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How to do New York on a budget

Parity between the US and Aussie dollars now seems like a distant dream and travellers are once again faced with the reality that few places on earth can eat up your holiday budget faster than NYC. Julietta Henderson checks in with ten ways to save on travel to the Big Apple...
How to do New York on a budget
How to do New York on a budget

Ah New York — if you can make a budget work there, you can make it work anywhere!

New York is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and while it might seem like a big ask, you can make that greenback stretch a lot further than you might have thought.

Here are ten top tips for how to do New York on a budget. Start spreadin’ the news!

How to save on luxury travel to New York City

How to do New York on a budget
New York City. Image: Bigstock

Get a MetroPass…

To get the juiciest bite out of the Big Apple, an MTA weekly MetroCard gives you unlimited access to the subway and buses. For short stays you can purchase a pay-per-ride card, but if you can’t make your money back from a weekly pass you’re not having enough fun!

…and a New York Pass

There are times when it pays to be a tourist. The New York Pass provides entry into more than 90 city attractions, including hop-on hop-off buses. You can choose 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days, but make sure it’s the official one.

How to do New York on a budget
How to do New York on a budget: Save on top attractions with the New York Pass.

Book a free walking tour

Exploring the city at ground level with a local is absolutely the best way to get an authentic off-the-beaten-track experience. Free Tours by Foot offers informative tours around various city neighbourhoods. You’ll need to book ahead and remember, free doesn’t mean ‘don’t tip me’.

Top New York walking tours

How to do New York on a budget
How to do New York on a budget: Pound the pavement with a local guide.

Do high culture on the cheap

Some top museums (including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Whitney Museum of American Art and the Natural History Museum) have a ‘suggested admission’ and you’re actually free to pay what you want/can afford. There are also heaps of options that are completely free. In this city, priceless culture can come without a price!

Love pizza (even more!)

While the health benefits might be dubious, in theory you could eat for $3 a day in New York if you were to seek out the many $1-a-slice pizza shops dotted across the city. And we’re not talking about a reduced calorie diet here either. A New York pizza slice is generally HUGE. It’s a meal right there in your hand!

How to do New York on a budget
How to do New York on a budget: Learn to love pizza. Image: Adam Ford

Set sail on the Staten Island Ferry

It’s amazing but true. The Staten Island Ferry offers absolutely free up-close views of Lower Manhattan, Ellis Island and the famous first lady of New York City — the Statue of Liberty. Don’t forget to wave to the Liberty Island queues as you cruise by.

Top New York City travel tips

How to do New York on a budget
Statue of Liberty. Image: Bigstock

Life’s a lottery on Broadway

While a morning visit to the TKTS booth at Times Square can save you up to 40% on unsold Broadway tickets for that day, most theatre ticket offices also offer a lottery a couple of hours before the show opens to clear any remaining seats. Put your name down (even for a sellout show — there might be ‘no-shows’) and cross your fingers. It’s a gamble, but you’ve gotta be in it to win it!

How to do New York on a budget
Purchase discounted theatre tickets at the TKTS booth at Times Square.

New Jersey, New Jersey!

Admittedly it doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly, but you’ll save a motza if you stay in New Jersey — and the excellent NJ transit system delivers you right into the Big Apple. However, if you’re set on staying in the thick of things, anywhere’s cheaper than Midtown. Brooklyn and Queens are great alternatives.

Seek out cheap eats in the neighbourhoods

If you want to eat New York strip steak in Times Square you’re going to have to trade in your right arm to pay for it. Sorry. However, if you head over to the East and West Villages, trendy Tribeca or NoHo, you’ll be able to dine cheaply and deliciously on, well, pretty much everything. Not sorry.

Great places to eat in New York City

How to do New York on a budget
How to do New York on a budget: Eat cheap in the city’s eclectic neighbourhoods.

Plan for success

Lastly, while we’re all for getting up in the morning and letting the wind blow you where it will, in NYC it pays to make even a loose plan. Get a free tourist map and plan your day according to the location of the attraction(s) you want to see. You won’t spend your day doubling back or wasting time on transport.

Do you have any tips for how to do New York on a budget? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock


About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying 10 years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. She has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket. Apart from travel, she writes on subjects as diverse as photography, business, and well-being, and is halfway through her first novel. An avid lover of cold weather, Julietta’s master travel plan of never having to sweat again has somehow slipped out of synch and she’s currently on her third consecutive year of non-stop summer.


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