Center City and the major tourist destinations are generally safe, but it's wise to take certain precautions, depending on where you go and how late you plan on staying out. You should always be aware of your surroundings, and take care not to count change on the street or regularly flash an extremely expensive camera or iPod. Keep your handbag on your lap - not on the floor or dangling on the back of your chair - in restaurants and theaters. Exercise caution, particularly after dark, in the areas north of Center City and west of University City; avoid deserted streets. You can ask hotel personnel or guides at the Independence Visitor Center about the safety of places you're interested in visiting. As you would in any city, keep your car locked and watch your possessions carefully. Remember to remove items from your car, especially GPS Systems and iPods.
Subway crime has diminished in recent years. During the day cars are crowded and sage. However, platforms and cars can be relatively empty in the late evening hours. Instead of waiting for a subway or train in off-hours, take a cab late a night.
Although crime is low in the Rittenhouse Square section of town at all times, other hot spots can be a bit trickier. South Street and Old City attract a young crowd that can get rowdy, though the areas are well patrolled by police both on foot and by bike. Northern Liberties, while not as young and testosterone-fueled as the other two neighborhoods, still sits in an area that is rather hit and miss. It's best to take a cab directly to the bar or club, rather than park a distance away and walk, especially late at night.
Philadelphia can be expensive, although it's less so than New York. A cup of coffee will cost $1 at a food cr but $2-$3 at an upscale restaurant; a sandwich will set you back $4-$8. Taxi rides begin at $2.70 and can quickly add up to $6 or more for a ride across Center City. Most sites in Independence National Historical Park are free; museums in the city cost $3-$16. Prices are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.
Automatic teller machines are available in the lobbies or on the outside walls of most banks. They can also be found at branches of the local convenience store chain Wawa, and in larger grocery stores.
The Broad Street Subway runs from Fern Rock station in the northern part of the city to Pattison Avenue and the sports complex (First Union Center and Veterans Stadium) in South Philadelphia. The Market-Frankford line runs across the city from the western suburb of Upper Darby to Frankford in Northeast Philadelphia. Both lines shut down from midnight to 5:00a, during which time "Night Owl" buses operate along the same routes. Tickets may be purchased at all subway stations. The one-way fare within the city is $2.25, with transfers costing $1. Tokens provide a discount off Cash Fare and cost $1.80 each. Tokens may only be purchased in packs of two or more. Two cost $3.60; five are $9.00, and a ten pack costs $18.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.
While the subway does have its limitations, it can still be a good way to maneuver around the city and avoid having to park a car, which, during business hours, can be a frustrating experience.
Buses make up the bulk of the SEPTA system, with more than 110 routes extending throughout the city and into the suburbs. Although the buses are comfortable and reliable, they should be used only when you're not in a hurry, as traffic on the city's major thoroughfares can add some time to your trip. The distinctive purple minibuses you see around Center City are SEPTA's convenience line for visitors, the PHLASH. The 21 stops run from the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway through Center City to Penn's Landing. Since a ride on the PHLASH costs $2 for a one-way ticket (seniors and children under five ride free), consider the handy all-day, unlimited-ride pass available for $5 per passenger or $10 for the family (two adults and two children, ages 6-17). These buses run daily from 10:00a to 6:00p from May 1 to October 31. There's service every 12 minutes.
The base fare for subways, trolleys, and buss is $2.25, paid with exact change or a token. Transfers cost $1. Senior citizens (with valid ID) ride free during off-peak hours and holidays. Up to two children (less than 42 inches tall) ride free with each paying adult. Tokens provide a discount off Cash Fare and cost $1.80 each. tokens may only be purchased in packs of two or more. Two cost $3.60; five are $9.00, and a ten pack costs $18.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.
If you plan to travel extensively within Center City, it's a good idea to get a SEPTA pass. The Day Pass costs $12 and is good for 24 hours of unlimited used on all SEPTA vehicles within the city, plus one trip on any regional rail line, including the Airport Express train. Or $8 for one day convenience pass which is valid for 8 trips on Bus, Subway, Trolley, in on day by one person. A weekly transit pass costs $22.00. Tokens and transit passes are good on buses and subways but not on commuter rail lines.
Cabs cost $2.70, plus $0.23 per 0.10 mile thereafter. They're plentiful downtown and throughout Center City - especially along Broad and Market Streets and near major hotels and train stations. At night, during primetime hours, your best bet is to go to a hotel and have the doorman hail a taxi for you. Or, you can call for a cab, but they frequently show up late and occasionally never arrive. Be persistent: calling back if the cab is late will often yield results. Recently, each cab in Center city has been outfitted with a credit-card machine, so you can pay your fare using a major credit card, just tell the driver to put the meter in "time off" mode when you are ready to pay. The standard tip for cabdrivers is about 20% of the total fare.
Beyond Times Square can book a private car and driver for airport transfers and a private car and driver for use while in New York City. Contact us for more details.
Parking in Center City can be tough. A spot at a parking meter, if you're lucky enough to find one, costs between $0.50 and $1 per hour. Parking garages are plentiful, especially around Independence Hall, City Hall, and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but can charge up to $7 per 15 minutes and up to $40 or more for the day. Police officers are vigilant about ticketing illegally parked cars, and fines begin at $26. Fortunately, the city is compact, and you can easily get around downtown on foot or by bus after you park your car. If you plan to stay in a hotel in Center City, you should call ahead to find out whether they have their own parking facility or will send you to a nearby parking garage for a reduced rate, as it can add significant cost to your total bill.
Please be careful crossing the city streets. In many cities in the U.S., cars and bicycles yield to pedestrians. Please follow and respect the crosswalks and directional lights. Be sure to look both ways as rollerbladers and bikers do not always follow the proper street direction. Although you will see people crossing in the middle of the street, do not follow their lead - cross at the corners.
Philadelphia has many Internet cafes, located throughout the city (start with any local coffee shop), but the city also has been one of the first in the country to offer inexpensive WiFi to all its citizens. Currently, the citywide initiative is being tested in a zone north of Chinatown and up through North Philly, but there are still free high-speed hot sports available in Love Park (next to City Hall), Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Penn's Landing, FDR Park, Belmont Parkway, and several other locations.
Photo opportunities await you at every corner in Philadelphia. Batteries and memory cards are available everywhere. We suggest you do not buy either in high traffic tourist areas, as the price will be more expensive.
Shopaholics love the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love for its style - funky artwork and highbrow housewares, fine jewels, and haute-couture.
Indeed, Philadelphia has spawned some influential fashion retailers. The Urban Outfitters chain was born in a storefront in West Philadelphia. Its sophisticated sister, Anthropologie, also has its roots in Philadelphia. Lagos, the popular high-end jewelry line, was founded here, and all items are still produced locally. High-fashion boutiques Joan Shepp, Knit Wit, and Plage Tahiti, all in the Rittenhouse Square area, are well regarded by locals for designer clothing and accessories. Some of the most spirited shopping in town is also pleasing to the palate. The indoor Reading Terminal Market and the outdoor Italian Market are bustling with urban dwellers buying groceries and visitors searching for the perfect Philadelphia cheesesteak. Equally welcoming is the city's quaint, cobblestone Antiques Row, the three-block stretch of Pine Street crammed with shops selling everything from estate jewelry to stained glass and vintage furniture. Also worth a trip is the Third Street Corridor in Old City, home to scads of independent, funky boutiques. In Northern Liberties, the Piazza at Schmidt's is a giant mixed-used development inspired by Rome's Pizza Navona, which houses 100,000 square feet of retail space bursting with creative entrepreneurs.
Neighborhoods are presented clockwise starting from the Old City, a commercial waterfront turned arts enclave on the Delaware River, moving south to South Philadelphia, then west to Center City and Rittenhouse Square, across the Schuylkill River to University City around the University of Pennsylvania campus, and ending in the north with Northern Liberties.
In most restaurants, tip the waiter 16%-20% (To figure the amount quickly, just double the sales tax noted on the check - its 10% of your bill). Tip at least $1 per drink at the bar and $1 for each coat checked. Never tip the maitre d' unless you're out to impress your guess or expect to pay another visit soon.
If you're dining with a group, make sure not to overtip: review your check to see if a gratuity has been added, as many restaurants automatically tack on an 18% tip for groups of six or more.
Smoking is not allowed in restaurants, bars, arenas, public transportation, public parks or any other public places unless otherwise marked.
Laundry is available at most hotels, but there is a fee. Before you leave your clothes to be cleaned, please check the price list. There are also many dry cleaners all over the city.
Keeping the CIty Clean
Please do not litter. You might see locals doing it, but do not follow their example. There are garbage cans on many corners. Thank you
Public restrooms are located near Independence Mall on the west side of 5th Street and in the Independence Visitor Center on 6th Street, between Market and Arch Streets.