How to Travel New York City on a Budget

New York City travel can be done on a dime; with a little planning and creativity, city sights can be seen and exceptional experiences can be had for a fraction of the standard expenses. 

Focus on the top New York City trip budget categories, or the travel trifecta, if you will. Transportation costs, lodging rates, and food bills are the biggest dollar drains you’ll encounter; lock ‘em down, and you might just have a little extra left to toss a street performer’s way.

Navigating the City

New York City on a budget

You’ve arrived. If you’d rather not rely on traversing this urban jungle completely on foot, it’s time to secure some value-priced methods of movement. During a budget-friendly NYC trip, the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) buses, rail, and subway services can go a long way, in both dollars and distance. The routes offer wallet-friendly access to all corners of the city and beyond.

If you’ll be visiting New York City for more than a day, an Unlimited Ride MetroCard might be the way to go. For a reasonable rate (about the cost of a few short taxi rides), you can hit all the best city sites as many times as you want

Once you’ve got your MetroCard, you can branch out from the bus stops with a rental bike. Brush up on the basics of bike riding in NYC, and pick up your two-wheeled rig at one of several vendors throughout the city. Adults and kids will have options, and tandem bikes are offered, too. Don’t want to waste all your energy on pedal power? Splurge on an electric bike.

To stretch your dollar (or just your legs), tighten up the tennis shoes and hit the streets (well, probably the sidewalks). Travelling on your own two feet can be a timesaver in this sprawling, congested city. Bypass the traffic, take short cuts through parks and along paths, and you just might stumble on something you wouldn’t have discovered from the backseat of an Uber.

Twins and Travels have shared a great post on Top Things to do in Central Park which you may find helpful.

Save Money While You Sleep

Save money whilst you sleep

Save big during your downtime when you zero in on cheap lodging in NYC. Short-term vacation rentals offer lots of flexibility; book an entire place and enjoy a private stay, or share space with residents to slash your spending even further. Bonus: Rental owners can offer some awesome insight into dollar-saving dining and entertainment options nearby.

Hostels and homestays are other ways to stay in New York City on a budget. These room-sharing options aren’t for everyone, but visitors who are comfortable with close-quarters lodging can really stretch the bucks.

Micro-hotels can be found in NYC, too. These space-saving hotels offer a similarly-priced alternative to room shares. Sure, you might be able to touch both walls when you stretch in the morning, but really, what more do you need in this attraction-packed city?

If you aren’t picky about brands, amenities, and exact locations, you should be able to find an affordable hotel room in NYC. To maximize savings, book way ahead or at the last minute. Bonus: You can stay in a new place every night, taking advantage of quick deals while planting yourself in a new neighbourhood to explore.   

For prime city-hopping between stays, find a New York City luggage storage spot to stash your bags. For just a few bucks, lighten your load as you make the rounds, then pick up your gear once you’ve wrapped up the day’s adventures.

Food for a Fraction

You don’t have to skimp on selections when it comes to budget-friendly dining in NYC. Top-rated Michelin eateries might not be your prime source of sustenance while you’re here, but this world-class city’s still got lots of good eats.

First things first; try to find accommodations that offer access to a kitchen. You can free yourself from prepared-food dependency by doing a little grocery shopping and making your own meals as much as possible. Not all stores offer budget-friendly items, though; research the best places for groceries in NYC prior to your visit. 

Once you’ve got some food to fall back on, it’s time to hit some of New York City’s best budget restaurants. Zone in on where the cash-strapped college students chow down, focus on family-friendly eateries or head to Chinatown for big portions at value prices. 

Budget-Friendly Fun

Budget friendly fun in New York

The lodging’s locked in, the food’s in the fridge, and your luggage is under control. Now it’s time to find some fun in The Big Apple.

The city drips with entertainment potential. Put that MetroCard to good use to get in position for a walking tour of NYC’s best sights. The views are free (usually); snap some pics along the way, and you’ll have some digital souvenirs to take home with you.

Take in a show at one of the small theatres in the city. Local talent often performs for little or no admission fee, and you might just see an up-and-coming act while you’re here. Near the Flatiron District, the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater hosts comedy acts, and the live music shows at the Mercury Lounge in the Lower East Side are typically pretty affordable (and awesome). 

And you’ve come this far, so you should probably check out some of NYC’s most popular attractions. These visitor magnets aren’t always cheap, but there are still ways to save a little without compromising the experience. New York City attraction passes offer discounted access to the area’s best sites, and many allow quite a bit of customization. Pick specific spots or bargain-buy a package with limited, non-flexible options. Either way, you’ll have lots to see.

New York City on a budget

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