A Trip Guide for NYC on a Budget
This post is about how to visit NYC on the cheap.
Let’s start saving money!
- Finding Discounts Online
- Free Museums and Attractions
- Save on Sightseeing Tours
- Eating, Drinking, and Nightlife on Budget
- Affordable Accommodations
- Get Discount Broadway Tickets
- Discount Shopping
- Budgeting For Your Trip
Podcast Episode: Listen to tour guides Lori and Katherine discuss free things to do in NYC on an episode of our NYC Travel Tips podcast.
Be sure to check our comprehensive list of things to do in NYC.
Tourist Attraction Discount Passes
Even before you arrive in New York, look into purchasing a tourist pass.
Depending on which pass you buy, you could save as much as 55% on the cost of attractions that are likely on your must-see list.
See our guide, Which is the Best Tourist Pass to Buy, to compare what is available and if a pass is right for you.
Likewise, many companies offer bundles that combine their boat and bus tours with popular NYC attractions.
Our post on choosing the best times to visit NYC, which includes a section on the cheapest times, may be useful to you.
TIP: You may find our suggested budget itineraries for 1, 2, and 3 days in NYC helpful when planning your trip.
Getting to New York City
You can find cheap flights to New York City if you know the tricks on when to book, what days to travel and where you can find discount discounts.
Before you arrive, take a look at our post on transportation to and from New York City’s airports.
It’s important to look in advance because you are likely to need to buy a subway card to get into the city.
Getting around NYC
Once you are here, you will want to save some money getting around.
See our detailed post, How to Get Around New York City which covers traveling by subway, bus, bike, boat, ferry, car, and, of course, your feet.
Before buying a subway card, read our post on which subway card is best for you.
If your luggage is weighing you down before you can check-in or after you check out of your hotel, see our post Inexpensive Luggage Storage in New York City.
For other ways to get great (and mostly free) skyline views, click here.
With so many free museums and attractions, one could keep themselves busy in New York City for a week or more without spending a penny.
Again, look at the many options of tourist passes.
They include so many of the city’s tourist attractions, museums, and other activities, you really could save a bundle.
Museums and Institutions
You will be amazed by how many museums are free in New York.
Even those that are not set aside special hours or days when entrance is free. The best of them is Free Fridays at the Museum of Modern Art.
Some museums are technically free, but they just don’t advertise it.
You don’t need to pay the full price, which is a suggested donation. Take advantage of this when visiting the American Museum of Natural History.
You can donate any amount of money to gain entry to their main exhibit halls. This could be huge savings for families!
Have a look at our long list of always-free museums. The post also includes which museums are ‘suggested donation’, have free days or free hours.
Attractions and Other Activities
Start saving by taking a look at our post on getting discounts on New York City attractions. Here a few discounts to get you going!
- Learn how to get 10% off per ticket to the Empire State Building, save $5 on Top of the Rock Tickets and get $6 off each One World Observatory (Freedom Tower) ticket.
- Get 10% off ticket prices with Big Bus hop-on-hop-off or 15% of Grayline and CitySights hop-on, hop-off tours.
- 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.
Of course, we would love for you to join us on one of our pay-what-you-wish tours. But you have many other options too.
Below are some articles we have written about many ways to sight-see for free or at a discount.
- We have a vast array of downloadable and free self-guided tours, as well as many GPS-enabled audio tours.
- See the city from the water for free, or as close to free as possible. Our post, Free New York Boat Tours, tells you how.
- Take a hop-on-hop-off bus for a convenient way to explore the city. Click here to get 20% off ticket prices with Big Bus.
- For other bus tours, read our informative post on Which New York Bus Tour is the Best. We compare cost and quality.
- Sightsee by bike. NYC is very bike-friendly. You can rent a bike and explore on your own or join a guided bike tour.
- Get 20% off bike tours of Central Park and Brooklyn, as well as the cost of rentals by using the promo code use code FTBF.
- You can take a free tour at many of New York City’s most famous landmarks like the Federal Reserve, Grand Central, and Federal Hall.
- Get a discount on a Helicopter Tour! Our post provides tips on how to get discounts for chopper rides.
TIP: Before booking a tour, note that many sightseeing tours are included for free in several tourist passes.
New York City is famous for its delicious inexpensive cuisine (if you know where to go).
We do, and our post on New York Food has dozens of listings for every type of food.
To get you started, see our most popular food posts:
- Best Pizza in NYC by Neighborhood
- 15 Best Bagels in New York City
- Soul Food in Harlem
- Cheap Eats in NYC
- New York Restaurant Week
- Inexpensive Restaurants in Chinatown
For an affordable way to taste a variety of New York flavors, try one of our pay-what-you-wish food tours.
TIP: Tips are not included in your food bill and the New York waitstaff expects a tip. Read our Proper Tipping Etiquette post so you don’t get yelled at by a disappointed waiter!
Here are our suggestions– straight, no chaser.
- Free Brewery Tours and Beer Tastings
- Guide to Bars in NYC
- McSorley’s Old Ale House
- Best Pub Crawls and Bar Tours in NYC
- Happy Hour in New York City
- Historic New York City Bar Tour
- 10 Rooftop Bars with Great Views
In addition to getting a meal or grabbing a drink to occupy your night on a budget, take a look at our Things to Do at Night in New York City.
There, you will find a section with free activities. Throughout the post many other things to do at night are affordable.
Podcast Episode: Listen to tour guides Lori and Katherine discuss things to do in NYC at night with an emphasis on budget options on an episode of our NYC Travel Tips podcast.
Here are just a few suggestions:
- Laugh a lot for free or almost free! Our post Stretching Your Dollar at the Best NYC Comedy Clubs will show you where to go.
- Try our self-guided tours, as well as our many GPS-enabled audio tours which are good for any time, day or night.
- If you are here in the summer, NYC has so many free goings-on. Open-air movies, free live music almost every night, and special events like Shakespeare in Central Park and Free Concerts in Central Park at Summerstage. See our post on Things To Do in Summer.
- Go to a museum! As mentioned above, most museums offer free hours. Often, those free hours are in the evenings.
- Take a free night walking tour. We offer several different tours, including Midtown Manhattan, 911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge, and Central Park. We also offer a Sunset on the High Line and Dark Side of the High Line Tour. During the holiday season, we offer a Holiday Lights Tour and an NYC Christmas Movie Tour.
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 a prime location.
These posts will show you how.
- Inexpensive Hotels in New York City – an extensive list of hotels (with details, reviews, and pictures) with reasonable prices in many neighborhoods around the city. Our top 3 choices are:
- Hostels in New York – There are not as many hostels in NYC as there are in major cities around the world, but our post includes the best of them. Our top choices are:
- TripAdvisor Best Value Hotels – Top 30 affordable hotels in NYC. You can book here as well.
- Living Social often has great deals.
- Air B+B – Stay with local guests in your private room or even rent an entire apartment for yourself. Prices are comparable or less than hotels.
TIP: For something a little less conventional but a huge money saver is to be a House Sitter – watch someone’s house (and sometimes pets) for free while they are away.
They also offer our guests a 10% discount off membership fees when you use the promo code FREETOURS10 at checkout.
If you are planning to take in a Broadway show, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg. With patience and our insider tips, you can save quite a bit.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Our post on Getting Discount Broadway Show tickets through TKTS is an essential read.
Also, read our post on getting cheap tickets for Broadway shows, Rush discount tickets, and Broadway lotteries.
If you are here in the summer months, don’t forget about free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.
TIP: If you are considering purchasing a tourist discount pass, the New York Pass entitles you to up to 10% on Broadway shows.
New 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. Follow our advice on how to save big in shopping in the Big Apple.
- Our post, Discount Shopping in New York City covers retail sales, sample sales, discount department stores, designer resale, and consignment stores as well as thrift and second-hand shops.
- Visit a premium clothing outlet. The most famous is Woodbury Commons, but there are two others that are also quite excellent.
- Consider taking one of our pay-what-you-wish New York Shopping Tours. Let an expert shopper take you to where the secret savings are!
Below is a snapshot of the overall costs for two types of travelers for 3-day and 7-day trips (not including airfare or shopping).
For a complete explanation of these costs along with helpful tips on saving money, see our post how much it costs to visit New York City.
A Budget Traveler is someone who wants to spend as little as possible but still get a lot out of New York City.
This means staying at very inexpensive accommodations, not dining at full-service restaurants, and spending money on just a few attractions.
A Moderate Traveler is someone who is flexible with the amount of money to spend.
This means staying at mid-range accommodations in a convenient location, eating some meals out, and spending money on some of the best attractions in New York City.
3-day trip (per person)
- Food $60
- Accommodations $105
- Attractions and activities $150
- Transportation $17
- Total $332
7-day trip (per person)
- Food $140
- Accommodations $245
- Attractions and activities $300
- Transportation $32
- Total $717
3-day trip (per person)
- Food $150
- Accommodations $600
- Attractions and activities $375
- Transportation $50
- Total $1,175
7-day trip (per person)
- Food $350
- Accommodations $1400
- Attractions and activities $745
- Transportation $70
- Total $2,565
See the complete post on budgeting for your trip to NYC.