At long last we visited New York and I have few lessons learned to share. We were planning to celebrate our New Year there, but there was some extend of uncertainty. We were going to travel by bus, but were not sure about our stay. That would not be a hotel because of high prices. Staying at Shahla’s friends would be a last resort, since my old friend, who is doing his PhD in Boston, and his wife were going to join us.
By searching on Google I found some options at FlipKey, but unfortunately all homes for a reasonable price were booked for the holidays. So here comes the Lesson 1: start planning your stay for holidays as early as possible.
After the first failure I started to worry. By further googling I found few postings for New York vacation rentals on Craiglist. These were very good offers with all possible amenities and central location for unbelievably low price. I started to communicate with the potential renters, but something was wrong. These people were demanding half of the total rental fee plus security deposit upfront, besides their English was quite poor and I had a feeling that the only thing they are concerned about is to get the money as soon as possible. It was indeed suspicious and I was sure that these were just scammers when after asking them “With all the scammers out there, could you please provide your phone number, so we could talk over the details. I would like to send a local friend over to take a look at the place before booking, is it alright with you?”, as it was suggested in some anti-scammer tips, they stopped all communications. It turned out that the problem of scams has become a big problem at Craiglist, so they even put a warning notice about it. So here is the Lesson 2: beware of scams and fraud.
Even more worried I continued my search and came across another website called Airbnb. Firstly I liked its design and small features like street view for the home being advertised. Make a long story short, there we found a nice couple who were renting their loft in Manhattan, near to Civic Center, for the holiday period. We paid additional 9% service fee to Airbnb, which ranges between 6 and 12%, but I think it worse it.
As for the bus service I went for BoltBus, operating between New York and other four cities – Washington DC, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia. Their stop at Greenbelt, Maryland was very convenient for us, price is also good. Although our return bus was late for an hour for some technical reasons, overall their service was alright.
All in all we spent six joyful days in New York city. We enjoyed night excitement at Times Square and melancholic beauty of Central Park together with friends. As for our museum experience, Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World and especially Journey to the Stars in the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History were very interesting, but all other open exhibitions were overcrowded because of the holiday time, so we could not enjoy them fully. Thus here is the last Lesson 3: do not visit any open museum exhibition during the holidays.