5 Smart Ways to Enjoy New York City on a Budget

New York is a city packed with things to do from city attractions, food, parks, culture, shows and more. However, New York isn’t the cheapest destination but there are ways to make it more affordable! Here are are top 5 tips on how to do New York on a budget.

Buy an Attraction Bundle Pass

A trip to New York City isn’t complete without taking in the city’s top attractions, but paying admission for each attraction individually quickly adds up. That’s where the New York CityPASS enters the picture. It bundles together admission for six of NYC’s hottest attractions at the fraction of the normal cost.

Buy the CityPASS for entry to the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

You can also choose between the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Guggenheim Museum, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

Better yet, you have nine total days to enjoy admission to these attractions from the day you purchase the pass.

The CityPASS saves you up to 42% on visiting six of New York City’s top-rated attractions.

Stay Outside of Manhattan

As the central hub of New York City, Manhattan boasts an endless number of things to do and see.

Yet the rest of the city is great as well. Head to the other boroughs for a unique – and more affordable – New York travel experience.

In fact, we strongly recommend staying outside of Manhattan during your trip. Manhattan hotels are downright expensive because of their central location and high tourist demand.

Expect to pay no less than $200 a night (and probably at least $300 a night) for a hotel located anywhere in Manhattan.
That’s what makes finding lodging in Brooklyn or Queens such a smart option. Not only are hotels cheaper here, but Airbnb rentals are as well.

Both Brooklyn and Queens are only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Manhattan. Most of their neighborhoods are less than a half hour train ride away.

Airbnb rentals in Brooklyn and Queens are not only more affordable than those in Manhattan, but more abundant as well.

There are literally hundreds of options to choose from, ranging from small private rooms (you share the rest of the apartment) to spacious whole apartments you get to yourself.

However, it’s important to note that Airbnb is still perhaps the most affordable option for those that just have to stay in Manhattan. It’s easy to find a private Airbnb rental in Manhattan for around $100 to $125 per night.

Compare this to around $50 to $75 per night for a similar Airbnb rental in Brooklyn and it’s easy to see why so many visitors are flocking to these other boroughs.

New York City MetroCard

If you’re staying in an outer borough like Brooklyn or Queens, a New York City MetroCard is an absolute must.

The card is what enables you to quickly and easily access the city’s incredibly expansive subway system. Just swipe it through the turnstile and you’re good to go. You can also use your MetroCard on city buses.

Buying a MetroCard is a smart idea even for those staying centrally in Manhattan. It’s the cheapest, easiest way to get around and enables you to access the farthest reaches of New York City.

A MetroCard can be purchased from a vending machine in any subway station or from an agent at certain subway stations.

You can either buy a pay-per ride card, a 7-day unlimited pass, or a 30-day unlimited pass depending on your needs and preferences.

The amount of money you save with a New York City MetroCard is almost unlimited, considering how expensive it is to explore the city with taxi and Uber rides.

Get a Cheap Broadway Ticket

Experiencing a Broadway show is high on the must-do list of many New York visitors.

The only problem – tickets can be very expensive. Luckily, there’s a surefire method to find cheap Broadway tickets for most shows.

The key is to not get ripped off. It might sound easy, but walk around any Broadway or off-Broadway theater and you’ll be bombarded with offers from people selling cheap tickets. Many of these tickets are legitimate.

You’re better off heading to the Theatre Development Fund’s TKTS Booth in Duffy Square, South Street Seaport, or Downtown Brooklyn on the day of the show you intend to see.

Broadway tickets at the TKTS regularly sell for more than 50% the price of tickets bought online or at the door.

Matinee tickets can even be bought a day ahead of time from the TKTS Booth on South Street Seaport or in downtown Brooklyn.

Another option is to try to buy day-of tickets at the theater. Known as same-day rush tickets, these are often found for as low as $25 each. If you don’t mind standing, standing-room tickets are often available for most shows.

The most popular Broadway shows usually set aside a handful of same-day rush tickets to be sold by lottery a few hours before the show starts.

Though it’s possible to find affordable Broadway tickets no matter your age, it’s even easier for younger people.

Many theater companies, especially the nonprofit theaters, sell cheap tickets – between $20 and $25 – to people between 18 and 35 years old to encourage young people to attend the theater.

Take Advantage of Free New York Sights

Many of New York City’s most famous sights can be experienced without paying a dime.

Chief among these is Central Park. One of the city’s absolute best attractions, it’s easy to spend hours exploring or relaxing in the park.

Visit Central Park’s west side – known as the Ramble – for a touch of quiet nature in an otherwise bustling city, catch one of the free live events that always seem to be happening, or just sit on a bench and watch the people go by.

The Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge Park are also worth a visit. Perfect for those on a budget, these free attractions give a beautiful taste of what Brooklyn is all about.

Finally, you can’t miss the Staten Island Ferry. Created for commuters from Staten Island, the absolutely free ferry provides beautiful views of the New York City skyline as well as breathtaking views of the State of Liberty.

  • Stuart Forster
    Posted at 16:20h, 14 October

    These are really useful tips for all travellers, not just people enjoying a gap year. New York can be expensive but it’s a place that everyone should visit at least once, in my view.

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