How to Travel in New York City on a Budget

New York City on a Budget
Photo by Gianandrea Villa on

Have you been longing for a trip to the Big Apple, but you can’t afford it? Here are some ways to travel in New York City on a Budget and still have an enjoyable experience.

New York City is a city every traveler wishes to visit one day. Home to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire state building, amongst others, there are several other fun and amazing sights the city has to offer.

Ranking as the number one most expensive city in the United States, a trip to New York is not cheap. However, here are some valuable pointers to make your New York trip an enjoyable experience while keeping low costs. 

Visiting at the Right Time

Although New York City is busy year-round, there are peak periods during the holidays and summer months when tourists like to visit the most, raising hotel prices. Visiting in off-seasons will increase the chances of finding cheaper rates.

The cheapest time to visit NYC is between January and early April. And between September and November, excluding the holiday periods Thanksgiving.

With the world experiencing a global pandemic, several travel restrictions have been imposed on visitors looking to visit the city. Since the 6th of December 2021, all incoming international travelers must take a Covid-19 test regardless of their vaccination status within a day of their departure from the United States. 

However, this does not affect local travel. 

New York travel restrictions recommend quarantine for travelers who are not vaccinated fully or have not recuperated from Covid-19 during the past three months, with recommended tests for travelers within three to five days after arrival in New York City. 

A negative Covid-19 test result is also required for every air traveler. Travelers from another US state who are asymptomatic are not required to take a test or quarantine.  

Getting to New York City

One of the main things you’ll have to consider when you travel is booking a flight. You might wonder if it’s cheaper to make a booking on your own or through a travel agency, but there is little or no difference in what it’ll cost you. Some agencies charge a nominal planning fee, while some do not incur extra charges for their services. 

With the extra advantage of the work being done by someone else, a travel agency offers a great experience getting you the best deals and knowledge at dealing with many small prints you might not notice upfront. 

Travel agencies offer access to a lot of things the internet doesn’t, like industry only access to bookings for travel packages, personal knowledge on different airlines quality, your travel destination, 

Just as well, they provide a form of live resource during your trip in case of flight delays or cancellations, bad weather, lost luggage, hotel bookings or car rentals.

Whether you are booking your trip yourself or going through a travel agency, the best plan is to book early as the best and cheapest deals are almost always early.  

Finding Cheap Accommodations

Whether your trip takes a day or a week, finding proper accommodation is quite important. Several discount sites will help you narrow down your accommodation options depending on price and location preference, in addition to providing actual customer reviews on each facility. 

How to Travel in New York City on a Budget
The cheapest time to visit NYC is between January and early April. Photo by Kevin Lee on

Here’s one of the ways a travel agency is instrumental as they usually have insider information of the best accommodation to fit your budget. 

You can also opt for a hostel instead of a hotel. Although one might consider hostels akin to dormitories, there are several very clean ones with private or same-gender rooms as options. 

With the average cost of a guest stay in a hotel costing about $290, staying in a hostel will only cost an average of $32! Imagine how many other fun things you could do with the extra savings. 

There is also the alternative of staying in a temporary rental (Airbnb), where you can bargain directly with the apartment owner or room on the cost. 

Bed and breakfast are also another affordable option travelers have, with several situated near some of New York’s famous attractions.

Housesitting is another option you can consider if you don’t want to spend money on hotels, as there are several home and apartment owners seeking house sitters to watch their pets and homes while they are away, usually on vacation. 

It’s a leisurely and money-saving way to see NYC while enjoying the amenities a home offers. 

Getting Around

Understanding how New York’s public transportation system works is critical as there are several cheap, easy to use and safe ways to get around. Although it might be tempting to take an Uber to get around in a city you’re not familiar with, it’s a more expensive option, with single trips costing over $35.

Here are some cheaper alternatives to moving around the city when you visit. 

The Subway

The New York subway is one of the cheapest and most convenient ways of getting around NYC. The total number of stations is one of the longest globally, with 472 subway stations operating 24hours a day across 36 lines and serving four boroughs. The New York subway is most likely to get you anywhere you need to go, and it’s super easy.

You can pay your fare using contactless payment devices such as OMNY or a MetroCard or through a single ticket. MetroCard and OMNY fares cost $2.75, while a single ticket is $3. A single ticket can take you as far as you want as the fares are not dependent on distance, nor is there a zone system, unlike other subway systems. Check out our tips for riding the Subway in NYC.

The Bus

With over 322 routes covered by a fleet of about 6,000 buses, it is sufficient to say there should be a bus route suited to your needs. 

Buses stop only at marked stops, clearly marked with blue signs or sometimes with shelters. These stops are usually located within two to three blocks of each other, with each stop indicating which bus route services the route.

You only need to stand at the stop and signal that you want the approaching bus to stop with your hand. Standard bus fares are $2.75, while express buses are $6.50. 

Similar to the subway system, fares can be paid with a MetroCard by swiping it when you get on the bus or OMNY through your smartphone, but if you’re paying in cash, be mindful that only coins are allowed- not bills, and you need to give the exact amount.

You can press stop buttons on the bus to indicate to the driver that you want to get off at the next stop. 

MetroCards with the advantage of refilling cost only $1 and can be bought at MetroCard vending machines, local stores, and subway station booths. 

Another advantage of OMNY and MetroCard is that fares are transferable within two hours of the first fare to other buses or subway services. 

Eating Cheap

With food vendors abounding on every street corner, you could very well end up spending your entire budget on yummy foods if you’re not aware of cheaper alternatives. 

From food trucks all over the city offering tons of mouth-watering options from bagels to hot dogs to pizza slices that cost only $1. Some cafes and restaurants serve food costing $10 or less.

Another affordable way to cut costs is cooking at least a couple of your meals. This will be easier if you’re staying in accommodations like a hostel/hotel with a kitchen you can use. 

Thus you can reduce expenses by making cheap breakfasts of fruits, eggs, or toast so you can splurge on other things later.


There is an endless supply of sights and attractions New York has to offer, with many of them being free, if you know where to look.

You can splurge on several sightseeing sites in New York city that accept cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and several other altcoins as payment instead of cash. But it is advisable to have a  Bitcoin calculator handy to avoid paying more than you should if you’re not updated on the current exchange rates.


Here are a couple of free things you can do/visit when you’re in NYC on a budget. 

1.  Staten Island ferry

Shuttling between Manhattan and Staten island, the ferry will give you the best opportunity to take in the amazing view of the New York City skyline and the Statue of liberty at absolutely no cost. 

2.  Central Park

With several iconic sights like the Alice in wonderland statue, the boathouse, and the bow bridge, the central park is an amazing place to spend the day in. A great location to have a picnic while taking in the spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline.

3.  Memorial Plaza – 9/11 Memorial

Standing as a tribute to the 9/11 tragedy, the memorial plaza which circles the freedom tower is a stop you must visit. The memorial plaza is open to exploration, but tours of the tower are not free. 


Although New York is infamous for its high cost of living or visiting, it is possible to visit and have an enjoyable experience on a budget. You’ll be stunned at how much you can stretch your budget if you evade tourist traps and be on the lookout for discounts.