NYC on a Budget

New York City. Possibly one of THE most expensive cities in the world. Yet still a definite must see. And theres no wonder why. Its a city full of life, with something different and going on with every corner you turn and everywhere you look. You have the serenity of Central Park and the craziness that is Times Square.

Despire just how expensive NYC is, I decided to make it my last stop on my way back to the UK before Christmas.

I was in New York from December 15th - 23rd. And some how managed to get on my flight from JFK to Gatwick with no delays despite the whole Gatwick Drone drama. Still in shock how this happened, I was convinced I'd end up stuck in New York until January.

I was in New York on a very tight budget. The exchange rate between AUD and USD changed a fair bit between booking and going to the States, and I completely forgot about how tax is additional on EVERYTHING. So I had less money to play with that I thought I had.

Despite this I still found plenty to do. So here is a few free/budget friendly things to do in NYC. On a budget almost as small as me.


I stayed at HI NYC hostel on the Upper West side, 3 blocks from Central Park. I always opt for bigger dorm rooms. They are pretty much always cheaper, and as a solo female traveller I take comfort in safety by numbers. It is less likely you will end up just you and a creepy guy in a room by yourself if you book a big room. (However if this does happen asked to be moved, hostel staff will understand this and will be able to do something about it) This set me back $280 USD for 7 nights in a 12 bed room.

I always use Hostelworld to look for hostels as this brings up a huge range. Although sometimes it is worth looking direct at the hostels own website once you've found one you want to stay at, sometimes they have deals only available to those booking direct.

There didn't seem to be as many hostels in NYC as other places I had been to, and others had said the same thing. Because of this, along with the popularity of NYC, it is worth checking and booking a bit ahead if you can, especially around big events or busy times of the year, otherwise you may end up only having the option of a rather expensive hotel room.

Getting Around

The most obvious way to get around NYC is by the Subway. Theres a handful of different cards you can get to pay for this. I picked up a 7 day metro card for $32 USD which works out so well when you consider a pay per ride card is $2.75 per ride. You only need to make 11 journeys to get your monies worth, and that is so easily done when you're exploring a city.

Mobile Phone

I used my Australian SIM card the whole time I was in America. I turned my data off and used the public WiFis. I didn't need to contact anyone via text or calling, but let my cell service on incase someone needed to get hold of me.

If you're heading out of the cities you may want to look into phone plans that let you roam or grab an American SIM. But for me using the WiFi around the city was more than enough for me. This also saved me potentially around $40 for the just over two weeks I was in America, which I was more than grateful for.

Central Park

Possibly the most obvious thing in NYC to see on a budget, but definitly not something to miss off.

Central park is huge (3.41km2), a day wouldn't even cover half of it. Its a great place to people watch and watch the world go by. Theres so many food carts you can pick up a coffee or a soft drink, some popcorn or hot dogs from whilst you watch people busk and ice skate.

On the East side of the park there is also the MET, a place any Gossip Girl fan cannot miss the opportunity to get a picture on the MET steps.

World Trade Center

The WTC is home to Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 terror attacks. Its an extremely chilling place to visit for obvious reasons. Just walking around you can only begin to start imagining the panic that was felt on that morning.

Ground Zero asside the architecture is pretty impressive. Like everywhere in New York there's places to shop and eat.

Meatpacking District

A buzzing area, like the rest of NYC.

I went here with one of my friends whos brother recommended it to us. We spent a few hours wondering round the Chelsea Market. There was an area of independent sellers that had some amazing pieces to look at from clothing and jewlery to art work. The food court area was full of amazing looking foods. I had a veggie Jamaican style mac and cheese, who knew mac and cheese could get better than it already was?

In the Meatpacking District there is also the High Line. Where you can find some killing views of the city and the river. It was once an old rail line. But now you can wonder it to take in the city that never sleeps.

NYC from Above

So the obvious choices for this are the Empire State Building or the Rockefella Centre. If you have the cash for it these are of course, the cool place do it. However, if you're on a budget then maybe not so.

You can search out some hotels that have open to the public rooftop bars where you can gaze over the city whilst sipping a drink. I wasn't able to make use of this however as I am still not yet 21. I've had a look through other recomendations for somewhere to head for this.

My top pick would have to be Public Rooftop Bar, 215 Chrystie Street. This has a super modern look to it and is bound to make you feel like you're in an episode of Suits. If you're looking for a more cosy feel, then A60 SOHO at the Sixty Hotel looks like it is a winner.

Times Square

Time Square is one of the places that people go to NYC for. I have never seen so much going on in one place before. Its such an amazing place to people watch because it is so busy. I didn't spend too long here as it was tipping it down the evening I went. But on a dry day I could have just sat and watched for ages.


Also, have you really been to NYC if you don't take a Time Square pic for the Gram?

Staten Island

The ferry across to Staten Island is free, and the view of the city from the water is amazing. From here if you are on the right hand side, you can see the Statue of Liberty, for me this was enough so didn't feel the need to pay for a Statue of Liberty tour.

The ferry gets into St George, where you can then get trains and ferrys around Staten Island. I ended up walking along a beach and some boardwalks as I hadn't had much of a fix of beaches and sea in about a week at this point.


So although I didn't do this, it is definitly worth remembering to check on discount sites, such as groupon, if you are going to go to any attractions that cost anything. You can google the specific place you're going to, followed by "discount" if you don't want to trawl through sites to try and find something.

If you're staying at a hostel or hotel it's worth asking whats going on for the specific dates you are there. There may be one off events happening that is more than worth going to, discounts on tours and activities, such as bike hire and ice skating, or even free walking tours and social events.

Some hostels will have a notice board of everything that is going on each day. In hostel events are a great way to get talking to people and making friends. Maybe they might know something you don't.

Travelling on a budget doesn't mean you can't fully take in the place you are visiting. It just means you have to have a bit of think about where you'll be heading to do so. Once you've done it a few times, it becomes second nature, not an inconvenience.



Brooklyn Bridge

A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is a must.

Do it in a little loop and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in one direction, and back across the Manhatten Bridge. That way you get to both walk across is and get a killing view of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *