Tourists come bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to New York, eager to see the sights and engage with the city. People who’ve been around the block once or twice know what first-time visitors often don’t: there are a lot of people trying to take your money in this city. We’re not talking about pickpockets, but about ordinary salespeople at flea markets, tour companies, and in taxis who overcharge city newbies for goods or services. These seven tips should help you get wise to the common ripoffs around town and how to avoid them.
1. Be Taxi-Savvy
Unfortunately, New York City cabs are notorious for ripping off unaware tourists. First things first: only get into a yellow or green taxi cab. The black cars that will approach you promising a good price are known as “gypsy cabs.” Beware of these drivers soliciting outside airport baggage claims and in crowded neighborhoods. Gypsy cabs are not metered, so there’s no way to monitor how much you’re going to end up paying for your ride.
As for the yellow and green cabs, make sure you’re following along in your own GPS device to be sure that you’re not being taken on any long-winded detours that could be racking up your bill. If you think you’re being taken advantage of, speak up! New York City is not the place to be shy.
Consider other car services like Carmel, which offers professional drivers at competitive prices.
2. Don’t Pay Full Price for Broadway Tickets
Unless you’re having to book your tickets months in advance for a hot show (think Book of Mormon or Hamilton), you should never have to pay full price for a Broadway show. Check out the site Broadway for Broke People, offering a breakdown of available ticket discounts such as rush and lottery tickets at the theater.
TKTS, located in Times Square, the South Street Seaport, and Downtown Brooklyn, sells discounted tickets for both Broadway and Off Broadway performances. You should be able to score 20% to 50% off regular ticket prices by purchasing your tickets through TKTS on the day of the show you’d like to see. Yes, you have to play things by ear a little bit, but that’s a small sacrifice to make considering how much money you’ll save.
Here’s a more thorough guide on how to score discount Broadway tickets.
3. Ask the Price Before You Order
Street vendors have a great radar for NYC tourists, and many of them will take advantage of your ignorance. Always ask the price of something before you buy it off of a street vendor. Otherwise you might end up paying $3.50 for what should be a $1 hotdog. In addition, the street vendors surrounding famous landmarks tend to jack up their prices, so if you can hold off, walk down a few streets from the crowds and you’ll likely find a better deal from another street vendor serving the exact same food. This rule can also apply at retail stores that don’t place price tags on their items, or restaurants that don’t list prices on the menu.
4. Look for Ticket Deals to Museums
Many of New York City’s museums use the “pay what you can” policy, which means you actually don’t have to pay anything if you don’t want to. However, most of these museums do post a “suggested donation” amount which ticket sellers will automatically ask you to pay if you don’t know any better. The American Museum of Natural History, MoMA P.S.1, and the American Folk Art Museum (which is completely free to enter) are included in this grouping. Until recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered a suggested donation option, but flat ticket fees now apply to out-of-towners. As for the other museums you want to check out, always search their websites for “Pay What You Wish” and free admission hours. The Museum of Arts and Design, for example, allows visitors to select their own ticket price on Thursdays from 6-9pm.
5. Bargain While You Shop
If you’re shopping at one of New York City’s flea markets, or simply picking up a peach from one of the many streetside fruit carts, never be afraid to ask for a deal. If items are already priced with tags, you can still barter with the seller to get a lower price or some sort of combo deal if you’re looking to purchase more than one item. This can happen even at high-end department stores. When you’re confident, savvy, and courteous to the salesperson, you’ll be surprised by how often they’ll cut a deal for you. And really, what’s the worst thing that can happen? They’ll say no. It’s not that bad. For a great outdoor shopping experience, point yourself to the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market and Grand Bazaar NYC. For discounted designer goods, head to Century 21.
6. Ride a Citi Bike
Biking in NYC can be an absolute blast, especially if you want to spend an afternoon cruising the bike-only lanes at Central Park. However, you don’t have to get your bikes from any of the dozens of bike rental salesmen surrounding the park’s entrances. Instead, sign-up for a Citi Bike Day Pass, where you can enjoy unlimited 30-minute rides for 24 hours for only $12. On top of that, you don’t have to lug your bike around all day, because Citi Bike has hundreds of rental docks all around Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn, Queens, and even New Jersey!
7. Find Free Events & Coupons with City Guide!
City Guide is New York's #1 resource for travelers. You can pick up a free copy of our print guide at hundreds of hotels and popular tourist areas. Inside our pages, you’ll find hundreds of dollars in great savings on exhibits, shopping, dining, transportation, and much more. Dizzyingly long lists of free and cheap events are available each week on our website.
There’s also a coupon page packed with great discounts for New York—a great way to be sure you're not getting ripped off!