Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NYC

Basic NYC Info

Photo: Tagger Yancey IV
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New York City is truly a one-of-a-kind destination that delivers an incredible variety of experiences for your clients. Here’s a quick guide to essential things like the City’s layout, weather, tax and tipping practices and other helpful tips for visitors.

Geography

New York City is composed of five boroughs. While Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, Brooklyn and Queens are geographically part of Long Island, and the Bronx is attached to the US mainland. The islands are linked by bridges, tunnels and ferries. Check here for helpful NYC maps and guides.

Time Zone

New York City is on Eastern Standard Time

Weather

New York City weather can vary from day to day, and even from hour to hour.

Generally, spring in New York City brings temperatures ranging from cool to very warm, with light winds and rain. Summer is characterized by bright, sunny, hot days and later sunsets, sometimes accompanied by cool breezes in areas near the water. The fall season is chilly and crisp, so it’s wise to wear layers. The winter months are cold and snowy with less daylight, though the sky is often sunny and clear. Below is a chart with average temperatures and rainfall by month.

International Visitors and Arrivals from Abroad

Visas

Visitors to New York City from outside the United States may need a visa to enter the country. For details, visit the US Department of State website.

Trusted Traveler Programs

Fly through the lines at JFK, LGA and Newark. The Department of Homeland Security has introduced several programs that can help expedite security and customs screenings when traveling to and from the US, including New York City. The programs, customized based on travel needs and designed to enhance passenger experience, are available for US citizens and residents as well as those from certain foreign countries. Visit dhs.gov/tt to learn more about the options and their benefits, and see a chart that compares the features of each.

US Customs and Border Protection

Recent improvements by US Customs and Border Protection have helped decrease wait times to enter the United States for both visitors and citizens coming from abroad. Among these are the Trusted Traveler Programs listed above, as well as self-service kiosks located in the international arrivals terminals at area airports and an app for smartphones and tablets. Discover what to expect when arriving from an international destination by watching “You Have Arrived,” a short instructional video; to learn more about the self-service kiosks and app, watch “Global Entry – The Quickest Way Through the Airport!”.

Tours and Visitor Passes

The New York CityPASS, New York City Explorer Pass, The New York Pass, The New York Sightseeing Pass and Build Your Own by Smart Destinations are just some of the visitor passes available in New York City.

Find out which deal best suits your clients or attendees with this guide to New York CityPASS, New York City Explorer Pass, The New York Pass, The New York Sightseeing Pass and Build Your Own by Smart Destinations.

City Experts NY Tours

Seeing the City by double-decker bus, boat or helicopter can make for a memorable trip, and there are convenient, affordable ways to visit all of NYC’s major attractions. Explore tour options here.

Currency

In New York City and throughout the United States, the dollar is the standard currency. This converter allows you to determine the value of other currencies compared with the dollar.

Below is one of the many places where you can exchange your currency for American dollars.

AFEX – Associated Foreign Exchange

870 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019; 212-757-9280
805 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022; 646-231-7820

Tipping & Customs

Many employees in the service industry (hotels, restaurants and transportation) earn a lower minimum wage, as gratuities/tips are expected to supplement their income. Here are some suggested tipping practices for your clients to highlight their appreciation:

Hotel doorman: $1 for hailing a cab.
Porters and bellhops: $1–$2 per bag.
Housekeeping staff: $1–$2 per day of your visit, or as much as $5 per day.
Waitstaff and bartenders: 15–20% of total bill.
Taxi drivers: 15–20% of total fare.
Hairdressers: 15–20% of total service cost.

Tips for other service personnel, such as theater ushers, tour guides and coat-check staff, are always appreciated.

Tax Rates

Prices marked on goods in New York City shops typically don’t include tax. New York City sales tax on most goods and services is 8.875 percent. But there are a few exceptions:

No sales tax on many food items purchased at grocery stores (heated or otherwise prepared foods are an exception), or on prescription drugs.

No sales tax on clothing or footwear under $110.

Local Laws and Safety

The drinking age in NYC—and throughout the United States—is 21, and smoking is banned in public places throughout the City, including bars, restaurants, subways and taxis, and public parks and beaches. Cigar smoking is permitted at cigar bars. In NYC, those who are 21 or older can purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products.

New York is America’s safest large city, but visitors should still use common sense to protect themselves and their property. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings, and make sure to always use licensed, reputable businesses for any services they need. For example, they should not hail livery cabs (as opposed to taxis) at the airport, and shouldn’t rent bikes from companies that seem suspicious. A hotel concierge should be able to answer questions on this topic, and will be helpful if visitors need more information about neighborhoods in the five boroughs. Another useful resource is 311, the City’s official information hotline. For more information about safety, read our tips for visitors.

Phone Numbers

Here are some important phone numbers for visitors to NYC to keep handy.

• Emergencies (police, fire or ambulance): 911

• NYC government agencies and any questions or requests about city services (nonemergency): 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (639-9675)

• Directory assistance: 411

• Printed NYC literature: 800-NYC-VISIT (692-84748) or 212-397-8222

Info Centers

Your clients can get discounted attraction passes, guides, maps and brochures pertaining to all there is to see and do in the five boroughs.

Official NYC Information Center at Macy’s Herald Square
151 W. 34th St. (bet. Seventh Ave. and Broadway)

Subway: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St.-Herald Sq.; 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 34th St.-Penn Station
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 10am–10pm; Sun., 10am–9pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Official NYC Information Center–Times Square
At W. 47th St. & Broadway

Subway: 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, R, S to 42nd St.-Times Square
Hours: 8am–8pm daily. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Official NYC Information Center–City Hall
Southern tip of City Hall Park on the Broadway sidewalk at Park Row

Subway: 2, 3 to Park Place; 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall; 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.; J, Z to Chambers St.
Hours: 9am–6pm daily. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

WiFi and LinkNYC

New York City has free WiFi hotspots available at the LinkNYC kiosks on sidewalks all over town. In addition to supplying free WiFi from up to 150 feet away, they also provide free phone service within the United States and USB ports to recharge smartphones, and your clients can also use the built-in tablet to access info on city services, maps and directions.

Public Restrooms

Throughout New York City, there are restroom facilities visitors can use while out and about sightseeing. A few tips:

A full list of New York City parks with public restrooms is available at the Parks Department website. Other popular public restrooms include those at transportation hubs like Grand Central Terminal. New York City Police Department stations will let you use their bathrooms if you ask. Most sizable department stores, large-chain bookstores and restaurants offer restroom facilities for their customers.

New York State

If you’d like to explore the rest of the state, visit iloveny.com, the official website for New York State tourism.


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