by BETH J. HARPAZ, AP Travel Editor | June 28, 2018
NEW YORK (AP) - New York City can be an intimidating place for visitors. But travel expert Pauline Frommer is here to help with a new book, "Frommer's EasyGuide to New York City 2018."
Here are some tips and advice from Frommer's recent interview with AP Travel's "Get Outta Here!" podcast:
Are New Yorkers scary? Will they step over a body lying in the street or will they help a stranger?
"New Yorkers are incredibly busy people, but kind as well," Frommer said. "So if you walk up to somebody who's rushing by, and ask them to stop, they may not stop. But if you stand on the street corner with a map, within seconds, you will have three people offering to help you."
As for crime, New York is statistically one of America's safest big cities, but do keep an eye on your wallet and your purse.
And here's Frommer's advice for dealing with people who approach you on the street, like costumed character actors in Times Square who offer to pose for photos and then demand payment: "Pretend you're deaf. You just keep walking. ... You maybe can be polite and say, 'Sorry,' and keep walking, but you can't give them an opening."
The idea that you'll be in walking distance from everything if you stay in Times Square or Midtown "is a myth," Frommer says. So consider staying in Downtown Manhattan or even in Queens, including Long Island City, which is just a subway stop or two away from Manhattan. You might end up in "a chain hotel, it might not have that much character," but rooms can be had for $149.
To really save money, "visit in January or February," Frommer said. "You can get a really nice hotel room in February for $99, and that same hotel room in October will cost you $329."
"Don't be scared" of the subway, Frommer says. New Yorkers love complaining about their trains, but Frommer says compared with cabs, they're cheaper ($2.75 per ride) and usually faster. The trickiest part: Make sure the train is going in the right direction before you swipe your fare card. If not, you might have to exit and pay again on the other side, depending on the station (some provide free transfers in either direction).
By cab, Frommer says, it's often faster to hail yellow taxis on the street than wait for Uber or Lyft drivers to arrive. Another option: the Via ridesharing service, which charges a few dollars a ride.
CitiBike, a bike-sharing system, costs $12 per day "for as many half-hour rides as you want," Frommer says. "Biking is the fastest way to go anywhere. And there are certain streets now that have really good bike lanes that are separated from the traffic."
• Museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Not only does it have some of the greatest artworks in the world -- Vermeer, Rembrandt, Sergeant -- but it also has things that will engage the imaginations of history lovers. You can go into an actual Egyptian temple. You can go into a room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. And for those who don't love museums, try this: You go into a gallery. You find one thing that interests you and just stand in front of that one thing for two minutes and let it work on you. Try and commune with it."
• Freebies: The Staten Island Ferry and Shakespeare in the Park.
• Cruise: "The Circle Line hires out-of-work actors as its guides. So they're also very well-spoken. They love the history. They know how to tell a story. The key is when you enter, sit on the right side of the boat so you're facing inward toward Manhattan." P.S. "The three-hour tour is too long; take the shorter one."
• Neighborhood: "I'm a big history buff, so I love taking friends down to the Financial District." Sites include St. Paul's Chapel, where George Washington prayed, and Federal Hall, where he took the oath of office.
• Inexpensive restaurant: Dhaulagiri Kitchen, 124 Lexington Ave., serving Himalayan food, including fiery curries.
• Bar: The Aviary NYC, on the 35th floor of 80 Columbus Circle, with "spectacular" views. "Every drink there foams or steams or changes as you drink it. It's like a Broadway show!"
• Jazz: Smoke, 2751 Broadway. "They have great barbecue while you're listening to the music," Frommer said. "They have really varied programming, so one night Brazilian jazz, another night a classical guitarist, and it's a real neighborhood place."
• Weekend itinerary for first-time visitors: "Get up high and go to the top of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. Go to one of our great museums, maybe take a walking tour. There are some really good ones; some of them are free. And then, I think it's not really a weekend in New York if you don't see a show. It doesn't have to be Broadway. And don't forget New York City is incredible after dark. So also go to one of our great bars."
For more tips from Pauline Frommer and "Frommer's EasyGuide to New York City 2018," listen to AP Travel's "Get Outta Here!" podcast on iTunes.