Budget Travel: Where to save money in New York.

It’s no secret that New York city is an expensive place!

However, if you plan on visiting, there are a few easy ways you can cut down on your expenses and still enjoy this vibrant city without going completely broke. 

Read our tips below: 


Don't take a yellow cab from the airport.

The best way to travel from the airport into the city is by train. It’s cheaper and quicker, especially during rush hour.

The Airtrain runs 24 hours a day from JFK airport. A one way ticket costs $7.75 per person, payable by Metro Card. The train travels to Jamaica and Howard Beach stations. From there you can grab the subway to anywhere else in New York.

From Newark Airport – take the NJ Transit which is a 25 minute journey to Penn Station. A single journey costs $15.25 per person.


Use public transport

Much like London, the underground transport system in New York is excellent. 

There are a few ways to purchase tickets for the metro.

  • Pay-per-ride.
  • Unlimited ride cards. 


The fee to buy the card itself is $1.00 which is non refundable. Each journey will cost you $2.75 regardless of the destination or length of ride.

Pay-per ride cards can be used by up to 4 people.

Unlimited Ride Cards

These cards allow you to ride the subway and buses as often as you want. The unlimited cards cannot be used by multiple people.

There are 2 types of unlimited cards:

  • 7 day unlimited ride – $33 + $1 for the card itself.
  • 30 day unlimited ride – $127 +$1 for the card itself.

If you opt for the 7 day pass you can essentially travel the entire city for less than $5 per day.

You can download the subway maps from here.

Hold back on costly currency exchanges

Don’t spend large amounts of money exchanging currencies, you will only need a small amount of actual cash. New York mostly uses card payments.

If you are looking for an international travel card I can recommend the STA travel money card. *Accepted in all shops, bars and restaurants displaying the Mastercard logo, a Travel Money Card helps you avoid the cost and hassle of exchanging money and handling currency.

Visit during the winter season

The cheapest time to stay in New York is between January and March (after January 4th).

It will be considerably colder, but the cost of flights and hotels are on average the lowest for the entire year.


Purchase a New York Pass

If you are visiting New York for the first time it might be a good idea to invest in a “tourist pass”. There are a few to choose from, but the idea behind them is that is a pre-paid card offers significant discounts and fast-track privileges at popular attractions. 

A useful website that will help you compare the different passes is Pass Comparison . 

One of the most popular passes is the The New York Pass .  

The Pass can be purchased for 1 to 10 days, is valid for 2 years and includes iconic sites such as the Empire State building, the hop-on-hop-off tour buses and the Statue of Liberty.

  • 1 day pass costs $134
  • 3 day pass costs $276
  • 5 day pass costs $344

Cheap food

New York has a plethora of affordable eats and the iconic New York City food trucks and carts offer up some of the tastiest, cheapest food in the city.

The city has many bakeries for breakfast (you must try a New York Bagel), doughnut shops, sandwich delis and of course $1 pizza places.  Here is a map by New York Eater with all of the top pizza establishments.

Another relatively cheap area for food is Chinatown.  Chinatown is huge and it’s filled with Chinese bakeries, noodle stops, and traditional restaurants. You will for sure find some cheap eats. Head to the neighbourhood of Harlem if you want to try some fresh soul food at reasonable prices. Avoid Midtown and places around Times Square – that’s where you’ll find the overpriced food!

*Top Tip – always decide and eat before you become too hungry. Being “hangry” means you’ll often settle for the nearest place, which might not be the best value.

Alternative Accommodation

Hotels in New York are expensive, especially if you decide to stay in Manhattan. If you are insistent on staying in a hotel, find one that includes breakfast to help spread the cost. One way to save money is to stay outside of Manhattan. Consider across the water in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s 7 miles away and accessible via train, road and ferry. The ferry in itself is a great way to see the New York skyline and takes around 8 minutes to cross the water. We stayed in an airbnb over in Jersey City for the first part of our trip but for the latter part we opted to stay in the neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Brooklyn has been become quite trendy and hipster and is a really cool neighbourhood. The best way to travel to Brooklyn is by subway. Journey time is around 30 minutes and the subway departs every 10 minutes. 


Here’s where we stayed:

Brooklyn private room #1 

Brooklyn private room #2

*Have you used Airbnb before? Sign up using my link here.

  • Friends who sign up for Airbnb with your link will get £25 off their home booking. And they get £10 to use towards an experience worth £40 or more.

Cheap/free activities and attractions

New York is blessed with many museums, some are free or “pay what you wish”.

Free Museums:

Other attractions:

Free things to do:

  • Walk over the bridge to Brooklyn. Brooklyn Bridge is very popular but there is also the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.
  • Head to Central Park, a typical New York experience. The park spans over 800 acres and you’ll have that classic skyline as a backdrop.
  • Take the Staten Island Ferry and marvel at the Statue of Liberty. The ferry operates 24 hours a day. 
  • Head up to the High Lines. Built on an old freight line, this walk way over the city is a great way to get a different view of the city. You may also spot some public art and food trucks along the way. Between April and October on Tuesday evenings the Astronomers Association sets up telescopes to stargaze. This is completely free, just show up on the High Line at 14th Street.
  • Seek out street art murals. Beautiful urban art can be found all around the city. The neighbourhood of Harlem and near Brooklyn bridge (DUMBO) area has some spectacular pieces. Harlem has an online map for murals here. 
  • Look for New York film sites and locations. Iconic locations from the likes of Sex and the City, Ghostbusters and Breakfast at Tiffany’s are waiting to be found. The Ghostbusters fire station is in Tribeca and the infamous Friends apartment building can be found at 90 Bedford Street. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you have managed to find some of these budget tips useful. 

Enjoy New York!


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