How to Visit New York City on a Budget

Millions of tourists from around the world visit New York City every year, and it's no wonder they contribute more than a billion dollars to the city's economy. However, you don't have to break the bank to visit the Big Apple. These steps and tips will help you visit New York City on a budget without sacrificing time or enjoyment.


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    Create an organized budget plan before you visit. If you know you'll be doing a lot of shopping or taking expensive sightseeing tours, check with your bank to ensure the proper finances are available. It's not a problem if you decide to forgo certain attractions on your trip because of cost - you can always visit them on a return trip to the city.
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    Invest in an all-access, prepaid city pass. Exclusive cards like the New York Pass and City Pass offer free entry to more than a dozen popular tourist attractions in the Big Apple, an insider guidebook, user-friendly interfaces and even line skipping privileges all for a reasonable fee. It may feel like a lot to shell out at first, but it will likely save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
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    Choose the best time to visit. Although New York City attracts a generous crowd year-round, here are the pros and cons of each season:
    • Winter: The winter season is a great time to visit New York, especially after the holidays when the crowds have thinned considerably or when the city is blanketed in snow. However, many visitors find the freezing temperatures unsuitable for walking and visiting outdoor attractions, such as Times Square, which are plentiful.
    • Spring: Visiting during the springtime is a pleasant experience, with warmer, mild temperatures and the trees beginning to bud and bloom with color in Central Park. On the downside, the city can get crowded around Easter and Spring Break, and some attractions and hotels often charge full price after the winter season.
    • Summer: New York City in the summertime is hot, humid, and a few showers or thunderstorms that can literally dampen a day are always a possibility. Conversely, the local crowd will have lightened and many hotels and restaurants offer summer deals and specials to out-of-town visitors. The longer days and mostly sunny weather are great benefits as well.
    • Autumn: Another good time to visit New York is in the fall, when the weather is cooler but still comfortable and the colorful leaves collect on every street corner. However, the season is typically one of the most popular, crowded, and expensive times of the year, the latter fact not a good sign if you're traveling budget-conscious.
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    If you live within a few hours' drive, consider visiting for the day rather than staying overnight. Without having to worry about accommodations you can save a surprisingly large investment of money. There actually is some ground you can cover in just a one day visit to New York City, whether you spend it Uptown, Midtown, or Downtown.
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    If you do decide to stay overnight, book a hotel room early and browse the web for the cheapest rates. Booking early is key in the process of budget traveling. Check websites for help, or see this article. Many hotels in Manhattan are clean, comfortable, and attract wallets of all sizes, so staying for several days is more simple than you may think at first.
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    Go on a weekday. You'll find better hotel rates, restaurant deals, occasional discounts at many attractions and sometimes less overwhelming crowds if you avoid visiting on the weekends.
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    Make use of New York's inexpensive public transportation options. While taking a cab everywhere may be more convenient, the costs per ride will quickly add up. Instead, buy a Metrocard with enough rides to last the length of your trip and hop on the subway or take the bus to your destination. Know where you are going to avoid getting lost and having to spend money on a taxi for the way back, and learn to navigate New York City. Also consider walking, which is not only free, but also good exercise.
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    Make a beeline for the city's abundant free sites and attractions. These include, but are not limited to, Times Square, the New York Public Library, Central Park, Ground Zero, and Rockefeller Center. The sites listed above are great places to see and visit, especially if you have more than one day in the city.
    • Keep in mind that you don't have to avoid New York's legendary department stores and shops while traveling on a budget. Window-shopping is always fun, as well as stopping into the stores to try on outfits or get a closer look at an expensive souvenir.
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    Eat cheap. While the Big Apple features some of the world's best restaurants, you don't have to dine at every one of them and end up footing the costly bill. Instead, have the best of both worlds by having a nice but small breakfast, a fast-food lunch, and splurging on dinner. If you absolutely need to save money, consider bringing your own food. A bagged lunch and some snacks for the day from a local convenience store shouldn't cost more than $10 USD.
    • Restaurant Week in New York City is an annual event offering full-course lunch and dinner meals at half price, typically held once in the winter and once during the summer at participating restaurants. These are both great times to visit, and feature the added bonus of less expensive meals at some of the city's more upscale eateries.
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    Don't shop till you drop. Many of the souvenirs in New York's gift shops can be found in your local mall at half the price, as well as clothing, electronics, etc.
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    Remember to splurge occasionally. While you are traveling on a budget, that doesn't mean you have to forgo everything expensive the Big Apple has to offer. Enjoy at least one dinner at a posh restaurant, buy one or two of those outfits or T-shirts you can't get anywhere else, or visit that attraction you may not return to in the future.


  • Take the Staten Island Ferry. Rides are completely free each way and offer the same scenic views of Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson/East River as the costly tourist boats that frequent the Manhattan harbor.
  • Don't look like a tourist. This will have a small negative impression upon people, especially New Yorkers. Fit in by walking at the pace of the crowds, avoid gawking or staring up at the skyscrapers, and ditching the fanny pack, Statue of Liberty hat, tourist map, etc.


  • Some neighborhoods within the New York City boroughs may be cheaper to stay in or visit (like Harlem, Spanish Harlem, or the Bronx) but they might also seem scary and unsafe to a tourist. Be prepared and look up information about these areas close to Manhattan if you'd like to visit them.

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Categories: New York | Reduce Travel Cost