Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Cheapskate's Guide to NYC: A Week of Freebies

I am skint. And I'm living in the 11th most expensive city for expats. Ouch. As much as I've wanted to see the sights of New York, I've also had to keep an eye on my cash. This has meant that over the past few weeks I've figured out how to do NYC on a budget. So I give you, a week of free things to do in NYC...


Monday: Walk the High Line


Would you guess that the photos above are taken from a park? The High Line, to be exact. Technically, the High Line is a park, but you don't really go to the High Line for the nature. You go to wander through Manhattan and take in the city's buildings from its High Line's elevated platform. Grab a spot on one of the benches dotted along park with a view of the city and just watch it all speed by.

That said, it does have some gorgeous greenery, which I captured on my summer trip to NYC a few years ago. And it is, of course, totally free to visit.


Tuesday: Visit the 9/11 Museum & Memorial


The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a must when visiting New York. It is heartbreaking to take in everything. But I think it's important to do, given that the event is such big part of modern history. The memorial itself is free to view. A cascading, infinite waterfall marks where the Twin Towers once stood. When walking around the Memorial, look out for roses, these are tied to victims' names when it's their birthday.

On Tuesdays, you can also get a free ticket into the 9/11 Museum. It's very tough to relearn the happenings of that day, but it's also touching and ultimately a worthwhile way to spend an evening in New York.


Wednesday: Take the ferry to Staten Island

This is one of those "secrets" that every New Yorker knows: the ferry to Staten Island is free! It's a service that is relied on by thousands of commuters with jobs in Manhattan but homes on the island. The route happens to take you past the Statue of Liberty so it's a must!

This is one freebie that I haven't had the chance to do yet - but I'm planning on making the trip soon! I'll be checking the ferry timetable to make sure I don't accidentally board during rush hour when it's uncomfortably jammed.


Thursday: Wander over the Brooklyn Bridge


One of my favourite things to do in NYC is cross the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm big into my photography, and there's so many photo opportunities! Walk from the Manhattan side, towards Brooklyn, and you'll end up in DUMBO. Another spot with an incredible view of the city and, you guessed it, it's great for your Insta-game.


Friday: Visit the MoMA

I love art galleries, especially those dedicated to modern art. So, by default, I love the MoMA. How could I not? Floor upon floor of thought-provoking, surprising, and sometimes downright confusing, modern art. I've yet to visit on this trip - but it was definitely one of my highlights when I visited New York a few years ago.

If you're an art enthusiast like me, pop along on a Friday evening, when the gallery has free entry. You'll need to line up at the Museum’s 54 Street entrance to get your free ticket. The free tickets are released from 4pm but it's recommended that you arrive after 6pm since the lines are crazy-long before that.


Saturday: Explore one of New York's Parks


When you think of New York, skyscrapers might first spring to mind. But surprisingly, New York also does big open spaces pretty damn well. In fact, in my first week living here I spent most of my time in the parks scattered around the city!

Central Park is, of course, a beautiful Manhattan spot that's free to roam. But it's far from the only place in New York City to get your fix of nature. Most notably is Prospect Park in Brooklyn. While Central Park is far better known, the architects who built both are said to prefer Prospect Park. I must say - I think I agree! That said, I'm totally biased. It was the very first place I visited after moving here earlier this month, so it will always have a special place in my heart for that reason alone!


Sunday: Lucky Dip


The thing about New York City is that there's always something new to do. The city never sleeps because the people here never stop hustling. Thus, there's never a day when there's not a new market to browse, exhibition to check out or gig to go to. Time Out has a handy guide of all the free events happening in the city right now - bookmark it and use it when you're next in town.

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There's plenty to do in NYC on a tight budget. If you've been to NYC, let me know what you got up to - bonus points if it was a freebie!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Visa Talk: 4 Things to Do in Your First Week in the States

If you've secured yourself a visa to the States, congratulations, the hard part is done. But don't get too lax quite yet. There's still a bit of life admin you've got to sort out to make this your new home! Having just lived my first week in NYC, I wanted to share the things you should sort out in your first week in the USA. Tick one major thing off your to-do list a day and you'll be sorted in no time!



Day 1: Unpack

If I hadn't had unpacked my bag on that first night I arrived, bleary-eyed, at my Airbnb, I know I would still be living out of my suitcase. Thankfully, I mustered up to motivation to unpack that night, and it meant that the next morning, I felt that I was waking up in my new home. So whether your first night sleep is at a hotel, Airbnb, or a long-term apartment, get unpacked ASAP. With your possessions scattered around your room, it'll feel one hundred times more homely, helping beat any homesickness you might be feeling.

Day 2: Register for SEVIS

Within 10 days of your visa start date, you need to call your sponsor and register for SEVIS. If you're an Irish grad, your sponsor is probably CIEE, call them on +1 (888) 268 6245. All the details you'll need to have are on your DS-2019 form, which is most likely stapled into your passport, so have that to hand and it'll be a painless process. It's best to keep your sponsor on your good side, you don't want them chasing up after you, so just get this out of the way on your second day in the States.

Day 3: Meet a Fellow Expat

Even if you've journeyed to your new destination with a companion by your side, I would recommend grabbing a coffee with someone whose been through it all before. You probably already know someone living in the city you've moved to - there are loads of expats living in the States. If not, ask your friends back home if they know anyone they can introduce you to. Then meet them for a coffee and ask them for their advice! You'll learn loads by asking someone whose been through it all.



Day 4: Set Up Your Bank Account

Don't worry that you don't have proof of address, you don't seem to need it to open an account in the States! So handy! Just pop in - ideally with two forms of ID - and let them know that you're looking for a no-charge checking account. You may need to wait a little while for an appointment, but it's worth it to get yourself a debit card and bank account in the States. Plus, you can deposit the dollars you took over so you're not carrying around too much cash.

And... You're All Set Up! Almost

You're almost good to go! If it's your first time working in the US, you're also going to need a Social Security Number. You won't be applying for it in your first week though, because it's recommended that you wait ten days after entering the US - and two days after registering for SEVIS - before you apply for one.

So in four days, you're pretty much set up and ready to go! Have I forgotten anything? What is on your to-do list for when you arrive in the US? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

I've Arrived: What a Time to Be Stateside

I've been planning for it, longing for it and worrying about it for countless months, but at last it's here. I'm in New York City! And what a time to be here...

On Election Night I sat down for an all-nighter, surrounded by snacks, to watch America elect its first female President. Except I didn't, of course. What ended up watching was no less than a massive middle finger to women, LGBTs, Muslims, Hispanics, and African Americans. I watched America decide that Trump was to be the next President of the country. Wow.

I'm not going to go into my thoughts too much here, not least because they've already been said by people far more clever and informed than me. But I couldn't put up a blog post - about being in the States no less - without mentioning it. So there was that.

Skimming over the apparent dawn of the apocalypse... I've been loving exploring my new home! Although New York is an extremely expensive city, there's still lots to do if you'd rather not part with your cash. Like crossing the Brooklyn Bridge! It's a great spot to get some beautiful photos of the city, day or night.

I've certainly been keeping a close eye on my money, and in the process I've been finding more and more things to do in New York City that happen to be free! Of course, there will be posts about it all so keep an eye out for that (psst, follow me on Bloglovin').

And when I'm not blogging, I'll sure as hell be on the Insta, so be sure to follow me there to see more of my adventures in NYC.