NYC on a Budget | How to Save Money When Visiting NYC
Last Updated on July 15, 2020 by Dana Berez
NYC on a Budget | How to Save Money When Visiting NYC
NYC is one of the most expensive cities to travel to in the United States. The moment I realized that NYC was truly expensive was when I walked into my local deli/bodega and saw an $8 box of Cheerios. However, with these NYC on a budget tips, you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank while visiting this amazing city.
A great way to save money if you plan on touring around NYC is buying the NYC Explorer Pass. You’ll end up saving 40% off of 80+ popular tours and attractions like Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty.
Updated: July 2020
When to Visit
Traveling to any city off-season will save you some serious money. The only downside is the weather could be less than pleasant, hence cheaper flights and hotels. If you can brace the cold weather, head to NYC October-April for the cheapest accommodations.
Note: The weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s will be expensive.
Best Way To Get Around NYC
How To Get Into Manhattan
Instead of hailing a cab and going to your hotel or Air B&B, try mapping out your way via Public Transportation. It may seem a little overwhelming at first but from both La Guardia and JFK airports, there are public transportation options.
La Guardia: From La Guardia Airport:the Q70 La Guardia Airport link bus will only stop at all the airport terminals before it leads you to the Roosevelt Ave- Jackson Heights Subway Station. From there you’ll have the option of taking the 7, E, F, M, R Trains into Manhattan.
JFK: JFK airport is even simpler. From your terminal head onto the AirTran that will take you to the Howard Beach A Subway Line. From there head toward the Manhattan direction. You will most likely see other travelers do the same! Instead of paying around $70 for a cab from JFK to Manhattan, the Air Tran and Subway combination fee is only $10.50.
NYC Public Transportation
Before you can ride the subway, you’ll have to buy a metro card. Unlike London, one swipe of your metro card will allow you to go anywhere in the city, even if its the length of the whole subway line. One swipe of your metro card is $2.75, so if you’re planning on using the subway a lot or staying a week in NYC, I would recommend buying the Unlimited Weekly Pass for $33.
Bikes In NYC
For the adventurous, riding bikes in the city is my personal favorite way to get around! Through CitiBike, you can get a daily pass for $15. If you are going to use CitiBike on your trip, be sure to download the CitiBike app so you can see where the nearest docking stations are, and how many bikes are available so you can plan your ride accordingly.
On the App, you can also see which streets have a bike line. It might seem a bit overwhelming biking around the city. However, you will save some money and you’ll get the freedom to see everything so much faster.
Best Places Budget Places To Stay In NYC
Where to stay In NYC
Where you stay in NYC will be your highest expense! The most basic hotel rooms in Manhattan will cost $200 a night and don’t expect a lot of space or top-notch amenities. Of course, Manhattan will be the most expensive borough to stay in.
Depending on season and availability here are some budget-friendly options in Manhattan:
- Freehand: Trendy hotel that offers bunk bedrooms or private spaces on a budget.
- Pod 39: A clean hostel-style hotel perfect for solo-travelers. Rooms start at $89.
- INNSIDE: Crisp white rooms in a central location in Chelsea just 7 minutes from Penn Station.
- Made Hotel: Ultra-chic in the Nomad District close to bars and restaurants. Rooms start at $140/ night.
Best Places To Eat On A Budget In NYC
The food in NYC is delicious no doubt, but this is the easiest way to break your bank!
Don’t be fooled- those trendy restaurants will charge you an arm and a leg for dinner. If $20 appetizers, $20 drinks & $40 entrees give you a heart attack, opt for these tips below:
When to Eat:
Eat your biggest meal at lunch! Many restaurants offer great lunch specials with discounted menu items. Some are in the form of a Pre-Fixe menu or a free appetizer with entree order.
Often, the same lunch menu items are served on the dinner menu for $10 to $15 more! If you eat a big lunch, you’ll be so full that you won’t have to splurge on an expensive dinner.
If you favor a drink with your meal, eat during happy hour! Not only will your drinks be cheaper, but some restaurants will also have a special happy hour food menu as well. Cheers to that!
Limit those $14 Cocktails
It’s no surprise that cocktails and drinks in Manhattan can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 a pop, so be aware of how many you have! Instead of drinking out, you can always buy a bottle of wine and enjoy it in your hotel room!
You can also opt to during Happy Hour. I have a post that lists out the best margaritas during happy hour in NYC!
Eat in a Local Neighborhood:
There will be expensive restaurants everywhere, but if you are in Times Square (please don’t eat in Times Square) or other ‘touristy’ neighborhoods, expect that you will be ripped off. The restaurants in these touristy neighborhoods tend to be overpriced and bland.
If you do need to eat in Times Square, walk outside of the neighborhood to Hell’s Kitchen. You will find so many more authentic places to eat.
In addition try going to local neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen, Murray Hill, East or West Village, or Brooklyn. You most likely will find a cozy hidden gem that has great food without the hefty price tag.
Some of my favorite affordable restaurants:
- Thursday Kitchen: Located in the East Village, this restaurant offers Korean Style tapas and Capri-sun style Soju cocktails. Taps range from $10-$15 and are meant to share.
- Westville: Specializing in your classic American dishes like their award-winning smokey Mac and Cheese, burgers, and fresh market vegetables. This is one of my go-to spots for dinner. Entrees range from $15-$25. You can find Westville in multiple locations around NYC including East Village, West Village, Tribeca, Wall Street, & Columbus Circle.
Try a Food Truck In NYC
No, they are not dirty. This is a great budget option for on the go eating with delicious and unique foods of New York City. You’ll most likely find them during lunchtime around popular areas in NYC like midtown.
Usually smaller restaurants have food trucks to sell more of their food outside on the go!
Try Dollar Pizza in NYC
There IS such a thing such as $1 Pizza! Don’t expect it to blow your mind away, but it’s perfect if you need a quick bite on the cheap! There are locations all around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The most famous spots are 2 Bros Pizza and 99 Cent Fresh Pizza/
Head to the Grocery Store
One of my favorite budget travel hacks is to head to the local grocery store to buy on the go snacks. Usually, I like to get breakfast and snack items like granola bars, fruit, and instant oatmeal. Doing this will help you hold you over, and you won’t have to purchase every meal out.
Sightseeing In NYC
Go NYC Explorer Pass
If it is your first time visiting NYC, and you’re planning on seeing all the sights, opt to buy bundled tickets like the Explorer Pass. You’ll save about 40% by using this pass and have 30 days to use it so you won’t feel rushed!
TKTS : What Is TKTS NYC?
Want to see a broadway show, but don’t want to pay full price? Head to a TKTS booth where you can buy same-day discounted Broadway Tickets. There is the famous location in Times Square underneath the Giant Red Steps, or visit the booth at South Street Seaport.
Statue of Liberty Hack
My favorite New York City sightseeing trick is taking in the views of the Statue of Liberty via the FREE Staten Island Ferry. Instead of paying for the Statue of Liberty Ferry, head to Battery Park and enter the Staten Island Ferry terminal building to get the same views! Note: You won’t be able to get into Liberty Island via Staten Island Ferry.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
One of my favorite free things to do in NYC is walking the Brooklyn Bridge. The entire walk is about 1.3 miles and can take around an hour to walk leisurely. You can opt to walk from both the Brooklyn or Manhattan side, and the views are totally worth it!
The Vessel at Hudson Yards
The latest free thing to in NYC is going inside the Vessel at Hudson Yards. The Vessel is this unique structure that has over 150 interlocking staircases leading you high above the city. The views from the top are incredible and the tickets are free!
To get tickets to the Vessel, arrive the same day and request tickets outside at the ticket booth. Depending on occupancy you might have to wait until the next time slot. I never had to wait more than 30 minutes.
There are so many quiet corners in Central Park, and it’s a great way to get away from the hustle of the city. Bonus if you can visit in spring or fall when the trees are in beautiful colors. Some areas you can’t miss are the Bethesda Fountain and the Bow Bridge.
Where To Buy Souvenirs In NYC
I’m not going to tell you to not shop, but keep in mind the I <3 NY merchandise can add up.
You may be lucky making a deal with sellers on the street by haggling the price if you buy in bulk, but don’t quote me on that! You can find plenty of street vendors in SoHo, Rockefeller Center, downtown near Battery park, and near any major tourist sight.
Some local artist street vendors, especially in SoHo, will sell more artisan handmade goods like jewelry, home goods, and art that will be super unique to your trip to NYC.
Planning in Advance
Planning your trip in advance can save you money for unseen costs. For example, if you are staying in Chelsea and are having dinner downtown, map out your subway ride to the restaurant instead of rushing in a cab.
Traveling to NYC? Check out my other NYC Posts!
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