1) FLAG A CAB
Before getting in, know the cross streets you are going too (ex. 14th & 6th or Christopher & 11th), don't just give the the address to your aunt's condo and expect that they know where that is. Telling them '335 East 66th' will get you nowhere and there may be yelling involved. To grab your magical yellow carpet ride, you will have to step into the street a little and glance down at the oncoming traffic. Rule #1 - don't get hit. To tell if a cab is available pay attention to the lighted structure on the top. If the MIDDLE LIGHT ONLY is on, the cab is available. If NO LIGHTS are on, it is unavailable. And if the lights ON THE SIDE are on, then it is 'off duty'... meaning, they are heading home for the night or changing shifts and will ignore you. Don't take it personally. You've all seen it in the movies.... just raise your hand and flag down a cab with the MIDDLE LIGHTS on. I don't mean to seem like I'm yelling that, but apparently it's hard for people to remember.... I've found! Please don't use this as a time to show off your whistling skills. Most cabbies are too busy illegally talking on their cell phones or listening to music at excruciating volumes to hear you. Once you've paid, as a general rule of thumb, be sure to exit the cab on the CURB SIDE (again, I'm not yelling, just merely emphasizing!) not the side that has oncoming traffic that could whip that door off in flash. BONUS :: Chat up your cabbie. Some of the best New York stories I've heard have come from my cab drivers. They see a lot of what happens in this city!
2) USE THE SUBWAY
People. Listen. It's not as scary as you think. Plus, it cuts out traffic and can be the most cost efficient way to get around the city. Purchase a Subway card from one of the machines. Buy a card based on the time, days and number of Subway rides you predict you'll use. You can always add more to the card, but you can't get the money back. If you're here for a week, I always suggest just getting the 7 Day Unlimited card. Smart.
Read the subway map. Some stops are local, some are express as are the trains affiliated with getting you to those stops. Think of the express stops as kings and the local stops as commoners. So the king stops (express) are noted by a white circle or bar and are the important ones (think Times Square, Union Square, Wall Street, etc). The commoner stops (local) are noted by a black circle or bar and are the inbetween sections of the city and have less 'important' attractions waiting outside of them (think 18th St, Christopher St, 33rd St, etc.). The king stops don't associate with the commoners.... express trains will whip right past the local stops to get you to important desitnations faster. The local stops however, do try to make friends with the king stops. Local trains will stop at express stops, but not vice versa. Last, but not least, be sure to check if you are heading UPTOWN or DOWNTOWN. No one wants to get on a train to Brooklyn when you thought you were going to Central Park. Don't ever hesitate to ask someone. Most NY-ers are happy to answer directional questions. Plus, it makes us feel all important and stuff.
Download the Official NYC Subway Map - click here
Buy a Pocket-sized Map - Rand McNally
Here's the thing. New Yorker's don't have cars, so we view walking down the sidewalk like you do driving down a major highway. Like driver's get road rage, we get walking rage when people stop out of nowhere, don't abide by the unspoken laws and move at the pace of a limping snail, but keep cutting us off as we try to pass them. Don't meander, walk with a purpose and do it briskly. Don't just stop in the middle of the sidewalk, move to the side. And stay to the right, just like in a car.