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The Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel in NYC- Everything You Need To Know

The Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel in NYC- Everything You Need To Know

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Traveling solo isn’t an easy thing to do, especially in a big city like New York. New York is a big metropolis with a little bit of good, a little bit of bad, and a little bit of ugly too and to make the most of your trip, you should do your homework and plan ahead. That’s where this article comes in; in the next 15-20 minutes of reading, we’ll do our best to prepare you for every aspect of solo travel in NYC. We cover some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling solo in new York, safety tips, great destinations for solo travelers, hotels, restaurants, tips on meeting people as a solo traveler, and much more!  

Frequently asked questions about solo travel in NYC

solo travel in nyc

Is New York safe?

Yes, most of New York’s area is absolutely safe and is much safer than the 70s and the 80s. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always keep an eye on your belongings.

Is New York good for solo travelers?

I know New Yorkers have developed an infamous reputation for being rude but in all honesty, things aren’t as bad as you might think. There are actually a lot of people who are friendly to foreigners and New York is a vibrant, exciting city with a lot of interesting activities for solo travelers

What’s the best way to meet people in New York?

From my personal experience, I can recommend Meetup.com (alongside the weekly Reddit meet-up at Peculiar Pub), try using Couchsurfing (it works for meeting people too, not just finding a free stay), and searching for some Facebook groups related to solo travel in NYC. In addition to this, you can also hit some of the most famous single bars in New York, like The Village Tavern in Manhattan, Salsa Con Fuego in the Bronx, Judy and Punch in Queens, Union Pool in Brooklyn, and Mr/ Purple at Lower East Side. 

Safety tips for New York

new york city

Use common sense and don’t do things you wouldn’t do when traveling solo somewhere else. Don’t walk around with large amounts of cash, know what neighborhoods to stay away from, be cautious when in crowded areas, and never get drunk (this is a basic about traveling solo).

Be vigilant of overly friendly strangers. Typically, most New Yorkers are always in a rush and they don’t have the time to chit chat. As always, some people might be genuinely friendly but don’t sleep on it.

Be wary of panhandlers, especially when using the subway. I know they might make you feel bad but you’re not obligated to give them anything. It’s sad because some of them might really be in need but many of them are also scammers.

If unsure, don’t hesitate to spend more to feel safer. For example, if you’re not comfortable staying in a certain neighborhood, pay a little bit extra to stay in another neighborhood that makes you feel safer. If you’re not comfortable taking the subway, book an Uber or Lyft Line.

Last but not least, when in crowded areas, try to blend in. How does one blend in New York City? Just walk fast like you’re in a rush and keep your eyes straight ahead, even if you hear people shouting or talking to themselves very loudly. In NYC, these things are normal.

Mistakes to avoid for solo travelers

nyc subway

In this part of the article, we’ll cover some common mistakes many solo travelers make when visiting NYC. 

Be respectful of other people’s time and don’t forget people in NYC are always in a rush. So, even if you need help, don’t stop people on the sidewalk and bombard them with questions. In situations like this, chit-chat is also a no-no, if you really need help, cut straight to the point and ask for directions (or whatever else you need to ask). When done correctly, most locals would be happy to help.

Pay quickly. There aren’t many things that can make New Yorkers hate you more than taking too much time to pay when there’s a queue behind you (I don’t know if I emphasized it enough but New Yorkers are always in a rush). So, when you get in such a situation, have your card prepared in your hand and be ready to quickly complete your order. 

Avoid empty subway cars. It’s empty for a reason, most likely because the AC broke or someone puked inside (which can be very nasty) but there might also be some other technical problems that can potentially jeopardize your safety. 

Don’t get ripped off by a taxi driver. The yellow cabs are a symbol of New York and can oftentimes be the most convenient mode of transport but you have to be careful. The taxi drivers can spot a tourist and when they do, they tend to rip people off more often than not. If you want to avoid this, mark the route to the place you’re going to on your phone and make sure you let the driver know that’s the route you want to take. This will make it seem like you know your way around.

Don’t spend a lot on a fancy hotel. New York has so much to offer that you will probably be in your hotel room only for sleeping. NYC is not the place to book a five-star hotel or an all-inclusive resort; that would be a waste.

Don’t make eye contact with the performers in Times Square. Around New York, you’ll find many good street performers but none of them would come to Times Square. Most of the performers there are awful and will try to harass you for money if they catch you looking at them.

Don’t pay full price for a Broadway show. I’m absolutely not suggesting you shouldn’t see one, on the contrary! Just get your ticket at TKTS Ticket Booths- they always have discounted tickets for most shows on Broadway and most of them are real bargains.

But what if something bad happens?

new york at night

Most likely, nothing bad will happen but sometimes, bad things can happen even in the safest places. Statistically, the most likely bad thing that can happen to a tourist in NYC is petty theft, so as long as you’re careful with your belongings, you should be okay. Violent crimes (or other dangerous accidents tourists experience)in NYC are a rarity but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have travel insurance.

That’s where World Nomads comes in. Sure, you can always buy cheaper travel insurance from another vendor but when buying travel insurance, you shouldn’t only compare the prices; you should also cover what the package covers. And most cheap travel insurance vendors don’t cover even the basic things unlike World Nomads that offer plans on the more expensive side but you’re covered no matter what happens. Their packages even cover a robbery or other problems with your flight or accommodation!

Enjoying this post? Then you may also want to check out our guide to USA off the beaten track.

Where to eat alone in NYC?

nyc skyline

It might be weird in other parts of the world, but eating alone in NYC is normal and booking a table for one won’t cause any weird reactions most of the time. If you still feel weird about eating alone when traveling solo in New York, you can always eat in a café or have your meal by the bar. In addition to this, there are many low-key places where you can dine alone and have some time with your thoughts without feeling uncomfortable. Here are some of my favorite dining spots for solo travelers in New York.

Jg Melon (at Upper East Side) is one of the best burger joints in New York. It’s been operating since the 1970s, it’s often crowded and is a favorite for many solo travelers who visit(ed) New York.

Superiority Burger (near Ukrainian Village) is a vegetarian restaurant with a wide range of delicious snacks and dishes, most of which fall under the $10 range, making it perfect for budget travelers.

108 Food Dried Hot Pot (at Upper West Side) is one of the best hot-pot places in New York for solo travelers. A lot of Columbia students come here for a quick meal, many of which alone, so you probably won’t be the only person there dining alone.

Il Trapizzino (at Lower East Side) is famous for its delicious trapizzino that the restaurant is named after. If you didn’t know, trapizzino is like a pizza-sandwich hybrid of your dreams. You can get your trapizzino on the go and not worry about dining inside alone.  

The Meatball Shop (Hell’s Kitchen) is a great place to grab a quick meal after a broadway show. This restaurant is known for allowing customers to basically make their own meatballs by choosing the meatball’s base, sauce, and additional ingredients. They even have some nice vegetarian options too and it’s quite affordable.

Joe’s Pizza (in Greenwich Village) has arguably the best pizza in New York. It’s a cheap eatery but their pizza is much better than the one you get in most Italian restaurants and local pizzerias. They also have small standing tables for customers, so as a solo traveler, you won’t feel awkward eating alone. 

Guantanamera (in Midtown West) is the best Cuban restaurant in New York. The place has a low-key vibe, is popular among solo travelers, and it’s a great place to meet people and have some of the best Cubano sandwiches in NYC. 

Cervo’s (at Lower East Side) is a great tapas joint where you can enjoy this beloved Spanish snack and a range of sea dishes and dine by the bar. 

Cocoron is a great Japanese restaurant famous for its hand-made noodles and Goemon Curry. Food is served at communal tables so technically, you won’t be dining alone. 

Where to stay alone in NYC?

solo travel in nyc

There are so many amazing places to stay in NYC that I could probably write an entire article about it but I’ll do my best to summarize things here. If you only have a few days in NYC and want to cover the city’s main attractions, the best areas to stay are East VillageLong Island City (Queens), Upper West SideUpper East SideWest Village, and Park Slope Brooklyn.

One thing to have in mind when choosing a hotel in New York is the proximity to a subway station. Personally, I always want to be no more than 15 minutes away (by walking) from the nearest subway station. This way, you would avoid walking around alone for prolonged periods of time. That being said, since you’re traveling solo in NYC, keep in mind that you won’t be sharing your hotel bill with anyone else and New York is a ridiculously expensive city.

If you want to save some money, definitely consider hostels (we have a few recommendations below) or Couchsurfing. Hostels are a great place to meet other solo travelers and Couchsurfing is a great option too but if you choose CS, make sure you find a host in advance because New York is a popular destination throughout the year.

Where not to stay in NYC?

harlem nyc

Personally, I would advise against staying in Manhattan. Everything is more expensive there and the area is always crowded and noisy which, I think we all can agree, is not very good for a vacation. You should also avoid some parts of New York that aren’t deemed safe for solo travelers, such as East Harlem, Brownsville, and Brooklyn’s East New York. I also suggest you stay away from Midtown and Down Town; there are many hotels here but most of them are overpriced and the neighborhoods are grey and soulless. Definitely not ideal for first-time visitors.

You also might be tempted (by low prices) to stay in Jersey City (New Jersey is actually a very underrated destination), Hoboken, or Staten Island and even though these places are perfectly safe, there’s a reason why they’re cheaper. What you might save on accommodation, you’ll probably spend on public transport and commuting. 

While we’re at it, you should also note that Airbnb is technically illegal in New York, meaning you can’t stay in an apartment without the host for less than 30 days. The reasoning behind this law is the fact that New York is a very popular tourist destination and oftentimes, the apartments that would remain vacant for travelers would drive the price of rent up through the roof (as I mentioned NYC is already very expensive).

If you still want to use Airbnb, there are still some great Airbnbs in New York but keep in mind that for your arrangement to be legal, you have to be staying with your host. If the NYPD by some chance finds out about your illegal accommodation arrangement you will be fined together with the host.  

Looking for some cool day trip ideas from NYC? Then you may want to check out our posts about unique things to do in Niagara Falls and Saratoga Springs.

Our favorite hotels/hostels in NYC for solo travelers

nyc skyline

We all know that solo travel and reading books go hand in hand and The Library Hotel in Midtown East is a great hotel for all book lovers. Every floor of the Library Hotel is themed around a different category of the Dewey Decimal Classification (proprietary library classification system). The hotel also has a charming lounge perfect for reading and enjoying some nice cocktails. But be careful, if these things float your boat, you might not want to leave this hotel. 

Ace Hotel is a great choice for people looking to solo travel in NYC, especially female solo travelers. This hotel is only 2 minutes away from the nearest subway station and the elevators can only be accessed with keys (that are given when you book a room here). So, if you’re feeling a bit uneasy about staying alone in NYC and safety is your priority, this is one of the best choices for you. 

Leo House is a small hotel run by the Catholic Sisters of St. Agnes (but it doesn’t have any religious affiliations). It’s not posh but the hotel is nice and tidy, it has all the basic amenities (it even has a beautiful on-site garden and its own buffet which is also affordable), and is relatively cheap providing great value for money.

Z New York Hotel in Queens is a great choice for luxury-seeking solo travelers that don’t fancy paying an overpriced hotel in Manhattan. This hotel is a place where you can have boutique luxury for less while enjoying some of the most spectacular panoramic views of downtown NYC. 

The Jane Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in NYC for solo travelers. Its location is great, it’s only 8 minutes away from the subway station at 14 St & 8 Avenue and the hotel is more than 100 years old. It was built in 1908 mainly as a home for traveling sailors. The hotel was restored in 2008 and today, it has 130 standard cabins and 40 bunk bed cabins (with shared bathrooms), and 30 captain’s cabins (with en suite bathrooms). It’s classy, affordable, has its own buffet, and you can enjoy some beautiful views of the Hudson River. 

Hi NYC Hostel in Upper West Side is one of the best hostels in town. The hostel is located inside a large Victorian-style house, 10 minutes away from Central Park. It has a cute patio with a beautiful garden, fully-equipped kitchen, an awesome game room, and frequent happy hours and organized night outs where you can hang out with other solo travelers. 

The local NYC is a hostel with one of the friendliest staffs in New York. They’re very nice and make it their mission to get their guests socializing and getting to know each other. Obviously, if you’re an introvert, this might not be the best place for you but if you like meeting other solo travelers while visiting New York, this is one of the best places for you.

NY Moore Hostel in East Williamsburg is one of the trendiest hipster hostels in New York (the place is covered in artwork, graffiti, and interesting decorations). The hostel has a central location and provides all necessary amenities including free parking which is a rarity in New York.

Chelsea International Hostel is one of the largest and oldest hostels in New York. The hostel has a nice dining area, two kitchens, a charming courtyard, and single beds (breakfast is free too). They also have a weekly party with free pizza every Wednesday.

What to pack for a solo trip to New York?

packing nyc

Unless you live in a very hot/very cold place, you should be fine sticking to your usual wardrobe and you won’t need any special ‘travel clothing’ for your trip to New York. If you want to blend in, I suggest you take a lot of black clothes (apparently, this is the favorite color of most New Yorkers) and it’s also very important to have a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Also, I would suggest you not to bring too many casual clothes. Compared to the rest of the US, NYC is slightly more formal and if you want to blend in and not appear like an unwary tourist, dress up.

The best way to commute in NYC is the subway but sometimes you may have to walk to the nearest station. If you don’t like walking you can always take a cab, but be prepared to spend some time stuck in traffic. If you’re visiting during spring, make sure to bring a rain jacket and a compact travel umbrella because it tends to rain more often but that doesn’t mean you should get some sunscreen and sunglasses because there are some sunny days as well.

For the summers, make sure you bring clothes made from lightweight fabric and a portable water bottle to stay hydrated. Alternatively, if you’re visiting during autumn, make sure you pack a lot of sweaters and maybe even a light coat because around this time of the year, temperatures start dropping. Last but not least, if you’re planning to solo travel in NYC in the winter, make sure you bring a warm coat, winter boots, a winter hat, and a pair of winter gloves as temperatures will likely be below zero and you might even experience snow.

A few fun things to do alone in NYC

brooklyn bridge

There are many interesting things to do in New York. For some more inspiration, you can also check out our favorite hidden gems of New York, the best things you can only see in NYC, and we even have an entire post about the best things to do in NYC alone. In this section, we’ll try to briefly summarize our favorite activities in New York for solo travelers.

Take a walk around Central Park

Go to the Bushwick Collective for some fascinating street art

Wonder off in the Botanical Garden of Bronx

See the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens

Grab a ferry to Governors Island

Visit the House of Yes for some of the weirdest raves and concerts in town

Catch a show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem

Enjoy the highly interactive theatrical experience of “See Sleep No More”

Take a food tour

Read a book at the Strand

Walk Along Brooklyn Bridge

Climb the Vessel

Go Thrift Shopping

Additional resources for traveling to New York

Flying to New York City? Check this Qatar Airways special offer and save as much as 15% on your flight.

For some accommodation deals in NYC, use my Booking code and get up to 15% off on all properties in town.

If you still didn’t arrange your US visa and you would like to do that online, you can do so here. IVisa can help you get a visa to pretty much anywhere, including the US and their team does all the work for you.

Don’t forget to use points.com to get more rewards with less points and miles.

If you still want to rent a car in New York and experience the city’s horrible traffic, use AutoEurope to compare the prices of all car rental agencies in the area. This way, you can always make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

Last but not least, check out this list of things I wish I knew before visiting the US.

Did you ever thing of solo travel in NYC? How did you like our post? Do you think there are some other important information we forgot to mention in the article? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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