NY is well known as one of the most expensive places to live in the world. You need to be ready for the high cost of living - especially rent fees. Most students in NY share the cost of an apartment with roommates. A shared cost depends on which part of NY you stay in and how long you will be here. NYC has 5 boroughs (districts). The most famous is Manhattan but there also is The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. If staying longer than 3 months, you can expect an apartment share around $1000-$1400 per month in Manhattan and $600-$1000 in Brooklyn & Queens.
If you have a larger monthly budget than the typical student, and prefer to live alone, it is of course possible to get a single apartment. You would need to use a broker or agent of a real estate company in order to find single apartments. However, it is very rare to find an apt owner who will rent to students without a monthly income. Most apt owners will check potential tenant's credit history but foreign students as newcomers to NY do not have that. Some apt owners may give an exception and approve but only if you can prove with financial documents that show you have enough money saved in your bank account (and/or parents, spouse husband, friend who is your financial supporter) to cover all rent fees and deposits for your entire length of time staying in NY.
Yet another option is to become an apartment lease owner and find roommates yourself. This can be done if you have enough money for the first few months to rent a 3-5 bedroom apt. Once you have the apartment, you can find roommates and charge your own set rent fee for each renter. You can actually save money this way and most people don't realize this option. It is a lot of responsibility but if you find good roommates it can be smooth and a big advantage. So many New Yorkers live like this way to survive the high rent fees. I personally lived this way for 1 year and half after learning about this way of life. And I saved $15,000 which I then used for lawyer fee and green card application.
Although I am not a broker in real estate, I have gained a lot of knowledge and I have helped students find apartment arrangements. Mostly I have worked with Japanese student to find them a safe and reliable room situation.
The subway in NY operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year, which is great. Sometimes on weekends the schedule changes due to subway maintenance or some other unexpected thing. The schedule can be random and delays common but overall performance is reliable and good. You will soon get used to it and act like a real New Yorker!
I created a link to MTA website so you can refer to the subway map and get an introduction. I strongly suggest you download the free MTA map app to your smartphone. （Safety advice: Make sure you do not look so obviously worried opening a large subway map like a tourist. This action avoids troublemakers who may try to mug you...always, be aware of your surroundings from Day 1 of NY life.)
Most major banks are in NY such as Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citi Bank and TD Bank. It seems that many Japanese students who start their life in NY tend to open their account in Chase Bank and Citi Bank because those banks have staff who can speak Japanese. I suggest you open your bank account with those banks if you are not yet confident with your English to communicate with native speakers regarding such an important thing as banking.
The required documents for opening a bank account for international students are your passport and a verification letter issued by your school. If your school does not have a staff member who can speak your language just say this in English to your student advisor: "Could you please issue a verification letter for me? I need to bring it to a bank to open a bank account. Thank you.". Then he/she will soon issue the letter for you.
I like Chase Bank because there are Chase Bank branches everywhere and you can find ATMs almost everywhere in case you urgently need cash.
Bank of America
I'm sure you heard the old saying: "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?". The issue of "credit card or credit history first?" is very tricky to handle for foreigners living in the US. American credit system is a bit strange to foreigners because it encourages consumers to use credit cards as much as possible without very strict application process. This can be dangerous for irresponsible or careless spenders. But it can be a big advantage to those who are smart and responsible because of the unique way American system allows very quick credit history to happen. You use the credit and by paying off the debt by due date people establish the trust which is called "Credit History". And your good (or bad credit) history will affect possible opportunities for housing loans, or renting apartments, car purchase, etc. (Credit cards from foreign countries do not contribute to American credit history system. )
The requirement for applying for a credit card is to have a good credit history. We as foreigners do not have American credit cards so we can not build up credit history without credit history in America. Does this mean foreigners are not allowed to have American credit cards? My answer is No...it is not like that. There is a simple way to earn credit history.
You can apply for a special kind of credit card called "Secure card" in a bank. This secure credit as a small initial limit such as only $300-$500. You keep using this secure card and pay off balance by due date every month and 6 months to one year you will build your credit history little by little. Once you establish your history to the a certain level, you are eligible to apply for normal credit card. Once you are approved for a normal credit card, then you just keep doing this process (use credit card, then pay off your debt) every month so that you eventually can build a great credit history in America.
The US health insurance system is totally different from other countries such as mine (Japan). Because of Obamacare, all American citizens have to have health insurance now. I strongly suggest you, international students and professionals, to apply for traveler's insurance before you leave for the US because the medical cost in America is really expensive if you do not have insurance. For instance, Japanese Traveler's insurance covers almost everything except dental and pregnancy. There are many hospitals and clinics in Manhattan who accept traveler's insurance.
This is my personal story to help you understand to be prepared with proper medical coverage. During my first year in NY, I had to go to the emergency room when I got sick in the middle of the night. (At that point my insurance was already expired.) I had to wait in a long line for 4 hours only to end up being charged an extraordinarily expensive fee for a very short treatment (it seemed like just 3 seconds!).
Guess how much the bill was that I received a few weeks later? $1400!! I am telling you, please, please, do not pay right away in case you are in the same situation in the future...unless $1400 is not a big deal for you to pay from your pocket!! Of course, I did not have that much money to pay back then...so I claimed that I could not afford $1400. The hospital administrative staff suggested I should apply for financial support. So I followed the guideline, submitted all the required documents such as my pay stubs of past three months, phone bills, rent fee payment receipt, and bank statment to prove that I was not able to pay the bill.
Believe or not, the updated bill I received after the financial support approval was only $7!! From $1400 to $7...that's a big deal!! You must be smarter than what I was and always make sure you have valid insurance and know which hospitals accept your insurance.
I suggest you apply for a New York State ID card that all state residents can have. International students can also apply and receive these cards. Having a NY state ID card makes you feel like you are finally becoming a real New Yorker!
You will need to keep your ID card with you at all times when you go out in the US.
Here is just one simple example of why you have to keep ID card on you. You may look younger to Americans than your actual age and may be often asked to show your ID card when purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, and entering a bar or night club. You may even be asked to show ID when entering the office building you will need to go to school or work.
It is NOT a good idea for you to carry your passport whenever you go out. This is why I am recommending that you apply for ID card upon your arrival in NY.