What Should You Know When You’re Arriving in NY?
1. The subway runs 24/7 (also at night, though at a less regular schedule) and you need the MetroCard to ride it – it’s best to buy it on the first day, which is easy to do at special machines and booths located on most subway stations (as I said before, I recommend the weekly card). You can also purchase the card entitling you to a specific number of travels ($1 for the card + $2.50 for each trip). At the same booth, you will also get a subway map, and believe me, you’re going to need it. The same map is also displayed in every subway car. I wrote more here on how to use the subway system.
2. If you feel ill, which is not improbable if you are Polish since food here is quite different that the one you are used to – don’t look for a typical Polish pharmacy. Look for one of drugstore chains, like CVS, Walgreens, or Rite Aid. You will find not only cosmetics here but also medication. Every ailment can be alleviated with at least several different medicines. If you catch a cold, I recommend Nyquil (around $10) – take it before you go to sleep, and you will feel like a newborn in the morning. For chopped lips (wind can be really biting here), I recommend Carmex or Blistex (both are available in Poland; over here, each is around $2).
3. I know that you are used to having a grocery store at every corner in Poland. Here, what you will find at every corner is a deli, which I already described on JLNY. What you will get there are some basic products (bread, cheese, beverages, toilet paper), but if you’re planning on bigger grocery shopping, I recommend you go someplace else. This can be actually problematic. Every part of NYC has a big supermarket, of course, but they are usually well-hidden and you really have to be a local to know where they exactly are. The two most popular chains in NYC are Wholefoods and Trader’s Joe (the former is more expensive). Depending on where are you staying, simply google the nearest supermarket. I really don’t recommend the strategy of simply walking around Manhattan in hope of finding a place to get your breakfast products for next day. You will waste too much time and much too much nerves. What you won’t have any trouble locating, though, are places with ready-made food. They are everywhere.
4. You catch your cabs on the street – just like you saw it done in the movies. They are indeed not very expensive. If you travel in a group and you can split the cost, they are in fact quite cheap.
5. NYC is a kingdom of tips (I already mentioned it). You basically tip everyone who performed even the smallest service for you – whether it’s a barista, a cab driver, a bartender, a waiter, a barber, a manicurist, etc. Everyone expects a tip, since service is not included in the bill, so the lack of the tip is almost like an insult: “You did bad service!”.