Just because you’re planning a trip to NYC, doesn’t mean you need to set your wallet on fire.
It’s no secret that visiting New York City is expensive. From transportation to hotels to the sheer amount of activities you want to cross off your bucket list, it seems impossible to stay within a reasonable budget, or so it’s easy to think. We’ve rounded up ten of our favorite hacks for seeing the five boroughs without having to fork over an obscene amount of cash.
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Save on Hotels by Using Last Minute Deals
It’s easy to score a luxury NYC property at a fraction of the original price when you use this very simple hack—Hotwire Hot Rates. Hop on Hotwire.com, scroll through hotel search results, and look out for “Hot Rate” in a bold red font. There, you’ll see the discount percentage, general location, amenities, and Expedia rating for the property, which remains anonymous until after you’ve booked. While it seems risky, we promise it’s not: hotels work with Hotwire when they have excess availability to make sure rooms are filled. This means you can book a five-star property for up to 75% off. If not knowing the location or ratings of your hotel before booking makes you nervous, Hotel Tonight is another great option for finding last-minute hotel deals in New York City and beyond.
Rely on TodayTix for Broadway Shows
Broadway shows can be expensive but downloading the TodayTix app makes it far more affordable. The interface is easy to navigate and allows you to quickly spot the cheapest tickets with discounts of up to 48% and tickets as low as $43, the latter of which is especially useful if you’re not particular about what show you’re seeing. TodayTix offers discounts for more popular shows, too. Think balcony seating for Moulin Rouge, Wicked, and Aladdin starting at $59.
For Statue of Liberty Views, Take the Staten Island Ferry
Plenty of boat cruises take you to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, but if you’re on a tight budget (and okay with foregoing Ellis Island altogether), you can opt for the Staten Island Ferry. This commuter service ferry departs from Whitehall Ferry Terminal in downtown Manhattan, runs every 15 minutes during the week and every 30 minutes on the weekends, and the best part? It’s completely free and offers stellar views of the Statue of Liberty.
Eat in Little Italy for Lunch, Not Dinner
While the streets of Mulberry and Mott hold significant historical value, the restaurants in Little Italy are notorious for being subpar, expensive, and touristy—which is why we recommend an afternoon visit that snags you delicious lunch specials at a third of the dinner price. Beeline it to Benito One, a cozy hole-in-the-wall spot serving delicious food and a bargain lunch special: a $22 set price that includes a soup or salad, a massive plate of pasta, and a meat (or eggplant) course.
Walking and Public Transportation Is the Way to Go
It can be tempting to hail a cab or order an Uber after a long day of sightseeing, but transportation can quickly become an unnecessarily expensive part of visiting New York City—especially when you consider the sheer ground to cover, constant traffic, and surge pricing. Our golden tip? Rely on the subway service. A weekly unlimited Metrocard runs you $33 versus a single 15-minute Uber in Manhattan that can cost upwards of $20. We realize that the MTA has a shoddy reputation, but a few delays are worth the hundreds of dollars you’ll be saving in the long run.
Purchase a Go City Attraction Pass to Unlock Attraction Discounts
Go City is an app that lets you unlock access to dozens of attractions with a flat fee. The basic Explorer pass for New York City starts at $74 and grants you admission to two attractions of your choice, with options ranging from the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History to food and walking tours. The savings increase with additional passes; for example, you can save up to $83 if you purchase the five-choice option.
INSIDER TIPDownload GPS My City, a free mobile app that shares downloadable, self-guided walking tours. This is not only a great way to enjoy a free walking tour of NYC at your own pace, but you’ll also learn the history behind the city and its many historical sights.
You Can Eat Well Without Burning a Hole in Your Wallet
While we encourage splurging on a fancy sit-down meal, your wallet will be pleased to know that some of the best food in New York City costs less than $10 per meal. Don’t write off food carts or hole-in-the-wall spots—if there’s limited seating but a constant flurry of customers and thousands of reviews on Yelp, your stomach should be growling. Grab the $1.75 pork bun in Chinatown’s Mei Lai Wah Bakery, a massive cold cut sandwich (dubbed “the bomb”) for $16 at Sal, Kris, & Charlie’s Deli that you can share with a friend(s), a veggie muffuletta from Cheeky Sandwiches for $7.25.
INSIDER TIPDon’t skip on Queens and Brooklyn! There are plenty of diverse and incredible restaurants to enjoy in both boroughs that will prove significantly cheaper than in Manhattan. In Queens, head to Astoria for classic Greek eateries, Jackson Heights for Colombian fare, or Flushing for the city’s other Chinatown. In Brooklyn, wander the charming streets of Greenpoint for Polish restaurants (and other spectacular cuisine), or go to Bensonhurst, considered Brooklyn’s Little Italy.
Plenty of Restaurants Are BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle)
Cocktails and wine tend to be the sneaky culprit behind every expensive restaurant bill. A clever solution? Restaurants that don’t serve alcohol will often encourage patrons to bring their own booze. Purchase a $7 bottle of red (which costs less than a single glass at most NYC establishments) and tuck in for a delicious meal at the likes of Bird Dog in the West Village, Albadawi in Brooklyn Heights, Astoria Seafood in Astoria, or Matsunori in the Lower East Side.
INSIDER TIPSome BYOB restaurants will charge an uncorking fee for bottles you bring, so make sure to ask ahead of time if there are additional charges you can expect.
Shop at Weekend Flea Markets
A slew of weekend flea markets are scattered throughout the boroughs, with standouts including Upper West Side’s Grand Bazaar, the Queens Night Market, and the iconic Chelsea Flea. You’ll unearth far more interesting, affordable baubles than that “I heart NY” souvenir t-shirt that will crinkle like paper and cost a minimum of $30 (even if the store says it’s going out of business).
Don’t Book Museum Tickets in Advance
Timed entry reservations certainly provide peace of mind, but they will also hurt your wallet. While many museums in NYC are pay-what-you-wish, booking tickets online triggers the suggested donation price. So while you can technically pay $1 to visit the American Museum of Natural History if you buy a ticket in-person, you’ll be mandated to pay $23 when you book those same tickets online. It’s actually more cost-efficient for you not to book ahead.