A Travel Guide for New York City on a Budget

New York City is a notoriously expensive city, both to live in and to explore as a tourist.  But, it doesn’t have to be. Free Tours by Foot’s pay-what-you-wish tours prove that.  However, there are much more ways to save during your trip to NYC than just our tours.  Here are some insider tips for taking in the best that this city has to offer without compromising your wallet.  Many amazing things in NYC are free or affordable can fit any budget! Here are some helpful hints to enjoy New York on a budget. (en español) (auf Deutsch).

Be sure to check out our budget itineraries for 1, 2, and 3 days in NYC and our newest tour/experience – Harlem Gospel Tour and Soul Food Experience on Tuesdays at 11 am.

Save on Travel to and around NYC

Save on Sightseeing Tours

Save on Accommodations

Discount Shopping

Finding Discounts Before You Arrive

Free Museums and Attractions

Eating, Drinking and Nightlife

Discount Broadway Tickets and Shows



Finding Discounts Before You Arrive

Is the New York Pass Worth It?One of the most popular ways to save money on your visit to NYC is to purchase a tourist pass.  Tourist passes offer free entry (as well as discounted entry) to dozens of tourist destinations, such as the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty as wall as organized tours.  The passes are not for everyone; it depends on what you plan to see and how much time you have.  Check out our guide on choosing which tourist pass might work for you.

Before you pay full price for anything, we recommend that you first take a look at discount sights such as Living Social for discounts on tours, hotels, restaurants, and attractions.  Many travel companies will offer deep discounts on Broadway shows, sightseeing tours, dinners, flights, and hotels, depending on the season and their capacity.  Goldstar is a discount site that is focused on events and theater.

  • Save up to 40% admission to the Intrepid Sea, Air + Space Museum.
  • Get 20% off admission to the Bronx Zoo or pay what you wish on Wednesdays.


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Traveling to and from and around New York City

New York TaxiAs stated above, you should check out the discount websites for flight deals to and from NYC.  We’ve put together an article on finding cheap flights to New York City, which shares tips on when to travel and where and when to buy your tickets.  The savings don’t stop there.  Check out our money saving tips for travel to and from all three major New York City area airports.  If planning to travel by hop-on, hop-off bus, then check out our post comparing all New York bus tours.

Arguably the most important money saving thing you could do is take advantage of one of the world’s most extensive and inexpensive mass transit systems.  We have put together two guides, one for navigating the New York City subway system and the other to help you decide which travel card you should buy. We also recommend downloading one of these free subway apps.

Here are some other posts and articles on getting around NYC.

International Visitors to New York

  • Find Free WiFi – attention international travelers – don’t make expensive international roaming calls.
  • Which SIM Card to Buy? – learn about the different SIM card options to help avoid steep roaming fees.
  • Proper Tipping Etiquette – tipping is more prevalent in the U.S.A, so learn what appropriate and what’s not.


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Free and Pay-What-You-Wish Museums and Other Attractions

911 Memorial MuseumThis is another fantastic way to visit New York on a budget.  New York City is filled with museums of all shapes and sizes.  Many offer suggested donations, which means it’s only a suggestion.  Like our walking tours, you can pay what you wish or can afford.  Some museums have free days or nights.  Others are free altogether.  We’ve put together a list of these free museums, art galleries and attractions, which includes big names such as the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

We’ve also written a post on the Downtown Culture Pass, which like the tourist passes, offers entry to a number of Lower Manhattan museums over a 3 day period, including the Museum of American Finance, the 911 Tribute Center and the Skyscraper Museum.

Other Free Activities

  • Brooklyn Bridge – possibly the most famous attraction that you can see for absolutely free.
  • TV Show Tickets – Jimmy Fallon, Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live and more.  All are free to attend.


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Save Money on Sightseeing Tours

All of the tours offered by Free Tours by Foot are pay-what-you-wish and a great way to visit New York on a budget. If you are considering a purchase of one of the New York tourist passes mentioned above, please be aware that participation on many sightseeing tours is included in the pre-paid price.   Check out our guide on choosing which tourist pass might work for you.  And as mentioned above, be sure to look at the discount sites for coupons on guided tours.

Below are some articles we have written to provide you with some options to sight-see for free or at a discount.


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Guide to Eating, Drinking and Nightlife in New York on a Budget

Food New YorkNew York City has great food and it doesn’t have to come at a great expense.  In fact, much of the food that New York City is famous for are surprisingly inexpensive.  Our pay-what-you-wish food tours rely on this affordability. One big suggesting is to experiment.   Also, as mentioned above, check out Living Social for restaurant deals.   You should also check to see if you will be visiting NYC during Restaurant Week.  Another option is to check out the deals on offer at restaurants.com.   A relatively new concept is having a meal at real New Yorker’s apartment.   Websites such as mealsharing.com allow travelers to find locals (often aspiring chefs) and have lunch or dinner at their homes.  It’s a great way to meet locals and not have the large costs associated with some restaurants.

For nightlife, consider our free night tours.


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Save Money on Accommodations in the Big Apple

hotel fotoliaYou might think that finding cheap hotels in New York City can be far more challenging to nearly impossible.  Believe it or not, it’s possible to find great New York budget hotels as low as $80 per night for a clean, comfortable hotel room in some prime location.   Once more, check out Living Social for deals on hotel stays. You should definitely check out discount search engines such as Cheapostay.   We’ve put together a few posts and articles on finding the right type of accommodation for you, including:

But there are many more alternative options:

  • Air B+B, the app that connects travelers with homeowners who want to rent out their space while they are away.
  • Couch Surfing – crash on someone’s couch
  • House Sitting – watch someone’s house (and sometimes pets) for free while they are away.  They also offer our guests 10% membership when you use FREETOURS10 at checkout.


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Discount Broadway Tickets and Shows

Broadway fotoliaIf you are planning to take in a Broadway show or any theater in the Big Apple, then this may be one of the biggest areas where you could save. The most popular thing that visitors do is visit the discount ticket booths throughout NYC.  Check out our blog post on how to obtain discount theater tickets at the TKTS Booths.  However, there are other ways to obtain cheap tickets for Broadway shows.  For more ways to score discount theater tickets, check out this post from Kiplinger’s.  And don’t forget about free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.

If you are considering purchasing a tourist discount pass, the New York Pass entitles you to up to 10% on Broadway shows.

There are also a handful of other shows that offer discounted or free tickets on a regular basis. The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn features a free comedy show every Friday at midnight. Search: Paul Clayton is a musical that tells the story of Bob Dylan’s first musical mentor. Using the code SPCGEN at Brown Paper Tickets reduces the price from $35 to $24, and includes 2 drinks at the show.


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Finding Deals on Clothing in New York City

Shopping 3New York City is a top world destination for shoppers.  It’s easy to spend all your travel money on top shelf designer clothes.  However, shopping can be both fun and affordable.  We’ve put together a few posts and pages to help you discover all the best shopping discounts in the city and get the most bang for your buck.  First, take a look at our tips for discount shopping in New York City post.  This post outlines the many ways you can save, including outlets, retail sales, sample sales, discount department stores, designer resale and consignment stores as well as thrift and second hand shops.  Be sure to schedule some time at one of the area’s three main premium clothing outlets.  The most famous is Woodbury Commons, but there are two others that are arguably just as good.  Lastly, consider taking one of our pay-what-you-wish New York shopping tours, particularly our Thrift and Vintage Shopping Tour.

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