Is it even possible to travel to NYC without spending your entire life savings? The answer is: yes. It’s true that New York City can be a destination that sucks your wallet dry, but if you want to live like a local and experience the city without the glitz and glam of the overpriced tourist traps, it’s easy to enjoy time there on a limited budget. I always say it’s better to travel and live like a local than to spend your time completing the tourist bucket list and missing out on the true culture of the place you’re visiting.
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Here are 5 ways you can travel New York City on a budget
Explore the Parks
A trip to NYC wouldn’t be complete without a stop to Central Park. No matter the season, Central Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. You could spend more than one day pursuing through this gem and the best part? It’s free! If you get hungry you can grab a quick bite at a food truck for a few dollars and continue exploring and living the NY dream.
Don’t forget NYC is full of green space! Central Park may be everyone’s favourite but there are plenty of parks you can explore in the city. Here are a few to check out:
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Bryant Park
- Washington Square Park
- Hudson River Park
- Riverside Park
Commute like a Local
Ready to feel like a local? Grab your MetroCard and hit the city with a bang! Not only is it an inexpensive way to explore, taking the subway will allow you to experience the city in a whole new light. You’ll be able to interact with real New Yorkers, see what day to day life is like, gain some insight on the city routes and probably pocket a few good stories! You wouldn’t be able to talk about seeing an up and coming artist sing on the subway or rant about the random person screaming at you if you rented a car, right?
Avoid Tourist Traps
Maybe it’s just me but I can’t stand a trip full of red buses and tour guides! Not only are these tourist traps expensive but they take away the authentic and culture NYC has to offer. If you want to experience the real NYC and save a few dollars, avoid the following:
- Big Red Tour Buses
- Photos in Times Square With People in Costumes
- Canal Street Shops (Don’t waste your time OR money bartering for a knock off handbag…come on, you’re better than that!)
- Viewing Decks (Sure, the view from The Empire State Building is incredible but is it worth over $50USD?)
- Chain Restaurants (Stay away from places like The Hard Rock Café where they offer very mediocre, overpriced food! NYC is full of diversity…go explore the cuisine!)
Spend Time Outside
If you’re trying to explore NYC on a budget, time outdoors will be your best friend. The first time I went to the city on a budget, I probably walked for 70% of the time! It’s a great way to discover things you wouldn’t see if you were stuck inside all day. Let your feet be your guide and take things a step at a time…really try to absorb everything you see. Here are a few places to check out in the great NY outdoors:
- The High Line
- The Financial District
- The Art Scene in Chelsea
- West Village
Now THIS is the best way to visit New York City on a budget! Speaking from personal experience, New Yorkers are much nicer than their reputation and can bring you along on some great adventures! I went to a musical theatre singing night at Marie’s Crisis in the West Village and befriended a woman who I’ve seen many times since our first encounter. She’s shown me around her fave restaurants and NYC hotspots!
Another time, I wanted to experience the art scene in the city and I saw a man who looked like an artist. I started chatting with him and next thing you know, we spent the evening art exhibit hopping from Chelsea to the East Village! It cost me nothing except the bravery to strike up a conversation.