Welcome to New York City

A guide to your first few days navigating NYC

New York City Skyline

After living in NYC for the past 8 years, I have compiled a little guide to help people on their first few days here. While no means is meant to be a detailed guide on what to see or do, more of the things I wish someone told me when I first arrived. I am now just passing on some knowledge that I have picked up navigating my way around this city. I am originally from Australia so simple things like tipping and navigating the subway were a challenge at first, so hopefully this can help you out in some small way. 


New York City Skyline

Getting to & from the airport

I prefer to use Uber / Lyft / Juno when getting to & from the airport as they are cheaper. Generally $40-50 to/from Williamsburg to JFK. Taxi’s are normally $65 ish plus tip.

When you first arrive, you probably wont have any data service to book a car, so probably just easier to grab a cab as there is a taxi rank as you exit the arrivals. But if you do have internet access – as you exit the terminal – the pick up area for cars is across the first footpath and you’’ll specify what pickup zone you are in when booking.

If you use a yellow cab be aware that most cab drivers don’t follow a GPS map at all – ie you need to know where you’re going. You wont need to give them directions but you’ll want to know the cross streets of your arrival address. So if going to Tuffet – you would tell the taxi – “Graham Ave between Grand street & Ainslie in Williamsburg”

If going to your hotel from the Airport – “The Pod Hotel on Metropolitan Ave in Williamsburg, between Bedford & Driggs” / “The Indigo Hotel on Metropolitan & Union in Williamsburg”.

If you are in Manhattan and want to get a cab back to Williamsburg, you’ll often find most yellow cabs dont like going to Brooklyn. They like staying in Manhattan as they make more money. Legally they are suppose to take you, but you might find they refuse you.

This is the best deal in getting around – use my referral code & you’ll get 30% off your rides while in town. This will add up to a lot of savings (and worth creating an account for, instead of using uber). Juno & Uber are exactly the same.

Join Juno and get 30% off all rides for two weeks.


Finding restrooms

Being out all day in NYC means you are going to have to use the restroom – here is the ‘ultimate map of NYC public restrooms’ all logged into a google map along with a few additional department store type places – all these toilets you can use without making a purchase and shouldnt be much of a line like Starbucks usually does.  

Open this link on your phone and it will save it as a list on your google map – when it’s time to find a loo, you should be within a few blocks of one. 

Most of these toilets are restrooms located in playgrounds – majority are actually in reasonable condition and not at all that bad to use. All the playground public restrooms generally close around 4pm but a few do stay open later. The best way to investigate if it’s actually open or not before walking there is to check out the google listing. Also worth mentioning many of these points are not the *exact* location, as they are located within a playground and that is marked instead. To find the exact spot incase you cannot visually spot it – zoom into the map and look for a grey rectangle in the surrounding area. I marked all these locations myself going through the entire Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens directory of public restrooms. (Bronx & Staten Island to come) as well as logging other ones I personally know about. 

FYI – the best public restroom in all of NYC is the newly renovated one in Bryant Park – it has fresh flowers, art and a classical music soundtrack.


Location of all pubic restrooms in NYC

google NYC

Using the subway

I often hear out of town people are afraid to use the subway – that it’s unsafe and scary. It’s not. It’s how majority of New Yorkers get around every single day. It’s the easiest, quickest & cheapest way to get around the city.

When you enter the subway, you can buy a metrocard from the machine – recommend buying the 7 day unlimited pass for $31. If you are in town for a month, there is also a monthly unlimited option. A normal ride is $2.75. You buy the unlimited pass under the “Buy Time” – if you just get the “add value” one that will only get you individual fares. The subway is safe and the quickest way to get around the city. Download a NYC subway map app to your phone to make it easier to work out where to go.

If you are staying in Williamsburg – the L line takes you straight into Manhattan in about 7 minutes – Union Square is a main hub for many of the intersecting subways.

Best apps for getting around & exploring NYC

Google Maps – In google maps, you can download the map of NYC into offline mode, meaning you can work out where you are going without chewing through your data.

Citymapper it’s a great navigation app to have on your phone to work out the best way to get where you want to be going. Google Maps does a good job but I prefer this one as it gives you better options.

NYC Subway – It’s good to see all the different connection / transfer points incase you miss a stop or get on a wrong train.


If you come from a country that does not usually tip, it can be super stressful in your first few days adjusting.

Here is the general NYC tipping etiquette :

Drinks at a bar = $1 per drink.

When at a bar buying a drink – you leave $1 on the bar per drink, after each drink. If it’s a complicated cocktail, you might leave $2. But wine & beer is always $1. Or if you start a tab, you tip at the end when settling the bill. Instead of leaving 20% of the bill, you can count up how many drinks you had and leave that amount in dollars instead. 6 drinks = $6 tip. But if you buy food & drink at the same place (like at a restaurant, you would normally just leave 20% on the entire bill.

In NYC, if you stay at a good bar for multiple drinks, generally the bar person will give you the 4th or 5th drink free. You tip them a few extra dollars for this.

Taxi’s = 20% tip

Ubers / Lyft / Juno – You can tip in the app after your ride is complete. Tipping is not as common on these platforms, but it’s recommended. If you have a long ride from the airport and 20% calculates to a higher amount, its generally considered fine to tip less.

Restaurants = 20% tip : you tip on the total pre tax amount of the bill

Any other services like makeup, nails, food delivery etc – 20%

When in doubt, just tip 20%. No need to ever tip over 20% unless you want to or the service beyond amazing or you will be seeing the same person over & over again (like a hairdresser).

Getting a prepaid simcard

If you want to buy a sim card to have data access while you are out – T-Mobile is your best option and you can get unlimited data for $40 for the month. There is a T-Mobile store across NYC. Hunting for a wifi connection can get annoying really quickly, so it’s worth getting to make your time here more enjoyable – like finding restaurants & using navigation apps.


Finding Australian style coffee

The USA is finally catching up with Australian style coffee so it shouldn’t be hard to find a good coffee these days, but best to avoid the chain stores and seek out the little independent coffee shops. Lots of Australian coffee shops have opened up in NYC over the last few years. Typing “Australian Coffee” into google maps will generally bring them all up.

Sweatshop – 232 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Two Hands – 164 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Saltwater Coffee – 345 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

Southern Cross Coffee – 300 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

Bluestone Lane – lots around the city.

Wattle – 489 Third Ave, New York, NY 10016

Little Collins – 667 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022

NYC drink servings

A word of warning – most bars in NYC dont follow the standard drink pours when it comes to liquor. If you order a vodka soda – you’ll most likely get at 4 shots of vodka (or more) and a tiny bit of soda. You will obviously taste how strong it is, but 2x vodka sodas in NYC can get you feeling tipsy. Jetlag & these drinks can lead to interesting results and the craziest night in NYC you have ever dreamed of. I always stick with wine or beer for the first few days when getting over jetlag. So if you wake up with a killer hangover and cannot understand why.. it’s a combination of sleep deprivation & very generous drink pours.

Eating in North Brooklyn

williamsburg & greenpoint

Cafe Mogador – 133 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249 (Williamsburg)

One of my favorite breakfast places. Middle eastern fare – also great for lunch & dinner. Good prices.


Reunion Cafe – 544 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (Williamsburg)

Light-filled cafe with reclaimed accents & global-accented comfort food morning-early evening.


Cafe Colette – Corner of Berry & N. 9th Street, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

Cute cafe with yummy food. Also lovely garden. They have great coffee.


Milk & Roses Bistro – 1110 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn (Greenpoint)

One of my favorite places to work on my laptop during the day, its quiet and intimate with a sweet sunroom & yard out back. Also great for lunch & dinner.


Glasserie – 95 Commerical Street, Brooklyn (Greenpoint)

Perfect spot for a meal (particularly brunch) with friends. Lots of share plates on their menu.


Alameda – 195 Franklin Street, Brooklyn (Greenpoint)

Really good drinks & food.


The Saint Austere – 613 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (Williamsburg)

Amazing food & drinks.


Calexico Restaurant – 645 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn (Greenpoint)

One of my favorite places to eat at regularly. Great Mexican food.


Jimmy’s Diner – 577 Union Avenue, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

Old style American diner! Your belly will love you/hate you.


Champs Diner – 197 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206 (East Williamsburg)

A diner serving all vegan food.


Vinnie’s Pizza – 148 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (Williamsburg)

A small little pizza place with a few places to sit. Ideal to grab a slice and go. Really good pizza, lots of vegan options too.


Drinking in North Brooklyn

Hotel Delmano  – 82 Berry Street, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

A dark & intimate cocktail bar. 


Maison Premiere – 298 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

Oyster & cocktail bar.


Norman’s’ Kil – 609 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY (Williamsburg)

Another of my favorite local bars. Big selection of whiskey. The best grilled cheeses sandwiches.


Barcade – 388 Union Ave Brooklyn, NY (Williamsburg)

Cool bar with lots of old arcade games. Also two other locations in Manhattan. 


The Levee – 212 Berry Street, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

My favorite dive bar in NY. Cheap drinks & food. Try the frito pie when you get hungry but dont want to leave.

New York City Skyline

Eating in Manhattan

Calexico Restaurant – 153 Rivington Street, NY (Lower East Side)

One of my favorite places to eat at regularly. Great Mexican food.


Cafe Habana – 17 Prince Street, NY (Nolita)

Cuban food.. this place is a must. Get the elote corn.


Tinys Giant Sandwich Shop – 129 Rivington St, NY (Lower East Side)

One of my favorite places to get a sandwich in the Lower East Side.


The Grey Dog – 244 Mulberry St New York, NY (Nolita)

Good American food. Also two other locations in Manhattan.


Cafe Gitane – 242 Mott Street, NY (Nolita)

Moroccan food. The avocado toast & chicken cous cous are my favorites.


Cafe Mogador – 101 St Marks Pl # 1, NY (East Village)

One of my favorite breakfast places. Middle eastern fare – also great for lunch & dinner. Good prices.


Eataly – 200 Fifth Ave, NY (Flatiron)

Eataly sells fresh produce, cheese & meats from Italy and also has a selection of different restaurants within. Perfect place to buy supplies for a picnic in Central Park. Also great to drink wine & eat cheese. There’s a few different restaurants inside – worth taking a walk around & see what appeals.


Lafayette – 380 Lafayette Street, NY (Noho)

They do good chicken.


Panna II Garden – 93 1st Avenue #2, NY (East Village)

This little Indian restaurant is an experience – completely covered in Christmas tree lights. They will play a special song if its your birthday. Just have to make sure you walk in the right restaurant as lots of other Indian restaurants in the area try to pull you in.

What to do on a rainy day in NYC

Nitehawk Cinema – 136 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

My favorite cinema in NYC, it runs more independent films and they serve food while you watch the movie.

Williamsburg Flea Markets – 50 Kent Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

In the warmer months, an outdoor flea market down near the East River. Lots of great food stalls also.  

Angelika Film Center – 18 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

Theatre that shows a lot of independent films.

Film Forum – 209 W Houston St, New York, NY 10014

Shows a lot of classic, independent and foreign films.

The Gutter – 200 N. 14th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Bowling alley with vintage lanes. Best time to go is Friday between 2p-6p where its two for one prices! This place also has a lot of live music and a good place to get a drink. I generally go here at least once a week.