These days it is a good idea to carry identification with you at all times. If you do not feel comfortable carrying your passport with you, then leave it in your hotel safe and carry some other form of photo identification in the unlikely event it is necessary to identify yourself.
If you’re looking to exchange foreign currency for dollars, many of the larger commercial banks have a currency exchange window, and a few kiosks in Midtown specialize exclusively in foreign exchange. If you have a bank card, Eurocard, or other credit card that allows cash advances, you might find that a direct withdrawal from an automated teller machine (ATM) will save you time and get you a better exchange rate. But beware: It might be wise to check with your bank or card issuer before leaving home about fees and rates! Many stores and some restaurants do accept US-dollar denominated traveler's cheques, but it is highly unlikely any establishment will accept travelers cheques in Yen or Euros or foreign currency of any sort. Do have your passport handy if you attempt to encash traveler's cheques.
Although there are currency-conversion facilities at JFK, the rates are not great. Given how stressful arrivals can be after a long international flight (waiting for immigration, waiting for luggage, waiting for customs), you might choose to obtain some dollars from your bank at home before arriving at JFK or Newark. If you have a bank card (ATM card) that allows cash withdrawals overseas, there are numerous places in all New York airports to withdraw cash. Note that most US automated teller machines (ATMs) dispense only $20 bills; many Citibank machines additionally offer $10 bills and $50 bills. Do ask your bank in advance what, if any, currency-conversion, cash advance and withdrawal fees you might be charged. Most ATMs in the United States now charge between $2 and $3 per cash withdrawal to non-clients, so it makes sense to withdraw larger amounts each time you visit the ATM. Finally, do note that many stores, restaurants and taxi drivers do not accept $50 or $100 bills.
We receive mixed reports on how widely traveler's cheques are accepted. While hotels, supermarkets, and banks will usually cash them, you need your passport and sometimes the wait to change them can be longer than you wish. Definitely bring US dollar traveler's cheques; cheques in Euro, Yen or other currencies are difficult to encash except at the largest commercial banks.
In terms of transportation, you absolutely do not need a rental car. In fact, for a stay of more than two days in Manhattan it is very unwise as parking fees and traffic make driving around quite complicated. If you plan a drive around the surrounding states, it would be best to return the rental car either before or after your Manhattan visit.
Guidelines for Tipping
• Taxis: Generally 15% to 20% for good service, although if you encounter heavy traffic and are delayed or the driver helps with your luggage, a little extra would be much appreciated. • Restaurants: New Yorkers generally tip close to 20% for good service. In top-end restaurants you will tip an additional amount to the captain and/or sommelier. Tipping anything less than 15% means you hated the service and/or the server. Foreign tourists beware: you do not make a good impression if you do not tip properly. Unlike in Europe, here tips comprise the vast majority of a server's salary. It is not acceptable behavior not to tip merely because you will never visit that establishment again. (You might think twice as to why some foreign guests of certain nationalities are regarded with disdain.) • Hotel concierge: If the concierge helps you arrange show tickets, tours, hair appointments or anything else, it is customary to leave a tip. It is at your discretion, but depending on the service provided, anywhere from $2 to $20 is graciously accepted. Do consider tipping more if the concierge gets you tickets to a sold-out show, a reservation at a restaurant that is overbooked, etc. • Front desk clerks: If you're looking for a room upgrade, tipping the front desk clerk can get you a better room. We leave it up to your discretion, but we've heard everything from $10 to $50. • Bellman: Depending on your hotel, $2 to $5 per bag to the bellman. • Hotel room service: Even though food is already overpriced and there may be a gratuity automatically added to the bill, do ensure you tip the person who pushes that cart with your meal from the kitchen to your room. Add 15 to 20 percent of the bill. • Maids: We recommend $2 to $10 a day for the maid service in your hotel room, depending on the price of your room. • Valet parking attendants: We suggest $2 to $5 for valet parking attendants when you drop off and pick up. • Bartenders: About $1 to $2 per drink if you're alone or two or three people. Increase it for larger groups. Don't fail to tip; it is exceedingly bad form and will only result in bad service and being shunned by the bartender. Again, it is not acceptable behavior not to tip merely because you will never visit that establishment again. Bartenders can tell you many stories about foreign nationals who are, in one word: cheap. • Airports: $1 to $2 per bag should be tipped if you check your luggage outside the terminal or utilize the services of a baggage handler. Tip more for very heavy luggage.
At present, most NYC yellow taxis accept credit cards, even though all are expected to do so. You might be told by your driver that his machine is not working, so do ensure if you haven't got enough dollars that you ask before your taxi ride begins if the credit-card machine is working. (Note: If you hire a car service with advance booking, most do accept credit cards.) At JFK and Newark airports, the taxi dispatcher will give you a multi-language brochure detailing the taxi fare based on your destination. Do read it carefully, and note the driver's medallion (license) number before you pay. In case of dispute, do not hesitate to ask for help from hotel personnel at your destination before you pay. But beware: merely because you haven't got the cash does not mean you do not have to pay if the driver's credit-card machine is broken.
If you study your taxi brochure from JFK or Newark airports, you will see that you are required to pay all bridge and tunnel tolls in addition to the fare Taxis are required to use an electronic toll payment device called EZ Pass, which is automatically deducted from a pre-paid account each time the taxi passes through the tollbooth after exiting the tunnel. Although the driver has to slow down just before the taxi reaches the tollbooth, he does not actually have to stop. And please do not forget a tip of 15% to 20% for good service! Read more about taxis in our Visitor guide.
If you’re only capable of speaking poor or limited English, you needn’t worry. New York is a city of immigrants, and all the major world languages are spoken here. Chances are good you will meet someone who speaks your language. Moreover, do not be afraid to try out your language skills; it is the best way to improve your comprehension! Do not be afraid to use a phrasebook, and to point to the sentence(s) you wish to convey.
New York is also home to one of the largest selections of eateries. From ethnic restaurants to cute corner cafes to twenty-four hour diners to swanky upscale eateries you’ll find it all. You can search our restaurant guide by cuisine, just in case you are craving Australian, Burmese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or any other ethnicity. And you can further refine your search by geographic area, in case you are looking for Indian restaurants in Jackson Heights or Chinese places in Flushing. In addition to searching our restaurant guide by rating, by special feature such as hot now or celebrity chef, each restaurant with an editor rating also rates the ambience. Check out our gourmet guide to New York for more dining suggestions as well as our barhopper guide for tips on where to grab an after-hours drink.
There are so many shows and attractions that to list them all would take pages, but since the Euro goes a long way these days, you should definitely check out as much as you can while you’re in town! Make sure to check our Broadway Shows section for the best seats at great prices. Have a look at the Event Calendar for the most complete listings. And our Arts & Attractions guide has all the highlights as well.
For even more advice, just click HERE for additional tips and guidelines for a great journey.