Tips for Travelers
A 15–20 percent tip is customary for waiters and taxi drivers. Hotel bellhops expect $1 a bag, porters $1 for hailing a cab, and room attendants $1 per person per night.
Some of the most accessible public restrooms in Manhattan are at Cooper Union (41 Cooper Square, near 3rd Ave. and 8th St., downstairs), Penn Station (7th Ave., between 30th and 32nd Sts.), Grand Central Station (42nd St. and Park Ave.), the New York Public Library (5th Ave. and 42nd St., ground and 3rd floors), the GE Building (30 Rockefeller Plaza, concourse level), Citicorp Center (153 Lexington Ave., at 53rd St., lower level), Trump Tower (725 5th Ave., at 56th St., downstairs), and the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Ave., at 92nd St., ground level).
As in most big cities, crime in New York can be a serious problem. But according to the FBI, New York is consistently one of America’s safest large cities. It doesn’t even make the top-25 list of cities with the highest homicide rates. Statistically, your chances of being mugged are less than 30,000 to 1. To avoid being that one:
Act as if you know where you’re going, especially when passing through empty neighborhoods. New Yorkers—forever blasé—keep up a brisk, disinterested pace at all times. If you spend too long ogling the sites or looking nervously about, you’ll be targeted as an easy mark. When unsure if you are headed the correct way, better to circle the block walking purposefully to head back in the correct direction than to flaunt your confusion.
Don’t carry large quantities of cash or large bills, but do carry something; $20 is recommended.
Ignore hustlers and con artists, especially the three-card-monte players and anyone who approaches you with an elaborate sob story or pamphlets.
Avoid the parks at night, and be extra careful around transportation centers such as Port Authority and Penn Station.
Don’t carry valuables in lightweight backpacks that can easily be slashed open. Carry handbags close to your body.
When in rougher neighborhoods, stick to blocks where other people are in sight or at least where cars are passing by. At night, on empty streets, walk near the curb, away from dark overhangs.
If you’re mugged, hand over your valuables immediately—they’re not worth risking your well-being for.
Gay and Lesbian Travelers
Founded in 1983, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (208 W. 13th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., 212/620-7310, www.gaycenter.org) works with hundreds of organizations, including Act-Up and GLAAD, and houses the National Museum and Archive of Lesbian and Gay History. Everything from dances to movies is presented here, and free information “Welcome Packets” about the city are available for travelers.
The Gay and Lesbian Hotline (212/989-0999, www.glnh.org, 4 p.m.–midnight Mon.–Fri., noon–5 p.m. Sat.) offers peer counseling and information on accommodations, restaurants, and clubs.
Travelers with Disabilities
New York is a difficult city for visitors with disabilities to navigate, but help is available. One source is the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (212/788-2830), which puts out a free Access Guide.
Another is Hospital Audiences, Inc. (212/575-7676), which publishes a guide to the city’s cultural institutions that includes information on elevators, ramps, Braille signage, services for the hearing impaired, and restroom facilities.
For more general information, contact the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (212/447-7284), a nationwide, nonprofit membership organization that collects data on travel facilities around the country.
The Big Apple Greeter program (212/669-8159), available free to all visitors, matches out-of-towners with New Yorkers eager to share their hometown. Of the 500 volunteer “Big Apple Greeters,” 200 are specifically trained to help the handicapped enjoy the city.
All of New York’s buses are wheelchair accessible, but only a handful of subway stations are. New York City Transit (718/596-8585, www.mta.info) publishes the free brochures Accessible Travel and Accessible Transfer Points within the NYC Subway.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition