Welcome to NYC
Planning a trip to the five boroughs can be part of the fun, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover. Below you’ll find quick overviews on other essential things, like the City’s layout, the local time zone, and various visitor passes.
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 NYC maps.
Manhattan is roughly 13.4 miles long and about 2.3 miles wide at its widest. 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 equal 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.
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).
International Visitors and Arrivals from
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’s 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 the 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
New York City Explorer Pass
Seeing the City by double-decker bus, City-Bike, boat, or helicopter—or just being led on foot by a knowledgeable guide—can make for a memorable trip, and there are convenient, affordable ways to visit all of NYC’s major attractions.
Seasonal Events and Attractions
There’s guaranteed to be something fun happening during your visit. Overview of the holiday season in the City also provides essential information as well as details about how locals celebrate.
If you’re headed out for a night on the town, you should know that 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, only those who are 21 or older can purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. Under current law, marijuana remains illegal in the City (and state), though a government-backed push toward its legalization may change things as early as 2019.
Useful Phone Numbers
Here are some important phone numbers to keep handy during your NYC visit. 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 (nonemergency): 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. Google converter calculator allows you to determine the value of other currencies compared with the dollar. Below are two of the many places where you can exchange your currency for American dollars.
Associated Foreign Exchange
870 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019; 212-757-9280
805 Third Ave., Ste. 1210, New York, NY 10022; 646-231-7820
New York is America’s safest large city, 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.