It won’t surprise anyone to hear that New York City is quite an expensive place to live; unfortunately for tourists passing through, it’s an even more expensive place to visit, with most of the Big Apple’s famous sites demanding enormous entrance fees. The Empire State Building is $25 just to go up the elevator, and a whopping $64.50 to get to the highest observation deck. Broadway shows are easily over $100, and that’s not including the dinner before or after – which, if you’re anywhere near the theater district, will cost about that much for a reasonable dinner for two.
A few cash-saving recommendations right off the bat are to book your flights as early as you can and to get familiar with the Metro. It’s not as scary or confusing as you might think – in fact, you can ride the subway almost all the way to JFK airport and save yourself the $50 cab fare. Manhattan is basically on a grid, so if you know your cross-streets when heading out (e.g. 36th and 8th), you’ll always know what direction to head (numbers go up to the north and west). Maps are easy to find in every station, and ‘express’ lines skip multiple stops to take you where you need to go more quickly. At the time of writing, it’s $2.25 per single fare – but if you’re going to be in NYC for a week, you should definitely get a 7-Day Unlimited pass.
To be honest, taxis really are a luxury these days, not a necessity. The crazy traffic often makes taxis take almost as long as the subway anyway – and if you’re visiting New York for the first time, riding the subway truly is an easy opportunity to get some interesting impressions of New York life (and people).
Instead of squeezing into an overpriced restaurant after waiting for an hour (or more), fill a to-go box at a grocery store deli, grab some street food (kebab carts are irresistible and open very late), or bring a sandwich and eat at a park bench someplace with ample people-watching opportunities – Union Square is a great place to hang out and watch the street musicians draw crowds.
If you have your heart set on seeing a show, look into off-Broadway; often they’re just as good (if not better) than the big titles. Or take your chances with snatching up same-day tickets at hugely discounted prices, like with TKTS, which has a booth in Times Square, or StudentRush.
Enjoy free activities like the Staten Island Ferry (with views of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty), Shakespeare in Central Park, or discounted days at museums like the MoMA. Read more: Free Things to Do in New York City
There are plenty of unpaid interns, broke college students, and other people getting by in this exciting but expensive city – it’s very possible to have a budget friendly New York City trip!
Plan your trip with our Insider’s Guide to NYC.
- Natalie Grant