Ah, Manhattan. It sounds so prestigious, bright, sophisticated and just a little bit…intimidating! In case you didn’t already know, I’m an awkward manhattan traverser; I don’t go to the city often even though I’m from the boroughs of New York because the subway platforms confuse me, I’ll start off walking in one direction and realize it’s the wrong direction so I turn around only to realize that I was right the first time (sound familiar?) oh, and everyone but me seems to know exactly what the hell they’re doing. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, thus “The Awkward Traveler’s Guide To Manhattan” was born, except this is part dos, so if you haven’t read part one where I cover basics and Battery Park, be sure to check that out!
So back to part two…I’ve been getting out to the city more, thanks to this series I created, so I’ve been learning new things about handling myself and traveling through the city like a boss (or at least like I kind of know what I’m doing). Just the other Friday, I was in Chelsea and after an…interesting…time with the subway and the LIRR, I learned quite a few things about understanding transportation. Then the day after that I took to Broadway for another adventure.
On Friday in Chelsea…
Pay attention to the LIRR schedule. Because it really is a schedule! If you aren’t familiar with the LIRR service, trains from Manhattan to Huntington station and Port Jefferson Station only come once per hour, so if you don’t plan accordingly, you might be arriving at your destination — a job interview, class, work, a professional conference — much later than you intended to. My group nearly forgot that the LIRR had such a specific schedule, and we were trying to get back to our school! If you ever need information about any of the Long Island train services, you can download this free app, Train Time, which provides very accurate time schedules for all the LI trains.
Always have an extra MetroCard handy. If you’ve ever used a city bus service in the boroughs of New York, you know that the buses accept change as a form of payment. Well the subways don’t, so you need MetroCards to get around. Quick story about my group’s experience on Friday: We thought the MetroCard we had would’ve been just enough for all five of us, since the card had quite a large amount of money on it. Well we thought wrong, because it turns out the card only had about $6 left on it, which is clearly not enough for five people! So we had to buy new ones from the card machine, only the machine only accepted credit or debit! If we didn’t have a debit card, well…we’d be in some deep crap! The safest thing to do is to have an extra MetroCard, even if you think you still have like $5 on your old one!
If you’re confused, ask for help. So on our way back to school, my group took a train from Penn Station, thinking that we had to get off at Jamaica and then transfer. Turns out we were completely wrong! We should’ve stayed on that train and taken it right to Huntington, but we didn’t know that and we were super confused about the next train we had to take, so we asked someone at the info desk on the platform for help. Basically, we got off the right train to take the wrong train! What a life. Asking a knowledgeable person for help is the smartest thing you could do in our situation. Don’t go to a random stranger if an info desk is in sight! People at the info desk can tell you exactly what’s going on and point you in the direction of the correct train, so you’ll be completely un-confused.
Not sure which platform you should be on? Think about the general direction you need to head in. If you’re trying to get from Manhattan to Long Island, but you don’t know if you should be standing on the platform for the Jamaica train or the World Trade Center train, BUT you know that Jamaica station is on the way to your destination, chances are the Jamaica train is the correct train. If you see all these trains pulling up to your platform and they’re heading further into the city, that’s not the platform you need to be on! Sometimes, just thinking about the general directions of destinations can really help you decide between two tough directions.
Think for yourself, and don’t be afraid to interject. This is more for if you’re traveling in a group of people. Don’t just leave it up to someone else to plan the trip and take you on the subway; figure it out for yourself so you can contribute. Plus, in the off chance that the ‘leader’ of the group actually doesn’t know where to go, you might be able to offer some valuable direction.
On Saturday On Broadway…
Pay attention to signs in the subway. These signs tell you what exits you can use to take you to your closest desired street. You might want to end up on 50th street, but if you take an exit that takes you to a different street, you might unknowingly set yourself back. I used to think that all exits were the same and that (somehow) they all took you to the same exact place on the block. I know that subways tend to be packed and everyone’s rushing to get somewhere, but taking a few seconds to slow down and look at the signs in the station can actually help you stay on schedule.
Don’t suddenly stop walking in the middle of the station. If you need to stop to tie your shoes, check your phone, or pull something out of your pocket, step to the corner. This is more about being considerate to your fellow subway goers. I’m pretty sure you hate running into people just as much as the next guy, so if you have to pause for any reason while navigating the subway, step to the side where you won’t be in anyone’s way. This will save you from many angry glares.
Don’t be afraid to slightly stray from your path. Especially if you’re going to the city to explore and have fun! I had only planned to go to M&M’s World and the Hershey Shop, but ended up exploring other blocks in search of clothing stores and happened upon American Eagle near Times Square. Really, if you remember what street the subway for the return trip is on, you should be completely fine to explore the area for as far as your legs will carry you. Which brings me to my next point…
Know the street numbers. This sounds really stupid and obvious, but if you’re on 30th street and trying to get to 32nd, you don’t want to walk in the direction of 29th…This is literally as simple as looking up at the street signs. Also…
Don’t feel awkward about turning around. If you just realized that you walked halfway down the block in the wrong direction (which I’ve done before) don’t think that you’ll look stupid for turning around and going in the right direction. You might think that people think you’re foolish for not knowing which direction to go in, but honestly, most people are too busy trying to get where their going to notice that walked in the wrong direction. At least you’ll still get where you’re going.
I can’t wait to go back to the city for another adventure! I have my eyes on a few restaurants and eateries in the city, so be on the lookout for blog posts about surviving Manhattan dining on a budget!
What are some of your subway experiences?