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New York City on a Dime

New York City can be done on a dime. This article explores cheap options for the frugal traveler.

Traveling abroad can be expensive, especially in a city like New York. A decent hotel room will cost about $300 per night before taxes, a nice dinner for two without alcohol will start around $50, taxis cost $3 just to get in, and a large percentage of the major attractions are not free. If you’re not careful, a two night get away can easily cost you more than $1500 before you even talk about airfare. If you have this type of money to throw around, then you are quite lucky. For the rest of us, we need to know the tips and tricks.

How can someone visit New York City and enjoy it without breaking the bank? This is actually quite simple. A little bit of planning will save you a lot of time, money and heart burn.

TRAVEL to NYC

One of the simplest ways to get to New York is by plane. You can book through places like Kayak or Priceline to get discounted tickets or even combo packages for hotel and flight. If you have airline miles, use them. With enough miles, you could travel completely free.

Another route is by bus. If you live on the east coast there are numerous bus options, like Goto Bus or the Chinatown Bus service. The cost of these tickets are actually very cheap, starting at $15 from Boston and $20 from Washington D.C. The buses go in both directions so if you wanted to start in New York and work your way someplace else, you can easily do this without a car. But make sure you purchase your ticket ahead of time. E-tickets are guaranteed spots on the bus, so if you show up hoping to buy it last minute you will likely have to wait for the next ride.  Greyhound is also another bus service to be considered, especially if you live farther away. Problem is that Greyhound costs more and will take longer, so if you don’t have the time to spend in transit, then fly.

Trains, like Amtrak, can be a viable option to get to New York but can cost almost as much as air travel and will take longer as well.

TRAVEL in NYC

Once you are in New York, don’t even bother renting a car. The cost is astronomical, the traffic is ridiculous, and the price of parking is insane. You are much better off using the metro system. A one-day pass is only $8.25; whereas, the seven-day pass costs $27. This allows unlimited passage on the subway and local buses. Using these routes of transportation, you can get to just about anywhere you would want to go, though you might have to walk an extra block or two. The rail system is easy to use and free maps can be picked up in most hotel lobbies.

WHERE to STAY

If you are hung up on a view and location, then expect to pay a lot. But, if you are willing to use the metro to get you to the cool places, then don’t be overly concerned that you’re not next to Central Park or Times Square. Try to get discounted rates by using sites like Kayak and Priceline or see if you can get a corporate discount through your work.

An option often times not considered is hostels. These aren’t the fanciest places to stay, but you will save a ton of money if you are willing to concede that all you need is a place to put your head at night. The cost of a hostel in NYC starts around $30 per night per person and goes up from there. Some hostels will even let you have a private room. Most supply linens but you will usually have to bring your own soap and share a bathroom. If there is not internet service made available, just find your nearest Starbucks and grab a coffee while you catch up on your email. The internet service at Starbucks in NYC is free.

Most hostels have a full functioning kitchen for guests to use. You can save on meals by running to a local store and picking up snacks and items for breakfast and lunch.  You will have the opportunity to meet all sorts of people from around the world. Hostels are conveniently located and usually provide a locker or a safe for valuables. Make sure to read the reviews about the hostel before booking and expect to sleep on a bunk bed. But if you are willing to cut this corner, all the cash you save can be used for more exciting adventures.

SEE and DOOne of the cheapest ways to see the bulk of the major attractions is by purchasing the New York City Pass. For only $79, you get entrance into the Modern Museum of Art, Stature of Liberty and Ellis Island, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, The Guggenheim, Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History. This is an amazing package deal that will save you a lot of cash. To do all of these activities would take you at least 3 days, so it is well worth the investment.

You can get discounted theater tickets at TKTS booths located in Times Square (on Broadway and 42nd), South Street Seaport (corner of Front and John St.) and downtown Brooklyn (Jay St and Myrtle Ave). These are up to 50% off and offer tickets for shows that day. To buy tickets like this, show up to the booths early.  You might have to be a little flexible with your time and show choice.

There are many things that are free to do in NYC. Visit the site of the Ghostbusters building (1 West 64th Street) or check out Katz Deli from When Harry Met Sally (205 East Houston Street). The five points(from Gangs of New York) has been cleaned up and has a small park over it, but is at least a neat historical place to visit. Construction is well underway where the twin towers used to stand.  There are countless historical churches throughout the city that pop up when you least expect.  Their architecture is beautiful and a sharp contrast to the sky scrapers around them.  Central Park has tons of hidden treasures within and comes alive before sunset with lots of street performers and vendors. You can pay the $50-$70 for 30 minutes on a carriage ride, or take a free stroll through the park. It is really clean and relatively safe. Just make sure to walk with a friend and stay on well lit paths in the evening.

Walking Times Square at night can’t be beat. There are people everywhere and vendors on every corner.  Even at 1 in the morning, this place is packed with energy. Battery Park, at the shore and one of the best sights for the Statue of Liberty, has a nice pathway along the waterfront where you can see New Jersey and all sorts of sailboats drifting along. Don’t forget to jump the subway down to Coney Island. Here you can “shoot the freak” with a paintball gun and ride the historic ferris wheel known as the Wonder Wheel. The famous Nathan’s hotdogs are also here, so you need to eat up and follow your dog with a cotton candy or funnel cake as you stroll down the boardwalk!

You can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge above the racing traffic.  A pathway is made available for those on foot or bike.  The breeze from the water will feel great on hot days and the views are breathtaking.  On either side of the bridge are lots of eateries.

The High Line, near Gansevoort St. between 10th and 11th Ave, is a new, free and interesting attraction. It was built in the 1930s to carry freight traffic 30 feet in the air, but no trains have been on the track since the ‘80s. In 2006, the city began construction on the old tracks to turn it into an elevated park. The first section, which is maybe a mile long, was opened in 2009 for the public to view and enjoy. It is literally a park in the sky. You get some really cool vistas from the tracks and are surrounded by flowers and all sorts of plants. It’s very surreal.

If you are willing to cut a few corners, you can enjoy the Big Apple without losing a big chunk of cash. Make sure to bring some good walking shoes and your camera. New York has a lot to offer for those willing to move at its pace.  Happy travels.

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Comments (6)

Rebecca: Good job! There are hundreds more "cheap tricks" to make the city more enjoyable. However, the Highline Park is not nearly a mile long. Right now, it covers about the length of 5 city blocks, which is about 1/4 mile. The plan is to eventually develop more of its length, which spans from about West 15th Street to about West 35th Street. Right now, they've got it really going up to about 21st Street. It's really unique, it that it looks naturally beautiful while applying very sophisticated landscaping, using mostly natural, indigenous plantings that run in diagonal rows along the path. Dogs, bikes and boom boxes are expressly banned. It's a wonderful place and after you go there, hop downstairs to the Chelsea market for gourmet meat, produce and specialty international food items. Good work! /imz

Thanks for that input. I wasn't quite sure how far it was, and when I walked it I was tired and hot so couldn't make a good assessment. hehehe

Thanks a lot !!

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