Every big city has it's own problem and annoyances and NYC is no different. Many first time NYC visitors are hesitant about using the subway and are worried about their personal safety. New York City is one of the safest big cities in the world (really!) but it doesn't mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on your wallet, it's still a big city with big city problems.
Here are 5 tips for insuring a great New York City visit.
1. Be aware of your surroundings. Although pick pockets are a rare species, they do exist. When standing in a crowd (street performances or the subway) move your purse or bag to the front. Keep your wallet or smart phone in your front pocket. Beware of helpful people. Every New Yorker loves to give directions and are fundamentally helpful to tourists etc. So don't be too leary, however do beware of anyone who gets a little too close to you. If they are helping you with a stroller down the stairs don't leave your wallet where they can grab it.
2. Beware of scam artists. Anyone giving you something out of the goodness of their heart probably wants money (this includes monks handing out charms to rappers handing out cds). If you have made the mistake of taking the item. Give it back. If they don't take it back put it on the ground and walk away. Having said this free things are given out by the tens of thousands all the time in New York City. It's called advertising. Take as much as you want and as much as they are willing to give you. You'll find people handing out everything from ice cream to deodorant! These are free. Anyone who hands you stuff and then wants cash is a scam artist. Hand it back.
3. Ask and count. Before you pick anything up from a street vendor ask for a price if it’s not posted. A hotdog vendor in lower Manhattan was caught selling hotdogs for $10 each! If you made a mistake simply give it back and WALK AWAY. If they want to call the police so be it – keep walking. It is illegal to sell food from a cart without posted prices! Also, be sure to count your change! Although honest mistakes happen, dishonest ones happen too.
4. Taken for a ride? NYC Taxi drivers are legally bound to take you to your destination via the shortest and fastest route OR the route of your choice. If they do not, pay them what you think is fair and then walk away; but be sure you have your luggage out of the car first! If they give you a hard time call the police. Drivers are also required to take you anywhere in the 5 Burroughs. Although many do not want to go to the outer Burroughs because it is not profitable. So don't give the driver a choice. Get in the car before telling them where you are going. If he/she refuses tell him/her that you are going to call the police. And then call the police. His/her id is posted behind their head rest. While on any ride take a quick photo of this ID, why? Just in case you forget or drop something in the car you'll be able to contact them.
5. Hit and blame game. Beware of anyone who bumps into you and drops something "valuable". Here's the scenario: you’re walking down the street minding your own business, someone bumps into you and in the process drops a "bottle of red wine". He then blames you for it and demands payment for YOUR absent mindedness. This is a scam. Simply walk away as quickly as you can. You may want to dial 911 as you do so. Because they may want to follow you and harass you until you pay. Note that the person is not working alone. There will be an innocent bystander who will vouch for the perpetrator. The bystander will agree that this was your fault and you need to make it right. You need to leave the scene immediately. Walk into the nearest convenience store or shop or hotel. Do not confront these people just walk away. Confronting them will just cause more conflict and escalate the situation. Call 911 for further assistance.
Again, NYC is actually a very safe city, so don't be afraid to visit and don't be afraid while you are here but you still need to stay aware as always.