NYC can be very expensive, no news here. But it’s possible to visit the city without spending a lot. There are several ways to enjoy your visit and still be on a budget. After living in NYC for a couple of years, I discovered some ways to save some bucks and still go out a lot, eat, drink and have fun. And I’ll tell you all about it.
Here are my tips to save money in NYC
1. Transportation: Walk and ride the subway
Walking is the best (and the cheapest) way to explore NYC. It’s delicious to walk around and get lost in some neighborhoods, such as the Villages, Chelsea, Soho. But if the place you are heading is too far to walk, then the best option is to use the subway.
The subway system in NYC is very efficient and covers all the island and the surroundings. Depending on how many days you stay in the city, and how often you’re going to use the subway system, it might be worth to get an unlimited card (see the options and updated prices). If you’re by yourself, this is the best way to save money in transportation. The subway will be your best friend.
But what about the yellow cabs? The cabs can be a valid option if you’re traveling in a group. Sharing the ride with other people can be cheaper than the subway, depending on the destination and the hour. But don’t forget that the traffic in NYC can be crazy, and you have to tip the driver, which will increase the fare.
2. Eating: Executive menus, fast food, food trucks, food fairs and supermarkets
Executive menu: There are several ways to save money while eating in NYC. If the idea is to eat at restaurants but not spend much, enjoy the executive menu that many restaurants offer during lunch time. The prices are attractive, it’s possible to have a full meal for much less than would normally cost.
Fast food chains: Well, you can’t ignore them. A fast food meal now and then is an obvious way to save money (and time) when you travel. And NYC is full of them! Try Nathan’s Famous for hot dogs (my favorite is with cheddar and chili), Gray’s Papaya, also for hot dogs (a classic in the city), Prêt a Manger (with healthier options), just to name a few. Now, if you really really want to save as much as you can, try the U$1 slice of pizza from 2 Bros Pizza. It’s a bargain, grab a slice and go!
Food trucks: I like this category. There are so many food truck options in NYC, to please every taste. Besides the famous hot dog carts (they are everywhere), you can find halal food carts all over the city as well – I like the chicken over rice and the lamb gyro, the white sauce is delicious. I also enjoy Red Hook Lobster (the lobster roll is delicious), the famous dosas from Thiro Kumar (also known as the Dosa Man), located at the Washington Square Park, and the waffles from Wafels & Dinges (we can’t forget the dessert, right?).
Food Fairs: Another category that I really enjoy. Some of my favorite food fairs in NYC include Mad. Sq. Eats and Smorgasburg. On both of them, you can find a big variety of food options. Just remember that food fairs are seasonal, and they may change locations.
Supermarkets: A supermarket will always be your best friend when you want to save money on a trip. In NYC I recommend Trader Joe’s (cheap and good quality products), and Whole Foods Market, which is more expensive and gourmet, but offers special products. Buy some groceries and treat yourself with a picnic at the park.
3. Boozing: It’s always happy hour somewhere
If you enjoy going out to have a drink in NYC but doesn’t like the idea of spending lots of money on it, I’ve got the most obvious solution for you: Happy Hour! The city is full of bars offering a daily happy hour, the hard part is to pick one. If you want to spend as little as possible, try The 13th Step, a sports bar with cheap deals every day (I used to go there a lot with friends). On Tuesdays, the beer mug costs only U$1.
Some places also offer cheaper appetizers during the happy hour, besides the drinks. I recommend 5 Napkin Burger to eat and drink, I like the slides (U$3 each) and the house cocktails (U$5 each), they also have wine and beers, such as Blue Moon and Peroni. Sit at the bar – the only place where these prices are valid – and enjoy the happy hour deals. I used to go there pretty much every week.
4. Events: The free events around the city
There are plenty of free events happening in NYC every season, the list is endless. It’s easier to find an outdoor event to attend during the summer, but there’s always something happening all the time. Take a look at the NYC Free Concerts to discover seasonal things to do, and I also recommend to check out Time Out New York.
A free festival that I strongly recommend is the Global Citizen Festival that happens at the Central Park every year. The lineup is always incredible, big artists involved. I’ve seen many great shows, such as Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon and Alicia Keys. The festival also happens in other countries, and its mission is to end the extreme poverty. You have to apply for the tickets and follow some rules in order to have the chance to win the entrance.
Also, check out the SummerStage, an outdoor festival that happens during the summer in NYC. The concerts and performances are free, and the days and location vary (it happens at Central Park and many other spots around the 5 boroughs). The festival, that happens during the whole summer, is all about music, dance, film, and also workshops. There’s something for everybody.
Another free thing to do in NYC is watching a parade: St. Patrick’s Day Parade (March), Halloween Parade (October), Thanksgiving Parade (November), just to name a few. I have to say that New Yorkers take them very seriously, the parades are always packed with locals, and police officers (many many of them). If you don’t like big crowds, maybe this is not for you. The parades can be fun, but very stressful as well.
Prices: August, 2018. Currency: American Dollar