||JENNIFER FODEN WILSON, Contributor
A Toronto-based freelance writer heads to notoriously expensive New York City with her pals and soaks up the scene on just $390 … Find out how she did it!
New York City on your horizon? On a budget? Here’s how to explore this costly city without going broke!
• TOTAL COST OF TRIP: $390
• SPENDING BREAKDOWN: $90 for bus + $15 for subway; $145 for hotel; $140 for food/drinks/shopping
Jennifer’s two travel companions pose on the Brooklyn Bridge — a fantastic view for free.
If you’re looking to maximize time spent in the Big Apple on a shoestring budget, arrive in the morning and leave a few days later in the evening. You’ll spend less on a hotel or hostel.
My two friends and I arrived in New York City at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and headed home at 11 p.m. the following Monday night. This gave us three full days in NYC, and we only had to pay for two nights of accommodations.
Most hostels or hotels will check you in early if your room isn’t occupied or will store your luggage until you come back to check in, at the very least. Also consider exploring NYC during the week, as most accommodations and transportation carriers have cheaper rates between Sunday and Thursday. Go with a few — or group — of friends, which can cut down on costs.
There are several inexpensive options to get you to this popular metropolis. If you travel by car and split the gas and parking between yourself and two or three friends, it’ll cost you between $50 and $70 each (from Toronto to NYC). Look for accommodations that offer free or inexpensive parking.
Consider checking out carpool websites, which will cost you a portion of the gas money to ride with someone who’s looking for a road-trip companion. There are also plenty of bus options: We took an overnight Greyhound bus for $90 round-trip. Don’t rule out airlines either. Depending on when you travel and how far in advance you book, you can fly to NYC from Toronto round-trip for less than $250.
Cocktail hour! Yes, you can enjoy New York’s famous nightlife while keeping watch on your budget. Jennifer (back right) with her two traveling buddies.
You can get just about anywhere in New York by subway. A weekly pass will cost you $29, or $2.25 per ride. I spent approximately $15 in the three days we were there.
But the Big Apple is a city you’ll want to discover on foot. You’ll wander the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, likely get lost, and explore the unique shops and eateries just like a local.
Where to stay:
Don’t limit your search to downtown. There are several great places to stay all over Manhattan and in other boroughs. If you’re looking to stay for free, reach out to a friend who’s living there or search for accommodations on CouchSurfing.org.
As for hostels, most fill up quickly and will run you between $50 and $75 per night. Check hostels.com or a travel guidebook/website for suggestions. There’s also airbnb.com — a website where locals offer a room or their entire apartment for rent. Rates range wildly, from $30 to $300 per night.
Several hotels are affordable if you split the cost between yourself and a few friends. In reality, a hotel can end up costing you the same as a hostel. We stayed at Hotel Lola. This gorgeous boutique hotel at 29th and Madison is luxurious in appearance, but still affordable for the budget traveler. It cost us around $70 each per night — a similar price to many NYC hostels — and would’ve been cheaper ($55/night) if our group of three was a group of four. The staff was helpful, the lobby inviting and the beds so, so comfortable.
Relaxing in Central Park costs nothing at all. — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Foden Wilson
What to do:
We didn’t pay for a single attraction or activity the entire time we were there. We found adventure in walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, lounging in Central Park, strolling through markets, getting lost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, admiring the incredible New York City architecture and navigating the subway.
Other highlights: High Line (a public park built on an historic freight rail line), perusing the vendors at Chelsea Market, Washington Square Park, New York Public Library, Wall Street and strolling by iconic New York landmarks such as Times Square and the Statue of Liberty.
Where to eat & drink:
There are great places all over New York City — and the locals are your key to finding them. Highlights include our breakfast spot Bread & Butter at Park and 29th; Wrap-N-Run on Lexington, and our rooftop patio dinner and drinks ($2 mimosas!) overlooking the skyline at Tonic (don’t judge the name) on 3rd.
Also be sure to check out NYC’s street food scene. Vendors across the city serve up gourmet fare for cheap. If you’re in NYC before June 1st, Madison Square Eats, an outdoor street food event in Worth Park, is sure to satisfy your taste buds and your wallet.
Toronto freelance writer Jennifer Foden Wilson has written for Outpost Magazine and On the Danforth. You can find her on Twitter @jdfowil
Date Added: October 15, 2012 | Comments (1)
This is my first visit and when i was looking for info on hostels, google brought this post right on top and thanks so much for taking me to http://www.hostels.com/!! You made my day!! Sara
Comment by Hostels in India — June 2, 2012 @ 9:10 am