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New York City is a city of many things. It is NYC and the Big Apple; it is the largest city in the United States in terms of population; and it is one of the largest urban settlements in the world. It is a centre of finance, commerce, art, education, research, entertainment and media; and because the United Nations Headquarters can be found here, it is also a centre for international diplomacy. Public transport covers most visitor needs in this amazingly exciting and vibrant city, but hiring a car is essential for those looking to enjoy daytrips and excursions away from the main sights.
Who to Book With
There are a lot of car hire firms with offices in New York, the most prominent of which is Hertz, with more than 30 locations around town. Hertz is followed by Enterprise, Avis and Alamo. Budget, All Car, Thrifty, Ace and many others can also be found here. With all these firms in the city, choosing which one to head to upon arrival can be confusing. It is therefore a good idea to check and compare prices online before booking.
Best Time to Go
The climate here is humid continental, which means the weather gets a bit extreme in both the height of summer and winter for some sensibilities. It’s snowy in winter, with temperatures dropping to below 0°C, while summer can get really scorching, averaging in the high 20s reaching the low 30s. The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn boast the perfect conditions for a pleasant visit.
Need to Know Essentials
The following items need to be shown by the renter when collecting the vehicle:
- A national driving licence (or for licences not in English, an International Driving Permit) Renter’s ID with photo
- Credit card
- Confirmation for the booking
Although the streets and roads in New York are basically arranged in a grid system, it can still be confusing to visitors and new arrivals. It is always best to identify the intersection closest to your destination, as this relates a specific point in the map. One example is Broadway and Seventh Avenue, otherwise known as Times Square. Driving during the peak hours on weekdays within Manhattan is not the best idea, as the streets can get very congested. Most New Yorkers don’t drive, so you shouldn’t either. However, your rented vehicle will still serve you well on weekends when going on daytrips outside of the city.
New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority runs the public transport options around the city. The New York Subway and PATH trains are the main form of transport, complemented by the bus lines. Then there are, of course, the quintessential New York yellow cabs, which visitors can easily hail or hire by phone.
To be able to use the New York City Subway or efficiently ride the public buses, visitors can purchase a MetroCard to facilitate payments and transfers in buses and trains; a basic single-journey ride on a Metro Card costs about $2.50. The MetroCard is needed to enter the subway system. You can buy it at the stations, grocery stores, newsagents and even online. Without a MetroCard, you need to pay for bus rides in exact change (coins), never in notes.
The mishmash of lines on the New York City Subway, an underground rapid transit system, can be difficult to comprehend at first, but with a little patience, it is possible for visitors to use it efficiently. It covers an extensive area of New York City, including Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) also runs rapid transit trains between Manhattan, Jersey City, Newark and Hoboken.
The quintessentially New York yellow cabs are always there to help you get from one point to another. Cabs are widely available in Manhattan, but not so much in the other four boroughs, in which case a phone call to book is necessary. Fares are metered and begin at $2.5, plus $0.5 tax. Every fifth of a mile incurs an additional $0.4. Tipping is expected and credit cards are accepted.
Buses also provide good public transport option, especially for trips going east to west or vice-versa. Buses cover many areas including those not reached by the New York Subway. Note that the letter in the bus line corresponds to the borough. For example, M is for Manhattan, B is for Brooklyn and Bx is for the Bronx.
Finding something interesting to see and do in New York City is as easy as stepping off the plane. The city is teeming with life at all times of the year. Central Park, a favourite among locals and visitors to the city, is a good place to start. Museum Mile is a good place to take in some culture, and there’s always the obligatory photo-op in Times Square. Outside of the city are a number of great daytrips best done on the weekends with car hire.
Long Island - This is where many New Yorkers go to spend the weekends and where wealthy Americans have vacation homes. This is an especially beautiful area in the summer with its wide stretches of beach. This is also wine country, with many vineyards that are well worth a visit.
Liberty State Park - This is a nice area on the other side of the Hudson River, and is a great place to spend the weekend. It is easily reachable via Interstate 78. The promenades here have fantastic views of the classic New York skyline. Historic sites such as Ellis Island, where immigrants to the New World were stamped into their new lives in America, and Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is found, can be reached from the park.
Six Flags Great Adventure - Located in Jackson, New Jersey, this is easily one of the largest theme parks in the world. It can be reached in just an 80-minute drive from Manhattan. Dizzying roller coasters, safari-themed rides, wagon rides and many others are just some of the attractions sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.