Getting a Feel for Your Neighborhood
Familiarize yourself with the various ways to get around town
New York City has one of the most efficient and extensive public transportation systems in the world. In addition, there are dizzying numbers of cabs, car services, and limos that can take you door to door.
However, getting around might be a confusing experience at first. You’ll probably have many questions such as: Should I take a cab or the subway? How do I figure out fair rates? What is the difference between an express line and a local line?
Cabs are usually easy to find all through Manhattan and on main streets in Brooklyn and Queens (unless it’s raining, that is), and are a very convenient way to get around town. However, a cab will be more expensive than taking public transportation and isn’t always the fastest way to travel if traffic conditions are bad.
Car and limousine services are also widely available in the city. Although they are slightly more expensive than cabs, unlike cabs you can call and schedule to have them pick up you from your home or elsewhere. Always make sure to ask for the rate in advance.
Public transportation is the best bet in this city, so make sure to buy yourself a subway / bus map. Also check out the MTA website, which has a wealth of resources to help you figure out how to get to your destination, including information on how to travel by subway, bus, or rail. Similar to Google Maps, it has a very useful trip planner that allows you to enter your starting and end points and find the best travel route.
In addition, if you have a smartphone, consider downloading an MTA trip-planning app. There are a number of great ones out there, and many include features like schedules, service advisories, and walking directions. Some even operate without an Internet signal, allowing you to figure out your route while underground on the subway platform.
Bicycling is a good way to get around in the city, and New York has a large biking community, thanks to the large number of bike lanes and bicycle-friendly policies. The city also provides a number of options for bicycle parking, including open-air outdoor racks, sheltered racks, and indoor parking. In addition, a bike share system is expected to launch in the summer of 2012 with over 600 stations.
However, you may still find biking in New York a different experience from your home country. Most of the bike lanes aren’t separated from the street, but rather a painted lane on the street between the parking and driving lanes. Thus, one biking hazard to be aware of is “dooring,” which is when a bicyclist collides with a vehicle door that has unexpectedly opened.
Cars are perhaps the least efficient and most costly for getting around the city. Traffic congestion is a major problem here, and finding a parking spot can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. Parking garages and meters are also expensive.
However, if driving is a necessity, you should get a New York license, which will require you to pass a written test, complete a five-hour class, and pass a driving test. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has more information on the process.
Locate the vital places and spaces in your neighborhood.
As you explore your new city, you’ll want to take note of where some of the basic services, amenities, and institutions are located. These include:
- Grocery stores
- Laundromats and dry cleaners
- Hospitals and doctor’s offices
Many NY neighborhoods also offer a wealth of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife, and discovering them (and trying them out) is all part of the fun of city life!
Finding friends, finding things to do, and discovering your community
This will be one of the most rewarding — and at times, most challenging — aspects of moving to New York. This city can seem overwhelming at times, and many newcomers say it can actually be quite lonely when you don’t know anyone in a city with so many people.
However, New Yorkers are friendly, vibrant people, and there are many ways you can get to know them and feel connected in the city:
- Ask your friends and relatives if they know anyone who lives in New York who would be interested in showing you around town or going out for dinner.
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors (thought this might only work in smaller buildings, not in large apartment houses where neighbors often don’t know each other).
- Join a club. The easiest way to try out several is on www.meetup.com. And of course there is the New York International Meetup, where you can connect with other expats living in New York!
- Sign up for volunteer work.
- Find your local church, temple, mosque, or other house of worship.
- Explore the city’s numerous museums, galleries, public parks, zoos.
- Check local magazines and newspapers for listings of events like performing arts, talks, comedy, sports, festivals, etc.
Many people say it takes about a year to finally find a strong circle of friends and feel completely comfortable in your new city. Give yourself time to get adjusted, and enjoy all that the city has to offer!