Live like a local in NYC

Having spent last summer working in BUNAC's New York office on Work America, Steph gives us the low-down on how to live like a local in the city that never sleeps: New York!

There’s nothing quite like living and working in the Big Apple, so if you find yourself there this summer, even for a short time, then it’s time to make like a real New Yorker! This means eating where the locals eat, discovering off-the-beaten track hotspots and, of course, mastering the subway.

Foodie Heaven!

If you’re anything like me and love your food, then you’re in the right place! Food is one of the greatest things NYC has to offer and variety is the dish of the day, every day, so avoid McDonalds and visit the places the locals (and I!) love.

• Breakfasts are my personal favourite. Fill up on pancakes or bagels (a New York staple), and you’ll be set for the day!
• When money gets a bit tight, visit Gray’s Papaya (as featured in Sex and the City!). Their ‘Recession Buster’ gives you two hotdogs and a drink for less than $5! Plus you can practise your best Nu Yawkan accent- hawt dworg.
• For dessert, a snack, or just because you need to cool down, Pink Berry is great for filling up on the sweet stuff. A frozen yoghurt-come-ice-cream parlour, these spots of heaven allow you to top your scoops with as many toppings as can fit in your pot, from cereal, to chocolate chips, to fresh fruit.


Tipping is the norm in every state in the US and if you don’t leave one, or don’t leave enough, your server will ask what was wrong. Always tip 15 - 20% of the total bill (unless your ‘check’ states that a service charge was included) at a restaurant, 10 – 20% for taxis (depending on how helpful/clean they were), 5-10% to a tour guide and at bars, no less than $1 a drink.

It may seem an annoyance, but serving staff rely on tips to make their pay up to the minimum wage.

Use the Subway

When I first arrived in New York it took me a while to pluck up the courage to use the subway. It’s fun to ride around in yellow taxis but it gets expensive and if you want to live like a local you have to travel like one, right?

The subway may seem terrifying at first. The trains are fast, the stations are dark and dingy, and there are only three trains to choose from, but badda bing, badda boom, everything will fall in to place and you’ll wonder how you ever found it so overwhelming!

Get Off the Tourist Trail

New York is crammed with tourist attractions, but living like a local means hitting the lesser-known spots too. In my experience, there’s no better way to do this than grabbing your guidebook and a camera and getting out there!

Here are a couple of quieter and more chilled out places I love to hang out when city life gets too crazy.

The Hudson River Park is one of my favourite places to walk. As the name suggests, this walk is along the Hudson River and, if you keep going, you’ll end up at the Staten Island ferry terminal. Take your time, admire the beautiful views and take in the calmer side of the city.
• One of my favourite spots to sit and chill out is Columbus Circle. It’s a little bit of calm in amongst the hectic city roads and if you love to people watch, this is your perfect spot!
The High Line is an abandoned railway line above the streets of Manhattan’s West side which has been converted into a public park. Taking a walk down the 1 mile strip running from the Meatpacking District to Chelsea will not just get you from A-B but you’ll have a far more relaxing time doing it than pounding the pavements below or jumping on the subway.

For night life, exhibitions and eateries that are on your doorstep but off the tourist track pick up a Time Out magazine. Filled with the latest ‘What’s On’, you’ll get to discover even more places!

Know Where to Shop (and how!)

If there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s shopping, and New York caters for this habit spectacularly.

• Be a tourist and hit up the likes of Times Square and Bloomingdales, but don’t be afraid to head to local flea markets either. Hell’s Kitchen flea market on 39th street and 9th Avenue (or 39th and 9, as the locals would say) is full of antiques and vintage styles, but check out Time Out magazine for more of the same.
Greenwich Village mixes high street chain stores with boutiques and small record shops too for those more personal souvenirs.
• Buy your NYC souvenirs from the stalls at the roadside rather than shops, as they are the same quality but cheaper, and when in China Town, haggle! If you act like a tourist you’ll most likely end up paying a lot more than if you make like a real New Yawker!

And One Last Thing….

You can visit all the back street cafes, local bars and boutique shops all you like, but the one thing that will scream ‘tourist!’ as you saunter across Manhattan will be a big backpack with your luggage label still attached! So take a smaller bag, remove all signs that you’ve travelled more than a few subway stops to get here, and be on your way!

Wanting to head to the bright lights on NYC? For more information, call 033 3999 7516 to chat to one of our travel advisors.