Village Market(F) (This is so stunning! Available end of October onwards)
Day 7 (Free Day and head back to Airport)
- I assume you want to allot this day for shopping: Duane Reade again is what I could recommend for Make-up, chocolates etc, Times Square has steeper souvenir prices -try going to China Town and you can also walk around Tribeca along the way. Tip: The souvenir magnets at The MET are the cheapest that I could find! The Chinese guy at the end of The Met sidewalk has the best deal: 6 magnets for $12! as far as I can remember)
KEEP IN MIND
- Stay alert, specially when walking on sidewalks
- Do not stare at someone’s face or eavesdrop obviously at other’s conversations
- Do not take pictures with Mascots at Times Square unless you are willing to give $5 cause at first you will think that its for free
- If someone is being helpful and in exchange they ask you money just by answering your question just give a dollar and say that’s all what you have & walk away, you are on a budget they would understand – but if you are willing to give more then that is okay
- Statue of Liberty is smaller than what you would expect, take the Statue of Liberty Tour which they said is pricey yet worth it, but some say if you can view it from the ferry then that should be enough – I would leave this up to you!
- Tipping is mandatory specially on casual restaurants (for Food trucks, Starbucks, Deli, Shake Shack you can just leave any tip you want if they have jars)
- If you find a Public Restroom, take advantage
- At restaurants, the code of the restroom is in your receipt (Mcdonalds, Starbucks, Blue Ribbon). Yes – restrooms at most restaurants are encrypted and needs a # password to be unlocked, that is why if you find a public restroom, take advantage!
Woohh that was a mouthful lol. I hope you find this post interesting. New York is a very diverse city, everyone tends to greet you but that doesn’t mean that they want to engage into conversations. Respect people’s privacy. Speak loud, its normal and walk fast. Maximize each moment, take many photos cause in a blink of an eye – the trip may be over!
Good luck and Welcome to the United States!
Disclaimer and Transparency Clause: Details are subject to change without prior notice. Our WiFi was sponsored but this review is based on a hundred percent “heyjaey” hands on / tasting experience and personal views. We may or may not be always on the same page but hey thanks for dropping by anyway! Feel free to drop in some comments/suggestions.