How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in NYC | The Invisible Tourist

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!

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How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in NYC | The Invisible Tourist
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Here’s how to NOT not look like a tourist in NYC

Welcome to New York City, one of the best vacation spots in the US! It’s 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

Look like a local in NYC with these 8 simple steps

1. Do 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

2. 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!

3. Do 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.

Grand Central Station, NYC

4. 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

5. 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, it is not one of the best places to eat in NYC.

6. Do 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.

The Big Apple, NYC

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

What else can you do to not look like a tourist in NYC? 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.

Editor’s Note: Since this article was first published in 2018, scrunchies have made an unprecedented comeback! Who would have thought? It’s now socially acceptable to wear them, although some may still think scrunchies belong back in the 90’s – wear with caution. 

8. Do 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 its 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. 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.

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? If you’d like to learn learn my strategies for how to not look like a tourist ANYWHERE, take a look at my  book – it was a #1 Amazon New Release!

If you’re visiting this awe-inspiring city for the first time, you may want to find out about city passes and if they’re worth your while. Check out this comprehensive guide: Is the New York Pass worth it?

Do you have any extra tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below! I hope you enjoyed this instalment of my Be Invisible series! While you’re here, see if I’ve covered other destinations in the United States you’d like to visit someday. If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok or Instagram for more!

Until next time, 

The Invisible Tourist


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How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in NYC | The Invisible Tourist


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43 Comments

  1. Two things (lifelong NYer here):

    I had no idea that scrunchies were ever uncool in the city;
    and with the emergence of cell phones, IG/TikTok, etc., NYers take almost as many photos as tourists. The subject matter is almost certainly different, but a clicking camera doesn’t necessarily mean tourist.

  2. This is cute and yes please walk fast because time is money and we need to get back and forth to work quickly and tourists mostly are slow!!! I get it this city is amazing but the streets are wide stick to the outside of the sidewalk so you can look at all the cool architecture and we can get to where we need to go. If you need to find your way look up facing downtown so you can orient yourself. once you see the Empire State building then you know East is to your left and West is to your right.

  3. Making my first trip to NYC in September and looking so forward to it! I’m going with my sons and we are from California; the Bay Area . We have that other city that locals call “The City”!! I’m committing these tips to memory so we don’t all look too much like tourists.

  4. Great Blog! After reading this, there’s are no doubt how we can act like a local and not be a tourist.

  5. I loved reading everyone’s comments! I was born and raised in “The Bronx”. I moved away in 1985 I enjoy and love going back every chance I get. Reading the tips and responses truly made me imagine I was there! It was such a natural thing the pizza, subway, walking, talking, t shirts and Times Square I cant imagine calling anywhere else home 😃

    1. So glad you enjoyed reading this article and reading the comments, Lynnie! There really isn’t anywhere else like NYC 🙂

    1. You are so right, Caitlin! Who would have thought scrunchies would make a comeback?! I’ll update this article shortly 😄

  6. Omg!!! Born in Hells Kitchen, grew up on lower east side, moved to Queens and The Bronx as an adult, lastly worked as a visiting nurse covering from the lower east side up to where grandma lived on upper west side. I wouldn’t trade my childhood with anyone cuz there’s no place on Earth like “the melting pot” which enriched my life and gave me an appreciation for all walks of life, from everywhere on earth which helped me immensely as a visiting nurse. I truly enjoyed your article and never realized that I did all of those things naturally vand still do at 61 yo living in St. Augustine Florida. I wore the Timberland boots up thru adulthood though in “my hood” in the vladeck housing project we called them “Abner’s” and I have no idea why. Luv luv luv your ideas and will follow you. Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

    1. I personally loved Hells Kitchen too, Virginia! I’ve stayed there twice during my own travels as it’s such a great base to explore NYC. So glad you enjoyed this article and it stirred some memories for you, gotta love nostalgia! Isn’t it funny how we do things without even realising? Thanks so much for following along and hope to see you back here soon 😊

    2. If you’re 61, you should know why they’re called “Abners”. It’s a reference to the most famous resident of Dogpatch, Li’l Abner, who sported floppy, untied work boots as his only footwear. That comic strip was carried in every major (and most not-so-major) newspapers in the city, and around the country.

  7. NYC is my dream destination and I am so happy to have stumbled upon your post, Alyse! Exceptional tips which I really hope to put to use soon. I really didn’t know about the last train! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the lovely compliment, Agness! I hope you get to fulfil your dream sooner rather than later 🙂

  8. 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!

    1. 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 ?

  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!

    1. 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. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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!

  13. 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”. 🙂

    1. 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!

    2. If “our” subway riders avoid an empty car, please “believe” it’s for good reason. I did it once, when I was a teenager. I did ignore that a lot of people staring at me. NY people generally don’t do that, when you’re switching cars.
      When I drew back the train door, I was immediately hit with the worst smell I’ve ever encountered. It was coming from an obviously homeless man, whom we used to call “bums,” years ago. I then knew why I was being looked at by some many adults! There were many laughs and smiles, when I ran back! They were all probably saying, “She’ll be back, so leave her some room!”

  14. 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.

    1. 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 🙂

    2. The key to driving in the city (as opposed to driving in the outer boroughs) is never make eye contact. If you look at a pedestrian, they know you see them and take full advantage, as do the 40 or 50 people around them. You may be able to go straight like that, but odds are you’ll never get to make a turn.

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

  15. 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 ?

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

  16. 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! 😛

    1. 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??

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