There's really only a couple rules as a tourist walking the streets of NYC. The first one is you've gotta keep up. Don't lolliegag down the street and get in everyone's way. There's people who live here, and they've got places to go.. like work. If you can't keep up, then be sure to stay out of everyone's way. There's plenty of space on the right hand side of the side walk to let all the natives through.
The second rule is: try not to be out on the subways between the hours of 4-6pm. That's when everyone is trying to get home from their jobs, and you're just clogging up the train for them. Go get some dinner or take a tour during those hours. it's no biggie. You'll save yourself a lot of stress as well.
I am a native New Yorker, and though I often tell my friends that I dislike tourists, I truly don't. I hate the ignorance that many tourists seem to have upon coming to New York - especially when it comes to walking around the city. If you would like to look less like a tourist, and more like a native, or if you would just like not to aggravate natives, heed these tips:
1. Keep up the pace! You don't have to walk as fast as many people around you may be, but you should be constantly walking . That being said, if walking a bit slower:
2. Move to the right. No matter what! Whether walking on the sidewalk, walking up or down the stairs to the subway, or staying immobile on an escalator. Think of it as if you are driving. The left is the fast lane, the right is for those moving slowly. It is also helpful to move tot he right if stopping to look at a map or take a picture, and wait for people to move out of the way.
3. New Yorkers may seem horribly rude, but we are actually quite friendly, so if you need any assistance, ask. Nothing is worse than standing in the way for a long time looking confused and not ending up where you need to be.
4. Keep your MetroCard easily accessible. It is HORRIBLE to hold up a line at a turnstile because you are digging through your bag for the card. Also, make sure that you have money on your card, because if you find out that you don't have enough funds and you have to wait at a machine or a window to replenish them, you may miss your train, and you may well hold up someone behind you who is becoming late.
5. When taking the Subway, be courteous. Move out of the way of those exiting the train before entering, and exit as soon as you can when you get to your stop, otherwise you will hold up the train. When entering, move inside of the train, hold small children next to you, put large bags between your legs, and keep your items close. We natives believe that there is always room for at least one more person on the train, and if you don't try to make space when others think that you can, you will catch that great NY attitude.
6. Cross the street as quickly as you can. New Yorkers don't follow the crossing rules to a tee, and you will often see people running across a 4 lane street with a car going at 35-40 mph looking as though it has no intention of stopping. You do not have to be this radical, but you will look quite foolish waiting at every crosswalk for the light to change when you have had 10 seconds of time to cross. And if it isn't your light, don't cross slowly, because it will *** off the drivers and they will inch towards you until it seems they may collide with you.
7. Enjoy your time in the city! It is a great place to visit, and you shouldn't have any problems as long as you follow these tips. WOO!
some tips on walking in manhattan, first of all don't get intimidated on the numbering of streets and on the number of city block you need to walk before arriving at your destination since the city blocks in manhattan tend to be small and mostly flat (unlike in San Francisco, there are lots of sttep inclined streets) so it is easy to walk in here and do it not on a fast pace as notm to get tired easily and the streets follow a grid, you have to divide manhattan into east and west at the middle as not to get confused like for example, 3 east 57th st means it is located in the east side of manhattan.
Nothing will make you look like more of an idiot than standing on teh corner waiting for the light to change. You'll quickly notice, no one else does. Now i won't advise walking straight into traffic-- if you're not used to it, you will cause a scene. But if nothing;s coming, feel free to walk anytime.
Now here's teh big secret:
The car wants to hit you less than you want to avoid being hit. Well mayybe not yout, but any native new yorker would feel this way. THe driver will get into all sorts of trouble if he hits you. On teh contrast, if you are hit, teh vast majority of the time you will get up and walk away. So teh driver will stop if you get in the way, even if they cut it mighty close.
I know NYC is overwhelming, but do yourself and the locals a favor. If you are lost, step to the side (preferably to the right, or the inside of the sidewalk). Don't stop in the middle of the sidewalk and stand there. You will become the equivalent of a road block and will seriously impede all foot traffic behind you. You may be on vacation, but for the other 8 million people who live here, we are trying to get somewhere. Also, don't be afraid to ask someone for directions or to orient you (which way to Park Avenue?). NYers are quite friendly and willing to help. Just don't slow us down! :)
In Manhattan, the crosswalk signs state "Walk" or "Don't Walk", but this appears to be a suggestion, not a rule. If there isn't any traffic driving through the intersection at that precise moment, everyone just crosses regardless of the crosswalk signs. And heck, I'm sure crosswalks are merely suggestions as well!
If you come from a city where people don't do this, it might take a little getting used to, but then you learn to adapt. It becomes more efficient to walk block after block in New York this way, otherwise if you stop for every crosswalk "Don't Walk" sign, it'll take you forever to get anywhere.
Even if there are obvious oncoming cars, people tend to time it right, and they'll dash across the street after checking both ways. I imagine that cars do not stop for pedestrians (unlike some cities where if you're even standing on the sidewalk peering over the street attempting to jaywalk, cars will stop dead for you)...
... fortunately New York's not like that.
I beg you, bear in mind that a revolving door is not a toy or a carnival ride. Like all walking in New York, walking through one of these oddly-foreign-to-many-tourists devices is easiest if you keep to your right. If you (and especially your child) enjoy having all your fingers and toes intact, resist the temptation to cram more than one person into a section of a revolving door (unless, maybe, if it's one of the big ones designed for suitcases, as sometimes seen in hotel lobbies). They're designed for one person per section, and I personally assure you that the 2 seconds you're separated from your friend while inside the revolving door won't result in any harm to either of you, but it will help everyone get where they're going quickly and safely.
In addition, PLEASE glance over your shoulder before you make any sudden change in speed or direction when walking on the streets, just as you would if you were driving, to make sure it's a safe and appropriate time and place to do it. An apartment building doorway, most of the time, is an ok place to stop (briefly) during business hours, but an office building doorway and especially a store/restaurant doorway, is not. At the top of a subway staircase (i.e. on the open side, not the banister side) is NEVER a good place to stop, nor is the bottom of any staircase or either end of any escalator, anywhere.
Furthermore, under no circumstances should you walk more than two-abreast as a group, no matter how fast a pace you're keeping, because if you're three wide, you're most likely going to collide with people walking the other direction.
If you can't keep up (or don't want to), don't fret - just use common sense and common courtesy, go at your own pace and try not to block people. Many people are going to work or getting work done - reason for the rush - and every little slowdown affects their efforts, so be courteous - be aware and let people through when possible.
As a native NYer, besides the minor annoyance, I don't have problem with people going slow or stopping (but if you need to stop, slow a bit first so people behind you don't crash into you or go flying!). In fact I wouldn't call myself "native NYer" if I wasn't able to maneuver around slow and stalled people. Still, try not to be a roadblock, otherwise while natives wouldn't have trouble, the tourists will be tripping flying over you (and cursing in all sorts of exotic languages!). Problem comes with groups of people who stop, mull about or otherwise block a much of the block and don't leave room for anyone!
If you forget and someone does get upset, be cool and don't take it personal - they are actually mad at the 100s of other slowdowns they've encountered (or else got a bad hotel room with a lumpy bed).
Tip- lets say you're on a real busy street and for some reason you must stop for any reason to look at architecture, take pictures, tie shoelace etc, just move over to the nearest sidewalk obstruction - mailbox, hydrant, street sign and do your stuff there. That way you do not become the obstruction (even if you're a bit, eh, wider than the street sign) - easier for you and everyone around you. Just not at an intersection :-)
As to keep right advice - sure, keep that in mind (especially in subways!) but generally there are haphazard steams of people and get into the stream moving at your speed!
Least anyone think all of New York is crazy busy like this, the answer is no. But popular spots like 5th Ave and midtown (especially 42nd St!) do get this way.
In NYC, there is no need to wait for the green WALK sign. Just go if the coast is clear. And, DO look BOTH ways, even on 1 way streets. Isn't that the FIRST thing your mother taught you about crossing the street?
The reason is that we need to keep the traffic moving! So, if you're not going to cross when it's red, get out the way.
As you know, New York is a hustle and bustle type of city. Many people are rushing to get somewhere and there is nothing worse than a tourist standing in the middle of the sidewalk gazing up at a building or staring at a map. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see the sights or figuring out where you are going...but stand off to the side and whatever you do...DON'T block a subway entrance. You may get a taste of New York attitude real quick.
Going up stairs, going down stairs, on the escalators, walking down the street, moving in GENERAL:
Please STAY TO YOUR RIGHT. New York City is a city of people, vehicles, bikes, and skates. It is a city of TRAFFIC. To keep things moving, we need people to follow the same rules as everyone else, which is to keep to your right. Just like driving in the US, the left lane is the FAST lane. If you're strolling, move it to the right. People here typically pass on the left (yes, you native NYers, you KNOW you pass on the left, even if its subconsious!)
So please, for your sake and for ours, stay to the right. You really don't want to be yelled at on your vacation, do you?!
Most New Yorkers do not wait for the light to change before they cross the street. Technically it is against the law and when Guiliani was Mayor he tried to enforce the jaywalking law by having cops start issuing tickets. I'm not advising you do it; however, if the only reason you're not doing it is fear of a ticket, I wouldn't worry. So many people do it that they'd have to ticket half the city. Also, if you're not used to jaywalking, I'd be careful --it's sometimes hard to maneuver NYC traffic, the messenger bikes being the worst offenders, with cabs a close second.