New York City is one of the great urban tourist destinations in the world. Its history, unbelievable number of sights and experiences, and legendary big city vibe put it in a class by itself. As with any major metropolis in the world, the Big Apple can be quite expensive. All those $50 or $100 entrees, cross-borough taxi rides, Broadway tickets and unexpectedly expensive museum admission fees add up, and can blow your week-long-vacation budget in 24 hours.
Luckily, with a little planning and some big city savvy, it is possible to make your Big Apple bucks go further.
Unlimited ride cards for the New York Subway are a great way to save money. These cards allow riders to use the subway an unlimited amount of times over a specific period. A one-day pass costs only $7, with a weekly pass costing $24. You still may find yourself taking a late night taxi ride or hopping a taxi to the airport, but to get anywhere in New York, the subway is usually more than sufficient for regular daytime hours. You can use it for a week for the same price as a single taxi ride.
The Staten Island Ferry acts as a means of public transit carrying passenger from the Staten Island to Manhattan. But it is also a great way to see the storied New York Skyline without spending lots of money for a boat ride aimed at tourists. This is also true for the city’s buses. While the subway helps you avoid all the traffic, the buses are better vehicles when it comes to sightseeing. You can use both these above-ground public transit options as cheap sightseeing tours, provided you are able to plan out a route that will leave you back where you started.
Some New York museums have free days, which are sponsored by corporations like Target.
And some offer free access after a certain hour of the day. It is best to check with each museum individually.
Hotels are not cheap in New York. Those traditional hotels that are under $100 may not offer the best experience (at best) and may not have proper security (at worst). The answer? Stay outside of a central area or opt for a hostel. Hostels, which are popular amongst young travelers in Europe, are hotels that offer dorm-style rooms (shared by 2,3, or more people) for well under $100 per night. Many are in the $40-$50 range.
The New York Pass offers discounted admission to 55 of the city’s most popular sites, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim. For people who want to hit multiple sites over a three-day or weeklong period, purchasing this type of pass can be worthwhile because it will more than pay for itself. However, for tourists who will only visit one or two of the popular tourist attractions, and will spend most of their time exploring the city’s restaurants and neighborhoods, this pass is probably not a worthwhile investment.
Downtown Manhattan is filled with retail shops. But it is also one of the most interesting places in the world to window-shop. The lights and billboards make for the best urban scenery in the US and stores like the M&M Store are as much about providing an experience as they are about selling a product. So it is possible to visit this center of the retail universe without spending a dime, although it is just as easy to max out your credit cards if you are not disciplined and careful.
So traveling to the Big Apple does not necessarily have to be an expensive, big city excursion. With a little know-how and some planning, it can be quite cheap to visit the city for a weekend or longer. Yes, sometimes, paying the big money is unavoidable (performances, sporting events, that world-famous restaurant). But for travelers who follow some of the tips mentioned above for saving money in New York, there will be plenty left over when it comes time to splurge a little bit.