The Budget Travel Guide to New York City

Why Visit New York City

Err, silly question really, it's one of the most iconic and amazing urban travel destinations in the world and is worth every inch of this excellent reputation! The good news is that despite being one of the largest and most expensive cities in the world, it is possible to travel in NYC on a backpacker budget and we're here to show you how in this handy travel guide.

Whether you visit to see the city in the snow over winter, or soak up some summer sunshine in Central Park, there's no time of year that you shouldn't plan a trip here - another reason it's such a great destination. It's also getting easier to get here on a budget - particularly from many European countries as transatlantic flights continue to get cheaper. Located on the east coast of the US, there are also many other awesome places to visit nearby - there are many tours and options for travelling to Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Washington DC and more if you're basing yourself in the city hat never sleeps.

Get Around

The subway / metro system is cheap and easy to use – failing that, try uber or an iconic yellow cab

Population

The city’s population is estimated at around 8.5 million – the most populous city in the US

Language

Up to 800 languages are spoken by New York’s inhabitants – officially though, it’s English

Tourist Hotspot

Definitely a tourist hotspot – almost 60 million people visited in 2015

Nicknames

Lots to choose from – Gotham, The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps and many more

Tallest Building

Since its inauguration in 2013, the Freedom Tower / 1 World Trade Center became not just the tallest building in the US but the 4th tallest worldwide

Planning Your Trip to NYC

New York is a vast city – over 300 square miles to give you some idea of the size of this urban metropolis. This means that, also public transport is great and the city is therefore easy to navigate, you’re going to need a plan if you want to see as much as possible and don’t have an unlimited time frame to explore.

We’d recommend segmenting the city to get the most out of your trip – and also to save on those transport costs. If you’re visiting for the typical 4-7 days that make up your average city break, the following sections work really well:

  • Uptown Manhattan: American Museum of Natural History, Central Park…
  • Midtown: Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Centre, Empire State Building, Times Square…
  • Downtown Manhattan: Circle Line Cruises, 9-11 Memorial & Museum, Freedom Tower
  • Brooklyn: Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island…

You can read more about our NYC specific itinerary here.

The New York CityPASS

We found the best way to see lots of the top attractions and save some money at the same time was to invest in the New York CityPASS.

Costing $116 per person, this covers entry to a range of places – including:

  • The Empire State Building Experience
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9-11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

It’s easy to buy online before you go and pick up at one of the locations you choose to visit – we felt it saved us money and also gave us some good starting points to visit on our itinerary.

Another tip for getting around on a budget is to spend $31 on a one week subway pass which you can buy en route to the city from the airport.

I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it. — Truman Capote

What to See in New York City

It’s impossible to collate a full list as this amazing city just has so much to offer – but here’s some of our favourites and a list of the real unmissable places to see on your visit.

American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024

Famous for its role in the ‘Night at the Museum’ films, this museum is brilliant – don’t miss the dinosaur displays or the blue whale.

Price Guide: CityPASS Inclusion

Manhatten Skyline

Circle Line Cruise

Pier 83, W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

See the New York skyline from the sea – amazing views of downtown including the Freedom Tower

Price Guide: CityPASS Inclusion

Roses laid at the 9/11 memorial

9-11 Memorial & Museum

180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

Incredibly moving, this is an essential place to see for anyone visiting the city. Seeing the scars this attack left on the city and how people have rallied to remember and rebuild is extremely poignant

Price Guide: CityPASS Inclusion

Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower

285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007

Once you’ve seen the museum and memorial, it’s just a few steps to the newly built Freedom Tower – the tallest building in the US and an incredible monument to 9-11

Times Square Daytime

Times Square

Manhattan, NY 10036

Make sure to visit Times Square both by day and by night for the full effect. Always buzzing, wander the streets and take in the atmosphere

Sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038

Construction of this iconic landmark started all the way back in 1870 so it’s truly a piece of New York History. Try to time your visit for sunset for amazing views – followed up with drinks over the water in Brooklyn

Price Guide: £

Central Park

Central Park

New York, NY 10024

One of the most filmed locations in the world – you can even take a movie tour of this enormous city centre park. Or just spend a few hours wandering and enjoy hire a boat for a quick sail around the pond

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118

Another icon of the city, located in midtown Manhattan, and offering some of the most spectacular views from the top. 102 stories high – you can visit again at night using your CityPASS on the same day as you visit

Price Guide: CityPASS Inclusion

Rockefeller Centre

Rockefeller Centre

45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111

An impressive plaza and complex of shops and offices – including an outdoor ice rink, visit Top of the Rock for some more high rise views. In particular there’s great views of Central Park.

Price Guide: CityPASS Inclusion

Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo

64th St and 5th Ave, New York, NY 10021

On your explorations around the park, make time to fit in a trip to this small but perfectly formed zoo. With a focus on conservation, it’s cheap as zoos go and very fun.

Price Guide: $18 adult ticket

MET

Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

Affectionately known as ‘The Met’, this is one of the best art museums we’ve visited. It’s the largest in the US and you can see everything from ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art to over 13,000 contemporary artworks.

Price Guide: CityPASS Inclusion

Yankee Stadium

Yankees Stadium

1 E 161st St, Bronx, NY 10451

I’m not even a sports fan, but we had a great night catching a ball game at the Yankees Stadium. Check out stubhub for great deals on tickets – we paid less than $20 a piece for ours on the day and still had a pretty good view.

 

Price Guide: $16 upwards

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. — Tom Wolfe

Where to Eat in New York City

The best news about NYC is that after a hard day pounding the pavements, there’s thousands of places to enjoy cheap eats.

AG Kitchen

AG Kitchen

269 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10023

A Cuban inspired restaurant – the burgers here are amazing and the prices are even better.

Price Guide: £

Gotham West

Gotham West Market

600 11th Ave, New York, NY 10036

Located handily close to the circle line ferry – this street food outlet is awesome. Try Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop.

Price Guide: £

H&H Midtown

H&H Midtown Bagels

1551 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

The best bagels I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few. We loved the PB&Jelly and the classic smoked salmon and cream cheese

Price Guide: £

Where to Stay in New York City

The city obviously houses hundreds of accommodation options – from luxury hotels and AirB&B apartments to hostels and couch surfing depending on what you prefer.

If you’re a backpacker on a budget and looking for a great place to stay, we’d recommend the New York Moore Street Hostel. Located in East Williamsburg, it’s a cool location packed with little shops and hipster eateries, as well as being home to one of the most famous areas of the city for street art.

Click here to check out room rates and book.

 

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world. — F Scott Fitzgerald

Get Out of the City - East Coast Tours

If you need a break after all that exploring, we’ve got the perfect thing for you.  Get out of the city and visit Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes and Chicago on a road trip that will show you some more highlights of the East Coast, as well as being an amazing bargain.

You’ll see some great places on this adventure, including Newburgh, the Finger Lakes including Taughannock Falls, Niagara Falls, Sandusky and the Amish community at Shipshewana. We loved the Finger Lakes where many New Yorkers have holiday cottages and boats and there’s plenty of wineries to enjoy.

Yes it means that you’ll be spending a fair bit of time outside of the city but it’ll add a whole new dimension to your adventures in New York. From ~$865 – find out more

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