Area Codes -- There are four area codes in the city: two in Manhattan, the original 212 and 646; and two in the outer boroughs, the original 718 and the newer 347. Also common is the 917 area code, which is assigned to cellphones. All calls between these area codes are local calls, but you’ll have to dial 1 + the area code + the seven digits for all calls, even ones made within your area code.
Business Hours -- In general, retail stores are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6 or 7pm, Thursday from 10am to 8:30 or 9pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm. Banks tend to be open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, with many open Saturday mornings, and some now even open on Sundays.
Doctors -- If you get sick, consider asking your hotel concierge to recommend a local doctor—even his or her own. This will probably yield a better recommendation than any toll-free telephone number would.
TThere are also many walk-in medical centers, like City MD (www.citymd.com), which offers 17 clinics in Manhattan and dozens in the other boroughs. Hours vary widely. Their midtown office is at 944 Second Ave. (at 50th Street).
Pack prescription medications in their original containers in your carry-on luggage. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Don’t forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses.
If you have dental problems on the road, a service known as 1-800-DENTIST (tel. 800/336-8422) will provide the name of a local dentist.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 21; proof of age can be requested at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, especially if you’re graced with youthful looks. However, this is New York City, which is a most tolerant place. Liquor and wine are sold only in licensed stores, which are open 6 days a week, with some choosing to close on Sunday, others on an early or midweek day. (You can usually find an open liquor store on Sun.) Liquor stores are closed on holidays and election days while the polls are open. Beer can be purchased in grocery stores and delis 24 hours a day, except Sunday before noon. Last call in bars is at 4am, though many close earlier. Do not carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area that isn’t zoned for alcohol consumption. The police can fine you on the spot.
Electricity -- Like Canada, the United States uses 110 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220 to 240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Downward converters that change 220–240 volts to 110–120 volts are difficult to find in the United States, so bring one with you.
Emergencies -- For all emergencies—a fire, police, or health emergency—call 911.
Hospitals -- The following hospitals have 24-hour emergency rooms. Don’t forget your insurance card.
Downtown: New York Downtown Hospital, 170 William St., between Beekman and Spruce streets (tel. 212/312-5106 or 212/312-5000)
Midtown: Bellevue Hospital Center, 462 First Ave., at 27th Street (tel. 212/562-4141); New York University Langone Medical Center, 550 First Ave., at 33rd Street (tel. 212/263-7300); and Mount Sinai West, 425 W. 59th St., between Ninth and Tenth avenues (tel. 212/523-4000).
Upper West Side: Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, 622 W. 168th St., between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue (tel. 212/305-2500).
Upper East Side: New York Presbyterian Hospital, 525 E. 68th St., at York Avenue (tel. 212/746-5454); Lenox Hill Hospital, 100 E. 77th St., between Park and Lexington avenues (tel. 212/434-3030); and Mount Sinai Medical Center, 1190 Fifth Avenue at 100th Street (tel. 212/241-6500).
Internet and Wi-Fi -- New York is becoming one big “hotspot” thanks to some 7,500 LinkNYC kiosks being installed in all five boroughs (you’ll see monolithic slabs all over Manhattan). The free Wi-Fi they provide is 100 times stronger than found in other U.S. metropolitan areas. The large panels also have outlets for charging devices. You can see current LinkNYC spots at www.link.nyc/find-a-link.html. You’ll also be able to get connected in almost all NYC subway stations, all Starbucks, and all public libraries. Your hotel will likely also provide free Wi-Fi
Legal Aid -- While driving, if you are pulled over for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer; this could be construed as attempted bribery, a much more serious crime. Pay fines by mail, or directly into the hands of the clerk of the court. If accused of a more serious offense, say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer. In the U.S., the burden is on the state to prove a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and everyone has the right to remain silent, whether he or she is suspected of a crime or actually arrested. Once arrested, a person can make one telephone call to a party of his or her choice. The international visitor should call his or her embassy or consulate.
Mail -- At press time, domestic postage rates were 34¢ for a postcard and 49¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce costs 98¢ (75¢ to Canada and 79¢ to Mexico); a first-class postcard costs the same as a letter. For more information go to www.usps.com.
Always include zip codes when mailing items in the U.S. If you don’t know your zip code, visit www.usps.com/zip4.
Newspapers & Magazines -- There are three major daily newspapers: the New York Times, the Daily News, and the New York Post. There are also two free daily papers, AM-New York and Metro, usually distributed in the morning near subway stations and in self-serve boxes around town.
There are several weekly and biweekly newspapers and magazines (such as New York Magazine).
Packing -- New York City has four seasons—sort of. In reality, it’s more like summer, fall, and winter, with a fugitive spring. If you come in the summer, it can be very hot or simply warm. The fall is normally brisk, cool, and wonderful. The winter can be cold—though not generally Maine cold. If there is a spring—and New York normally jumps directly from winter into summer—it tends to be rainy and a bit cold.
Police -- Dial tel. 911 in an emergency; otherwise, call tel. 646/610-5000 (NYPD Switchboard) for the number of the nearest precinct. For nonemergency matters, call tel. 311.
Safety -- The FBI consistently rates New York City as one of the safest large cities in the United States, but it is still a large city and crime most definitely exists. Here are a few tips for staying safe in New York:
* Trust your instincts, because they’re usually right.
* You’ll rarely be hassled, but it’s always best to walk with a sense of purpose and self-confidence. Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk to pull out and peruse your map.
* Anywhere in the city, if you find yourself on a deserted street that feels unsafe, it probably is; leave as quickly as possible.
* If you do find yourself accosted by someone with or without a weapon, remember to keep your anger in check and that the most reasonable response (maddening though it may be) is not to resist.
Smoking -- Smoking is prohibited on all public transportation; in the lobbies of hotels and office buildings; in taxis, bars, and restaurants; and in most shops.
Subway Safety Tips -- In general, the subways are safe, especially in Manhattan. There are panhandlers and questionable characters like anywhere else in the city, but subway crime has gone down to 1960s levels. Still, stay alert and trust your instincts. Always keep a hand on your personal belongings.
When using the subway, don’t wait for trains near the edge of the platform or on extreme ends of a station. During non–rush hours, wait for the train in view of the token-booth clerk or under the yellow DURING OFF HOURS TRAINS STOP HERE signs, and ride in the train operator’s or conductor’s car (usually in the center of the train; you’ll see his or her head stick out of the window when the doors open). Choose crowded cars over empty ones—there’s safety in numbers.
Avoid subways late at night, and splurge on a cab after about 10 or 11pm—it’s money well spent to avoid a long wait on a deserted platform. Or take the bus.
Taxes -- Sales tax is 8.875% on meals, most goods, and some services. Hotel tax is 5.875% plus a daily fee up to $2 depending on the cost of your room per night. Parking garage tax is 18.375%. The United States has no value-added tax (VAT) or other indirect tax at the national level. Every state, county, and city may levy its own local tax on all purchases, including hotel and restaurant checks and airline tickets. These taxes will not appear on price tags.
Time -- The continental United States is divided into four time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). Alaska and Hawaii have their own zones. For example, when it’s 9am in Los Angeles (PST), it’s 7am in Honolulu (HST),10am in Denver (MST), 11am in Chicago (CST), noon in New York City (EST), 5pm in London (GMT), and 2am the next day in Sydney.
Daylight saving time (summer time) is in effect from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November, except in Arizona, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time.
For help with time translations, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Tipping -- In hotels, tip bellhops at least $1 per bag ($2–$3 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the chamber staff $1 to $2 per day (more if you’ve left a big mess for him or her to clean up). Tip the doorman or concierge only if he or she has provided you with some specific service (for example, calling a cab for you or obtaining difficult-to-get theater tickets). Tip the valet-parking attendant $1 every time you get your car.
In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff and bartenders 15% to 20% of the check, tip checkroom attendants $1 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants $1 per vehicle.
As for other service personnel, tip cab drivers 15% of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least $1 per bag ($2–$3 if you have a lot of luggage); and tip hairdressers and barbers 15% to 20%.
Toilets -- You won’t find many public toilets or restrooms on the streets in New York City, but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, and railway and bus stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. And since there's a Starbucks every few blocks, that's become a pit stop for many travelers.
Public restrooms are available at the visitor centers in Midtown (1560 Broadway, btw. 46th and 47th sts.; and 810 Seventh Ave., btw. 52nd and 53rd sts.). You can find relief at the New York Public Library’s main building on Fifth Avenue just south of 42nd Street. Grand Central Terminal, at 42nd Street between Park and Lexington avenues, also has clean restrooms. There are staffed bathrooms open from early in the morning until fairly late at night in the Times Square subway station (closer to Seventh Ave.). Your best bet on the street is Starbucks or another city java chain—you can’t walk more than a few blocks without seeing one. The big chain bookstores are good for this, too. You can also head to hotel lobbies (especially the big Midtown ones) and department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. On the Lower East Side, stop into the Lower East Side BID Visitor Center, 54 Orchard St., between Hester and Grand streets (weekdays 9:30am–5:30pm, weekends 9:30am–4pm).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.