How to tour New York without breaking the bank

New York, New York, it’s a helluva town, but it’s far from the cheapest city on earth. However, we don’t think that a lack of funds should stop you from taking a bite out of the Big Apple, which is why we want to show you how to cut costs on your trip to NYC.

US Visa

The first thing you need to do before a trip to the States is apply for a US visa. This can work out to be pretty expensive, even involving trips to the US Embassy, but the lucky residents of 38 countries involved in a visa waiver programme with the US can save time and money by getting an ESTA visa instead.


These are probably the biggest expense for any international trip, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Plenty of budget airlines are offering return trips to the US that are half the price of the bigger firms. You might have to sacrifice some luxuries, like in-flight entertainment, meals, or even some legroom, but with a return flight from London to New York costing just $450, who can complain?

Other tips when booking a flight include using a flight comparison website, booking 18 weeks in advance, and clearing your browser history to remove your past flight searches.


It can be difficult to find accommodation for less than $100 per night in the City That Never Sleeps, but you can often find cheaper digs on holiday-let sites (i.e. Airbnb) or in hostels. This works out fantastically if you’re going as a group and don’t mind sharing, but you can also find individual rooms in both.


A good rule of thumb to save money on food whilst on holiday is to eat as you would at home, which basically translates to only one big meal a day and limited snacks.

Try to have breakfast in your hotel room with food from the corner store – if you lack a fridge or toaster, opt for fruit and granola bars – and enjoy your sit-down dinner at lunchtime when the prices are lower. At dinnertime, you can grab a pizza slice or hotdog and a drink from a street vendor for under $10.

Although you are still allowed to splurge on the occasional cronut, swingle, or yeti tracks snow cream. You are on holiday after all.

Free things to do in NYC

There are so many exciting things to do in New York, but some are more affordable than others. Some are even completely free (if you want them to be) and here are our top picks.

  • Ride the Staten Island Ferry: Here you’ll get a unique view of southern Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
  • Spend the day in Central Park: You could see an outdoor movie, go statue hunting, have a picnic or even people watch.
  • Swim in the Asser Levy Pool: In the summertime, New York’s outdoor swimming pools are free to use, so you can beat the heat as the locals do.
  • Visit the Met: It’s not exactly public knowledge, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s $25 entrance fee is only a recommended donation, so technically you can enter for free. (Although, we do recommend paying what you can afford to.)
  • Cross the Brooklyn Bridge: It’s one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city, giving you the chance to get a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline and downtown Brooklyn or to attach love locks to the fencing with your beloved.
  • Take a free walking tour: The company Free Tours by Foot offers dozens of walking tours around NYC from licensed, local, tour guides with no upfront costs. At the end of the tour, you pay what you wish.

That’s it from us on how to save money while visiting New York, but now we’d like to hear from you. Do you have any tips that we haven’t mentioned? Are there any free things that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.