Common Mistakes Tourists Make In New York City

By: Olivia Di Pede
Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Are you heading to New York City for the first time in the near future? How exciting! New York is one of the most unique cities in the world and has so many different experiences to try from food to museums to sightseeing. While New York is certainly a popular tourist destination, it also has a huge population of locals that work and live in the city. To blend in like a local and make your trip to New York seamless, follow along as we break down some of the most common mistakes tourists make in New York City, and how to avoid them. 


10. Staying in Midtown

Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Do not, we repeat, do not stay in Midtown for your entire vacation. Sure we know that Times Square is exciting and loud and colorful and people love to spend time here but don’t make it your vacation. There are thousands of other things to see, do and explore just off the beaten path. If you want to spend your time up partying all night, surrounded by other tourists, and looking at billboards out your hotel window then Midtown is perfect for you. But if you want to avoid this common mistake, try staying at a hotel outside of the area, for not only a much better price but a much more authentic New York experience.

9. Failing at the Subway System

The Main Street station is the north end of No. 7 Subway line in Flushing.
Getty Images / Bruce Yuanyue Bi

If you have never used a subway system in your life, chances are when you try to use it in New York, you will be utterly confused. In fact, some people that use one regularly can still be tricked by this subway system, so don’t be ashamed if you fall into this tourism mistake. Most tourists enter the underground system not knowing how to pay, which train to take and what all the colors mean. The key here is to do a quick Google search and find out beforehand what means what. Or else you might just end up on a train that goes from one station to another, back and forth, for the entire day. Make sure to get ready to swipe your MetroCard before you head up or down the stairs and for the best use of your money, purchase a seven-day unlimited pass if you are planning on using it a lot.

8. Paying the Full Price at Met Museum

Getty Images / Imre Cikajlo

The admission fees for the Met Museum are posted as Adults $25, Seniors $17, and Students $12. It doesn’t seem like a bad deal considering that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world’s largest and finest art museums including over two million pieces of art. It is the largest art museum in the United States and one of the most visited in the world. Most visitors who come to New York make this a must-stop, especially those who are art connoisseurs. The one mistake that visitors make is paying the full admission price. The rates that are posted at the Met are actually suggested prices, with a clause that reads “To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount.” We aren’t suggesting you pay anything, as the museum depends on admission to help fund itself, but it is perfectly acceptable to pay less than the $25 per head, especially if you are on a tighter budget.

7. Failing to “Get the Lay of the Land”

Map pin flat in New York city scape and network connection concept.
Prasit photo / Getty Images

If you arrive in New York with absolutely no idea where anything is, you certainly won’t have a great time. Like all major cities, knowing where you are is an essential part of keeping safe, notes NYC private investigator Darrin Giglio. “New York City is huge and bustling, but if you are so caught up in trying to find your destination, chances are you are going to miss the best part. When tourists visit the city and have no idea where things are, one of two things happen. First off they end up in Times Square and Midtown for the entire duration of their trip, missing out on some of the best parts of the city. Secondly, they block the sidewalks (see point below on why this is a huge mistake). Whether you grab an official map of the city beforehand and study it, or spend a day in one of those tourist buses; we are begging you to try and understand the lay of the land in order to have the best experience ever and maximize your time and safety. There is so much to see like the highline NYC, central park, coney island, and more if you know where to look.


6. Visiting the Statue of Liberty

The statue of Liberty with Downtown New York skyline panorama with Ellis Island in the foreground at night in New York City, USA.
Prasit photo / Getty Images

Most people come to New York and the number one thing on their bucket list is to see the famous Statue of Liberty, and perhaps you are thinking about climbing up it. Tourists will hoard onto boats that take you out to this impressive statue, circle around it, and bring you back to the mainland for a very expensive price. If you thought about wanting to go up it, we hope you didn’t wait until your day of arrival. Passes to go in must be bought months in advance and are incredibly hard to come by. We aren’t saying that you should miss viewing her completely; just don’t hop on a tour boat to do it. Instead, go view lady Liberty from Brooklyn. Here she is visible from the famous Brooklyn Bridge and the best view is from Red Hook, an up-and-coming waterfront neighborhood.

5. Neglecting Brooklyn

Raimund Koch / Getty Images

Missing out on Brooklyn would be a tragedy for any visitor to New York, but most tourists seemingly reject the notion of visiting this borough. Let us be the first to tell you that the train ride or taxi ride here will be well worth your time. The Brooklyn Bridge alone is worth the trip, offering great views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan. While in Brooklyn make sure to check out the museums, Coney Island, and the famous Green-Wood Cemetery.

4. Blocking the Sidewalks

New York, New York city, USA
Grant Faint / Getty Images

New Yorkers are constantly in a rush, no matter what industry they work for. Walking or even running with their heads down and phones in hand s a common sight in New York City. When tourists stop in the middle of the sidewalk to try and configure their cell phone GPS or take a “selfie,” it is downright annoying and dangerous. It’s the abrupt stop that drives locals the most insane, the “oh my gosh look at that cowboy in his underwear!” If there is one thing to remember about this city – it is that these locals know it best and like it their way. They love the rush, the crowded sidewalks, and the honking horns. It’s all part of the experience, so don’t ruin it. They love that everyone else around them is in a rush and therefore, sidewalk etiquette is appreciated. So try to fit in a little while you are here, if you absolutely need to stop abruptly, just make sure you step to the side.

3. Hailing a Cab in Rush Hour

Cabs in NYC downtown at early morning
Getty Images / Bjarte Rettedal

Please for your own sake and everyone else around you, do not try to hail a cab during rush hour if you are a tourist. This is for many different reasons. First off, New Yorkers during rush hour are in a rush and you as a tourist cannot possibly be in more of a rush than them. So please leave the cabs to the locals who really need them. Secondly, as a tourist, you are probably not doing it right and therefore will end up with a cab stolen from right under your nose by a local. And lastly, why aren’t you riding the subway? New York is the perfect place to go underground and avoid cabs at all times unless of course, you look forward to standing on the sidewalk for an undetermined amount of time.

2. Waiting in Long Lines

Australia, Victoria, Melbourne.
Getty Images / © Scott Barbour

We have all seen the pictures, the terribly long lines to go up the Empire State Building, the tour buses that are jammed full of people, and other major attractions that take hours to get into. Remind us again why you are waiting in these lines? Tourists to New York often fall into the trap of thinking that just because the line is long, the attraction is worth the wait. Unfortunately for those who think that way, they are sadly mistaken. Instead, why not head to a lesser-known place that offers the same incredible views for half the price and half the wait time. If you do want to visit some of the major attractions make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time in order to skip the lines. Research, research, research…’s really the key to this whole trip.


1. Dining at Familiar Restaurants

Africa American Woman at a Hot Dog Stand in Times Square, New York City.
Getty Images / Ferran Traite

The number one mistake that tourists make in NYC is sticking with the familiar, especially in terms of eating and drinking. New York is such an expansive city that can definitely be overwhelming when it comes to dining choices, but don’t let that hinder your experience. And don’t go eat at a restaurant that you have at home. Tourists quickly fall into the trap of finding a chain restaurant that they are familiar with and sticking to it. In popular areas of the city, there are a plethora of “same old” restaurants that one can enjoy, but it’s a much more rewarding experience to discover hidden gems that are unique to New York. Plan on doing some research ahead of time and booking reservations in advance, that way forcing you to experience something different. Trust us, you won’t regret it.