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Ten Tips for Travelling to 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 are more expensive to visit than NYC. But don't despair. Here are ten tips that will save you a motza.
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget

Ah, the Big Apple — if you can make a budget work there, you can make it work anywhere!

New York is renowned as the frugal traveller’s worst nightmare, but there are tips and tricks that will make those precious greenbacks stretch a whole lot further than you thought.

Here are ten practical ways to see the best of New York on a budget.

USA tours

USA Tours, Activities & Attractions

1. Book a bargain priced hotel in Downtown

Generally, Manhattan hotel rates are lower outside Midtown and cheapest in Downtown — as the financial district largely closes down at night. However, you’re still only a subway ride away from the action in Times Square, the trendy Meatpacking District, Greenwich Village, and Soho. It’s definitely worth considering, especially when hotels around Wall Street and Lower Manhattan can be half the price of the same hotel brand uptown!

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget: Stay in Downtown.

2. Invest in a New York Pass

There are times when it pays to be a tourist. The much lauded New York Pass provides discounted admission to more than ninety city attractions, and on various tours and day cruises. Choose a one, two, three, four, five, seven, or ten-day pass and save as you sightsee from the get-go.

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Top attractions like the Guggenheim Museum are included in the New York Pass.

3. Do just one of the Decks

New York now has no less than five observation decks, but for many visitors the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in Midtown remain the favourites. If you only have the time and money to visit one, choosing between them is tough. The Empire State Building is a cherished New York landmark and deservedly so. However, we recommend doing the Top of the Rock. It’s covered by the New York Pass, the crowds are handled far more efficiently, there’s more room at the top, and you get a great view of the Empire State Building itself!

4. Pound the pavement on a free walking tour

Exploring New York on a guided walking tour will get you off the beaten tourist track and under the skin of this amazing metropolis. And best of all, it’s generally very cost effective to do. Free Tours by Foot leads informative walks around various Manhattan neighbourhoods. Just remember that ‘free’ is code for ‘please tip me if you enjoyed the experience’. After all, your guide has to eat.

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget: Do a free walking tour.

5. 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 usually HUGE. That’s a meal right there in your hand!

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget: Love pizza.

6. Set sail on the Staten Island Ferry

It’s amazing, but true. The Staten Island Ferry offers free up-close views of Lower Manhattan, Ellis Island, and the famous first lady of New York City — the Statue of Liberty. Wave to the long ticketed queues on Liberty Island as you cruise by for nix.

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget: Statue of Liberty

7. Take your chances 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!

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Purchase discounted New York theatre tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square.

8. 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 dig very deep 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.

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Eat cheap in New York’s eclectic neighbourhoods.

9. Look for happy hour deals

Those who are partial to a beverage after a long day of sightseeing will be pleased to hear that happy hour is a time-honoured tradition at hundreds of New York cocktail and wine bars. In addition to drink specials, many venues offer complimentary bar snacks, canapés, and even tapas dishes. What a great way to save on dinner!

10. Cash in on designer discounts

Shopping is one of the great joys of travelling to New York, so don’t less the lacklustre Aussie dollar curtail your retail fun. Sign up for an international visitor’s discount card at major department stores and get 10% off your purchases. Note: You’ll need to have your passport with you.

Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget
Ten tips for travelling to New York on a budget: Save 10% at Macy’s with a visitor card.

Serious label shoppers may want to head across the Hudson River to New Jersey, where almost all clothing and shoes are exempt from sales tax. On a pair of $2,500 Christian Louboutin Maralena Flame Sandals, that’s quite a saving!

For more inspiration, visit www.nycgo.com.

Browse our range of New York tours and experiences here.

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

Additional images: Bigstock

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy, and France. Julietta 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. Her first two novels — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman and Sincerely, Me — are now available in bookstores.

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.



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