10 ways to do New York City on a budget

New York City has a pricey rep. You can spend hundreds on hotel rooms and shopping at 5th Avenue boutiques. You can eat five course meals, wash it down with expensive wine ($50 and up), then climb the Top of the Rock for a 360° view of Manhattan. This is not the only way to see NYC, and the cheaper alternative need not take you “off the beaten track” in search of “undiscovered gems”, and all those other travel cliches. You can see the same amazing sights as everyone else, if sometimes from a different angle.If you plan correctly (and have a little insider knowledge), then there are plenty of ways you can stick to your budget while visiting NYC. Here are 10 tips on how to save money in NY (without compromising on seeing all of the iconic New York City sites!):

Skip the cab from the airport

Budget travel tips in New York City, Save money NYC

A taxi from JFK to Manhattan will cost between $50-$80 depending on the time and traffic. The cheapest way to get into the city is by using the Airtrain then the subway which costs $7.25 per person in total. The airtrain connects with the E,A, J & Z subway lines.  The E is the best bet for getting to midtown. It’s not the most convenient if you have a lot of luggage.

Use public transportation

Budget travel tips in New York City, Save money NYC

Photo Credit: @4th.Photo via Instagram

The cheapest way to get around the city is to obviously walk. Alternatively, the subway is the best mode of transportation. It is well connected and for just $2.75 you can go anywhere in all of New York City. You can buy a 7 day pass for $29 or a 30 day pass for $104. Manhattan roads are on a grid so if you plan your days right, you can just one walk from one activity to another because there are so many and all of them are nearby.

Use the right hotel search engine

Budget travel tips in New York City, Save money NYC




Finding a spacious hotel room for less than $200 in New York City is an almost impossible. For discounted rates search on Bookings.com which shows different hotels at a different price ranges, this includes all taxes and fees in its results (not all do, which can make for a frustrating shopping experience). Booking last-minute can be a great savings strategy, as prices sometimes drop in the week before travel as hoteliers scramble to fill their rooms. (Sometimes this doesn’t work in New York City, from personal experiences I’d advise you to book months in advance). You should also book a hotel with a complimentary breakfast that can significantly reduce your dining expenses by not having to purchase breakfast. Another option, if you’re willing to opt in for either a spare room or a simple couch in somebody’s home, is the free (though a gift or paid meal for the host is customary) CouchSurfing.com

Find cheap hotels in New York City

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Take advantage of all the free activities

Budget travel tips in New York City, Save money NYC

Photo Credit: @suzukiinthecity via Instagram

One of the best ways to save money in the Big Apple is to take advantage of all the free things. It’s important to do a lot of research and have a good plan of action in place before you visit any city. Some of the best free things to do in New York City include wandering around Central Park, tour of Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, admire art at the American Museum of Natural History.

Avoid Starbucks

Forget about the take away coffees. Instead buy a travel stainless steel mug and bring your own coffee.

Attend a TV show recording

The Daily Show

Did you know The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Wendy Williams Show, The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning AmericaThe Late Show with Stephen ColbertThe Rachael Ray Show are taped in NYC? You can request tickets to attend on their websites, but tickets are very limited. Some shows have standby tickets to fill extra seats so if you miss tickets you can give that a shot!



Purchase early bird dinners

The early bird no longer catches just the worm, but gets the tastiest meals at a fantastic price also. If you want to enjoy a three course meal and drinks, but don’t enjoy high prices, then make sure to head out for food and drinking during Happy Hour. Many bars throughout the city offer happy hour on a daily basis, with some even offering ‘all night long’ happy hours.

Read: Where to find South African food in NYC

Buy a CityPASS

Budget travel tips in New York City, Save money NYC

Photo Credit: @mamanoticias via Instagram

The New York CityPASS is a great purchase as you can save 42% off admission to the best New York attractions and skip ticket lines. The pass includes tickets for:

  • The Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Don’t shop in New York City

Budget travel tips in New York City, Save money NYC

My number one tip for shopping in New York is NOT to shop in New York. Take the bus or train across the Hudson and into New Jersey to malls like Westfield Garden State Plaza or Newport Centre. New Jersey has no state tax!

What are some other things to check out in New York?

To Party – meatpacking, East Village, West Village, Lower East Side, Williamsburg

To Eat – Chinatown, Little Italy, Union Square, West Village,

To Walk – Highline Park in Chelsea, Brooklyn Bridge, West Side Highway, Union Square area.

To Shop – Soho Area and Century 21 mall.

Read: Ultimate Guide to New York City

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