How to Safely Visit New York City

April 24, 2024


Photo courtesy of Michael Discenza on Unsplash

If you are a European traveller intent on heading to New York City, you will by no means be the first.  Exactly 500 years ago, in April 1524, the first European to discover New York Bay was actually Giovanni da Verrazzano, whose name lives in that of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island.

The Tuscan adventurer set a path that many have followed. In 2022, 56.7m tourists ticked New York off their bucket list.[i]  But how safe is the city for a European traveller and why is it that having Europesure travel insurance for a trip to NYC is a must?  Here are some tips as to how to safely visit New York City.

Tourist safety in New York

New York is actually deemed to be amongst the top 15 safest cities in the world, according to The Economist[i]. Great efforts have been made to clean up the crime rate, with the NYPD maintaining a visible presence.  Since 9/11, the will to prevent another major terror attack has been strong.

Despite this, there is always a risk to anyone and tourists are often easy targets. In any city, the aim should be to look as little like a tourist as possible.  To do this is easy, in some ways.  It’s a matter of not flashing cameras and travel cheques around and wearing anti-theft devices, such as round-the-neck money wallets or waist-fitted money belts that prevent a thief lifting valuables from your back pocket.

Do some pre-trip travel planning for New York

In other ways, staying safe needs preparation.  Putting as much effort as possible into understanding travel routes, the location of attractions, the travel system and how it operates, and which areas are safe and which are not, can be well worthwhile.  It can prevent you sticking out like a sore thumb as a tourist and thus becoming a target.  It means less likelihood of aimlessly wandering into a bad area.

A little pre-planning can also go a long way to potentially reduce the likelihood of bag theft or pickpocketing.  By buying a travel card in advance – for either attractions or the transport system – long queues can be avoided.  Pre-booking things can be advantageous.

Photo courtesy of Bernd Dittrich - 6VAPCJLESIM on Unsplash

Get the apps for the Big Apple

In New York, you can prep by downloading an NYC ferry app.  You can equip yourself with a New York City GPS-enabled walking tour app.  The CityMapper app will help you navigate your way around using public transport. The Yelp app will give you details of all food establishments in New York City.  You can buy a number of travel cards for attractions access, including The New York City Pass, Go City and the New York Sightseeing Pass.  You can also buy a 7-day or 30-day Metro Card, so you don’t have to keep using paystations.  You can even by a fitness pass, if you really can’t stay out of the gym!

Pre-visit knowledge and preparation can even prevent you from being scammed.  If you know that you should be looking for a yellow taxi in Manhattan, or a green one in the other four New York boroughs, you are less likely to jump in a taxi that does not carry the official NYC taxi medallion.  These cabs – known as ‘Gypsy Cabs’ tend to circle the airport and other popular spots.  Don’t be caught out.

Higher-risk areas of New York

You can also pre-download a map of Central Park or use the Central Park app, but use common sense too.  Do not go into the park in the early morning – before 6am – and try to vacate as evening falls.  There are 840 acres of parkland, so make sure you can exit before it becomes a no-go area. 

This is one of the crime hotspots of the city but most of the crime occurs at night, particularly around densely wooded parts of the park.  Another area to avoid out of working hours is the financial district, which can become a bit of a ghost town when the office workers leave for home.

Similarly, try to avoid getting the metro or a bus at night.  On public transport, try to stay close to the driver or in fairly busy carriages.

Generally, the most dangerous neighbourhoods are East New York, Cypress Hills, Fordham, University Heights, Morris Heights and Mount Hope.  You should be extra-cautious in Times Square and around 42nd Street, as well as Broadway Junction, Union Square and Stillwell Avenue and 125th Street platforms 4, 5 and 6.

Pre-booking ‘parking’

If hiring a car, use a pre-book facility on a car park app, such as Park Me, to avoid parking in a place that might make the vehicle, and your possessions left inside, a target.  Never leave your passport in a car, especially in the boot.  To drive a car in the USA, you will also need to have an International Driving Permit.

If you are travelling by bike, use a rental bikes app like NYC Bikes.  This allows you to find a docking station at which to safely leave it.

Terrorism and travelling to NYC

Although the terror threat has not been top-level for a while, remember that the war in Gaza has increased religious tension and cities like New York can be top targets.  Many attractions in New York are very alert to the terror threat, including the Brooklyn Bridge, where surveillance and security are first-class. 

You might, however, wish to consider something like the terror disruption extension that Europesure Travel Insurance offers as an optional add-on to its standard level of travel insurance cover.

A terrorism extension could cover you financially, however, should you be prevented from travelling in the first place, due to terrorism, or if a trip has to be curtailed.  This is something to consider, given current world situations.

Photo courtesy of Andre Benz on Unsplash

Weather and medical healthcare threats

Storms have not hit New York for some time but, when they do, they are typically accompanied by flooding.   Winter storms can blanket the city in deep snow, which can also prevent aircraft landing or taking off, affecting travel plans.

What is more likely to result in storm clouds gathering, however, is to incur a medical issue when you have not bought travel insurance.  A European health card is of no use to you in New York (or anywhere else in the USA).  If you fall ill or need some medical care, even a simple prescription can cost hundreds of dollars. 

The average cost of a doctor visit ranges from $80-$170 dollars, even before any tests or procedures take place.  A day’s stay in a US hospital costs about $2900 but the average stay is 4-5 days.[i]  American hospitals do not like to discharge a patient before all checks have been made, as litigation levels are high.  That means a 5-day stay alone could set you back about nearly £11,500 or €13,420. 

Add to this the cost of any operation or procedure and it is foolish to not take out travel insurance cover, to provide medical health cost protection and any medical repatriation costs required.

500 years ago, Verrazzano described New York as “ a very agreeable site located between two hills between which flowed to the sea a very great river.”  New York can still provide this pleasure today, if you take the right precautions, do as much pre-planning as possible and purchase Europesure Travel Insurance before you travel from your own home in the UK, EU, EEA, Gibraltar or Monaco.

[i] https://www.valuepenguin.com/hospital-bill-costs-study#:~:text=typical%20hospital%20stay.-,The%20average%20per%2Dday%20hospital%20cost%20is%20%242%2C883%2C%20but%20the,hospital%20stay%20cost%20increased%20161.7%25.

[i] https://safecities.economist.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Safe-Cities-Index-2021_eng.pdf

[i] https://www.statista.com/topics/12077/tourism-in-new-york/

CTA, visit www.europesuretravelinsurance.com

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These travel insurance products are brought to you by Europesure Insurance. For EU and EEA policies: Status Europesure Insurance Cyprus is a trading name of Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Insurance Companies Control Service in Cyprus, number 5015. Incorporated in Cyprus, Number HE394801: 5 Rafael Santi, 1st Floor, Office 101, 6052 Larnaca, Cyprus. Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Status Insurance Management Ltd. For UK and Gibraltar policies, Europesure Insurance is a trading name of Status Insurance Management Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK. Their FCA number is 305697. Registered in England Number 1785590: First Floor, Jebsen House, 53-61 High Street, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 7BD.
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