Direct flights from Johannesburg to New York are now possible, but for the cheapest flights to New York, you’ll fly via Dubai or other travel hubs. Most flights to New York touch down at the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), but you may also land at Newark or at LaGuardia in the northern part of the Queens borough. As with any trip to the United States, there are visa requirements for South Africans travelling to New York. If you are travelling to New York on a South African passport, you will need to apply for a non-immigrant US visa through the US Consulate in Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg. Home to the UN headquarters, New York is a global superpower, influencing not only the continent of America, but the whole world in terms of commerce, entertainment, research, technology, politics, art and more. Many of its landmarks are instantly recognizable and the city is considered a bucket-list destination for its shopping, arts and culture, architecture, food and fashion.
Perhaps the most famous attraction in New York is Times Square, which draws an estimated 50 million visitors each year. This buzzing pedestrian area is also the heart of the Broadway Theater District, where the world’s most highly acclaimed musicals and other productions entertain locals and tourists alike. The imposing Statue of Liberty is another must-see – whether you view it from a distance in Battery Park or take a ferry out to Liberty Island. Many of the world’s most famous art museums can be found in New York, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) which boasts more than 2 million artworks, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim. Central Park, the city’s green lung, is another must-see – a massive park with lakes, tree- lined paths and an ice-rink in winter. The Rockefeller Center, Flatiron Building and Empire State Building are popular tourist spots too, as is Wall Street with the New York Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull statue. The neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy are fascinating to explore – and full of culinary delights, while a walk along the High Line is yet another New York rite of passage.
Shopping in New York is a fashion-lover’s dream, with many of the world’s most famous department stores and a long history of fashion and design. The flagship Macy’s Herald Square covers an entire block, making it amongst the world’s largest department stores. Bloomingdale’s is another retail institution, as is Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue (don’t miss the annual holiday light show if you’re in New York at Christmas time). The famous jewelry store, Tiffany & Co., is another hot favourite. Visit the SoHo area for trendy boutiques, and the Canal Street Market for downtown-chic threads, jewelry and art. Artists & Fleas is another great market, which takes place every weekend in Wiliamsburg, and now also in Chelsea Market and SohHo. Head to Bushwick for thrift shops and all things vintage.
Providing continuous 24/7 service, the New York City Subway is the largest single- operator rapid transit system in the world, with 472 rail stations. There are also various passenger railway lines around the city, with a commuter focus. If you prefer to be above ground, catch a bus instead – the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) also operates 24/7 with a fleet of around 5,800 buses, which cover over 300 routes. But be warned that you may sit in New York’s infamous traffic. The same applies to catching the iconic yellow New York taxi cabs, which are nonetheless popular with residents and visitors alike. The metered taxis start with a minimum fare which increases as time and distance pass. Uber operates across the city too. When crossing the river, another option is to take a ferry. You can catch the Staten Island Ferry or the NYC Ferry, which has over 20 boats connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn and Queens.
Accommodation in New York comes in all guises – from luxury hotels to budget accommodation in tiny apartments. When trying to find accommodation in New York, first bear in mind the area in which you would like to be based. While some boroughs offer relatively cheap accommodation, they may be further away from the places you want to see and spend time in. Stay in Midtown New York for sightseeing – this is also the shopping and theatre hub. Lower Manhattan and the Financial District will give you easy access to the 9/11 Memorial and Wall Sreet, and many hotels in the area have good weekend rates when business travelers aren’t around. Foodies will love the Tribeca and SoHo neighbourhoods, while the Meatpacking District is great for nightlife with its bars, restaurants and clubs. There is also a lot happening in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg area. If you’re travelling to New York with kids, the Upper West Side is a good choice for its parks and playgrounds – and the American Museum of Natural History. The Bowery and East Village are trendy, gentrified areas, with avant- garde museums and galleries having moved in, while the Upper East Side is a wealthy area and home to the ‘Museum Mile’.
Flights from South Africa to New York mostly land at the main John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the Queens neighbourhood, 26km southeast of Midtown Manhattan. More than 90 airlines operate from this global travel hub, with direct flights to destinations in all six inhabited continents. You can fly direct from Johannesburg to New York with South African Airways, or fly via destinations such as London, Dubai, Doha and Nairobi with the likes of British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Qatar and Kenya Airways.
The American Museum of Natural History is a fascinating journey into the natural world. Here you’ll discover more about everything from microscopic creatures and ocean life to dinosaurs, giant trees, meteors and galaxies. As with many museums in New York, it’s enormous, so set aside plenty of time to explore. The Williamsburg area in Brooklyn is also a must-visit for creative types. There are excellent coffee shops and cafes, vintage stores and the Brooklyn Art Library – home to the amazing Sketchbook Project. You’ll find yourself lost in the poignant, beautiful works of art at this library of sketchbooks from around the world. When you’re done exploring Brooklyn, walk back towards Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to get the best views – and pics – of the New York skyline.