Some Helpful Tips if You Plan on Visiting this Great Place that Arthur Dent Never Truly Believed Existed
New Jersey is not New York. It sounds obvious, right? Let me be very clear on this. New Jersey is not New York, so if you plan on visiting New York, stay in New York.
This is what I didn’t do.
To give you a bit of context, I was on a brief hiatus from my foreign travels to visit family and friends during Christmas. For those of you just reading this blog, I’m one of those “I quit my cozy corporate job to travel the world” characters who are becoming more mainstream.
I found a spectacularly cheap flight to Manila, PH out of JFK (it was $399.80), so I thought I’d spend a few days in NY before hitting the sandy beach islands of the Philippines. I’m a fierce advocate of using Airbnb pretty much anywhere in the world, and NY was no exception.
So I poured my coffee that had the hue of intensely dark chocolate and began to search. There are a few key factors that I consider when looking for a place: 1) it has to be inexpensive 2) it should be located a reasonable distance from where I want to spend most of my time, and 3) it can’t be a dilapidated uninhabitable 4-wall nightmare.
Pretty simple right?
The problem this time is that I got point number 2 completely wrong. I would have loved to stay in Manhattan, as that’s where I was going to be spending my time, but it was a bit too pricey. In retrospect, and of course after being advised/berated (rightly so) by a friend who lives there, I should have stayed in Brooklyn. To be honest, I should’ve stayed in any one of the 5 boroughs where I could skip over to a subway station.
Instead, I stayed in a place that I believe to be in a separate dimension called North Bergen, which is in New Jersey. If you look at it on a map, it looks as though it’s just a quick swim across the Hudson and voila, you’re in Manhattan. Okay, fine, no-one should be swimming across the Hudson, winter or summer, but still it just looked so close. And the place I booked looked so cozy and nice. “Only 15 minutes to Manhattan” was somewhere in the description. I could deal with that. I could swallow some pride and show some love to NJ.
I quickly found out that in North Bergen surreal bourgeois suburbia pervades the air like a quickly proliferating mutating virus like the one in 12 Monkeys series. Maybe it was just the weather. It’s just my take on the scene; I’m sure a lot of people love it, like the people I stayed with.
The people I stayed with were great, a Columbian couple that I was able to practice my Spanish with. I love em’, but they’re more comfortable outside of the city. The city freaks em’ out a bit. That’s okay, I get it, there are a lot of people, and many of them are batshit crazy. I do have to say though, compared to Los Angeles, New York is pretty damn sane.
Anyway, let’s first talk about the transportation situation. This will help you if you still decide that you would like to have a nice surreal bourgeois suburban setting to come home to at night after New York hip styling.
You have the following options if you want to head over to New York:
Uber (don’t do this): there is a $15 charge to cross the Lincoln tunnel (I assume it’s the same for the others). Talk about fucking expensive. When the Uber driver handed the toll person a $20 only to get $5 in change back, I thought wow, that’s fucked up. I also thought, damn, I better tip this guy. So I Googled something about Uber tipping recommendations for NY.
This was the wrong search, which I’ll explain in a bit.
Uber is cashless. The drivers want to add the option for tipping in the app like Lyft. I personally love the idea of not having to consider a fucking tip, though I want to be sure that the people that are driving me the fuck around are taken care of (which Uber damn well better be making sure of). Anyway, I didn’t think that toll fares were included in the Uber fare, so I gave the guy a $20 as a tip.
Then as I walked away I saw the charge, did another Google search (the correct search) and found that Uber includes the toll fares. Son of a bitch. Well, that was my good deed for the month.
Bus: There are small buses that run every 10 minutes between NY and NJ. This will be your main mode of transportation. There is usually a dude speaking loudly into his earpiece in a language that I can’t ever seem to place. That’s fine, I can handle that. It costs $3 one way, so not bad I guess. They’re pretty shitty buses though, and sometimes the drivers get into yelling matches. One time a driver told a passenger “DO NOT PUSH ME, DO NOT PUSH ME MAN” because the dude made some comment about getting a move on. I found that kind of awesome and amusing.
What I didn’t like at all about taking the bus is that it took way too long to get there and back. When I went into the city, I knew that I had to stay in the city until I wandered back home at night. One thing to note about Airbnb places. If they say that it takes “15 minutes” to get to some awesome destination, check the facts on those kinds of statements. I get it, it’s kind of a marketing ploy, but no, let’s all be real here. Here's what you have to consider:
- Walking to the bus station in NJ takes time
- Waiting at the bus station in NJ can take time (though it's supposed to be every 10 minutes)
- The ride seems to vary between 30 minutes to an hour (yes, I know, it's not really that bad)
- Once you get into Manhattan there's no use in riding it out to the final stop, cuz traffic starts getting intense.
- You then walk or take a subway somewhere, which can take a while.
- Total time to a specific destination can get to 1.5 to 2 hrs, especially if you get lost a lot like me; lost in a location sense, as well as in thought.
Your Own Car: I sold mine, and I didn't get a rental, so I can't speak to this. I imagine paying a toll both ways would suck, though. Anyone have any insight into this?
Taxi: I didn’t do this because I assumed it would be a ton of money.
Plane: This option is probably cheaper than using Uber or a taxi. It may be a bit inconvenient, though.
Walk/Swim: I imagine this would be the cheapest option, but I haven’t looked into whether some person pops up out of the water in the middle of the river and charges some sort of toll. So who knows?
My message is simple:
Stay anywhere with a subway line, no joke. Brooklyn. Stay in Brooklyn. Manhattan can be expensive, but if you’re a baller stay there. God, I didn’t know I had so much to say on that topic.
Once You’re in New York
Grab yourself a Metro card at any of the kiosks spread throughout the city in the myriad subway stations and be whisked away in those lovely underground carriages. They’re really not too bad, though during peak times some can get a bit crowded, and in one car I remember the distinct smell of something produced by the human body pervading the space. There is also a thing every January called “No Pants Subway Ride” day. This is a real thing started years ago by a comedy improv group where people where their coats, scarfs, gloves, shoes, socks, ear mittens, turbans, etc. but absolutely no pants. They wear underwear though, so don’t get too worked up. This year I didn’t see anyone doing this, but I hopped on a train pretty late in the day, so people must’ve decided to don pants once again. I found this to be pretty entertaining:
I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you about the awesome places to go in New York; there are plenty of articles about that already, and I was only able to experience a small sliver of what NY has to offer. However, following are some of my recommendations while you’re in this great city:
- For a great view, instead of going to the Empire State Building, go to Top of the Rock at the 30 Rockefeller Center. It’s a hefty $32, but pretty much worth it.
- The New York Public Library. It’s free and the historical significance is pretty awesome (yes, I’m primarily talking about Ghostbusters here).
- Central Park. If you like to walk/run/people watch/pretend-to-read-while-pondering-the-universe, visit museums, look at statues, pretend to be a statue, then go here.
- Times Square. Even though your senses literally get saturated with advertising from ALL sides, and you suddenly feel the urge to buy a Vogue magazine and invest in some quasi-kitsch brand of clothing, it’s cool to check it out.
- There are a lot of people all the time here. According to the official Times Square site over 300,000 pedestrians can be seen walking around on this concrete per day. On busier days it gets to be upwards of 480,000. Now that is a lot of selfies. I would think that at least 50% of the people striding along in the square are taking selfies, and more than just one. If I’m right, then that means about 150,000 people are taking selfies per day in Times Square alone. Let’s take a modest number and say that each person takes an average of 5 selfies. That’s 750,000 selfies per day in Times Square alone. This is not based on anything but my “not very informed” conjecture, but I’m pretty much right.
- Though I didn’t do it this time around, I hear that seeing a Broadway show is pretty much a “must do” thing. Good thing I’ll definitely be going back to NY.
- For a more somber experience, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is totally worth visiting.
- Want a cool ferry ride for free over to Staten Island and back? Check out the schedule here: http://www.siferry.com/schedules.html. Doing this affords some really incredible views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Just remember: If you’re going to New York, please stay in New York. You’re welcome. I’m more than happy to make a ton of mistakes so you don’t have to. Also, New Jersey is in a different dimension.
I leave you with a not very relevant, but still cool quote from the late Douglas Adams.
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time.”