Visit the Hamptons while you are in New York !

If you appreciate the contrast between new and old, you will love Long Island. It’s a little paraide located in the North-East of the United States, extending off the coasts from the State of Connecticut to the south towards the Hudson. Long Island is known to be the theater of a real New York melting pot. Indeed, here, old buildings mix with the last trendy clubs, the young people and the less young share the beach in harmony.

Credits: nytimes
Credits: nytimes

The Hamptons, the St tropez of New York

Some History… It’s a simple part of the island where virgin nature and fishermen were immortalized under the brush of some great painters, The Hamptons quickly became a dynamic destination. In the early 70s, this heaven on earth becomes the new place with the visit of the biggest celebrities. This area is now visited every year by the New Yorker socialites and VIP who are looking for a little escape under the perfect breeze from May to September ! (Like Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick)

credits:people
credits:people

Visit the Hamptons with Harlem Spirituals

Begin your trip with a stop at Riverhead, for a warm and typical country breakfast, then continue east as you pass the Long Island Duck, before arriving to the famous Southampton where residents such as Jerry Seinfeld, Paris Hilton, David Letterman, Steven Spielberg, and others have made it their home.

Credits: nytimes
Credits: nytimes

Start the tour strolling down the picturesque main street, before heading down through the historical area, the harbor and along ocean drive, passing by the homes of the rich and famous along the way. You will then continue to Sag Harbor a picturesque and quaint town that invites its visitors to enjoy it’s unique atmosphere. Take your time to tour the harbor and see the yachts, then stop at the antique stores or the old world shops for some real bargains.

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

After lunch head west towards the Tanger Outlets where you’ll pick up your mall goodies and then explore the stores. Find your own bargain with brand name stores for less! You’ll conclude your visit in the late afternoon, and depart west for an evening arrival in New York.

If you want to book this trip with us, CLICK HERE

If you have any question, feel free to send me a message on Facebook !

Salvatore

Tips, taxes, commissions, how to spend your money in New York?!

The common act purchasing something (food, goods, clothes, other equipment…) in your own country is quite simple: you have a good idea of the prices applied in your local stores and depending on which country you live in, taxes are directly applied on the displayed item. You do not get surprised at the view of the price of your final purchase!

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

Therefore, you may feel a little bit lost performing such a mindless act when abroad. It can also become trickier when it’s not using your own currency. Get ready for some math calculations! In this article, I will explain to you how tipping works in New York, what your bank charges you per withdrawal and help you out with general money questions you may have.

How do I pay in New York?

Of course, in New York, the currency is the US dollar! See, you were not that terrible in school ! 🙂

1$ equals approximately to 0,77 British pound or 1,30 Australian dollar or 1,30 Canadian dollar or 3.49 Israel New shekels. The bills in circulation are the $1, $2 (new), $5, $10, $20 and $50 and $100. (sometimes business owners can be reticent to accept bills of $100) the coins in circulation are: the quarter (25 cents), the dime (10 cents), the nickel (5 cents) and finally the penny (1 cent). Generally, the most used credit cards, VISA or MASTERCARD are accepted almost everywhere. However certain business owners don’t take the American Express because this company charges them a higher commission. Banking checks from another country are not accepted.

Before coming to New York, I suggest you to pay your banker a visit to make sure your credit card is usable for your travel needs. You can also write an e-mail but do not forget to mention the dates of your stay! Indeed, if your credit card was never used abroad before, their security system qualifies your expenses as fraud and disables your CB instantly. While in New York, you can withdraw cash in ATMs. There are inside and outside most of the banks (avoid those at bars or placed outside small businesses where commissions are higher than in banks, even for national residents). During your withdrawals, I suggest you to choose “withdrawal from checking”. Depending on the partnerships that your bank has set up with local banks here, you may have to pay additional fees from $4 to $8 per operation. The best way to know is to consult the pricing online.

How much cash do I need to carry in New York?

When one goes abroad, it is essential to always carry a little bit of cash. Worst case scenario: imagine for a second that you lose your credit card on your first day… It is then necessary that you have enough money to help you get by for a few days while waiting for a new card or finding another solution! To gage how much you need in cash, do a quick calculation based on what you plan to buy/spend during your first few days. If you want to grab a taxi cab at the airport, the cost of the ride is between $65 to $70. I personally don’t think that you need much money on your arrival because for most cases, your accommodation has already been paid beforehand.

IMPORTANT: Please, don’t be fooled, avoid “black cabs” (illegal taxis), also called “gypsy cabs.” Their drivers are only looking to scam tourists and will not hesitate to ask you $200 for the transportation to your hotel! My advice to you is to wait on line for a yellow taxi (yellow cab) where an agent at the airport will affect you to a car, and it is one of the safest options out there.

Credits: Harlem Spitituals
Credits: Harlem Spitituals

If you want to plan ahead and avoid the hassle of finding a taxi cab after your long and tiresome flight, you can now book our comfy transportation service options from any airport to your hotel/apartment with us by CLICKING HERE.

Regarding the currency exchange, your bank is limited with economic solutions for your travel because their commissions are pretty expensive in my opinion.

Here are my 2 advices to you:

– pre-order US money online and withdraw it directly at the airport. Some Exchange Currency offices offer this service.

– if you have time, go to 2 or 3 Exchange currency offices near where you live to check what they offer, some of them (depending on your country) charge a little commission, other nothing. Explore all your options!

Service and leaving tips in the Big Apple

The average income of a waiter/bartender in New York is less than the minimum wage and that’s the reason why tipping is mandatory. It is very common to leave between 18% to 20% of the check in tips according to the quality of service you got. For your informaton, the tip is called “gratuity“. If you order a drink at a bar, the average tip is $1 or $2 per drink. If you are 6 people or more at a table, the waiter will automatically include a “gratuity” of 20% on your check/bill.

Credits: Liberation
Credits: Liberation

Tipping is not applied everywhere though. Indeed, if you eat in a fast-food like McDonalds or Starbucks, the concept of service doesn’t really exist because nobody will bring your order at your table! When taking a cab, like in most restaurants, you need to tip between 15% to 20%. If you pay in credit card, you will be able to select the options displayed on the small monitors behind the seats of the car.

In New York, the displayed prices don’t include taxes

On my first day in New York and doing some shopping, I was being cautious about the estimation price of my shopping cart while filling it. When I got to the cash register, I was surprised to notice that the amount estimated increased by approximately 10%! So much for my calculations… I asked the cashier to explain to me this price difference, and she declared the displayed prices don’t include taxes ! So beware of that.

What are taxes for the goods and services in New York?

The State of New York imposes taxes on services and goods on its territory.

When you see a displayed price, it is necessary to add 8,875% of taxes.

Taxes are composed this way :

– the tax of the town of New York with 4.5%,

– the tax of the State of New York with 4%,

  • the tax of Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD) of 0,375%. Nevertheless, some products are not subjected to this tax, it is the case of food (except for restaurants), drugs, diapers, magazines and newspapers… but also clothing and accessories like shoes if their cost do not exceed $110.

Example for a pair of shoes:

– If a pair of shoes costs $110 or more, it will be taxed up to 8,875%.

– If this same pair of shoes costs less than $110, no tax will be applied. Another example: You bought 3 pairs of shoes at $100 dollars per pair, the tax will not apply because each pair of shoes do not exceed $110 dollars. As soon as you buy an item that costs $110 or more, the tax will apply.

Credits: Glamour
Credits: Glamour

I hope you found this article to be useful before you take on your NY adventure, if you have any question, do not hesitate to drop me a line on Facebook!

Salvatore

How to celebrate Fourth of July in New York?

What is this it is?

Independence Day referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation: the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

Credits: Michael Dyers
Credits: Michael Dyers

Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and ceremonies (in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States). Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.

What Can I expect from that day?

Independence Day is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Similar to other summer-themed events, Independence Day celebrations often take place outdoors. Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (such as the postal service and federal courts) are closed that day. Many politicians make it a point to appear at a public event as well, in order to praise the nation’s heritage, laws, history, society, and its people.

Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue; many take advantage of the day off and, in some may take a long weekend away to gather with relatives or friends. Decorations are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades are often held in the morning, before family get-togethers, while fireworks displays occur in the evening after dark at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.

How to celebrate this exceptional day in New York?

As mentionned above, the majority of New Yorkers will be enjoying the day outside: Central Park is one of the destination for an impromptu picnic with family and friends to later meet again in the evening to see the fireworks. The show starts around 9:00pm on the East River. Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge offer the best view of Manhattan. Also, keep in mind nearly 3 million of spectators are expected so make sure you arrive around 11:00am to score the best spot. If you do not want to wait, I invite you to explore other options to admire the fireworks below.

Credits: centralpark.com
Credits: centralpark.com

A wonderful cruise to admire the fireworks !

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

The 4th of July cruises are very trendy right now in New York. Indeed more and more people embark on board of a small boat to be near the fireworks and celebrate this national event with friends and family, while remaining away from the hurly-burly of New York. The cruise lasts for 5 hours during which you will be able to witness the best perspective of Manhattan and its skyline. To top it all, this escape includes the magic of one of the best DJs of New York. It is one wonderful moment which will remain engraved forever in your memory. If you are hungry or you wish to have a drink, there is a service bar/restaurant available in the boat. To book it, CLICK HERE

An helicopter tour

Credits: lovingnewyork
Credits: lovingnewyork

If sailing is not your thing, maybe you have the heart of a bird and air is for you!? If that’s the case, you will be thrilled by this tour which will enable you to enjoy the most exceptional sights of the city. After a takeoff above the Hudson River, you will move right towards the mythical Statue of Liberty and will be able to admire the Empire State Building and other iconic buildings of New York! If you want to make a success of your trip in New York, I strongly advise you o take this tour. To book it, CLICK HERE

If you have any question, do no hesitate to write me on Facebook!

Salvatore

Traveling by yourself in New York? Here’s what you can do!

Traveling by yourself in New York? Here’s what you can do!

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

More and more people visit a places by themselves and this trend keeps on growing through the years. What does motivate a person that can’t usually spend a weekend without his friends to take a trip somewhere on their own?

One of the main reasons is the desire to explore a place by ourselves and see how fare we can go in an unknown environment. Of course some people also leave for more personal reasons: needing some time after a breakup, a work deception etc. A little journey is always beneficial, especially if you want to start afresh with solid foundations.

Credits: Warner Bros
Credits: Warner Bros

Lucky for you, New York is the perfect city to be  visited if you feel lonely! If you look further, you will realize it’s actually the everyday life of many New Yorkers. Here are some explanations:

Yes, New Yorkers enjoy brunch for hours with their friends on sundays, they have a drink or four with their buddies after work, they organize fest for 20 people every week but the truth is that, many of them have an individualistic life, and it’s not an insult. It’s very common when you live in a city as New York.

New Yorkers don’t count their hours at work, some of them even juggle with several jobs to be able to pay all the bills on time. Let’s not even talk about relationships! They rarely become serious as it’s very difficulty to make time for it.

The good news : It’s the perfect city if you are single!  If you have the soul of Indiana Jones or a Sweet heart like Carrie Bradshaw, here are some activities you might enjoy while rediscovering yourself.

Go to a Museum

The MOMA

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

Founded in 1929, The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan was the first museum devoted to the modern era. From an initial gift of eight prints and one drawing, the Museum of Modern Art’s collection has grown to include over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects. This unparalleled collection offers a comprehensive, panoramic overview of modern and contemporary art from the innovative European painting and sculpture of the 1880s to today’s film, design and performance art. To Book a ticket, CLICK HERE

The MET

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world’s largest and finest art museums. Its collections include works of art spanning more than 5,000 years of world culture, from the splendors of ancient Egypt to contemporary works by today’s leading artists from all over the world.

Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum is located in New York City’s Central Park along Fifth Avenue (from 80th to 84th Street). In addition to its world-famous collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presents more than 30 special exhibitions each year, representing a wide range of artists, eras and cultures. All special exhibitions are included with admission. To Book your ticket, CLICK HERE   

Le 9/11 Memorial Museum

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

Explore the museum at your own pace! The 9/11 Memorial Museum offers 2 main exhibitions: the historical exhibition September 11, 2001, and the memorial exhibition In Memoriam. Other Museum exhibition spaces include artistic expressions created in response to 9/11, large artifacts demonstrating the scale of the attacks, remnants from the original World Trade Center construction and recording booths in which visitors can add their personal reflections to the Museum collection. To Book it, CLICK HERE

Read a book or a biography

Credits: Musso
Credits: Musso

When traveling on your own, one has more time to do the things that they don’t usually prioritize at home. No need to wait for your girlfriends to wake up from the party they went to last night to get a head start on the day! Why not start reading a new book that will keep you entertained during your subway rides? Stories that take place only in New York obviously! Trust me, it will be fun to read the street names and places that will become familiar to you. Who knows, they could later write themselves as part of your own personal story!

Go Shopping

Credits: Chelsea Market
Credits: Chelsea Market

No need to explain this activity, you better than me! New York has its share of many little boutiques or consignment shops that really deserve to be checked. Most of them aren’t necessarily located in Manhattan either (design doesn’t have to mean expensive). Here are 3 places to visit:

  • The Chelsea Market: 75, 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
  • The Market NYC: 218 Bedford Avenue à Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • The Flea Market: 290 Mulberry St. New York, NY 10012

Listen to a Live concert

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

New York offers a wide range of eclectic music: Jazz, Electro, Pop Music, Gospel etc…The city holds something for everyone. My advice for you is to go to a Gospel concert at a Church in Harlem! The beautiful acapella sounds of the choir are sure to inspire and delight you. Hear their powerful voices singing songs of praise and share their experience. To book it, CLICK HERE 

You can also check out Webster Hall, the electro music venue or the infamous Apollo Theater on 125th street in Harlem.

  • Webster Hall: 125 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003
  • Apollo Theater: 253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027

Go to a Broadway Show

Credits: Broadway
Credits: Broadway

Broadway shows are quintessentially a New York signature. Go to the theater district near Times Squares and see for yourself! You won’t be able to miss all the billboards promoting the best shows of the moment: The Lion King, Hamilton, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Matilda… It may be difficult to get a ticket for a reasonable price so don’t hesitate to contact us, we can help you find a good deal!

Have a drink and meet new people

Credits: Bar Service
Credits: Bar Service

It’s not because you are on your own that you shouldn’t go for a drink at a bar or enjoy a meal at a restaurant! On the contrary, don’t hesitate to have a sit at the counter of a bar and start a conversation with the bartender and locals ! Traveling solo makes it easier to meet people as you appear more approachable to talk to than if you were with your own group of friends. True story! Smile and the whole world smiles with you!

Few places I recommend for you:

  • City Winery: 55 Varick St, New York, NY 10013
  • Bar Bolonat: 611 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
  • Harlem Public: 3612 Broadway, New York, NY 10031
  • Tribeca Tavern: 247 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Go see a movie

Credits: Downtown Express
Credits: Downtown Express

Okay, you have watched movies in a theater before but in New York some theaters are really unique! For example, the Ipic Theater allows you to enjoy your movie and order dinner! I am not talking about Pop Corn or Nachos, it’s about real meals, served by a waitress. The experience is tasty and entertaining at the same time!

Adress: 11 Fulton St, New York, NY 10038

There are few other theaters as lovely:

  • Sunshine Cinema: 143 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
  • AMC Lincoln: 1998 Broadway, New York, NY 10023
  • AMC Empire : 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

Sailing

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

” ♪ ♫ Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be ♪ ♫”
“♪ ♫ Just a dream and the wind to carry me ♪ ♫”
“♪ ♫ And soon I will be free ♪ ♫” Ok I stop now 😉

I don’t know if it’s the case for you but every time I have made a big decision, it has always been facing the sea! The special connection with the ocean, the noise and scents of waves make you feel relaxed. So, from time to time, treating yourself to a little cruise here in New York can’t possibly be such a bad idea! From the little boat that brings you around the Statue of the Liberty to the giant sailboat that will give you the best perspective of New York’s skyline, the city has got it covered. To book it, CLICK HERE

Simply explore the city

Credits: Express
Credits: Express

New York is a city you can explore on your feet and thanks to transportation. It’s actually an excellent way to conquer the Big Apple and to get lost there. I will suggest you to start from the center of Manhattan and to go with the flow. North, South, East, West, like Christopher Colombus to the quest of Manhattan ! Don’t forget your GPS though…

Some Safety information for you:

New York City is a very safe city (a woman can travel on her own) however, you should pay close attention to certain things, one is never too careful in  a foreign city/country:

  • Stay in the center of New York City by night
  • Avoid hotels that are located above 125th street
  • Download the “UBER” app just in case you really need to get out quickly from the place you are.
  • Be careful taking the subway, during rush time there is sometimes confusion with the commotion

If you have any question, don’t hesitate to write me a message!

Salvatore

How to avoid scammers in New York?

How to avoid scammers in New York?

How I always say a successful trip is a well organized trip! Scammers are everywhere and I hate to be taken for an idiot. I now know New York very well and it’s my pleasure to tell you what you should avoid while enjoying your trip !

At the airport

Credits: Gary Busio
Credits: Gary Busio

Don’t get into a gipsy cab (black car), those drivers are expecting the perfect fool. Some of them are indeed without scruples and will not hesitate to ask you $200 to $400 once arrived at your destination!Yellow cabs respect the official city rate which is approximately $75, tip included). For your information, Harlem Spirituals offers a large range of transportation service. Some of them include a private driver that will wait for you outside the airport : no stress, no wait, no inconvenience ! To book this service with us, CLICK HERE

Buy and walk in touristic places

Credits: Angel Chevrestt
Credits: Angel Chevrestt

Do not buy electronic products or cellphones in stores located toward Times Square. Very often, they are poor quality products and when you realize it, it’s too late, you are already back in your city/country.

Some shops, most of them near Broadway, sell national phone cards at the price of international cards. They are obviously much expensive and useless for you if you want to call your family and friends from your country.

When you pay with your credit card in a restaurant or any other business dealing with the service aspect, don’t forget to write the tip you want to leave. If you let it empty, the server or any other employee can fill it for you …

In Times Square or Soho, while you ll be walking around, you ll certainly meet young musicians acting with you like you guys have been friends forever. They will try to put on your hands their last CD/album. Don’t forget they expect money from you. So if you feel charitable that day, feel free to give them whatever you can, otherwise do not pay attention to them !

In the High Line and other touristic places, you may meet false buddhist monks. Basically, they offer “piece of paper full of wisdom”. They smile and look inoffensive, but they ask you for money. This phenomenon have obliged the town hall to set up information boards everywhere to inform tourists of these scammers.

Hotel, housing and public behavior

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

If you are staying in an hotel and your booking does not include breakfast, don’t order it on the spot. Most of the time, it’s more expensive than having breakfast outisde the hotel and on the top of bit you get to try different meals.

In New York, drinking booze in public is formally prohibited. If you get caught by the police, they will make sure you’ll regret it, not even talking about the huge fine you will get.

In a less glamour note, if you feel like you need to pee, my advice to you is do not do it in public nor against a wall, it’s consider like a degradation of public goods. The police officers will be pitiless.

Do not get Pedicabs randomly in the streets of New York, the rates which they give to tourists are excessively expensive. Harlem Spirituals offers similar activities like biking on the Brooklyn Bridge! To book it with us, CLICK HERE

If you have a drink in a bar, the tip is not included and as I already said, therefore do not hesitate to ask your change and leave a tip by yourself (for a beer or a soda or a cocktail, leave between 1 and 2 dollars).

In Times Square, if you decide to take a picture with Batman or Mickey Mouse, don’t forget that the guy behind this costume expects a tip… Some of them can become very aggressive if you forget to pay them…

If you rent a house or an apartment, do not send money or at least be very careful, there are a lot of scammers online. Choose a well-known website like Airbnb or Vrbo or Homeaway.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to comment on this article or to write me on Facebook.

Salvatore