Budget Travel In NYC

By | May 26, 2012 at 6:09 am | 26 comments | Advice, Budget Travel, City Breaks, Jade, USA | Tags: , ,

Budget Travel In NYC

New York is one of the iconic destinations that most travellers dream of visiting at least once. It is a place that really has something for everyone; museums, fine art, street art, a vibrant music scene, non stop nightlife, film locations, high fashion, boutique fashion, great parts and green spaces, fantastic theatre, and of course, great cheesecake.

One thing however, that people don’t usually think of when they think of New York City is budget travel. This guide will show you that budget travel in NYC is very possible indeed.


Taking the subway is a great way to budget travel in NYC

The best way to get around New York is via the fantastic 24 hour subway system. If you are staying for a little while in the city, a great budget option is the 7 day rail passes. These passes allow for unlimited travel on the subway and on busses within New York City, and are much cheaper and a lot less hassle than buying individual tickets.

Top Tip – Make sure you get a map of the subway system, as often the wall maps are difficult to find inside the stations.


New York City has more accommodation options than you can shake a stick at. There is a large and lively couch surfing community in New York, which is a great option for meeting local people. Remember that NYC is a hot destination, and that hosts here receive dozens of requests a week.

Top Tip – The best way to secure couch surfing in NYC is to start emailing hosts far in advance of your arrival date.

Another option for finding local hosts, is tripping. The tripping community is slightly smaller, but it is a fast growing network, and is definitely worth looking into.

When it comes to budget travel in NYC, the go to option is hostels. There are tons of hostels in New York, offering a variety of room types for a variety of budgets.

 Top Tip - if you are staying in New York for a bit longer time frame is to choose two or three hostels in different areas of the city – allowing you to experience and explore a larger area of New York.

 Activities and Experiences

The statue of liberty as seen from the Staten Island ferry

For those on the look out, New York is full of budget or free activities. Most museums and art galleries have a certain day each week where entry is either free or greatly reduced. Remember that traffic on these days is often extremely high, so it is worth while getting there a bit earlier as queues often form well in advance to the opening time.

New York also has a wide range of free walking tours. For example, grand central station offers free walking tours, as does central park.

Top Tip : To get (sort of) close to the statue of liberty, without queueing for hours and paying loads in admission fees, take the Stanten island ferry instead. The ferry is absolutely free, is never very crowded, and it sails right past Liberty island.

Food and Drink

China town is a great place to find budget food options in NYC

Food in New York is not only cheap, but it is of a fantastic quality. New Yorkers are famously busy people, and many just do not have time to do their own cooking. I even saw some studio apartments which did not have kitchens at all. This means that eating out is an integral part of the New York culture, and it is not difficult to find great budget options.

Top Tip – Often, food carts dotting the streets offer not only cheap, but amazing meals. Don’t be afraid to buy your food from one of these carts, especially if it seems to be popular with the locals.

It is also very possible to drink on the cheap in New York. Many night clubs don’t have a cover charge, and drinks are also very reasonably priced. Just remember to tip the bartender or else you might not get very quick service for your next drinks!

All The Extras Bits

Bloggers and facebook fiends rejoice! Internet is cheap and readily available in New York. Wi-fi is ubiquitous and almost always free of charge.

Top Tip – If you are ever in need of a quick internet fix – just remember that you can always find a good connection at Starbucks (and they are literally everywhere!)

About the Author

Jade Johnston

Jade is a freelance travel writer from Manitoba Canada. She loves travel and meeting new people has lived in 6 countries and travelled to more than 30. She prefers to travel slowly - taking overland transit or working/ volunteering in the countries she visits. Her motto is that she might never return to this place again, so she has to try to soak up as much as possible. To learn more about the OurOyster project, Google + : Jade Johnston's Google You can also shoot her an email at jade@ouroyster.com


  1. Laurence (1 year ago)

    I absolutely loved New York when I visited it. It felt like a giant movie set, and I totally felt like I’d already visited it :) Great tips for doing it on a budget!

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      THanks! My first NYC trip was a little too rainy for my liking, but I hope to go back some time in the summer maybe

  2. Alouise (1 year ago)

    Great tips. I lov New York. There’s always a lot to see and do, and while it can be expensive, you can also easily do the city on a budget too. The subway is really easy to use and a great deal. There’s also a lot of great museums with free or discounted admission on certain days. I like the tip of staying in different hostels for a longer trip, and I think McDonald’s also has free wifi.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Oh yea! I forgot about McDonalds! Good tip! Although they don’t have power points so make sure your laptop is fully charged!

  3. A Montrealer Abroad (1 year ago)

    all very useful tips for my trip in July!

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Have a awesome time! July should be great weather as well!

  4. Bret @ Green Global Travel (1 year ago)

    We’re taking my daughter (who’s 10) to New York City for the first time around 4th of July! Mary’s dad, who lives in Jersey, is turning 70, so we’re heading up for the party and then spending a few days in the city. We’ll definitely put some of these tips to use, especially taking the subway.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Awesome! I think the city will be pretty busy for 4th July! Have an awesome time and I am looking forward to reading about it!

  5. Raymond @ Man On The Lam (1 year ago)

    When I went to NYC I rented an apartment from someone in Hell’s Kitchen off of Craigslist. It was way cheaper than a hotel, and it was a 10 minute walk to Time Square. Plus it wasn’t a hostel. :)

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Wow! I never thought to check craigslist! That is a great great great tip!

  6. cheryl (1 year ago)

    All very good tips! I miss NYC and hope to make it back someday.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      I hope to make it back sometime in the summer… it rained most of the time when I was there!

  7. Jenn @therebelchick (1 year ago)

    I’ll be in NYC this summer, thanks for all of the tips!

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Have an awesome time and I look forward to reading about it on your blog

  8. Christy @ Technosyncratic (1 year ago)

    Mmmm…. New York style pizza…..

    I’ve heard a lot of folks highly recommend the Staten Island ferry – it seems like a great option.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Its amazing when you see the queue and the price for the other ferry!

  9. Sandra Foyt (1 year ago)

    There are so many great choices for street food in NYC that there are blogs devoted to the subject; and, of course, there’s an app for that.

    Another great bargain in NYC is Shakespeare in the Park which will be celebrating its 50th year of putting on great performances in Central Park this year. See http://www.publictheater.org for more info.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Great tip! I will add that to the post!

  10. Wanderplex (1 year ago)

    Great tips! I think NYC can absolutely be done cheaply – accommodation is certainly the biggest expense so if you can find a couch to crash on, you’re set!

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      You can find cheap hostels as well, but often they are further away from the city centre. Luckily, the public transport system is so great, that that doesn’t often even matter

  11. Stephanie - The Travel Chica (1 year ago)

    Great tip on the Staten Island Ferry.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      Thanks! It will save you so much time and money

  12. Ayngelina (1 year ago)

    I didn’t know about the subway pass. Perfect as I’m heading there in July.

  13. Abby (1 year ago)

    Great roundup, Jade! Do be careful on the subways in some areas late at night please. :) I love NYC! It’s the place so far I’ve lasted the longest — five years. I’d have to stay in Vegas until next February to catch up lol.

    • OurOyster (1 year ago)

      I think I could easily live in NYC, but it does get to me after a little while of just visiting… just so hectic!

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