Basic Information

Advertisement

Welcome to NYC. Planning a trip to the five boroughs can be part of the fun, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover. Click the categories on the left-side navigation to find information about subjects that require in-depth looks, such as transportation and accessibility. Below, you'll find quick overviews on other essential things, like the City's layout, the local time zone and various visitor passes.

Geography

New York City is composed of five boroughs. While Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, Brooklyn and Queens are geographically part of Long Island, and the Bronx is attached to the US mainland. The islands are linked by bridges, tunnels and ferries. Check here for helpful NYC maps and guides.

Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide at its widest. Except at its northern and southern tips, the borough's avenues run roughly north and south, and streets run east and west. One-way thoroughfares are common, with traffic moving east on even-numbered streets and west on odd-numbered streets. Fifth Avenue divides the island into east and west sides (for example, locations on 57th Street west of Fifth Avenue are designated "W. 57th St.," and east of Fifth Avenue, they're "E. 57th St."). As you move farther east or west from Fifth Avenue, street addresses increase, usually in increments of 100 from one block to the next. For north-south avenues, 20 blocks equals a mile, and the street numbers increase as you go uptown. Blocks can be a useful measure of distance, but keep in mind your direction: walking uptown from 1st Street to 6th Street is about a quarter of a mile, but walking the same number of blocks crosstown, from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue, is approximately a mile.

Time Zone

New York City is on eastern standard time (Greenwich mean time minus four hours during daylight saving time, from March into early November, and minus five hours the rest of the year). 

International Visitors and Arrivals from Abroad

Visas
If you're visiting New York City from outside the United States, you may need a visa to enter the country. For details, visit the US State Department's visa information website.

Trusted Traveler Programs
Fly through the lines at JFK, LGA and Newark. The Department of Homeland Security has introduced several programs that can help expedite security and customs screenings when traveling to and from the US and New York City. The programs, customized based on travel needs and designed to enhance passenger experience, are available for US citizens and residents as well as those from certain foreign countries. Visit dhs.gov/tt to learn more about the options and their benefits, and see a chart that compares the different features of each.

US Customs and Border Protection
Recent improvements by US Customs and Border Protection have helped decrease wait times to enter the United States for both visitors and citizens coming from abroad. Among these are the Trusted Traveler Programs listed above, as well as self-service kiosks located in the international arrivals terminals at area airports and an app for smartphones and tablets. Discover what to expect when arriving from an international destination by watching "You Have Arrived," a short instructional video; to learn more about the self-service kiosks and app, watch "Global Entry – The Quickest Way Through the Airport."

Tours and Visitor Passes

CityPASS, Explorer Pass, the New York Pass and Build Your Own Pass by Smart Destinations
Find out which deal best suits your visit to NYC with this guide to New York CityPASS, Explorer Pass, the New York Pass and Build Your Own Pass by Smart Destinations.

City Experts NYC Tours
Seeing the City by double-decker bus, boat or helicopter can make for a memorable trip, and there are convenient, affordable ways to visit all of NYC’s major attractions. Explore tour options here.

Advertisement

Seasonal Events and Attractions

There's guaranteed to be something fun happening during your visit. To see what it is, visit our calendar of events or our annual events listings. Our overview of holidays in the City also provides essential information as well as details about how locals celebrate.

Local Laws

If you're headed out for a night on the town, you should know that the drinking age in NYC—and throughout the United States—is 21, and smoking is banned in public places throughout the City, including bars, restaurants, subways and taxis, and public parks and beaches. Cigar smoking is permitted at cigar bars that register with the City. In NYC, those who are 21 or older can purchase cigarettes and tobacco.

Useful Phone Numbers

Here are some important phone numbers to keep handy during your NYC visit.
• Emergencies (police, fire or ambulance): 911
• NYC government agencies and any questions or requests about City services (nonemergency): 311 or 212-NEW-YORK (639-9675)
• Directory assistance: 411
• Printed NYC literature: 800-NYC-VISIT (692-84748) or 212-397-8222

Currency

In New York City and throughout the United States, the dollar is the standard currency. This converter allows you to determine the value of other currencies compared with the dollar.

Below are some of the many places where you can exchange your currency for American dollars.

American Express Travel Services:
800-297-2977; americanexpress.com
• 111 Broadway (at Pine St.); 212-693-1100

ChangeGroup New York: 
changegroup.com
• 22 W. 34th St. (bet. Fifth and Sixth Aves.); 212-643-2976
• 234 W. 42nd St. (bet. Seventh and Eighth Aves.), ground floor; 212-391-7258
• 315 Madison Ave. (at E. 42nd St.); 212-883-0210
• 1568 Broadway (at W. 47th St.); 212-730-1686

Safety

New York is America's safest large city, but visitors should still use common sense to protect themselves and their property. Be aware of your surroundings, and make sure to always use licensed, reputable businesses for any services you need. For example, don't hail livery cabs (as opposed to taxis) at the airport, and don’t rent bikes from companies that seem suspicious. If you're not sure where to find legitimate businesses, the listings at nycgo.com are a good place to start as are those published by the Better Business Bureau. Your hotel concierge should be able to answer questions on this topic, and will be helpful if you need more information about neighborhoods in the five boroughs. 311, the City's official information hotline, is also a useful resource. For more information about safety, read our tips for visitors.

New York State

If you'd like to explore the rest of the state, visit iloveny.com, the official website for New York State tourism.


Advertisement