The Big Apple, The Capital of the World, The City So Nice, They Named It Twice—call it what you will, NYC is the land of unlimited potential. You could explore the streets and boroughs for a lifetime and still not experience everything the city has to offer. From fine arts to food, fashion to entertainment, history to hotels, NYC has it all. While New York has a reputation for a city that can destroy your budget, deals abound if you know where and how to look.
Typical CostsHostels: You can find some 6-bed dorms for as little as $25-35 a night. Typical 2-4 bed dorms are around $75-1oo a night. This is your best bet if you are looking to save money. Unfortunately, opportunities for hostels are slim in NYC. Dorms are a smart way to save money.
Budget hotels: Don’t expect to find a livable hotel room in Manhattan for under $100 a night. Even the cheapest hotels with a simple bathroom will be $100-150 a night. Travelers looking to save should consider staying in Brooklyn and using public transportation to get around. Another way to save is to shop AirBnB. Often you can find 1-2 beds for $50-75 and entire houses for $80-100 a night.
Average food costs: The average cost for a decent meal in NYC is much more forgiving than the average cost for a hotel. An average sit down restaurant costs between $15-25. The Big Apple, as you might have guessed has all types of restaurants. From simple to showy, prices continue to climb as you seek out more delicate dishes. Street vendors charge anywhere from $5-10 per meal. You can find a slice of pizza for as little as $4. If you decide to shop for your meals you can expect to spend $50-75 a week on basic foods.
Public transportation: New York City has one of the best public transportation systems across North America. You can get practically anywhere around New York and its many boroughs on the subway. Make sure to download an app to help you navigate the massive NYC subway system. You can buy a 7-day transit pass for $32. The fare for a single bus ride is $2.75. Most cabs cost around $20 per ride.
Budget TipsTake a free tour: One of the best things about the city is the sheer number of free tours exploring the history of the people and buildings.
- The Grand Central Partnership offers a free no reservations weekly tour.
- The Central Park Conservatory offers multiple free daily tours of the park.
- Free Tours by Foot offers food, biking, and walking tours in all boroughs solely for tips
Eat good cheap food: There is no reason to break the bank on food in New York. Ethnic joints, (Thai, Asian, Indian, Vietnamese) street vendors, and fast food restaurants are readily available in every neighborhood. Use apps like Google Maps, DINE, and Drizly to help you find great food and drinks.
Try couchsurfing: Accommodation in NYC will almost always be where you spend the majority of your money. Save yourself a headache by tapping into an extensive network of New Yorkers who open their home to visitors for cheap. While it may not be a five-star hotel, couchsurfing keeps money in your pocket for other activities.
Buy a MetroCard: An easy way to pocket extra cash is to purchase a MetroCard. Far and away the best method for travel in NYC.
Consider buying the New York Pass: The New York Pass saves you money by allowing you to purchase entrance fees to multiple attractions all in one place. A 1-day pass costs $120 per adult, while a 10-day pass (the biggest package) costs $320. Many top-rated activities are included along with a sweet bus tour of the city.
Utilize rideshares: In our modern world, there is no reason to throw away money on a taxi. Use Uber or Lyft to pocket extra cash and get around the city without riding the bus or calling a cab. Both companies allow you to share your ride to save even more money in the long run.
Get cheaper show tickets: Most people who visit New York City want to go see a Broadway show. The only problem is that the vast majority of these tickets are expensive. Save yourself some big bucks by visiting a TKTS stand in Times Square, Brooklyn, or South Street Seaport. Tickets from the TKTS stand are 40-50% off normal rates.
Top Things to Do In NYCWalk the Brooklyn Bridge: Walk this iconic bridge for fantastic views of the city skyline. Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River by connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. At 1,595 feet it may take you a good 45 minutes to walk if you stop for pictures along the way. Restaurants on either side make the trip well worth it.
Explore Central Park: Guided carriage tours, biking paths, fitness classes, Shakespeare in the Park, the zoo, and an ice-skating rink all call Central Park home. With summer concerts and winter tours, you can find something fun to do in Central Park all year long. Established in 1857 on over 700 acres of land, this park has long been the only backyard for generations of New Yorkers.
Visit the Empire State Building: The Empire State Building is the 5th tallest skyscraper in the United States, with 102 floors reaching 1,454 feet into the sky. Completed in 1931, the building was originally a hotel that was bought by Empire State Inc. and transformed into the building it is today. It costs $36 to reach the 86th floor and $56 to reach both the 86th the 102nd floors.
Grand Central Terminal: Grand Central is the city’s iconic train station. With 44 platforms covering 48 acres, this station has more platforms than any other train station in the entire world! Open to the public in 1913, Grand Central continues to amaze millions of tourist year after year. Spend an afternoon tasting delicious food or gazing at the stars painted on the ceiling by Paul César Helleu.
Times Square: Sure to be full of people any hour of the day, Times Square is chock-full of shops and shows. Home to the New York Times and the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop, Times Square is a nice place to visit. Outside of shopping and catching a show, there is not too much else to see here.
See a live TV show: While you will most certainly have to book well in advance, shows such as Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Steven Colbert, The Daily Show, and Jimmy Fallon give away free tickets to their audience. See their individual websites for updated details.
See a Knicks/Rangers/Mets/Giants game: If you are a sports fan of any kind NYC is a great town to be in. With a professional baseball, hockey, football, and basketball team New York has something for everyone.
Prospect Park: Escape the crowds of Manhattan and lose yourself in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Designed by the same men who created Central Park, Prospect Park boasts baseball fields, basketball & tennis courts, boating docks, and an ice skating rink. Home to a zoo, carousel, and multiple playgrounds, you can find something for whatever mood you find yourself in at the time.
Radio City Music Hall: Is it possible to find a more American theater than Radio City Music Hall? Catch a show from the classic Radio City Rocketts or take a tour of the music hall itself. Tickets to the Rocketts start at around $4o per person. Tours run daily from 9:30-5pm and cost $27.
Ride the Staten Island Ferry: It’s a safe bet that the line to visit the Statue of Liberty will be at least 1 hour long on any given day. Take the free Staten Island Ferry and get a great view of the statue and the city in all under 30 minutes.
The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum: Visit this historic tribute to the victims and professionals who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Admission to the museum is $26 per adult. Exhibits include ground zero witnesses, artistic responses to the tragedy, and the history of the event.
Ellis Island: Visitors to NYC can retrace their heritage by checking out Ellis Island, the place where thousands of immigrants took their first step on American soil. The island has expanded since the first building opened in the early 1900s. Today land connects it with the Statue of Liberty and an immigration museum.