Even if you feel you’re green behind the ears, it doesn’t mean you need to show it. Your best defense is doing a little research. Get to know the subway map and a couple of bus routes for areas you frequent. While I live right off the same subway line as Bank Street and the school where I student teach, I consider a few bus routes as back up modes of transport. I basically live at the bottom of a hill where there is a bus stop, so I hope I won’t have to slide down my street when the snow and ice begin. I’m considering rigging ropes between trees and street signs just in case!
In general, it’s a good idea to keep up with subway service changes. Usually there are more during nights and weekends. Luckily the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), updates their website frequently, particularly on weekends (with an interactive map that they call The Weekender). There are also the options of narrowing down your travel planning by subway line, borough, or station. The same website also has helpful bus line information, including maps, as well as information on the Long Island Railroad and MetroNorth train services, and access to JFK airport.
I think garnering firsthand knowledge by walking around the city is the best way to learn. I have found some of my favorite places and things by wandering. Plus, you never know who you’ll bump into! I once sat next to Madonna’s first husband in a coffee shop, and recently rode the 2 train with designer Todd Oldham. Only in New York!
I really think it helps to get to know the different neighborhoods to feel comfortable in NYC. Google maps with clear-cut boundaries so that you at least have an idea of what people are talking about. Of course these days you can simply upload apps like HopStop or iTrans to help you along the way too. Knowledge is power.
This city does not have to be overwhelming. Yes, if you go to Times Square or Broadway in Soho, which are often brimming with tourists, your feathers may get ruffled. But that’s just all the more reason to venture off of the beaten path and find the side streets and small shops that will become a part of your New York.