How to visit NYC on a budget

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Earlier this year I travelled to New York City for the first time, it was a fantastic experience, but I couldn’t help but notice how expensive it was, even in comparison to London. Friends gave me many tips for things to do and places to visit, but my NYC budget wouldnt stretch to most of them.

Although I couldn’t do everything that was suggested to me, I enjoyed every minute, whilst sticking to a budget in NYC. See below for top 12 things to do in NYC ona budget.

How much should I budget a day for NYC?

NYC is an expensive city to visit. To see the sites and to enjoy yourself while you are there it is realistic to expect you will spend around $200 a day in a couple while staying in a three star hotel in Manhattan. A single person can expect to pay slightly less, aroudn $150 a day.

What is the cheapest month to visit NYC?

The cheapest months for visiting NYC are right after the Christmas break, from January to March. Hotels and flights will be much cheaper during threse months. However being more specific the best month to fly is in February. You’ll need to book several weeks before departure to get the best price.

Can you visit NYC on a budget?

Can you travel to NYC on a budget? We believe so, these are the best ideas we came up with while we there in May 2022. Here’s my top tips for all things free and cheap in NYC

1. Central Park – NYC most famous park it’s huge and free

Its huge and it’s like walking around a movie set, you’ll recognise it from the big and small screen. You can run, walk or sit on a bench for hours taking it all in. If you want to spend a little more, you could hire a rowing boat on the lake (cash only and I believe its $10 an hour.)

2. The Public Library – a more unknown place for budget conscious

this famous as the venue for Carrie and Mr Big’s wedding in Sex and the City movie. Its completely free to get in and nose around. There are some free exhibitions and a few floors to explore. You can even sit at desks in some of the rooms, a nice opportunity to read, write or think in beautiful surroundings.

3. Take in Greenwich village and the Meat Packing District – cheap eats

These are unique areas and worth a stroll around. You can grab wonderful coffee from pretty much anywhere and enjoy it as you roam. I visited Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment, a famous brown stone building in the village. I know its cliched but it felt like a girlish thrill.

4. Baseball – not free, but can be cheap if booked ahead

You can get tickets for baseball games midweek, these are discounted if you go late in the evening and catch just one or two games. It’s worth it as a night out and to feel the atmosphere. Avoid buying snacks and drinks in the stadium if you are on a budget.

5. Chess and Eccentricity in Washington Square Park – get your game on for free

This park is a meeting spot for the city’s most eccentric locals. Perhaps it’s the proximity to a University campus or related to the history of this park, I’m not sure. This is an excellent place to hang out and a stark contrast to Central Park’s groomed greenery and famously, you can also play or watch games of chess. As an aside, if you’re a chess fan or a Queens Gambit groupie, there is a chess shop (Chess Forum) around the corner where you can play in the back room for a few dollars. Or just browse the interesting collection of chess sets. An excellent option if the weather is good to visit NYC on a budget.

6. Staten Island Ferry – a free ticket across the bay

The ferry is free and a chance to get on the water and see the Statue of Liberty. Make sure you get a space outside on the right side of the boat. While there is not a lot to see on Staten Island as its residential, but you can zoom straight back if you wish.

7. The High Line and Chelsea Market – a beautiful free walk through NYC skyline

The high line is an old disused railway line thats been turned into a walkway lined by gardens. It’s highly enjoyable. You can pop off the high line to visit Chelsea Market, a food market in a lovely indoor space. I went early in the morning and would recommend going nearer to lunch when it has more buzz.

8. Budget hotels with free coffee and hangout space

I stayed at POD 39. This was the cheapest central hotel I could find at around $150 a night. I liked this one for the location, but also because it had a hangout space with table tennis and pool table. There was also free coffee in the morning, so you can grab a cup before heading out exploring.

9. Cocktails in a Speakeasy – not cheap but great NYC value

This is not necessarily cheap but in my view, it’s worth the high price tag ($15 a piece) if you just have one and enjoy the vibes. I went to a Speakeasy hidden above a 5 GUYS in Greenwich village but there are others available. I found a comfy seat and drank my cocktail slowly. Well worth it for the novelty and you could also try a Martini in one of the iconic bars in Central Station.

10. 99 Cent Fresh Pizza – yes a slice really is 99 cents making it the cheapest in NYC

Yes seriously. NYC is famous for pizza and perhaps this isn’t the most gourmet pizza available but I’m sure it must be cheapest. My boyfriend went here every day, collecting 2 slices and a soft drink for $2.75. It’s a chain, so there are a few dotted around the city in convenient locations. We think this is one of the best ways to visit NYC on a budget as food can be so expensive. How does it taste? Pretty good!

11. A walking tour on the Questo App – see the sites while playing a game with friends

This app creates walking tours and games in cities around the world. There are lots available that are based in NYC, including mob, movie or prohibition themed. They cost around $15 and the games can last you about 4 hours and you’ll get to learn about and see places that you wouldn’t otherwise explore.

12. Roosevelt Island Tramway -see NYC from the skies cheaply

For the cost of a subway ticket, you can take the tramway from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. This will give you excellent views back to the city and from up in the sky. A cheap alternative to get skyline views.

Need more guides for how to travel on a budget, how about our guide to Oslo on a budget?


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