New York is one of the greatest cities in the world. But it has a bad rap concerning crime and unfriendly residents. It’s noisy, dirty, crowded, and let’s be honest–sometimes smelly. The reasons why you shouldn’t visit New York might seem reason enough to steer clear of the Big Apple.
Yet many of the reasons that visitors stress about visiting the city are completely false, outdated, or could be easily avoided. Find out how to handle some of the most common frustrations in NYC, so you’re not blindsided by the unexpected when you arrive.
Top 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Visit New York
Out of all the reasons to stay away, which ones are worth their salt? You might be surprised how many reasons not to visit New York are exaggerated or just plain false.
New York is the Most Dangerous City in America
Most tourists come to New York expecting it to be dangerous and dirty. I mostly blame movies filmed in the 1980s and 1990s for this perception. Luckily, the dangerous worlds depicted in Batman, Ghost, and Son of Sam no longer exists (or never existed at all).
I find NYC to be one of the safest cities in America. And it has been for several decades now. In fact, New York, a city three times the size of Chicago, clocked in at a homicide rate less than half of the Windy City’s.
Police are everywhere. Crowds are everywhere. There are few places in the city where you’ll find yourself alone. The subways are safe both day and night.
Learn more about safety in NYC here.
The Streets Are Too Crowded in New York
Manhattan has about 1.5 million residents; 60 million tourists visit the city every year. That means that in any given month, you could be sharing your personal space with about 6.5 million people on a 22.82-square mile island.
Yet you need not fear the hoard of crazy crowds. There are plenty of places that you can hide from the madness.
Take solace in one of the many parks. Central Park, Prospect Park, Bryant Park, and Riverside Park are some of my favorite places to hide from the crowds.
Visit areas of the city that don’t boast top tourist attractions, like the West Village, the Lower East Side, and the Upper West Side. Visit one of the outer boroughs.
You can find plenty of tips and tricks on how to take a break from the city when it’s too overwhelming here.
Food, Hotels, and Activities Are Too Expensive
New York is a notoriously expensive city.
Yes, hotels are more expensive in the Big Apple than some other cities. Yet the prices only shoot sky high in May and October.
There are plenty of times throughout the year that you can snag a sweet deal on hotels. You can also find cheaper prices on short-term apartment rental sites, like Airbnb. Plus, NYC has some of the coolest hostels in the world.
Food can be pretty expensive if you spend all of your time eating in Times Square or at chain restaurants, like Red Lobster. Yet there are tons of cheap food options throughout the city (even in the touristy areas). Check out “Snacks, Water, and Cheap Food NYC Tourist Traps Don’t Want You to Know About” when hunger strikes.
The NYC Subway is Confusing
If you’re not used to using public transportation, or if you’re from a city that has a smaller transit system (like London), you might feel a little confused by the subway on your first day here.
This is completely normal.
NYC’s subway system is pretty complex, but it’s not impossible to understand. There are plenty of subway hacks that you can use to find your way around the city.
The best piece of advice that I can give you is: There’s a solid chance you might spend your first day in NYC feeling a little lost and overwhelmed. This is totally normal and okay. If you have the time, give yourself a day or so to get lost and figure out the subway.
You can prepare yourself even further with a Beginner’s Guide to NYC’s Subway System.
You Shouldn’t Visit New York Because Everyone is Trying to Rip You Off
Are there people in NYC who want to rip you off? Sure. Is everyone trying to rip you off? Heck, no.
Most people I meet who feel that they’ve gotten ripped off or taken advantage of are from outside of the United States and Canada or from a rural area of the country. Which means that there might have been a cultural or customary confusion instead.
Some of the top concerns tourists express include: Tipping and gratuities, service charges and fees, sales tax, and cash handling.
Find out how merchants expect you to handle these types of transactions here.
It’s Too Easy to Get Lost in New York
New York is freakin’ huge. It’s the size of several cities combined. Does this make it stressful and confusing? Absolutely. Should you resign yourself to feeling stressed and confused throughout your entire trip? Absolutely not.
If you’re visiting New York for the first time, you’ll probably spend the majority of your time in one borough: Manhattan.
Luckily, Manhattan is on a grid system, meaning the avenues run north to south, and the streets run east to west. Both the avenues and streets are numbered. There are plenty of cases that deviate from this plan, but these areas are relatively easy to navigate too.
The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens are all on grid systems as well.
All you need is a map or map app on a smartphone and possibly a compass or compass app. Read Walking NYC in a Day to find out how to effortlessly navigate the city.
New Yorkers Are Mean
Again, I blame 1970s and 1980s movies and TV shows for this assumption. Yes, New Yorkers can be a little cranky sometimes. Are their frustrations justified? Sometimes.
The bad news is that New Yorkers get cranky generally when tourists break the “rules” of the city. Some of the rules include:
- Allow people to exit the subway before attempting to enter
- Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take a photo/look at your map or phone/look up at a building
- Don’t ever get in the way of someone walking faster than you
- Don’t block the sidewalk
The good news is that you can learn some of the biggest offenders in How to Be a New Yorker. Once you know and obey the rules, you’ll find New Yorkers are super nice.
If you ever happen to look lost, one or several people will probably approach you and try to offer the best route possible to your destination. Other random acts of kindness you might experience include:
- Help carrying a stroller up or down the stairs to and from the subway
- Offering you a seat on a crowded subway
- Tissues when you’re sneezing, crying, or spilling coffee on yourself
Terrorism is a Threat in Major Cities
Yes, terrorism is unfortunately a very real part of our world these days. And New York was the target of the biggest attack on American soil.
Yet you’ll find that most New Yorkers feel extremely comfortable even in this new age of terrorism. This is generally thanks to two factors:
- New Yorkers are hyper diligent about alerting police to suspicious activity
- Police presence is very visible in crowded areas of the city
Plus, the police are highly trained on how to react in a terrorist situation. Many civilians around you are actually plain-clothes police offers. Plenty of other “civilians” are retired cops, military, or firefighters.
If there were one city I’d feel the safest in during an attack (god forbid), it would be New York.
There’s Bedbugs in the Hotels
Yes, there are bedbugs in the hotels. Yes, it is a city-wide epidemic.
Can you avoid hotels with bedbugs altogether? Probably not. Are there steps you can take to avoid bedbugs at all costs? Totally! Do other cities have similar issues with bed bugs? Absolutely! Should you visit a completely different destination to avoid bed bugs? No way!
Step 1: Learn to identify a bedbug – and inspect your bed(s) and room before moving your luggage inside.
Step 2: Protect your belongings – keep your belongings in your luggage, and store your luggage on top of the dresser or desk.
Step 3: Purchase a zip-up plastic bag for your luggage
Step 4: Voice your concerns with the management – don’t feel embarrassed to ask for a new room (far away from your current room) should you find any signs of bedbugs.
The Lines Are Too Long at Attractions
Lines are pretty much everywhere in NYC. I’ve heard the comparison between a Disney World vacation and a New York vacation more than once, thanks to the crowds and lines.
Residents wait in line just to get inside Trader Joes. Everyone waits in line for restaurants, cronuts, and cookie dough.
Yet you don’t need to resign to the thought that you’ll be waiting in line throughout your entire trip. Simply avoid certain activities at peak times.
The best times to visit major attractions is first thing in the morning, lunch times, or late at night. Read How to Avoid Long Lines in NYC for more information.
Ultimately, the more you know about NYC before heading into the city, the more you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip. Find out how you can hack New York before you even arrive in my book, NYC in a Day.