Here are my top tips for visiting New York City on a budget.
Its been two months since we were in New York and to be honest it feels like an entire lifetime ago. With the weather a little warmer and the prospect of summer in sight, I wanted to pop a little post together on the costs of our travels during the month of January. However this post turned into my top tips so I will cost our trip out at the end of the post.
I will give a run down on accommodation, travel as well as food and entertainment costs.
Obviously you can do the same trip to suit your own budget. My budget was mid ranged with the option to increase or cut back as necessary.
New York is expensive to stay in. However there are certain things you can cut back on in order to get the most bang for your buck!
- Go Budget – eg hostel. This option is great if you are travelling with a group of friends and will literally only be using it as a base to lie your head. For those wary of spending the night in a room with strangers you can hire a 2/4 bed private room. We stayed at the Bowery Grand Hotel. This is basically a hostel. I had booked a double room to ourselves. We had a TV, Air conditioning and the facilities were very clean. It felt safe and secure and there was no issue about our belongings. We were centrally located in Chinatown and the subway was right around the corner.
- Stay outside of Manhattan. Find a hotel located within the subway limits but outside of the “main” areas. Yes it will take longer to get into the city to do things but that is offset by the cost of the accommodation.
- Hire an Airbnb with some friends. Go to NYC with a group of friends/couples. You can meet up as and when suits but go off and do your own things too. This can cut the cost of accommodation as it will be split between each person/couple.
- Choose your season. Generally prices are much higher at Christmas, New Year and during the fall. Best prices occur during the months of January to March. New York is usually covered with snow and it will be cold but I’ve been twice now during this time and I still loved it. Just be prepared to wear lots of layers! Also the city does not shut down for a few inches of snow as we would in the UK/Ireland.
- Shop around using travel comparison sites. Sites such as Trivago, Expedia etc are filled with bargains waiting to be found.
We stayed at the Bowery Grand Hotel in Chinatown for nine nights for a total of £438.
While you are in the city you will want to get around quickly and easily. The obvious way to do this is to use the subway. You can purchase a 7 day subway ticket for $32. This gives you unlimited travel for 7 days
I would also recommend using skyscanner and kayak to check for the best flight prices. We flew to Stewart Airport with Norwegian. The airfare and the bus into Manhattan was still considerable less than flying into JFK or Newark. In fact you can find airfare for less than €100 (not including extras such as luggage, meals or reserved seating)
The Staten Island Ferry is free to use. It is nice to travel across the river to see Manhattan. You also get an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty if you don’t want to pay for the Ellis Island tour.
If you are planning on taking a trip to Philadelphia or Washington DC then book ahead for the best prices with Greyhound. We have travelled extensively with them across the country and they are clean, comfortable and extremely affordable.
Food is always expensive in a city and Manhattan is no exception. For two adult meals you are looking at $60/70 upwards! Even chains such as McDonalds are incredibly expensive. So here are my tips for reducing the cost of eating in New York City.
Have 2 meals in the day. If you get a hotel with breakfast then that’s great! Otherwise head to Brooklyn for some rainbow bagels which with coffee will only set you back $20 for two people – a lot less if you have plain!
Sandwiches, salads and making your own food is a great way to go too! If you hotel has a microwave then you can have snack food such as ready meals, noodles, soup etc to help reduce the costs. We ate twice a day and only got the hang of the noodles/soup etc when we moved cities! Its not very exciting having noodles BUT it can add up on the savings.
Order takeaway. Sounds silly but we had dominos, Chinese (yum!!) and other take out foods while in the big cities. A decent meal including delivery and tips can run to about $40. Plus you can eat in your pyjamas! Sites like Seamless and Grubhub offer discounts for signing up so get everyone in your party to do it – cheap food!
Street Food is great too! Get a dog from a cart! Street vendors in NYC are starting to display health ratings so you know which ones are good. Also you can get lots of different things – not just hotdogs!
Chinese dumplings! – What can I say? They are cheap and plentiful. So google some recommendations for the best Chinese dumpling in NYC and head off for an oriental feast!
Pizza slices can be picked up for when you are hungry too for a few bucks.
Remember to go to bars for happy hours when drinks are considerably less. You can even buy 2/3 ahead so the party can keep going even after happy hour has ended.
Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track and ask locals, taxi drivers etc for their recommendations. You can then check them out on google or yelp to help you decide.
Who goes to New York without wanting to see the sights!
Well there are ways you can cut the costs of sight-seeing even in the city that never sleeps! The big secret here is planning what you want to do and see and make a rough agenda for your time in the city. This way you can easily manage your budget and time.
The Staten Island Ferry is free to ride. As many times as you want! And you can get really excellent views of the Statue of Liberty.
FREE ADMISSIONS!. Check out which attractions have free admission on certain days/times – eg Museum of Modern Art has free Fridays. 9/11 museum is free admittance on Tuesday after 4pm, New York Aquarium is free on Wednesdays after 3 or 4.30pm and finally the Guggenheim is free on Saturdays after 5.45pm. There are many more, Ive just listed the popular ones.
Head to a rooftop bar to see Manhattan from the sky. The Rockefeller, Empire State and World One observatory can all set you back a hefty price. So make the most of rooftop bars, where you can glance out over the city. Alternatively pick you favourite of the three mentioned and only do one.
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Its free and the sights are amazing.
Go on a walking tour. Again there are loads of free walking tours around the city and beyond. This can be great way of getting insider knowledge as they are usually ran by locals who know ALL the best spots!
If walking is not for you then hop onto a bike and cycle round the city – scares the life out of me and I think I will stick to the sidewalks thanks very much.
Broadway show tickets are heavily discounted at the TKTS booths in the city. These are in Times Square, South Street Seaport or downtown Brooklyn. Tickets can be reduced as much as 50%!
As I was travelling with Owen I managed to get tickets (again reduced on groupon) for the Big Apple Circus. It was great fun and very entertaining.
So I guess there are lots of ways to see the Big Apple for small money. Now onto our costs.
Our New York Costs
Accommodation – £438 ($547)
Food – $584
(this included places such as $34 Shake Shack, $60 The Butchers Daughter, $15 Pietro Nolita, $95 Juniors Cheesecake and others. I was definitely not prepared for food costs but by the end of our stay I was much better prepared.
Travel – $146
($92 on subway – 2 x 7 day pass plus an extra 2 days and $54 Woodbury Common bus)
Entertainment – £129
(Times Square, $58 Rockefeller Centre, Grand Central, $39 9/11 Museum, Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge and $32 Big Apple Circus)
Sundries – $535
We bought souvenirs, makeup and other treats while we were there. These also included clothes & shoes at Woodbury Common. Mind you $200 of this was makeup so…..
Total $1941 (£1620!!!!!)
Sounds so much but in reality it is £180 per day including food and accommodation.
The moral of the story.
Be better prepared. Eat out of Manhattan and don’t keep going until you are hungry. This costs you loads more!
Have a great time!