How to get around NYC

GETTING AROUND New York City can be intimidating, but with a subway system that spans the five boroughs; multiple bus routes; ferry crossings and a bike share program, it’s actually quite easy and affordable to get to and from wherever you’re going.

Hop on the subway for a fast and affordable trip

NYC transportation

Photo: Ellie Pritts

New York City’s subway system is vast, reliable at most times, and cheap. No wonder even celebrities can be spotted on the train. Buy an MTA MetroCard at one of the ticket machines at any of the stations, or from a station agent at a ticket booth. The machines accept both credit cards and cash, but sometimes the credit card machine doesn’t work, so be prepared to have some cash on you.

If you’re only going to use the subway once, purchase a $3 single-ride ticket from the machine only. But, if you are taking multiple rides, buy a pay-per-ride card that allows you to put a specific amount of money on it. You just need to put $5.50 or more on before using it. If you’re going to be using the subway for seven days or more, it makes sense to get an unlimited ride card because you’ll receive a discount on rides.

Visit the MTA website’s trip planner for bus and/or subway routes and to see how long your trip will take.

Board a bus to see the city as you go.

When I travel to a big city, I prefer to hop on a bus so I can see the views. Buses can also be a more convenient way to get to certain neighborhoods where the subway may not go. Buy a MetroCard before boarding the bus. You’ll receive a free transfer to another bus or the subway that’ll allow you to ride for free within two hours of boarding. A new faster system called Select Bus Service (SBS) provides faster routes in certain parts of the city. The SBS bus stops have machines where you’ll put in your prepaid MetroCard in order to get a paper ticket to take onto the bus before boarding. You can also pay by coins, but be prepared to have exact change on you. You don’t need to swipe the ticket when you board the bus, just keep it handy in case you get checked by an agent, which allows you to board the bus through any of the doors.

Take a ferry and see Manhattan and Brooklyn from the water.

For a different perspective of the city, board a ferry for spectacular views of the lower Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. Ferries run along the west side of Manhattan along the Hudson River, near lower Manhattan, and along the East River.

The Hudson River Ferry service will take you to and from midtown or lower Manhattan from, into, and out of New Jersey. You can purchase tickets online.

The East River Ferry service takes passengers as far north at Astoria Queens down to Bay Ridge Brooklyn. There’s even a route that takes passengers all the way to Rockaway in Long Island. A one-way ticket is currently $2.75, which you can purchase on the website by creating an account, or by downloading the free app to buy a ticket. You can also purchase a ticket at the ferry landing ticket machines or from a ticket agent.

The New York Water Taxi is another option to get you around Manhattan. For an all-day access pass, you can do a complete loop of the island in 70-minutes or hop on and hop off at ferry stops along the way. Current rates are $24 for adults/seniors and $13.50 for children 3-12 years old. You can also combine your pass with a timed ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and One World Observatory that must be picked up at Pier 79 prior to boarding the boat. If you want to shop at IKEA in Red Hook, hop on a Water Taxi from Wall Street’s Pier 11 for $5 Monday through Friday or free Saturday or Sunday. If you spend more than $10 at IKEA, you get a $5 credit.

Rent a Citibike and check out the city on two wheels.

NYC transportation

Photo: Jon Niola

Citibike is New York City’s bike share program with 10,000 bikes and 600 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. It can be an easy and affordable way to get around if you don’t mind riding among the traffic and pedestrians. Buy a day pass for $12 at one of the many Citibike kiosks to get unlimited 30-minute rides. If you’re planning on using it for multiple days, opt for the 3-day (72 hours) pass for $24 for unlimited 30-minute rides.

Also, for a limited time, you can get a single ride for $4 by visiting their website and downloading the app.

When public transit or riding a bike isn’t cutting it, hail a taxi.

NYC transportation

Photo: Maryus Bio

If you don’t feel like taking public transportation or can’t hop on a bike because you have luggage or shopping bags to carry, or you just don’t feel like dealing with other people, hail a yellow taxi or download the NYC taxi app for a ride. It’s $2.50 for entry and an additional 50 cents per one-fifth of a mile if the taxi is going at least six miles per hour or more. If it’s not in motion then it’s 50 cents every 60 seconds. Sounds complicated, but if you’re not traveling a long distance, taxi rides are not as expensive as you’d think, especially if you are splitting the fare between a few people.

There’s also a green taxi fleet called Boro taxis that covers under-served areas of the five boroughs including northern Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. You can hail or call for a Boor taxi in those areas (except for the airports) and have them drop you off anywhere — but you can’t be picked up in the Manhattan exclusionary zone where yellow taxis already serve.

When in doubt, walk.

New York City is a walking city. If the weather is decent and you’ve got a comfortable pair of shoes, I’d suggest hoofing it, because nothing compares to seeing the city on foot. You’ll find cool spots that you may not see while whizzing by on a bike, or crawling through traffic on a bus or taxi.

10 of the best Airbnbs in New York City

New York City remains the most populous city in the US. First-time visitors quickly realize their ideas of seeing it all in a small amount of time are optimistic. The city simply has too much going on – and it is expensive.

This makes it a perfect city to Airbnb. You have a huge amount of options in all neighborhoods, but we’ve put together some of the more interesting places you can rent while visiting NYC.

$160/night Lenox ave and 125th street, Harlem

Original artwork, chandelier, and aged brick walls.
Photo: Airbnb

This brownstone in Harlem was recently featured in The New York Times home section.

Dramatic black kitchenette with mirrors, vintage posters, and lights. Great for entertaining, or treating yourself to a home-cooked meal.
Photo: Airbnb

$275/night, SOHO, Lower Manhatten

Photo: Airbnb

For those looking for an open, spacious, minimalist loft this converted textile factory is located between SoHo and Nolita.

Photo: Airbnb

I’ve retained the industrial character of the original space while providing the comforts you’re used to at home–leather couch, comfortable bed, flat screen with satellite, Wi-Fi.”

$799/night, Greenwich Village

Photo: Airbnb

Floor-to-ceiling classic swing loft windows, original artwork, designer pool table, fully stocked kitchen and a space measuring 15 feet longer than a basketball court. According to the reviews, the description of this apartment in Greenwich village is not exaggerated.

Photo: Airbnb

Landlord Edward remarks;

“Enter from a key-locked elevator directly into this massive awe-inspiring loft located in the city’s trendy & vibrant Greenwich Village.”

$122/night, Franklin Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Photo: Airbnb

A modern penthouse in Greenpoint? Yup. Please. With 360° views of the Manhattan skyline from the private terrace, you can sit and enjoy evening drinks in one of the coolest hoods in New York.

Photo: Airbnb

“The bedroom is a full-height mezzanine loft with stairs up to a private roof deck with even more amazing views of all of the Manhattan skyline!”

$500/night, McCarren Park, Brooklyn

Photo: Airbnb

This apartment has knee-to-ceiling windows and views of Lower Manhattan up to Queens Borough Bridge.

The listing is on the water’s edge and next to McCarren park, one of Brooklyn busiest public parks. The owner, Fabio has this to add about the location;

“It is easy to relax and enjoy this exclusive view from the comfort of the stylish living room when the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building sit right in front of you or while lounging on the terrace. And if you feel like breaking a sweat go downstairs to the gym or outside for a run at McCarren Park or for a swim in the pool at the park as well.”

Photo: Airbnb

$220/night, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Photo: Airbnb

The residency is claimed to be not only one of the City’s most unique homes but the first legally built home constructed entirely from shipping containers.

Photo: Airbnb

We offer sustainable, comfortable, wonderful living in Williamsburg. Our guests will occupy one private container (apartment) on the ground floor with its own bathroom and kitchenette.”

$550/night, TriBeCa, Lower Manhattan

Photo: Airbnb

This Tribeca apartment, with a private elevator, is a bit of a splurge, but from the reviews, it’s worth it to be able to drink champagne in the over-sized bath tub.

Photo: Airbnb

$198/night, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Photo: Airbnb

Light, high-ceilinged, three bedroom loft space in Williamsburg.

Photo: Airbnb

The owner remarks that the neighborhood has “tons of great cafes, bars, and shops within a short walk, and a short hop to all the great nightlife, shopping, and eating that Williamsburg (the best neighborhood in NYC!) has to offer.”

$680/night, Park Avenue, Manhattan

Photo: Airbnb

The brownstone was formerly occupied by an heir of the Rockefeller family. It has an expansive rooftop and terraces. If you are traveling with adults the house has three bedrooms which will take the sting out of the price a little.

Photo: Airbnb

$925/night, SOHO, Lower Manhatten

Photo: Airbnb

This loft is described as “gallery chic” and that’s about as much info as you get. Unfortunately no parties or events to be had here and the owner kindly requests; “Use as much Kiehls soap as you’d like but please leave the bottles.” Bless.

Photo: Airbnb

A New Yorker falls for a Namibian

DINNER and maybe a movie. As a native New Yorker, that generally summed up most of my date nights in the US.

At the age of 26, I took a leap of faith and moved to Namibia where my dating life took a dramatic turn.

Just before I left for Namibia a few friends joked that I’d find my ‘African king’ there. I brushed them off. The last thing I was moving to Africa for was a date. My focus was finally experiencing life on the African continent. That superseded everything else.

About six months into my Namibian school year, a new teacher joined the staff. He was a Namibian who was born and raised in a nearby village.

Our first date was a walk through town. It was his suggestion. We bumped into many people that he knew and he took the time to give me the background of every single person he greeted. It gave me a deeper insight into the community that I hadn’t had before. It put a more human face on my Namibian experience.

We ended that first date sitting under a gigantic baobab tree, just getting to know each other. I remember noticing how magical the simplicity of our date felt.

And that was the beginning of our relationship. From that point on we were inseparable. The fact that I was a New Yorker and he a Namibian from a rural village made little difference.

His name was Elago which translated to ‘lucky’ in his mother tongue of Oshiwambo.

Dating life

As we dated I was never formally introduced to his mother. It wasn’t the custom of his tribe to bring girlfriends home. And since my family was on another continent, he didn’t get to meet any of my relatives either.

Love story Namibia

The author and her husband.

But we lived in a small town so it was inevitable that we’d run into his relatives. One day, we saw his mother in town and it was awkward. She gave me a bit of a stern look, but politely greeted me and then looked away. After that, I did not see her for a long time.

His mother had heard through the grapevine that her son was seen around town with an American. I’m not sure how comfortable she was with how often we were seen together in her small community.

I was admittedly very naive. In my American mindset, I never considered how our constant togetherness might go over. How we appeared in public at work or in town never crossed my mind. I was smitten. We were in love. And my Namibian boyfriend was so head over heels that he just about threw his cultural dating norms out of the window.

Meeting my future in-laws

Three years later, Elago and I were still dating. We’d even shared an apartment together for a period. From what I gathered, his mother didn’t approve of us living together. But she also lived a good nine hours north, so we were able to swing it.

Throughout all of this, the question of whether I would return to New York hovered. My work visa was coming to an end and I couldn’t see myself going through the stressful application process again, so we decided that getting married was the next logical step.

Now came my moment of truth. It was time for me to finally meet my future in-laws, so we decided to spend about two weeks in my fiance’s home village over the Christmas holiday.

I was extremely nervous. I wondered how his mother would accept me given the time her son and I had spent cohabiting. And overall I was unsure of how two weeks in a scorching hot rural Namibian village would go.

I’d had a brief experience with the Aawambo tribe’s village life before. It was a lot of manual labor and there was often little to no electricity. I wondered how I would be spending my time, especially given the language barrier. There were many unknowns.

I remember arriving in the village after dark and heading to bed after a quick introduction. The very next morning my soon-to-be mother-in-law got straight to the point. She greeted me and said, “Are you going to be with us in the fields or are you going to stay in the house?”

I said I would be out with them and so that’s what I did.

Throughout that visit, I found myself constantly trying to fit in. Everyone around me was constantly milling about, doing all sorts of housework. Cooking on the fire, repairing the roof of a hut, fetching water, herding cattle. It never ended.

I felt self-conscious and lazy.

I would ask my fiance’s aunts if there was anything I could help with. They would always respond with a “no, my dear”. I ended up spending a lot of time sitting and being a sponge. Everyone was speaking in their mother tongue which meant I could barely participate in conversations. So, I sucked it up and smiled to appear pleasant.

My husband did his best to make me feel included. But I remember feeling odd and out of place. And lonely.

Since we weren’t married, my new fiancé and I were required to sleep separately. In the village, homes consist of several huts and small brick buildings. I shared a bed with female cousins of his while he slept in a totally different structure.

At the end of the visit, my then fiancé announced to his grandparents that we would be marrying later that year. My husband translated to me as they gave us their blessing and marital advice. Our wedding was now official.

The wedding

Love story Namibia

Greeting the elders at the wedding.

The months leading up to our wedding day were intensely confusing for me. We’d decided to marry in Namibia. Our wedding would be at his family church and the reception would be at his family’s home in their village.

Right away the planning felt rocky to me.

I remember wanting to know exactly how many guests we should expect. How else would we plan for items like tables and chairs? Yet no one could give me an exact number of wedding guests. It turned out that in my fiancé’s tribe, weddings were come one, come all.

Growing up I always thought I’d have a makeup artist and hair stylist for my wedding. But I was marrying in small town Namibia so that simply wasn’t going to happen.

I was also informed that my husband and I would be sharing the church with three other couples marrying the same day. This was not what I’d ever envisioned my wedding day to be like. We did end up having a bilingual pastor who agreed to give the service in English and Oshiwambo, so that my American guests and I could understand.

Just about the only thing I did have control over was my wedding attire which I got in New York. Everything else — from the bridesmaids dresses to our cake and reception tent was Namibian style.

At some point, it became apparent to me that, given my husband’s natural familiarity with weddings in his tribe, most of the planning would fall on him. He ended up planning the brunt of our wedding.

And then there were the traditional aspects of marrying into the Aawambo tribe. I’d attended a few of their weddings, but being in your own was another story. I really didn’t have a clue about just how much tradition was involved in marrying into this culture.

It ended up being intricate. Two weeks before the wedding we had to attend the family church to announce our upcoming wedding to the congregation. The night before the wedding was a ceremony at my in-laws home in the village.

The wedding day went way beyond us just saying our vows and partying at a reception. After church, we couldn’t enter the family home right away. We had to be officially welcomed by family members who symbolically sang and shoved spears into the ground. Each spear represented a cow we were given as wedding gifts. Then we had to greet the elders. Next up was our prayer and gift-receiving ceremony. And finally, our reception.

I sort of floated through the day. My husband and his cousins did a fantastic job of guiding me through it all. My husband and our planner perfectly captured the essence of American and Namibian cultures.

Intercultural married life

We have now been married for just over two years and we have a one-year-old son. I am still getting to know my in-laws. Each visit to their village gives another opportunity for me to immerse deeper into their culture; however, my vastly different background means immersion isn’t always easy for me.

Love story Namibia

The author’s husband and their child.

Over the years, I’ve grown to a new level of comfort. I try not to transform into a woman of his tribe. I am simply myself. When we visit the village, I experience their culture, but I don’t lose myself in it. I recognize that while different, I bring my own unique assets to the family.

Despite our patchy beginning and her limited English, my mother-in-law and I have grown much closer. She also has a kind-hearted and thoughtful way of always making me feel included.

And as for my husband, he is ever the gentleman. We’ve always clicked as if we grew up across the street from each other.

I’ve dated American men from the same state who didn’t understand me as well as my husband. I’m still tickled by how I managed to find love all the way in southern Africa. I truly got “lucky”.

The languages of New York City

We already know that Queens, NY is the language capital of the world, but this map by Jill Hubley, a Brooklyn web developer, shows us just how incredibly multicultural New York City is by using the coolest tool around: a colorful map.

Language map of NYC

Jill Hubley

Hubley’s map was created using the 2014 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, which asks people if they speak languages other than English at home.

The map seen above excludes the most common languages spoken in NYC (English and Spanish) for viewers to see just how linguistically diverse the population of the city really is. If English and Spanish were incorporated in the map, it would look a little more homogenous:

language map of NYC

Jill Hubley

You can play around with Hubley’s map and exclude languages in order to see where certain communities are located in New York City. Below is what the map looks like if you focused on Yiddish:

language map of NYC

Or Greek:

language map of NYC

Or French:

language map of NYC

For more, check out Hubley’s map on his website.