How to Enjoy New York on a Budget

New York is not only amazing but also expensive. If you aren’t rich, or Swiss you just have to accept that fact – especially the accommodation is not a bargain.

But even if you travel on to New York a budget, you can still have the greatest time because there are a couple of things for (almost) free and it is easy to save money – so it is possible, to enjoy this amazing city with little money.

Great things to do when you are traveling on a budget (even if not) and so you are enjoying New York with little money. Pssss, here is my 4-day New York itinerary.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I might earn a small commission if you book/buy a product via my link. There are no extra cost for you, actually, you can even save money with Airbnb using my link.

Getting Around in New York on a Budget

Taking the subway will save you a lot of money. New York has an excellent public transport system, there is no real need taking the cab (though they are very iconic and cool somehow).

It also offers you the opportunity to enjoy great entertainment, because many talented artists show their skills in many metro stations, and thus you don’t have to be afraid of getting bored.

Cab in New York
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Cab in New York

I also think that walking is pretty easy and was my favorite way to explore the place (apparently, it is not the only way if you like to see all areas).

If you are not a broken traveler and would like to do a lot of activities you can also check out prices for NYC Hop-on and Hop-bus tickets which can save you a lot of money.

Alternative to cabs: Subways in New York - a great transport mean
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Alternative to cabs: Subways in New York – a great transport mean

Where to Stay in New York on a Budget

Accommodations in New York

Private accommodations are mostly cheaper than the hotels (even hostels are not cheap in NY). Especially if don’t travel alone. Have a look at Airbnb, which I used for 3 nights while I stayed at a hostel for another three nights (the hostel was terrible by the way).

Get a $$$ discount for Airbnb the first time by using this Discount Airbnb Link. Just consider that a metro station is close to you accommodation so you don’t have to stay close to the Times Square etc.

Do you prefer hotels? Though they are not cheap in New York City you might get a good deal if you do not stay in Manhattan or do a bit more research. Find out more on cheap hotels in NY.

Budget Hotels in New York City

If you stay in a hostel or a private apartment and want to do your own cooking try to shop in Harlem, Brooklyn etc. It is much cheaper than in Manhattan. You can also drink the clean New York tap water, so it is not only cheaper but also saves the environment.

Tickets and Tours 

New York has a lot of activities that are free (and which you will find out about in this post, however, some activities just cost a bit but you can save money, by researching beforehand and which then help you saving on those tours and activities.

If you are looking for more tours that do not cost a fortune check out the best prices for tours and activities in New York City by clicking here and save up to 40%.

You might be able to save money in New York by using the official New York Pass – if you plan to visit some attractions that cost money it can help you to save a lot.

Read more: Best places to eat cheap in NY.

Things to do in New York for (Almost) Free 

Free Tours by Foot

I have become a great fan of “Free Tours by Foot” and enjoyed every single tour with them. The guides were nice, and they really knew “their” New York City. Though it is called “free tours”, you can show your appreciation by paying a  tip at the end of the tour. It is optional, but the guides do a great job. After all, it will still save you a lot of money compared to “professional” tours.

Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue is probably the most well-known street in NYC, and divides  between the East and West sides of Manhattan.

Fifth Avenue is a must go on any 4-day New York itinerary
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Here you have high-end retailers, like Saks, Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton. If you are in the mood for shopping, then you can spend the rest of the morning exploring the stores but then most likely, this will not be on a budget anymore.

But wiindow shopping these luxury establishments can be lots of fun, too and though they are many restaurants along the way.

Free Museums and Concerts

There are plenty of free museums – if you are interested in visiting museums check them out – I am not, so I did not visit any :).

Free concerts and movies can be found almost everywhere in New York in summer (Bryant Park for instance), there is no real need to pay for concerts or other activities if you are on a budget – those free concerts, activities can be absolutely great.

Boat Cruises

One of the things I enjoyed most was the free ferry ride to Staten Island. It also offers a short break from the heat and stagnant air (summer in New York is extremely hot and humid) – and it gave me the great chance to take nice pictures of the Statue of Liberty and of the Manhattan skyline.

If you want to do other sightseeing cruises check the best prices here.

Statue of Liberty
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Statue of Liberty

Gorgeous Views

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar” offers breathtaking views of New York.  You can have a brunch, or get a drink at the bar and enjoy the view which can easily keep up with the view from the Empire State Building. Unfortunately, my pictures from there did not turn out great you can believe me that the view is absolutely GORGEOUS.

This view is from the rooftop of the 230-fifth Bar one of the best places to visit in 4 days
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Times Square

Who does not know the crazy Times Square. I once read the Times Square is the most famous place in the world-  it is definitely one of the best places to visit in New York on a budget and luckily, spending time at the Times Square is totally free.

Times Square in NYC @shutterstock
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Times Square in NYC @shutterstock

It is great to see either day or night and perfect to experience the hustle and bustle of the city.

Here you will find stores, restaurants, towering billboards, and crazy characters. I was a little disappointed that I missed the Naked Cowboy who is often there (though actually, I am happy I did not get to see him as he is not really my type). However, with or without the Naked Cowboy, there are lots of attractions to enjoy in Times Square.

Chinatown

Chinatown is a lively, and chaotic place and there is so much to see from the shops to the street vendors. There are lots of knockoff handbags and electronic items for sale, and pretty much everything else. Tea shops, restaurants, and other businesses line the streets – and perfect to visit with little money.

Street view of Chinatown in NYC one of the top things to do in 4 days
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When the Chinese immigrated to America, many of them moved to Chinatown. They opened businesses and moved into the apartments above. So, while this is a popular tourist destination in New York City, it is also a thriving local community. 

There are a lot of restaurants along Canal Street, many with options that are vegan and vegetarian.

Brooklyn Bridge

But most of all, I enjoyed crossing Brooklyn Bridge. Especially at nights, the view is spectacular.

Brooklyn Bridge from The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a must-see in 4 days in New YOrk
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My advice is to take a metro to Brooklyn and to take a lot of pictures with the Manhattan skyline in your back. You will be thrilled to have the Manhattan skyline in front of you while walking back to Manhattan. 

Hudson River Waterway Greenway

This greenway runs around the island of Manhattan and is very popular for walkers, joggers, and cyclists.

It is gorgeous, but can also get busy, especially on the weekends. You can see beautiful views of Manhattan and New Jersey and there are tons of places to stop and rest. There are not a lot of places to get food, but there are some here and there.

Grand Central Terminal

I also totally loved the Grand Central Terminal.

Grand Central Terminal Manhattan
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It is not just a place to jump on a train, but a place to visit, in and of itself. I found it interesting and fun, with so many things to see and do for free.

I probably liked the Whispering Gallery the most. There is a place by the Oyster Bar where, if you whisper into one corner, a person standing in the opposite corner can hear you (as if you had shouted) because of the way the arches and acoustics are. You have to try it!

I did a free walking tour which is a great way to learn more about the history of the terminal and see all the cool features and secrets inside.

High Line

There are a lot of restaurants and small eateries near High Line, so you can either sit in and eat or take something to go (vegetarian/vegan foods are available) but I suggest to take something with you so you can enjoy your meal on the beautiful High Line.

HIgh Line. Urban public park on an historic freight rail line on any NY 4-day itinerary
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Located above the busy streets of Manhattan’s West side, the High Line used to be a freight rail line that was going to be demolished and is now used as a public park. It has really lovely scenery, with its high elevation, greenery, and art exhibits.

The entire line is almost 1.5 miles, so you may not want to walk the length of it. But it is a gorgeous spot to stop for a picnic on your first day exploring New York. This should take about 1-2 hours.

Bryant Park

Sitting in the Bryant Park (my most favorite Park in New York) and watch the people around, or listening to music and getting tanned is another great thing you can do for free. 

Bryant Park in New York @shutterstock
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Bryant Park in New York @shutterstock

Though the Central Park is the famous park to visit, this one if more fun somehow because there is more action and full of activities at any time of the year.

St. Patrick´s Cathedral

St. Patrick´s Cathedrak is located on Fifth Avenue and opened in 1878. 

St. Patrick's Cathedral beautiful place in NY
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So it’s not nearly as old as many churches found in Europe but a tribute to the religious freedom that many immigrants found when they arrived in America.

Public Library

The public library which was great to walk around.

Public Library in New York @shutterstock
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Public Library in New York @shutterstock

The public library is an impressive building with stone lions guarding the front doors. Inside, you will find  large windows and beautiful art covered entire walls.

The library has an extensive collection, including a children’s section. The architecture of the building, known as Beaux-Arts, is also impressive

Central Park

The iconic Central Park is a must-see in NY and this is 843 acres of park in the center of Manhattan is free to visit. It’s like a lovely oasis in the midst of the busy city surrounding it. 
 
Central park in New York - what to do in NY in 4 days
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You can stroll around and see all the natural beauty that does not count a dime. There are benches along the paths, which run all throughout the park.

There are open areas for playing sports or picnicking, too. You could easily spend a whole day here. Try to see as much as you can, especially if the weather is good and before you get to experience more of crazy NY.

Get Lost in the Streets of New York

Favorite Free Thing to Do

I recommend taking your camera and just walk aimlessly through NY. You will find beautiful places, offsite the tourists spots. Smaller parks offer a nice chance to take a rest and discover even more interesting small details – New York never gets boring and every turn hold something interesting and special for you to discover.

Read more: Best cities and towns to visit in the USA

 
Visiting New York in winter? Then check out my NY winter guide

 

Though I did not plan to visit New York on a budget, I realised how much fun NY can be with all the free things to do. Yes, accommodation is pricy but as you can see, it is not difficult to find free and great things to do and see in NY fr free. Are you thinking about spending time in NY around holidays? Get some tips for holidays in NYC by a local here.

New York on a budget, best things to do in New York
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