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After numerous trips to New York, I’ve always avoided the Big Apple’s perils by using my common sense along with some simple precautions.
Boarding your first subway train can feel a bit daunting particularly during peak hour. While you may be curious about the people around you, rule number one: zero eye contact. A downward gaze is an unspoken custom and by not adhering to it, you’re advertising yourself as a visitor to opportunistic crooks.
It’s safer to ride the most-crowded subway cars - once the subway is in motion; it’s difficult to extract yourself from unsafe situations. Remain vigilant with your belongings too, especially when you’re packed in like a sardine. I skip the subway after 11pm as I’ve experienced more anti-social behavior late at night. However if you do need to ride it at night, always sit near the conductor’s carriage which is in the middle of the train. Avoid sleeping or being tipsy on the subway as well.
The gentrification of neighborhoods has meant that somewhere like Brooklyn’s Greenpoint was off limits on my first visit nine years ago. Now, it’s an up-and-coming hipster ‘hood. Things change at a breakneck pace.
NYC is now one of the US’s safest cities, though I’d currently recommend caution visiting East New York, Mott Haven, and Upper Harlem, particularly at night.
With more than 60 million tourists a year, crowds are unavoidable. It doesn’t mean you should skip Times Square, a concert at Madison Square Gardens or bustling Midtown; but do keep your wits about you. Pickpockets are the main threat, so keep your belongings in a shoulder bag or backpack fitted with pickpocket deterrents.
Hitting up a bar in the Lower East Side or Bushwick is as much as a rite of passage as walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. With urban vibes and hilarious bartenders, NYC bars offer boisterous fun. But, there are safety risks if you’re not on your guard. A Manhattan bartender friend has noticed a surge in drink spiking and a Staten Island bar recently began serving drinks with lids after reported cases. No matter how hot the face (or accent), buy your own drinks, keep them covered, and speak up if you’re uncomfortable.
As a seasoned traveler, you’re probably clued up that those costumed-characters at Times Square are hustling for a quick buck, but where else can you lose your cash?
Stay alert when buying super-discounted tickets to Broadway shows, they often turn out to be fake, duplicates or even for the wrong show. Watch for a comedy club scam where you’re held to ransom by its extortionate two-drink minimum policy. The Staten Island ferry is free, no matter what that official-looking dude says. And, even when exhausted, avoid those pedicab rides – their ‘surprise’ pricing can sometimes cost more than a limo.
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