Planning a trip to the five boroughs can be part of the fun, but there’s a lot of ground to cover. Check out our overview of the essentials, and dig deeper to find detailed info on transportation and other practicalities.
The City is open and ready to be explored. Read on for plenty of pre-trip planning as well as how to navigate while here. And see the side navigation contents for quick links to information on transportation, weather, public restrooms and much more.
Whether you live across the Hudson or across the Atlantic, getting to NYC is easy. If you’re coming from outside the United States, check for visa information. Head to for all the details on airports, regional transit, city train stations and parking.
New York is an excellent walking city, and getting around by foot is the best way to familiarize yourself with neighborhoods and their (sometimes subtle) divisions. Of course, sometimes you’ll need to move more quickly or cover great distances, for which you’ve got subways, buses and cabs at your disposal. Check out for everything you’ll need to navigate public transit, hail a taxi or take the ferry across the harbor.
Visas and ESTA Visitors to New York City from outside the United States may need a visa to enter the country. For details, visit the . Some 40 countries (including Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UK and members of the EU) are part of the visa-waiver program; instead of a visa, citizens of these countries can apply online for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) up to 72 hours in advance of travel to the US (valid for stays of up to 90 days). The application fee is $21. Canadians just require a valid passport to enter the US.
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.
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
Visit our page to see which deal best suits your visit to NYC with this guide to passes that help you save on attraction admission prices. Most are preset but one also offers the chance to build your own itinerary. You can also join a tour with a guide and go by bus, bike, boat or other mode of transport to see the City. For a breakdown of city tours by type and theme, visit our page.
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 boroughs are linked by bridges, tunnels and ferries.
Manhattan Island is roughly 13.4 miles (21.6km) long and about 2.3 miles (3.7km) across at its widest point. The Hudson River runs along its western shore, forming the border with New Jersey on the other side; the East River separates Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens, while the much narrower Harlem River forms its northern border with the Bronx. Staten Island lies to the south across New York Harbor.
Except at its northern and southern tips, the borough’s avenues run roughly north and south, and streets run east and west. One-way thoroughfares are common, with traffic moving east on even-numbered streets and west on odd-numbered streets. Fifth Avenue divides the island into east and west sides (for example, locations on 57th Street west of Fifth Avenue are designated “W. 57th St.,” and east of Fifth Avenue, they’re “E. 57th St.”). As you move farther east or west from Fifth Avenue, street addresses increase, usually in increments of 100 from one block to the next. For north-south avenues, 20 blocks equals a mile, and the street numbers increase as you go uptown. Blocks can be a useful measure of distance, but keep in mind your direction: walking uptown from 1st Street to 6th Street is about a quarter of a mile, but walking the same number of blocks crosstown, from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue, is approximately a mile.
Here are some important phone numbers to keep handy during your NYC visit.
Emergencies (police, fire or ambulance): 911
NYC government agencies and any questions or requests about City services (non-emergency): 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (639-9675)
Directory assistance: 411
Printed NYC literature: 800-NYC-VISIT (692-84748) or 212-397-8222 (the latter is for international callers only), Mon.–Fri., 7:30am–5:30pm CT.
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.
New York remains among America's safest large cities, but visitors should still use common sense to protect themselves and their property. Be aware of your surroundings, and make sure to always use licensed, reputable businesses for any services you need. For example, don’t hail livery cabs (as opposed to taxis) at the airport, and don’t rent bikes from companies that seem suspicious. If you’re not sure where to find legitimate businesses, the listings at nycgo.com are a good place to start, as are those published by the Better Business Bureau. Your hotel concierge should be able to answer questions on this topic and will be helpful if you need more information about neighborhoods in the five boroughs. Another useful resource is 311, the City’s official government services and information hotline.
The legal minimum age for drinking alcohol in New York City (and throughout the USA) is 21. Many bars and nightclubs will ask to see photo ID before letting you in.
Smoking (including all tobacco products, vaping products and marijuana) is prohibited in all public buildings, bars, restaurants and stores (plus some outdoor public areas). You must be 21 years old or over to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping products, cigars or any tobacco products.
It’s now legal for adults 21 or over to possess up to 3 ounces (85g) of cannabis/marijuana (or just 0.85 ounces/24g of concentrated cannabis) for personal use in New York, and officially licensed dispensaries where you can buy recreational marijuana products have begun to open—the first appearing in late 2022. Smoking rules still apply (you can’t smoke at outdoor dining areas at restaurants, for example). Possession of more than the permitted amount, and all other narcotics, is prohibited. Note that driving a vehicle under the influence of cannabis/marijuana or alcohol is a serious offense in New York, resulting in fines, possible jail time, and deportation (for foreign visitors).
New York City is on Eastern Standard Time (Greenwich mean time minus four hours during daylight saving time, from about mid-March into early November, and minus five hours the rest of the year). EST is three hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (California and the West Coast).
If you’d like to explore the rest of the state, visit iloveny.com, the official website for New York State tourism.