NYC : Practical Info

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Central Park
Central Park in Manhattan, NYC

  • First of all there is the « tip issue » ! Visitors who are not used to the tipping ritual might experience this custom as quite irritating. Tipping is not only part of New York’s local culture, but it’s also a non-negligent component of its service economy and taxation system. Waiters are often paid below minimum wage and count on the tips to pay their living expenses. So, show a little sympathy and do not avoid tipping !
    A standard tip is normally expected to be around 18-20% . If you are still not sure, here’s an easy way to calculate the tip : double the tax! (tax is 8.85%)
    Also, read the fine print of restaurant bills. If you read something like « gratuity » or «  service charge »you can be sure that the tip is already included.
  • If you decide on visiting a fancy or high-class restaurant or simply one of the hippest places of the moment, then note that a reservation has to be made a few weeks in advance. Other more « down to earth » restaurants are often crowded around 7pm, so it can be possible that you have to wait. Make the most of it and enjoy a cocktail while waiting for a free table.
  • Tickets to Broadway shows, musicals and special plays have also to be purchased in advance!
Broadway in Manhattan
  • Another very important advice, and I’m talking about an almost personal experience : Do not leave your credit card out of sight even if you « only » give it to the waiter to pay for your meal ! Someone may take advantage of your trust or gullibility and credit your card with high amounts of money. Several of my friends have experienced such fraud while travelling through the States. It’s quite a distressing experience and although your credit card insurance repays you, it normally takes a few months before your bank account is in the black again. Take this advice to heart !
  • New York is a shopping Mecca, but don’t be surprised if the end price of the object of your desire is above the one announced on the label ! This phenomenon is called TAX ! It’s sometimes not included in the amount on the price tag, so don’t be thrilled too soon about low prices and always ask if tax is included!
  • Transport wise, I have to report that some subway trains might not operate on weekends. There are teeny tiny notice-boards or just simple paper sheets, with the information written on them, trying to catch your attention… but somehow your eyes refuse to see them. You might end up waiting endlessly, together with a whole crowd of people (they didn’t see the noticeboards either) for a train that will never pick you up. Inform yourself beforehand, it’ll make a difference (to your time schedule, but more importantly to your mood) !
  • And last but not least, do not forget to get your travel visa for the States or your Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). It costs approximately 14€ and is valid for stays of 90 days during 3 years. Do not forget to print it out and to keep it with the rest of your travel documents. 
This being said, the document doesn’t prevent from you being questioned and your luggage being searched. While travelling to the States, do NOT plan on not missing one or several planes… their legendary security checks wear out even the most patient travellers !

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