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New York City Travel Guide
The problem with visiting New York is knowing where to begin, but even if you don't immediately rush off to view the world-famous sights and icons of this most dynamic of cities, just being there is enough: the wonder of New York is in the energy and the diversity that emanates from its densely packed, multi-cultural population. The city vibrates with colliding cultures, languages and nuances; here high-life and low-life rub shoulders, and whoever you are and whatever your taste, there will be something to amuse and stimulate you 24-hours a day.
Whether lolling on a bench in leafy Central Park, watching the world go by from a French bistro in Soho, or gazing up at 'Lady Liberty' from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry, most visitors will feel they've done it all before, simply because New York is so familiar to anyone who has ever seen a movie or watched television. There is something special however in actually seeing the familiar landmarks and experiencing the pulse of the clichéd, but true, 'city that never sleeps'.
New York City is made up of five boroughs: Staten Island, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, but many visitors never leave Manhattan. There is a lot packed into this tiny area: the 24-hour pasta restaurants of Little Italy and the bustling sidewalks of Chinatown, the jazz clubs of Greenwich Village and the theatres of Broadway; and of course the iconic sights of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square.
New York has been described as the best three-day city in the world, and that's about right. After a frenzy of museums, galleries, bars and clubs, many visitors are ready for a break. Fortunately there's a lot of choice in excursions, from the National Parks of Upstate New York, to the beaches of Long Island or simply the leafy oasis of Central Park. Whatever you're after, New York is ready and waiting to bewitch, bother and bewilder.
New York's public transport system is relatively good and cheap, including buses and the subway. There are also the ever-present, although more expensive, yellow cabs. Unlicensed gypsy cabs should be avoided. It is possible to get around the city using a combination of these, or simply on foot.
Walking is often the best way to experience the city, and during rush hours, when buses and taxis are caught up in the gridlock and the subway is overcrowded or delayed, it can also be the fastest way to get around. Generally though, the most efficient way to get around is the 24-hour underground system with most of Manhattan's sights near subway stations, although it can be confusing at first.
Much simpler but slower, is the bus system, which is a good option for shorter distances or for travelling across town. The subway and bus fare are standard ($2); note that buses require the exact change in coins, not dollar bills. MetroCards allow free transfer between buses and the subway within two hours.
Driving in New York is not recommended as traffic is heavy, drivers aggressive and parking exorbitant.
United States of America Contacts
United States Tourist Office:
United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 9000.
United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 688 5335.
United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 5600.
United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 4000.
United States Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 8777.
United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 462 6000.
British Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 588 6500.
Canadian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 682 1740.
Australian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 797 3000.
South African Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 232 4400.
Irish Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 462 3939.
New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 328 4800.
Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.
Visitors entering the country under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) that has a bar code on the photo page. Travellers under the VWP must have passports that include biometrics if they wish to enter the country without a visa, which means that passports must contain unique personal data such as fingerprints or iris details. All passports must contain a digital photo image in order to travel visa-free. All visitors to the USA have a photograph and two fingerprints taken by an inkless scanner on arrival, including those travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Programme. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA, a valid passport is required by immigration authorities. All visitors who do not need a visa, under the US Visa Waiver Programme, need to register online three days before travel. This allows the US government to screen all visitors before travel. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.