A view of New York and the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn

- It’s been a month since I’ve returned from New York City, and I’m already trying to scout plans to return!

If you’re planning to head to NYC for the same reasons I did i.e. it’s been your dream destination for years as you watched the city unfold on your favourite movies and TV shows - then this is the right place to be for travel tips.

 1. Consider a travel group

Times Square
Times Square

If you’re a first-time solo-traveller like I was, then consider booking through a travel agency. This will make your adventure less stressful and much cheaper.

I booked through a company which organised tours for solo-travelers aged between 18 and 35. I quickly made friends, and soon we were exploring the city on our own.

2. Stay for longer, and allow for rest time.

At Central Park
At Central Park


I stayed at a low-budget hotel in the city, near Grand Central Terminal. The lack of luxury at the hotel never bothered me as I was always out and about. There is so much to see and experience in the city to stay confined to your hotel. Try to stay for two weeks. Also, try to take a few days to recover from jet-lag when you return. Jet-lag is horrible. The excitement of your trip has worn away, and as reality, sets in so do the lack of sleep. Give yourself at least three days to recover, unpack and settle in from your holiday.


3. Get a Metro Card

The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty

The main reason I went to NYC with a travel group is that I was concerned about transport. Fortunately, we received a 7-day Metro Card, and I could travel across the city in minutes from Grand Central. Google Maps helped me to navigate my way through the hustle and bustle of the city. Just remember, there are trains going ‘downtown’ towards SoHo, and trains going ‘uptown’ towards Harlem. Be sure you’re on the right train, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Here’s the link to the official website: http://web.mta.info/metrocard/


4. Book in advance

The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building


The lines to buy tickets at all the tourist sites are nightmarishly long! Buy your tickets online, or settle for the New York Pass which has a bit of everything for a discounted price.

You will still have to wait in the long security lines, especially at the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, but the free WiFi will keep you company (I’ll get to that at the end).


5. Look for the cheap stuff

A sample of Falafel and rice at a food truck near Wall Street
A sample of Falafel and rice at a food truck near Wall Street


Okay yes, getting there (Visas and all) and accommodation is a burdening cost, but you will be able to save a lot of money if you do a bit of research to find the best food trucks and free tours and sites to visit.

Food trucks are well regulated, affordable and super delish. You could spend less than $12 for a great supper, watching the city from the beautiful Central Park (free!).

Check out these YouTube vlogs, which helped me plan my trip too.


6. Take it in

My biggest regret I have was that I got too worried about taking good pictures than actually taking in the sights and smells.

Take your time, leave your phone in your pocket and watch this city come alive. (I still have not gone back to watch the videos I took - it wasn’t worth watching some amazing stuff happen through a camera).

7. The extras...

The oh-so-yummy $1 pizza!
The oh-so-yummy $1 pizza!


I was not travel savvy too begin with and booked everything through an agent, but now I’m a few pennies wiser.

The online process to acquire a Visa is pretty simple, start by heading to this link.

Flights, of course, are relative to you and what you plan on spending.

Just remember, view all the SARS regulations when heading out and back into South Africa - especially with regards to the number of duty-free items you’re allowed to bring in, there are major limits on the booze.

I was undecided about activating data roaming on my local sim card, or purchasing another international sim card but soon, happily, I realised that there’s free WiFi on every corner on New York - even at the subway! Whoop!

Packing is dependent on your style, just remember to pack walking shoes. Trust me, you will need them!

The F.R.I.E.N.D.S apartment!!! * Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!!!* (only true fans will know)
The F.R.I.E.N.D.S apartment!!! *Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!!!* (only true fans will know)

Twitter: @Karinda_J: SUNDAY TRIBUNE