Strategies for Visiting NYC on a Budget

Rockefeller Center is a favorite Manhattan attraction.
••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

Strategies for visiting New York City on a budget can reap huge rewards: from all the wonders of Broadway shows and world-class museums to the excitement of Times Square. New York offers something for virtually any interest. Unfortunately, cheap New York travel can be quite a challenge. Here are links to tips for finding affordable lodging, dining, transportation and activities in New York City.

  • 01 of 06

    Getting There

    Planes readying for takeoff from Newark.
    ••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

    New York offers a generous selection of airports and budget airlines, so shopping for a low airfare should be easy here. Be sure to check all of the possibilities before you book a flight.

    With all that traffic, there is also bad news. Delays are common at most airports here, and you might find connections tough to catch. Building in plenty of time for connections and arrival home is a smart idea.


  • 02 of 06
    Marriott Marquis room 3747, New York
    ••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Thousands of visitors come to New York expecting to pay $350 or more for a hotel room. They might be willing to pay that median price, but they want good value for the money. Unfortunately, many times that ordinary price brings an ordinary room.

    Others simply can't afford to pay that much, and they're looking for low cost rooms. No matter where on the economic spectrum you find yourself, there are ways to look for budget, middle and full-service rooms in the city that never sleeps.

    For years, finding a budget New York hotel room meant risking cleanliness, safety, or a very long train ride.

    Business and leisure travelers want none of the above. They expect clean, safe accommodations in the heart of the city.

    For shoestring budgets, scan the list of budget offerings.

    Apple Core Hotels offers five Manhattan properties beginning at about half the going Manhattan rates. Children under 13 stay free with their parents. Apple Core is worth a long look because of the central locations...MORE offered.

    Finally, if you're willing to bid on a room, there are sometimes Priceline bargains to be found.


  • 03 of 06

    Getting Around

    There are a number of economical ways to get around New York City.
    ••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

    It is generally not a good idea for visitors to drive in Manhattan.

    New York, like other great world cities, has built a subway system over the years that could not be duplicated from scratch.

    Much of it was built when labor and construction were much cheaper than today. The network of routes and stations is so extensive, it's likely a stop exists not far from where you want to go.

    Consult a map and make note of which stations are closest to your hotel and the places you'll visit. Don't be intimidated by all the detail. It's really fairly easy to decipher after a moment or two.  

    If you'll take three or more rides in a day, it's a good idea to investigate MTA's passes. For longer trips, consider railroads. The Long Island Railroad offers reasonable fares to far-flung places like the Hamptons and Montauk. Try to travel off-peak (any time other than 6-10 AM or 4-8 PM), when fares are one-third cheaper. Purchasing online or from machines prior to boarding is...MORE cheaper than paying the conductor for a ticket.

    If you choose one of the city's ubiquitous yellow cabs, expect to pay  for the privilege of getting in, and then charges accrue for each fifth of a mile traveled. You also pay for every idle minute in traffic, and a surcharge at night. Conventional tips are in the 15 percent range.

    It's impractical to suggest visitors stay away from cabs entirely, but their cost can add up quickly. Save your cab rides for late at night, when they can become a safer, wiser alternative.

    One of the great New York experiences is riding the world-famous Staten Island Ferry. A round trip is free. 

    Ferries also run to La Guardia Airport, Yankee and Shea Stadiums (in season) and a variety of other locations. Check the NYDOT web site for schedules and prices.

  • 04 of 06
    Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic New York experience, and it's free of charge.
    ••• Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    New York can be an expensive city, with pricey admission fees and tours that will challenge your travel budget. While it's difficult to list every free opportunity in a city this large, here are 10 ideas to get you started. Some of the best New York experiences won't cost you a dime.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06


    Finding a great steak is easy in Manhattan -- but prices can be daunting.
    ••• (c)Mark D. Kahler

    It's possible to drift through New York and eat very inexpensive food during your entire visit. But most of us want to experience the destination we've spent time and money to visit, and that includes sampling the best dining opportunities. It can be done with some careful planning. 

    If you're a vegetarian (or if you enjoy a good meatless meal sometimes), check out Happy Cow's Vegetarian Guide, an excellent compendium of places and prices that will suit most tight budgets.

    There are a number of guides that give information based on price ranges, generally using "expensive-moderate-inexpensive" or similar designations. provides links to restaurants in a fairly wide area of New York and New Jersey. A message board shows diner impressions of various establishments. Read what they post with a critical eye, since it's probably based on one visit that was either great or horrible.


  • 06 of 06
    The heart of New York City's entertainment district is near Times Square.
    ••• (c)Mark D. Kahler
    Just when most visitors recover from hotel room sticker shock, they confront the cost of sightseeing in New York. It can be daunting, but there are ways to skip the ticket lines and save some money on the key attractions. The bright lights of network television and Broadway call many visitors, and there are ways to save money on those experiences, too. It's important to spend time outside theaters and studios during your visit, so read more about neighborhood walking tours that will keep you entertained at reasonable prices.