“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Being cash-strapped doesn’t necessarily stop you from seeing amazing places, so here’s a guide to visiting New York City, the capital of the world, on a shoestring budget, from someone who’s done it.
An increasing number of young people are trying to travel the world, opting for a passport full of stamps over a house full of things. It’s expensive, and if you’re a Friends fan like me, New York City is a must. Here are some NYC-specific tips to make your money go further.
Get an Airbnb or Hostel or Couch Surf
Hotels are expensive, and a bunch of alternatives have popped up to accomodate budget travellers. In order of price (and luxury/safety) it goes: hotel, Airbnb, hostel, couch surfing. I recommend an Airbnb with good reviews, which can be half the price of a four-star room and provides a much more authentic experience. Just be sure to check out the neighborhood to ensure you arent staying anywhere dangerous. It won’t include breakfast, so you might have to walk to the nearby Dunkin Donut for a bagel/donut/both, but if you want to save even more…
Stock Up on Food and Self-Cater
Visit the shop and stock up on breakfast food to make yourself. Can’t beat porridge for quick and easy energy before a full day.
Stay Outside Manhattan
Manhattan is the richest of the five boroughs, the one with towering glass skyscrapers and central park. As such, it’s pedictably rather pricey. It just so happens the city is well connected by public transport, so it’s often cheaper to stay just outside Manhattan (in, say, Queens) and catch the subway in.
Use the Subway and Ubers
A 7-day Metrocard or similar may work out much cheaper than paying per ride, and you can use this as your main transport. Don’t worry too much about getting lost, as it runs 24/7 and never leaves New York City, so you can’t stray too far from home!
Also, Ubers are cheaper than taxis, and might be safer than walking at night. Although, you do have to ride in a classic yellow taxi at least once.
- Coney Island is a beautiful stretch of beach in front of an old-fashioned theme park (only open on weekends) that’s free to wander round, soaking up the cold sunshine.
- Grand Central Terminal is a landmark in Midtown Manhattan and free to stroll round. Plus, I hear there’s a delicious oyster bar underneath.
- NYC Public Library is so beautiful, it’s been featured in many hit films including Sex and the City, Spiderman, Maid in Manhattan, and of course Ghostbusters. Speaking of, you must see the real life Ghostbusters garage and Friends apartment!
- Nature lovers will be sad to hear that the Bronx Botanical Gardens is very expensive, but Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is free to explore and also very beautiful.
- To admire the Statue of Liberty, you might want to consider ditching the private boat rides and instead riding the Staten Island Ferry absolutely free of charge. Get some pics of Lady Liberty and see if you can find something interesting on Staten Island.
- There are lots of tasty restaurants, but if you can’t afford to dine in the posh places like Ellen’s Stardust Diner, you can visit Wendy’s, Chipotle, Hooters and so on, without feeling like you’ve missed out on the full American experience.
These tips helped me save lots of money – especially on accommodation in New York City. There are plenty more, so keep looking, and along with the usual smart shopping with flights, baggage, and the like, hopefully you’ll be able to see the Big Apple up close and personal.
See my full trip NYC at Christmas!
New York-center of the world.