A Trip Guide for NYC on a Budget

This post is about how to visit NYC on the cheap. We list dozens of ways that you can enjoy all that this city has to offer even if you are on a shoestring budget. (en español) (auf Deutsch).

 

 

Be sure to check our comprehensive list of Things to do in NYC.

Also, take a look at our free, pay-what-you-wish walking toursWe offer over 30 different kinds of tours — walking tours of a specific neighborhood or a combination of several areas.

We also have food toursnight tours, bike tours, and ghost tours.

For those who like to explore on their own at their own pace, we even have dozens of self-guided tours as well as GPS-enabled audio tours

 


FINDING DISCOUNTS BEFORE YOU ARRIVE

Tourist Passes

New York Pass Night Things to Do

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 50% 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.

Also, when planning your trip, it would be wise to look into bus and boat tours since those activities are scheduled times and you can build your itinerary around them.

Likewise, many companies offer bundles that combine their boat and bus tours with popular NYC attractions.

TIP: You may find our suggested budget itineraries for 1, 2, and 3 days in NYC helpful when planning your trip.

Also, check on Groupon and Living Social for discounts on tours, tickets to shows, meals, top attractions and more. 


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. 

If you want to save money on cellphone costs and wi-fi service, our posts Which SIM Card to Buy? and Where to Find Free WiFi will help you out.  

TIP: If you are traveling between NYC and Washington. DC or Boston, see our posts on cheap buses to/from Washington, DC or  Boston


Getting around NYC

Once you are here, you will want to save 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 which subway card is best for you.

Our guide to navigating the New York City subway system will make your subway rides easy and even fun, and download one of these free subway apps before you get here.

If your luggage is weighing you down in before you can check in or after you check out of your hotel, see our post Inexpensive Luggage Storage in New York City. 

TIP: For the best free boat ride of your life, ride the famous Staten Island Ferry! The skyline views of Lower Manhattan are jaw-dropping. You also pass right near the Statue of Liberty.  

For other ways to get great (and mostly free) skyline views, click here

 


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FREE MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS

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. Before you pay full price for anything, look at our comprehensive guide to Free Things to Do in NYC

Also, check on Groupon and Living Social for discounts on tours, tickets to shows, meals, top attractions and more. 

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

Museum of Modern Art

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!

  • 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.

For even more affordable attractions, see our post, Free Things to Do in NYC.

 


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FREE AND DISCOUNTED SIGHTSEEING TOURS

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

 


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EATING, DRINKING, AND NIGHTLIFE ON A BUDGET 

Eating

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:

For an affordable way to taste a variety of New York flavors, try one of our pay-what-you-wish food tours.

Also, always check out Living Social, Groupon, or Restaurant.Com for deals. 

TIP: Tips are not included in your food bill and New York waitstaff expects a tip. Read our Proper Tipping Etiquette post so you don’t get yelled at by a disappointed waiter! 


Drinking

Here are our suggestions– straight, no chaser.


Nightlife

Skyline at Night

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 that are affordable. Here are just a few suggestions: 

  • Go to a museum! As mentioned above, most museums offer free hours. Often, those free hours are in the evenings.

See our comprehensive posts, What to Do at Night in New York City.  Free Things to Do in NYC  and Things to do in NYC for many more budget-friendly ideas. 

 


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WHERE TO STAY IN NEW YORK ON A BUDGET

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.

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.

 


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DISCOUNT BROADWAY SHOW TICKETS

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: 

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

 


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DISCOUNT NYC SHOPPING 

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! 

 


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