Wesolotravel asked Marcela to tell us about her solo travel experience in the Big Apple. How did this female traveller survive her business trip to the steel jungle? How did she feel about it? Did she find herself getting lonely? Read the story of her solo trip to New York and get inspired for your next city break.
Manhattan, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park… These are just a few highlights of the most populous city in the United States of America: New York. More than 8 million people call the Big Apple their home and more than 60 million travellers visit this magnificent metropolis every year.
NYC is a dream destination for many travellers. Groups of friends, couples in love and whole families travel to this part of the States to get blown away by skyscrapers, busy avenues and the city lights which flicker 24/7. However, have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel to NYC alone?
Is it possible to find yourself feeling lonely in a huge city like this? Carry on reading Marcela’s story about her solo travel to NYC, the biggest steel jungle in the USA.
How a Female Solo Traveller Survived her Business Trip to NYC
New York smells. Not only like weed in the dark streets at night and pee in every street you pass, but also like freshly baked cookies and sweet bread. I have never seen such a cosmopolitan and international city in my whole life. Where classic American donuts go hand in hand with the best of Italian pastas, sea food and sushi, Portuguese steaks and of course, American fries.
I had the pleasure to be sent on a business trip to New York. All the way from Bratislava in Slovakia. And all alone! I have to admit that I was scared as hell. However, I said to myself: ‘you always wanted to travel ,and America is (at least according to most people) a dreamland, so why not do it now?’ It was my longest flight ever. My first thought about the 9.5 (yes, that’s NINE and a half!) hour flight was that I wouldn’t survive it.
To my surprise, it wasn’t that bad in the end. I flew with Austrian Airlines and they had a selection of pretty new movies in the entertainment centre. That definitely made the time pass a lot quicker. I had time to catch up on all the movies I had wanted to see in the cinema over the past 6 months. What a good start to the NYC trip!
Welcome to the USA!
I felt nervous, proud and happy at the same time when I entered the airport hall in Newark and read the massive sign “Welcome to the United States of America“. I can tell you that it was like having constant butterflies fluttering around in my stomach.
Another, (less pleasant), type of stomach feeling appeared when I discovered that my mobile phone had no service and the Wifi was not working. It was too bad not to be able to get an Uber and even worse not to be able to let your worried family know that you’re safe and alive!
In the end I ordered a cab from the stand just outside the airport and hopped into a yellow SUV, taxi #102. That’s when my journey from Newark to the Downtown Manhattan Holiday Inn really started! I was amazed by all the road signs, all those fancy car plates and the 6 lane highways we zoomed along.
Everything was so new and yet somehow familiar to me at the same time! Even though I’d never seen all these places live I immediately recognized the route from all the movies I’ve watched and scenes from the GTA game. When the taxi arrived at the hotel I forgot to give the driver a tip, which he immediately asked for in a very rude way. I apologised and gave him some cash. NEVER FORGET ABOUT TIPPING IN THE USA.
After my ‘Grand Theft Auto journey’ I finally arrived at the hotel and let everyone know that I was okay (thank God for Wifi!). Was I really that OK? Well, the flight was long and I had tremendous jet leg caused by the 6-hour time difference. I left my home in Bratislava at 6:15 am, travelled for around 18 hours and in New York it was still 4 pm!
It’s Time to Explore NYC Totally Alone
How to beat jet-leg? The best way for me was to go out, get something to eat and walk around for a little bit. Get to know the famous Big Apple and find out what it’s like to be alone in New York! I wanted to explore the area where our company is based first: The One World Trade Centre. So, I left the hotel and walked towards 285 Fulton Street.
And here comes another shimmering and WOW moment – I found myself looking at a 541-metre-tall building! It’s located just a few metres away from the place where The Twin Towers used to stand, and where nowadays you can find the 9/11 memorial.
And here comes the loneliness. It might have been just the exhaustion and the cloudy weather, but the very first day I got the feeling that New York is not ideal for solo travellers. I have the same idea even now, after coming back from the trip. I think that if you want to enjoy New York to the fullest, there has to be at least two of you. And not just for those perfectly arranged Instagram pictures from the Brooklyn Bridge…!
Disorientated in New York
My mood got better the next day. As I mentioned, it was a business trip, so the day started with some work and trying not to be distracted by the stunning views from the office windows. Not too pleasant for people with vertigo but I loved it!
After work I told myself that I needed to go out and explore some more! I had a look at the map and decided to check out the famous City Hall. This was a perfect opportunity to test out my orientation skills. Despite using my GPS which showed me it was just a few minutes away, and despite having the map right in my hand, I managed to go in exactly the opposite direction! I really don’t know why, but this kept happening to me the whole week of my stay in New York.
American Culture All Around
Nevertheless, somehow I managed to find my way to the Brooklyn Bridge. Try to guess how quiet and peaceful it was up there? Oh my lord, the place was absolutely packed with people! Although I felt like a sardine in a can, the Brooklyn Bridge experience was amazing and it’s a must-see on your solo trip to New York.
Yes, you remember right, I wanted to see City Hall first. Luckily, I found it in the end, even if it was by accident on my way back to the hotel! I also saw a few guys cheering for the Trump 2020 campaign – that was the moment when I really started to absorb American culture. It was great, guys! Not the fact that they were cheering for him particularly, but the atmosphere itself really got to me!
The City Where You Come Across So Many Must-see Places
One of the things I love about exploring big cities is that you just start walking and you end up stumbling across so many ‘must-see’ places. That’s exactly what happened to me with the Empire State Building. Actually, I was trying to get myself to Times Square, but once again my sense of direction deserted me. I left the metro from the station called Times Sq when the magic happened. I exited the station the wrong way (again!) and there it was, Madison Square Garden right in front of me and then the Empire State building. Well, I wasn’t complaining at all about this unexpected diversion!
Steel Views from the Empire State Building
I decided to go up the Empire State building to take in the gorgeous views that everybody talks about. As it was getting dark and I wanted to just go quickly up and down I chose the VIP experience. I can tell you dear travellers, visiting this place was the best decision I made. The views from the Empire State Building are just amazing. I loved it! The wind in your hair, the impressive steel structures all around, the glamorous sunset, all of that was just wonderful!
When Rain Falls on NYC
The third day was pretty rainy, so I came up with the idea to explore the Museum of Natural History. The business part of my trip managed to cut down a bit on my leisure time, so I arrived at the Museum of Natural History at around 4pm. This meant that I had only 1.5 hours to enjoy all the historical artefacts on display there.
Which wasn’t really enough! The museum is too beautiful and interesting to spend such a short period of time there. It’s another must-see place for your next solo trip to New York. They say this is the most interactive natural history museum in the world! Well, it houses over 32 million specimens so every visitor will definitely find something there to his/her taste.
Next Stop: Central Park
The rain had stopped when I left the museum, so I decided to go for a walk to one of the most popular parks on planet Earth: Central Park. Yes, all the fascinating stories about this park are true! I have never seen a place like this in my whole life. Its beauty lies in the diversity, in the contrast between the tall skyscrapers reflecting the colours of the city with the peaceful natural surroundings of trees, lakes and rocks. No wonder is one of the top places for hikes in NYC.
In the middle of Central Park you can find a big square and a castle. If I could express my feelings about the place in words, it would be a simple but long drawn out WOOOOOOOW! Central Park is the soul of New York City. (Not to mention the location for Home Alone 2!) My Central Park experience couldn’t have finished any better. I left the park from the same entrance near the Plaza hotel where Kevin was staying and spending his dad’s money in the movie. I couldn’t have been happier!
How I Met Their Mother (Finally!)
On my way back from Central Park I did some quick but very important research. I wondered where the bar from the comedy show How I Met Your Mother was located, and whether I would be able to visit it. Google said it was just 15 minutes down the road, so I gave a little skip of happiness and asked myself: ‘Why not?’
The famous place with those iconic cocktails, where all the famous actors from the famous series used to meet up to talk about their infamous lives is called McGee’s pub and it is awesome! The drink menu consists of cocktails and other drinks named after the characters or episodes from the series. Barney’s motivational posters are hanging all over the walls and this bar also makes burgers.
Bloody great burgers! If you’re a HIMYM fan you cannot miss out on a visit to this place!
The Last-Second Stop at Times Square
There was still one thing I had missed on my solo wanderings through the streets of New York City. It was Times Square, the multicoloured noisy craziness of flickering ads and hundreds of busy people moving quicker than flies. Yes, Times Square was very crowded during my short visit but I assume it is always like this. You better prepare yourself for that! It’s not exactly a peaceful and tranquil place.
After the impressive light show offered by Times Square I decided to head back to the hotel. New York is the city of subways. No other metropolis in the world has more than the 472 stations in operation here! I had to call upon my reserves of courage to use the subway in the Big Apple. Naturally, I managed to lose one ticket because I went to the wrong station… but in the end I caught the right subway and got back to the hotel safely. Even after a few struggles I can confirm that the NYC subway is nothing to worry about, as I realised pretty soon into my journey.
Travelling to New York City Alone: Yes or No?
My apologies if my thoughts don’t meet with your solo travel expectations. But don’t forget it’s just and only my personal opinion! I spent 6 days and 5 nights all alone in New York and I really think it needs at least two of you to fully enjoy the place.
Are you wondering why I got this impression? Although there was like A LOT of people everywhere, I still felt lonely. Maybe it was the long distance and 6-hour time difference from my home. This meant I couldn’t share the joy of New York with anybody because my closest friends and family lived in a different time zone.
I couldn’t talk to any of my friends and family because they were sleeping at the time. And I couldn’t stop having that weird and scary feeling that if something had happened to me, they wouldn’t have even known or would have found out about it too late. This is just my impression! The fact I didn’t enjoy my solo trip to New York as much as I would have enjoyed it with my husband, family or friends doesn’t mean you can’t try the adventure on your own!
Maybe you’ll love it? You won’t know until you try.
Last thoughts on New York
New York is the kind of city that definitely needs to be experienced. However, personally for me it wasn’t like I was constantly falling in love with the place. I can imagine that with the right people (at least one friend) it could have been a thousand times better experience!
One of the things I won’t ever forget is Marshall’s! It is a fashion heaven on earth – in this store you can find cool brands for half the price they charge in Europe. That’s crazy, people! I would love to come back in December – to buy some great presents and of course, to see the legendary Christmas tree near the Rockefeller Centre. New York, New York… You were really THE experience!
Quick FAQs About New York:
How much time is needed to explore NYC?
New York is a huge city, but short stays are also possible. Marcela had just three hours a day to wander around the busy streets of the Big Apple. She said it definitely wasn’t long enough, although if she hadn’t had to stay in the office most of the time, the 6 night & 5 day stay would have been more than sufficient to explore the main points of interests.
Is New York Safe for a Solo Female Traveller?
Marcela had been worried about her safety in New York before she travelled there. She tried to avoid going out by herself at night, for security reasons as well as because she had to work the next day. Although, one night she did go for a walk and she felt pretty safe. The centre is completely fine, many people and tourist are around to give you a hand if anything happens. Also, she discovered that her worries about travelling in the subway were a bit of an overreaction.
In general, she felt perfectly safe in New York and nobody ever threatened her, so even solo female travellers don’t have to be worried about anything. The crime you see in all the movies and TV shows is just exaggerated. But of course, anything can happen anywhere, so try to avoid exploring dodgy areas.
What Are The TOP Things to Do in NYC?
For Marcela her highlight was the Staten Island Ferry, which is a free ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island and back. From there you can see the amazing skyline of New York, the Statue of Liberty and if you get some nice weather you will get a stunning view of Manhattan as well. Her next two favourites were the Empire State Building and the McGee pub, mainly because she is a super-fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’!
There are definitely many more things to do and see in New York. If you’re the type which never goes mainstream check out some weird attractions of NYC like visiting The Museum of Sex, taking a helicopter ride or kayaking in East River! Have fun, guys!
Comment below if you have any questions about New York, travelling alone to NYC, female solo travelling to New York or anything regarding things to see and do in the Big Apple.
Written by Marcela Macka Zimova
Edited by the Author.
Updated 28th of February