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Here are a few tips you might find helpful if you are planning on moving to New York City. I base this on what I've found since my wife and I moved here in July of 2003.
These tips are most applicable if you're moving from the west coast or some other non-urban area.
Buy a sturdy backpack. You are going to be doing a lot of walking. I recommend a large Jansport or Columbia daypack.
One of the first things you should put in your backpack is a quality collapsible umbrella. Remember all that walking? You have to do a lot of it in the rain.
Bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes. I love Saucony tennis shoes.
Throw a light jacket and a camera in that backpack too.
Don't bring a car to NYC if you can help it. If you absolutely have to bring a car, sell it as soon as possible and/or find a friend who lives outside of Manhattan and has a parking space you can use. I'm still trying to sell the Toyota Camry that feels like an Albatross around my neck.
Start using the subway immediately on the first day you move here. This will be your lifeline. Remember that the Bronx is uptown and Brooklyn is downtown. Purchase an unlimited month metro card. They cost $70 and are a great value if you take at least two rides a day.
Bring a bare minimum of stuff to New York - your apartment will be very small. Don't bring a bicycle unless you actually plan on riding it - storage will be a hassle.
I brought my long skateboard with me and have found that to be a fun transportation alternative.
It's convenient to have a small, lightweight vacuum like an Oreck XL as your apartment will probably have wood floors. Vacuuming is much easier, especially if you have pets.
You can find an apartment that takes dogs and cats relatively easily in New York. It's easiest if you leave the pets back home for a few months and then fly back to get them. You can ship a large dog in a crate on most major airlines for around $80 one way. Most airlines won't take crated dogs during the summer.
Find a bank as soon as possible. I recommend Commerce Bank. Alternately, make sure your current bank is also in New York (example: Washington Mutual). You will be paying a lot of atm fees until you get your banking straightened out.
Cabs are a fast and relatively inexpensive way to get around Manhattan, particularly if you can split the price with several people. Particularly late at night a cab can get you home much faster than the subway. However, during the daytime cabs can be very slow if you get caught in traffic.
How cab signs work: official NYC cabs all work the same way. You can tell it's an official cab because the car is yellow and has a platic "medallion" fixed on the hood". There's an illuminated sign on the front roof of the cab. If the "off duty" part is lit, the cab won't pick you up. That takes precedence over all other combinations. If the cab number between the "off duty" signs is lit, the cab is available and should pick you up. If thecab number is off the cab has a passenger and won't pick you up.
It's the law that an official NYC cab must transport you to any address anywhere in the entire city limits of New York, no matter what.
Cabs without medallions are "gypsy cabs" and are not regulated in any way by the city. Use at your own risk (although my experiences have been fine). Typically gypsy cabs are more expensive than official cabs. Make sure you get a price from the driver before you get in the car.
You can't phone for an official cab - instead you have to call a car service. Pricing will be flat rate - there's a lot of crossover between gypsy cabs and car services.
If a parking meter is broken, it's a legal parking space for one hour.
There only legally has to be one parking sign per block. Some blocks are really, really long - so look sharp.
You can't make a right turn on red in New York City. Get used to it.
A homeless man gave Aaron some valuable advice when he was here: watch the traffic, not the light. No one ever got run over by a traffic light.
Put your wallet in your front pocket and get used to carrying it there.
Two extremely useful books:
- NY Atlas - pocket atlas
- Not For Tourists - maps and tips for someone new to NY
Don't forget to bring your social security card and birth certificate when you move (I almost did). You'll need them for your new job and to register your car or get a driver's license.
Walking in crowds: this is a skill that needs to be learned. For the love of god, don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look in your bag. That might work fine on the barren sidewalks of southern California, but it will cause a massive traffic jam in NYC. Always move off to the side if you need to stop. Similarly, strive to walk in as straight a line as possible.
Some NYC blog links to get you wearing trucker hats in no time:
Note that once you live in Nw York, the rest of the universe ceases to exist.
See how well the alarm clock in your cell phone works. Most Nokia phones have extremely loud and convenient alarms (including snooze). I've lived in NY for 6 months and still haven't bought a regular alarm clock because my cell phone works so well.
You are going to spend a lot of money on drinks at bars, because a) your apartment will be tiny, and b) you'll go to bars to meet people. Dive bars such as Rudy's (9th Ave. btw 43rd and 44th) offer the best drink values, such as $3.00 for a Pabst. Try to like drinking Pabst because it's consistently available and cheap. I personally like it. A typical mixed drink at a dive bar is going to set you back $5. I've paid $5.50 for a Bud and $7 for a vodka tonic at the nicer bars (and I don't mean really fancy ones, either). The East Village is by far the best dive bar area of the city. For example, you can play pool and get cans of PBR for $2 at 2x4, which is on the corner of 4th St. and 2nd Ave.
Prepare to do a lot more coughing than you are used too. I find that my disposable contacts don't last as long here, and my throat is always a little scratchy. My theory is that although the smog here is not terrible, there's a lot more particulate matter in the air.
Invest in some sort of portable music device. I've got a Rio 500 MP3 player myself, but a CD player works too. Headphones create a magic protective bubble that most street bums and ragamuffins won't cross.
Say you actually have to park in Manhattan for some reason? Remember the following:
- You're going to pay cash
- You're going to pay up front
- You're going to pay a lot.
When you pull into a lot, someone will approach you and demand money. Try to determine if they actually work for the lot. Are they wearing some sort of uniform or shirt with a company logo on it? Do they talk to (yell at) the other people working in the lot? Are they surly? Your answer should be yes on all counts.
The wheels of commerce in New York are greased with tips. You tip for everything. Never leave the house (well, apartment) with less than $5 in singles on you. Some people you will be tipping:
- your cabbie
- the FreshDirect deliveryman
- your doorman (well, you only tip him at Christmas) (and I hope someday to have one)
- the shoeshine guy
- they guy who plays the awesome accordian in the subway tunnel between 8th Ave. and Times Square (ok, not exactly a tip, but give him a buck - he RAWKS)
- your neighborhood strip club bathroom attendant
- the chinese food delivery guy
- your waiter or waitress
Look, you're going to find out how much it costs to live here in the Big Apple. It costs just as much for all those service-industry workers. Give 'em a few bucks, ok?
I had a lot of problems with mail (espcially bills) getting lost when I moved around to different sublets in NYC when I first moved here. I finally realized (like an idiot) that I could have avoided a lot of this by turning off paper billing. In general mail delivery in New York can be kind of flaky.
Most credit cards allow you to turn off paper bills. Many utilities and other bills (Examples: Time Warner Cable and ConEd power) can also be converted to all-electronic. Typically then you receive an email notifying you of a new bill every month. You then have to go to some website to view your bill.
You can generally pay the bill on the provider's website, but I like to still pay my bills through my bank website. That way I keep a record of all my transactions in one place.
Of course, to make this all work, you need reliable email. I recommend fastmail.fm.
How about that? I've lived here for almost two years and just thought of a new move tip. Amazing.
As the icy grip of winter descends upon New York yet again, I realize that there's one critical New York item I left off the list: long underwear. Do yourself a favor and invest in some lightweight silk long johns (or janes, as the case may be). I find that when the mercury hovers in the teens and twenties that this garment really makes life a lot more bearable. I recommend the REI silk long johns. The polypro ones keep you warm too but are bulkier.