Starting our year round the world on a budget in New York could have resulted in us blowing all our of money and having to come back home after three days. Luckily, with a bit of research and thriftiness, we’ve managed to do the city on just $25 dollars a day each.
That covers everything apart from our accommodation – food, drink, transport, sights and entertainment (plus the all important wifi). And we don’t feel like we’ve missed out on anything. We never want to be on such a budget that we don’t get to really experience a city, but we’ve had such an action packed two days so far, and with one more to go, there are no complaints yet!
Here are our tips for saving money in NYC…
For $30, you can get a seven day Metro card for unlimited use on the Subway. Definitely the best option if you’re going to be in New York for at least 3/4 days as each journey will cost $2.50 without it. You can also use the card to get you from Jamaica Station near JFK airport all the way to your accommodation.
We always like to explore a city on foot and most sights in Manhattan are a walk-able distance from each other if you’re ready and willing to allow for the time to get there on foot. We prefer taking in the sights and smells from the street and soaking the atmosphere in and boy do you get atmosphere in NYC!
Although entrance to many sights in New York are pricey, there are loads that are free. New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, Time Square, the High Line, Chelsea Market, the parks, The Bronx Museum of the Arts and Coney Island Boardwalk are all free to visit.
Want to see the Statue of Liberty? Take the free Staten Island ferry which runs every half an hour from the South Ferry Port. When you exit the Subway station there will be a LOT of people trying to sell you tickets to pricey boat tours, ignore them and head towards your right where you’ll find the entrance to the free ferry. You don’t get quite as close as the boat tours will but trust us, it’s worth giving the ferry a go and then you can always fork out for a paid-for tour if you want to get closer.
Central Park offers free walking tours with a guide, maps, self-guided bird watching, entrance to the castle and more. We spent a good couple of hours soaking up all it had to offer and in early April, it was nice weather but relatively quiet.
There are lots of opportunities to take yourselves on a self-guided tour of the city using free resources online. Whether you’re a foodie, self-proclaimed art critic, street art fanatic or closet Sex & The City watcher, there are hundreds of websites which will help you see the city without needing to spend a dime.
(Note: We were very lucky to be given tickets for the Empire State Building as a honeymoon present from my lovely work colleagues. It’s definitely worth splashing out on one treat in New York if you can afford it!)
If you apply far enough in advance, you can get free tickets to see Saturday Night Live, The Late Show, The Daily Show and more recording in New York. You’ll need to do this at least four weeks early and should always go to the network’s official website rather than one of the many dodgy websites suggesting you can get tickets from them. We didn’t do this early enough for NYC but we’re hoping we can catch something in LA.
You can pay through the nose for comedy shows in NYC and free events can be hit and miss. However, there are some good ones. The UCB theatre, started by Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh in 1996, holds free weekly events.
Most hotels, hostels, cafes, shops and even the sights in NYC have free wifi (the Empire State Building has it to keep those in the long queue busy!) Plus you can get it at every Subway station.
Food and Drink
You can get a huge slice of pizza for as little as one dollar from hundreds of shops all over New York – including in the pricier tourist areas. Yep, that’s right, one. dollar. pizza.
Even if you’re not staying in a hotel that includes breakfast, many hostels offer free coffee, tea and even snacks in the mornings to their guests. Take a look at their websites before booking.
And finally, we weren’t in New York over the weekend but some of the local breweries offer free tours and tastings on Saturday and Sunday. Many require registration in advance, so take a look at their website so you’re prepared.