How to Travel to New York On a Shoestring Budget

New York City is an iconic city, and the famous skyline, people, street names, and food can make a traveler feel immersed in a movie set at every turn. However, seeing New York City can feel unobtainable for a budget traveler. We are here to show you that it is entirely feasible to see the Big Apple on a shoestring budget if you follow our tips.

Getting There

Flights arrive from destinations worldwide directly into New York City’s JFK and LaGuardia Airports. However, you might not know that Newark Airport in New Jersey is almost the same distance to downtown Manhattan and often has cheaper fares. When searching for flights, be certain to check each of these airports. If you sign up for email newsletters from Scott’s Cheap Flights or Jack’s Flight Club, hacker fares and massively discounted flights are often advertised.

Once you arrive in New York, travel around the city can be expensive. The best way to travel through Manhattan is to walk, which also has the benefit of being free. If your destination is too far away, then the New York City Subway is a fabulous option for longer distances as one low fare covers the entire journey, regardless of the number of transfers. Alternatively, for a quick reference to whether Uber Pool or Lyft Share is offering the best deal, download the app Anyride before your trip.


Prime locations will always cost the most, but New York City is made up of five boroughs, so cast your net out towards Queens or Brooklyn for better deals. Alternatively, New Jersey has daily buses running in and out of the city until late at night, and you can easily leave your larger bags at one of the convenient luggage storage options.

Regulations restrict Airbnb from renting entire apartments or homes in NYC, but renting a room in someone else’s space is still possible. There are also numerous hostels listed on Hostelworld and cheaper rooms available in Chinatown.

When to Go

There are pros and cons to visiting New York City in every season, but you should look right after the Christmas holidays for the best deals. If you can handle the cold, then January through March are traditionally the cheapest time to visit. However, keep in mind that paying a bit more to go in warmer weather means that you can better take advantage of New York’s parks and surprisingly abundant outdoor living.


New York City has so many restaurants that you would reportedly take almost 23 years of eating out to visit them all if you chose a new venue daily. Nevertheless, if you are keen to save a buck, or rather only spend one, then look out for the over 70 New York-Style $1 pizza by the slice locations dotted around the city. In addition, numerous bars offer free food when ordering a drink during happy hour, or there are bodegas on most street corners.

Things to Do

New York City is an unexpectedly simple destination to entertain yourself on a shoestring budget. The Staten Island ferry offers incredible views of the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty, perhaps better than the tours themselves. Moreover, meandering through Central Park and Times Square leaves ample opportunities for watching passers-by or street performers. If museums are more your thing, then look up which days are free or offer discounted rates. For example, the Museum of Modern Art offers free entry every Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm.

A visit to New York City takes a bit of planning, but we recommend not scheduling every moment. In the city that never sleeps, you’ll want to be able to take things as they come.

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