You’ve booked a trip to the Big Apple, your excitement is at an all-time high and you can’t wait to start exploring, eating, shopping, and seeing everything New York has to offer, but there’s just one thing standing in the way… the cost!
Don’t panic! You can still enjoy your time in New York City without going bankrupt by following our top money-saving tips!
Enjoy our New York City Budget Travel Guide! And be sure to see our post on the top free things to do in NYC.
1. Skip the Cab From the Airport
Photo Credit: Ferdinand Stöhr
Jump on the Air Train + A train from the airport and save at least $50 on a cab fare. A cab will cost $60+ from JFK and can take up to an hour in traffic. The subway will drop you anywhere you need to go in the city. It’s also much faster especially if you’re coming in rush hour!
2. Use the Subway (+ Unlimited MetroCards)
The subway system in New York City may be old and it may break down at the most inconvenient times but there is no denying it is one of the most convenient ways to access an extremely large portion of NYC and it’s surrounding boroughs.
Grab yourself a free pocket map (at the main stations) and/or a metro system app & make use of the very extensive metro system. If you’re planning to stay longer than 6 days, buy an unlimited metro card ($31 USD). If you get lost, don’t hesitate to ask someone, unless they’re walking at a really fast pace with headphones in, we advise leaving those people alone…
Our #1 subway tip…remember to pay attention to what way the train is going (Uptown or Downtown). It’s what gets the most people lost! Our friend once said, ” but how do I know what town I want to be in”… If you can count, you can work it out.
See this detailed first-timers NYC subway guide to help you get around.
3. Eat at Food Trucks & Street Carts
If you see a long line standing beside a street cart, don’t keep walking. Stop and grab a meal. They’re cheap, delicious and a real staple in the city. You can smell the food trucks from blocks away. I would avoid the carts that sit in the sun and don’t look like they have a high turn around i.e in the quiet streets. The most iconic street food cart can be found on 53rd and 6th Ave and they go by the name of “The Halal Guys”.
New York City is one of the greatest walking cities in the world. Put your walking shoes on and explore the city by foot! It’s a flat city and you’ll miss out on so much if you’re always underground or watching from a window of a bus/car. The amount of km’s walked in a day helps make up for all the delicious food (& gigantic portions) you’ll be eating! Guilt-free holiday = win win situation. One of our biggest walking days in the city was a whopping 35,000 steps in one day!
5. Eat at Home (for at least one meal a day)
Eating out every meal is guaranteed to set you back in the fund’s department, especially with the added 17-20% gratuity. Instead, have at least one meal at your accommodation and pack some nibbles for long days out. The best place to do grab groceries is a local favourite, Trader Joes. There is a handful scattered throughout the city and by far offer the cheapest prices. Plus, for all you regular readers, you know how much fun we have in foreign grocery stores, it’s a novelty in itself… to us.
6. Avoid Times Square & Midtown for Eating
Following on from above, avoid eating in Times Square or midtown for that matter! Have you ever heard of a tourist trap? Ooo yes. Times Square and midtown restaurants have it written all over them! NYC is beaming with places to eat, you can do better than Apple Bees! Our favourite areas are East Village, Chelsea, Meat Packing, and West Village for a good feed, with less chaos.
7. Utilize Happy Hours
You should always feel happy in New York but to feel even happier, keep an eye out for the all too regular “Happy Hour” signs that many restaurants and bars display each afternoon. They often start at 4:00 pm and last until 6:00-7:00 pm. Here’s a list of some popular watering holes.
Many restaurants also offer unlimited brunch deals on Saturdays and Sundays. $25 all you can drink mimosas, sangria, bellinis, etc alongside a brunch meal. It was one of our favourite things to do each weekend!
8. Avoid Large Hotel Chains (& Midtown)
You don’t have to stay in the heart of Times Square to get a feel for NYC. In fact, it’s the “least” real part of New York – it’s just tourists and corporates trying to get home. No matter where you locate yourself, the city center is likely to be 30 minutes away or less, by the metro. Steer clear of the larger hotel chains and don’t forget to check out Couch Surfing & AirBnB (both private rooms and whole apartments and Brooklyn. Hotel prices during the holiday season are extremely jacked up in Manhattan. Looking for a last-minute deal? Check out hotel tonight.
9. $1 NY Pizza Slices? Yes, Please
When all else fails, grab yourself a $1 pizza, as often as one would like. They’re fresh, tasty, huge and perfect for a meal or snack on the go!
There are so many located throughout the city, you can’t go far without seeing the 99c pizza sign! Find some of the more popular pizza places here. We lived directly next door to the above pizza joint and it was open until 4:00 am every day…dangerous!
10. BYO Bottle & Drink the Tap Water
NYC’s tap water is not only safe to drink, but it’s considered some of the best in the USA! Save yourself tons of money by carrying around your own water bottle and having it refilled at a restaurant or Starbucks. Most places will happily refill it for you.
11. (Discount) Shop Till You Drop
You can’t come to New York with a full bag. Just don’t do it or you’ll have to buy another one just to carry home all of the goods! The shopping is endless but if you’re really looking for a good bargain head to Century 21 located at the World Trade Centre downtown or Burlington or Nordstrom Rack located in Union Square at 14th street. If you do shop at Macy’s, take your international ID, and you are entitled to a 10% off coupon.
12. Grab an Online Coupon Deal
Utilize Web sites such as Groupon for Broadway shows, events, spa treatments, restaurant deals, and even the occasional hotel deal. These sites are used extensively to promote businesses all throughout the city.
13. Get Discounted Broadway Tickets While Avoiding The Lines
The TKTS booth in the center of Time Squares offers plenty of discounted Broadway show tickets, on the morning of a show but due to the location, directly in the center of the city, it also means it is the busiest. Try heading to South Street Seaport or Downtown Brooklyn and enjoy their shorter lines to get those front row tickets.
14. Buy your Souvenirs in China Town
If you’re looking for Souvenirs look no further than the chaotic China Town. Don’t be afraid to haggle and get your I <3 NY T-shirt for a fraction of the cost than you would in Midtown.
15. Read Our Post for FREE Activities in New York
A trip to New York doesn’t have to be full of expensive activities. In fact, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t involve too much money at all. Don’t believe us? Check out our post on free things to do in New York and get planning!
Thank you to our local friend Sam for helping us gather some of these pics!
Do you have any other money-saving tips for New York? Let us know!
Top Tours in New York City
If you’re interested in taking a tour, here are some recommended tours from Get Your Guide: