Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to NOT look like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.

Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call Invisible Tourism, you’ve come to the right place!

This local’s guide for how to not look like a tourist in NYC was written by Kelly from Girl With The Passport. As one of the most awesome city break destinations ever, I am very excited to share her top 8 tips for how to best blend in with New Yorkers so you can make the most of your time and experience the city like a local, written by a local!


Here’s how to NOT not look like a tourist in NYC

Welcome to New York City, an urban oasis filled with fast talkers and fast walkers that never sleep and that are forever in a rush to get somewhere, even if they’re not.”

And while we may seem rather unfriendly with our eternal impatience and headphone driven, self-imposed isolation, once you get to know us, we’re actually totally awesome. So have a look below and see how you too can look like a mildly cool New Yorker like me.

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

Look like a local in NYC with these 8 simple steps:

Fold your pizza down the middle

I cannot stress this enough because eating your pizza in any other way will immediately indicate that you are NOT a native New Yorker; and yes, eating your pizza with a fork and knife is a sin against humanity.

So to properly eat your slice of New York style pizza (no other style is acceptable here), you will fold the slice down the middle. You will start eating your pizza at the non-crust end. This end will droop slightly towards your plate and a bit of grease will drip on your plate. This is normal and is totally fine. Continue eating your pizza until it is finished, leaving the crust if you are not a fan of this part of the pizza.

Brooklyn Bridge over East River with One World Trade Center over on Manhattan
Brooklyn Bridge along the East River with One World Trade Center over on Manhattan in the distance

Do not wait for the crosswalk sign to walk

This one is HUGE. If you want until the crosswalk sign says walk, we will immediately know you are NOT a New Yorker because New Yorkers are always in a rush. We don’t have time to wait for the light to change. Instead, you will want to blend in by standing as far in the street as humanly possible without getting hit by an oncoming car. As soon as you can safely dart across the street, do so. Yeah, it feels kind of like you’re in a real life game of Frogger but that’s what we do here in New York.

NOTE: Please be careful and if you need to, wait for the light. I don’t want you getting hit by an oncoming cab!

Walk quickly, with your head down

To avoid looking like a tourist in NYC do not lollygag along the sidewalk, taking pictures and looking at a map because if you’re a New Yorker, you are always in a rush. So even if you have no where to go, you should still walk with purpose and move quickly along the sidewalk.

Additionally, you should keep your head down and headphones in if you have them because we are busy and don’t have time to talk to anyone. Do all of this and we might accept you as one of us.

🔵🔵 RELATED: Here’s how to NOT look like a tourist in 10 easy steps

Grand Central Station, NYC
Grand Central Station

Do not get in an empty subway car, especially during rush hour

New York City is an insanely crowded city so If there’s an empty subway car, it’s there for a reason. Usually it’s because the air-conditioning is broken or because there is some icky bodily fluid lurking within. Either way, you don’t want to find out. Just stay far, far away.

Also note that if you are travelling to the suburbs via train, DO NOT take the last train. This is commonly known as the “drunk train” and is filled with annoying, drunken hooligans who are projectile vomiting everywhere. It’s like the Exorcist come to life in there so avoid this train at all costs.

DUMBO, Brooklyn
DUMBO, Brooklyn

Do not eat at a chain restaurant or in Times Square

New Yorkers don’t do chain restaurants, besides Starbucks, McDonalds, and Dunkin’ Donuts. There is so much good, low cost food around that there is really no need to eat at a place like Applebees or TGI Fridays. Therefore, if you are eating at one of these places, we generally assume that you are a tourist.

Also avoid eating in Times Square or going there altogether because New Yorkers hate it there. It is crowded, overpriced, and filled with stereotypical tourists who have no idea where they are going. So generally speaking, we avoid anything and everything related to Times Square.

The Big Apple
The Big Apple?

Avoid eating in Little Italy

Real New Yorkers don’t get their Italian food in Little Italy. It is overpriced tourist trap that serves mediocre food. If you want your Italian food fix, head over to Arthur Avenue. This area of the Bronx is filled with a bunch of locally owned restaurants that are not only delicious but are priced so that locals can actually afford to eat there.

Do not wear a ‘scrunchie’ or an ‘I ❤ NY’ T-shirt

We may wear yoga pants to the grocery store and roll out of bed in our college sweatshirts, but we do not wear scrunchies. If you need to put your hair up, a hair tie is the acceptable way to do so.

I also suggest that you skip the I ❤ New York City shirt. We love our city but do not show New York City pride by wearing souvenirs. If you must show your undying love for New York City, then wearing a Yankee hat, or any other New York related, sports paraphernalia, that way you’ll avoid looking like a tourist in New York.

🔵🔵 RELATED: How to NOT look like a tourist in Melbourne, Australia

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge along the East River overlooking One World Trade Center back on Manhattan

Refer to New York City as, “the City”

We do not refer to New York City as New York City. To native New Yorkers it is simply the City because it is the only city that really matters to us. We love our city and think it’s the greatest city in the world, so we don’t feel the need to call it by it’s full name. So always say the City and we’ll think you’re a local.

So there you have it, a local’s step by-step-guide to becoming an Invisible Tourist in New York City. So leave the ultra white, high top sneakers at home. Instead, throw on a pair of Timberland boots (Tims) and a Yankee hat with a straight rim, with the sticker still on, and you’ll be good to go.

To learn loads more useful tips for visiting New York City, head over to Kelly’s awesome blog Girl With The Passport, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Ready to be invisible in New York City?

Now you’ve discovered the best secrets for how to not look like a tourist in NYC, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not compare hotel prices here?

Do you have any extra tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
I hope you enjoyed the first instalment in my Be Invisible series! If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram for more!

Until next time, 

The Invisible Tourist


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Alyse
Author

Alyse has spent 9 years travelling "The Invisible Tourist Way" and hopes to encourage fellow travellers to do so, too. A professional language hoarder, she can usually be found burying herself in travel books and Wikipedia articles. Her dreams? Always about the next destination and how to make the most of the experience.

20 Comments

  1. Phew! I’m happy to report that the only thing I’ve done wrong is eating in Little Italy! I mean….it was still pretty good Italian food! 😛

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      Haha same here, Brianna! To be fair, there was an amazing street food festival on during my visit… How could I resist the mouthwatering aroma of a sizzling Philly cheesesteak??

  2. Andrea Mayfield Reply

    I seriously love this post! So funny! When I was in NYC last year I did fold my pizza down the middle, I did not wait for the cross walk, and I did not wear a scrunchie or I love NYC shirt 😂 But I totally did eat once in Times Square 🙈

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      Sounds like you would have fit right in with locals during your visit (except for the moment you were in Times Square 😉) Thanks, Andrea!

  3. Haha so funny! Oh my I’ve broken so many of these rules oops! I’ll know how to behave next time!

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      Not to worry, Viola! I’m sure you would have had an awesome time in NYC anyway, there are always exceptions to rules 😆

  4. This cracked me up! My sister lives in the city and yes, people do not wait for the crosswalk sign to walk. But, New Yorker does not stop for people who are crossing the street when they are not supposed to. You have no idea how many people my sister was close to hitting on a ride around Manhattan.

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      Oh goodness that sounds scary – Thankfully I didn’t witness any of that when in was in the City! Glad you had a laugh at the article 🙂

  5. Love this post! It made me smile. Didn’t know about the empty subway car. Thankfully, I didn’t do any of the above the last time I visited “the City”. 🙂

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      Thanks, Rosie! Haha during my visit to NYC I never really thought about the empty subway cars, but I can definitely relate to empty train carriages in Sydney during peak hour – there’s definitely an unpleasant reason behind it!

  6. I moved to CT a few years ago about 30 miles from the City and that’s when I learned everyone calls it “the City.” I really love this and I do it, too, now! I do find myself in Times Square a lot, but that’s because I love a good Broadway show and I’ve no shame in that!

  7. I love this guide! My favourite point was about folding the Pizza down the middle, so true! Also have to agree, eating Pizza with a knife and fork is just so wrong haha

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      I have to agree about the knife and fork, Rebecca! 😂

  8. Absolutely love the idea behind this post. I love New York, but am sure I looked like a tourist the last few times I went. Ahhhh I want to go back, and when I do I shall be using these tips. Love it! Thanks.

  9. As a born and raised New Yorker, I wholeheartedly agree with all of these tips. And I want to reiterate, even though we look tough on the outside, most of us are super friendly and helpful especially to tourists looking for directions, especially on the subway because it’s such a hot mess and can be confusing even to locals!

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      I totally agree with you, Sarah! I found New Yorkers to be super friendly if I ever did have to ask for assistance. And your 24-hour metro is AWESOME. It’s so obvious how much you guys love your city and that is something to be admired ❤️

  10. This was so much fun to read! I had no idea that New Yorkers folded their pizzas in half. Also, the tips about not getting on an empty subway car or taking the last train made me laugh. I’ve actually seen someone get vomited on during a train ride, and it was NOT pretty (the wonders of the grand prix in Melbourne!)

    Your “how to not look like a tourist series” is so much fun to read!

    • Alyse
      Alyse Reply

      Hehe thanks so much, MG! Oh no what an awful thing to witness, I hope you managed to move away from the epicentre of that somehow! Nothing can clear a crowd on a train faster than vomit 😆

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