15 tips to save in New York: How to get to New York cheaply

jak ušetřit v New Yorku

New York has a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s expensive for locals and tourists alike, who often look for ways to save money in New York when they travel.

In today’s article, we’ll show you some of our tips on how to save money on transport, attractions, food and card payments. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for tips on how to visit New York cheaply or simply don’t want to pay more than necessary.

15 tips to save in New York

1. Get a MetroCard or pay with a contactless card

Transportation in New York City is relatively cheap, runs 24 hours a day, and can take you virtually anywhere.

Get a MetroCard for $1 at a vending machine, subway station ticket office or newsstand. A subway or bus ride will set you back $2.90 instead of the usual $3.25.

Do you plan to travel a lot? Then you’ll want the MetroCard for 7 days for $34, which gives you unlimited travel around New York City.

Instead of the MetroCard, you can pay with your contactless card, where you just put the card to the reader and the fare is deducted (the fare is the same as with the MetroCard). The most you can drive in a week is $34 (valid Monday through Sunday). Once you pass that amount, you ride for free for the rest of the week.

New York Metro
Automatic machines in the metro

You can use your MetroCard and contactless card on the subway and on the bus and pay the same $2.90 each time. The ticket price includes a transfer between the metro and the bus (and vice versa) or between 2 different bus routes within a maximum of 2 hours.

Subway in New York

2. Where to stay cheaply in New York?

Accommodation in Brooklyn, Queens or even New Jersey can be cheaper and you’re usually only a short subway ride from Manhattan.

Here are the offers with the best value for money:

West Side YMCA: Located on the Upper East Side, this property is within walking distance of Central Park and other attractions. You have the convenience of the centre and can stay in private or shared rooms. Reception 24/7, swimming pool, sauna, fitness.

The Queens Hotel: Cosy hotel with good access to downtown and JFK Airport. Some rooms also have a kitchenette. Reception 24/7, bathroom included in the room.

Hotels in New York 😴

new york ubytování
LIC Hotel

Nice hotel at a good price

ubytování new york
Hotel Under Times Square

Modern hotel near Times Square, great price

Please note: Airbnb is prohibited in New York if the stay is less than 30 days and the host is not present at the accommodation. This means that only private rooms with shared bathrooms and other facilities are available.

3. Book with the Genius discount

Genius is discount program from Booking.com where you can find the widest range of accommodation. Here you have a chance to find really cheap accommodation even in the centre.

Genius rewards you for loyalty – the more you travel, the better the discount or benefit you get. When you register, you will already get a 10% discount on the accommodations that are part of the Genius program (you can easily recognize it – right next to the accommodation it says Genius).

If you travel at least five times in the last 2 years, you’ll be upgraded to Genius 2 – you’ll get up to 15% off, a room upgrade and free breakfast.

We know from experience that it can throw a nice discount. Plus, a nicer room doesn’t hurt either :).

View of Downtown and the tallest building in the photo – One World Trade Center

4. How to get cheap from JFK airport to New York?

JFK Airport is accessible by LIRR commuter rail or subway. Choose the metro, as it is significantly cheaper than the suburban railway at peak times. On the other hand, you will spend more time on the road than on the train.

At the airport, board a special AirTrain train for $8.50 to the nearest Jamaica Station or Howard Beach. Here you can transfer to the metro for $2.90 (the price applies when paying with a MetroCard or contactless credit card).

And which station to choose? It depends on where you’re staying:

1. Jamaica Station is served by 3 subway lines:

  • E Line for Queens and Midtown Manhattan
  • J or Z line (Z line is express during peak hours) for Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan

2. Howard Beach is served by the A line to Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan.

5. Buy a tourist passport

Consider purchasing a tourist pass such as the New York Pass, CityPASS or Explorer Pass. If you are planning to visit multiple paid attractions, passes can help you save significantly.

Here are our favourite tourist cards and a short description of how they work:

New York Pass

New York Pass is based on purchasing a period of time to use the discounted card – you can choose from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 days.

The card is valid for calendar days and includes admission to over 100 attractions in New York City, including 4 of Manhattan’s most popular landmarks – the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, the Edge and One World Observatory.

Other popular activities include a sightseeing bus, a sightseeing cruise around Manhattan, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Statue of Liberty Ferry and Museum, and the unique Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

After you purchase your card, you will receive an email with information, a guide and a link to download the Go City app. Activate your card by scanning the QR code in the app when you enter the first attraction.

If you’d rather have something in your hand, you can print out the card and show a paper version.

The prices for the New York Pass are as follows:

Tip: There are often promotions where you can get a card with up to 30% discount.

The prices may seem high at first glance, but that’s due to the prices for attractions that are among the most expensive in the world. Depending on what you plan to visit, you could very well save in just one day.

New York Explorer Pass

New York Explorer Pass works exactly the same as the New York Pass, but the major difference is that here you purchase the number of attractions you want to visit. You have 60 days to visit them.

With the New York Explorer Pass, you’ll have access to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 attractions out of a total of 80+ attractions and experiences in New York City. The card includes access to 4 of the 5 observation decks in Manhattan (Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Edge and One World Observatory).

Also includes Luna Park at Coney Island, the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Tip: There are often promotions where you get a discount card.

The prices for the New York Explorer Pass are as follows:

New York CityPASS

New York CityPASS is ideal for those planning to visit fewer attractions in New York City. With the card you get access to 5 attractions:

  • 2 entrances are included automatically and you can’t change them – the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History,
  • 3 additional attractions to choose from – Top of the Rock, Ferry to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Manhattan Sightseeing Cruise, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and Guggenheim Museum.

You have 9 days to visit all 5 attractions.

Advance booking is required for some attractions: after purchasing your card, download the app from my.citypass.com and book your tickets according to the instructions in the app.

The cost for a New York CityPass is $138 for anyone over 18 and $118 for children ages 6-17. At this link you will get New York CityPASS at a discount.

View from the Empire State Building

More information: Here you can find more information about tourist cards in New York.

6. Visit public parks

Central Park, Battery Park, the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park are all free public parks with plenty to do. You can easily spend the whole day here.

There are nearly 93 km of walking trails in Central Park, or you can rent a bike. Battery Park is a waterfront park near Wall Street that offers some of the best views of the Statue of Liberty.

Central park
Central Park, New York

How to use the former elevated railway? How about creating a linear urban park called the High Line that runs through 8 blocks and is 2.33 km long? From here you can enjoy views of the surrounding area and the well-kept gardens.

As you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, head down to Brooklyn Park for fantastic views of Manhattan across the street.

New York City's High Line Park / things to do in New York City
High Line, New York

Learn more: What to see in New York in 5 days

7. Walk or cycle

New York is huge, but still largely walkable. I recommend planning your itinerary so that you discover one part of New York each day. Thanks to this, you will also wander into hidden alleys and discover interesting things that you would not normally discover (but be vigilant and if something doesn’t seem right, go the other way).

Do you prefer to cycle? Take advantage of Citi Bike’s shared bike rental service. The cost to rent is $4.79 – you also get 30 minutes of free riding. After that, renting a bike costs $0.30 per minute.

how to save in New York

8. Avoid taxis

Avoid taxis and carpools. These can get expensive quickly. If possible, use public transport.

9. Get on the Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is a ferry connecting Lower Manhattan and Staten Island. It is completely free and sails every 15-30 minutes. You can recognize it by its orange colour, which makes it unmissable from a distance.

Just beware of vendors trying to sell you tickets. The ferry is completely free even for tourists.

Staten Island Ferry / How to save in New York

10. Save on bank fees and exchange rates

Check your bank’s fees before you travel to New York. Some banks sometimes charge higher fees or don’t have such favourable exchange rates. The Wise card solves this problem.

Wise Card is an international card that can be used as an account for payments in foreign currencies. It offers some great features that can really help you save money, especially on the go. These are the advantages of the Wise card:

  • Real-time exchange rates: Wise uses real exchange rates – the same ones you’ll find on Google – so what you see is what you get. Not like the banks, where they add a surcharge to that rate.
  • Low fees: traditional banks and other cards usually charge additional fees when you spend in foreign currencies. Wise is a fairly transparent and low-cost service, which means more money for your travels!
  • Multi-currency account: you can have multiple currencies in one Wise account, making it easy to pay like a local wherever you are. You don’t have to carry cash in multiple currencies or pay money conversion fees.
  • Instant transfers: need to send money to a friend or pay for a hotel in another country? Do it instantly and cheaply with Wise.
  • Security: two-factor authentication and other robust security measures ensure your money is safe and secure on the go.

11. Eat like a local

Head to neighbourhoods where you can eat well and affordably.

In Manhattan, these include Chinatown and Chelsea. If you’re spending time in the city’s High Line Park (from the former elevated railway), check out Chelsea Market in the old factory. A variety of shops and delicious food under one roof.

chinatown new york
Chinatown, New York

My next tip is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which is full of great Italian restaurants and cafes. There is a large Italian community here, so the place is nicknamed “Bronx Little Italy”.

12. Picnic in the park

A picnic in Central Park is one of the most local things to do in New York City. Go to the grocery store and buy something for your picnic. With a good meal, then sit in the grass and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.

Picnicking in the park is one of the most popular activities in New York City.

Trader Joe’s has the best selection of groceries. They have several branches in Manhattan. I’d compare it to our Lidl. Good quality and prices (considering the prices in downtown NYC).

But you’ll also find other chains such as Whole Foods Market and D’Agostino.

There is an Aldi on the edge of Manhattan or in other neighborhoods where you can also shop well and at reasonable prices.

13. Food trucks and street food

Some of the best and cheapest food in New York comes from food trucks and street vendors.

Almost every street has a hot dog or pretzel stand. When you visit, you must try the New York pizza and bagel. The best pizzas at a good price are made at Joe’s Pizza. A slice of pizza will usually set you back $4, a bagel with toppings around $3 (without toppings about $1), a hot dog $2-4, and street food $5-8.

New York pizza / how to save in New York
New York pizza

14. Visit free places in New York

The great thing about New York is that there are so many activities to choose from, even for those traveling on a budget.

Visit the 9/11 Memorial, which is completely free (you pay only for admission to the museum). The interesting Oculus shopping centre is right next door.

9/11 Memorial & Museum New York

A visit to New York wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Times Square, the world’s most famous transportation hub, which is visible even to astronauts from space.

Times Square / things to do in New York

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most impressive religious building in New York City – it contrasts perfectly among the skyscrapers on 5th Avenue. Entrance is free.

Take a stroll down 5th Avenue itself, full of luxury and world-famous brands. Don’t miss the famous triangular Flatiron skyscraper.

Flatiron on 5th Avenue New York
Flatiron on 5th Avenue

Soak up the atmosphere on Wall Street and explore the streets of Greenwich Village. Maybe you’ll find the Friends house or Carrie from Sex and the City.

Greenwich Village / how to save in New York
Greenwich Village

15. Get travel insurance with a 50% discount

There are many travel insurance policies on the market. We use AXA insurance because with this link we get a 50% discount.

In addition to medical treatment, travel insurance covers situations such as trip cancellation, loss of luggage or liability insurance. This ensures comprehensive safety on the road.

These were our tips on how to save in New York. Do you have a question? We’ll be happy to answer it in the comments below. Have a safe journey!

More information about New York

NEW YORK ITINERARY: Check out more than 30 tips on things to do in New York City (including information on admission fees, how to skip the lines, and opening times). To help you plan your trip, take inspiration from our What to see in New York in 5 days itinerary.

NEW YORK GUIDE: Here’s our New York Travel Guide (transport, hotels, prices, map etc.) Here are some tips on how to save money on admission and transport in New York with the New York Pass.

LONDON: Are you tempted by New York, but is it too out of hand for you? London is exactly what you’re looking for – a city with a cosmopolitan vibe and huge diversity that’s easy to get to. Here’s a list of the best places to visit in London or plan your itinerary using our 3 days in London article.

DUBAJ: New York is an iconic city, but some might be disillusioned by its shadier side (the grime, the homeless). Dubai is the opposite – a beautiful, landscaped city that literally beckons with its modern architecture and old city core – get inspired by the things to do in Dubai.

view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

FAQ: How to save in New York

Is New York expensive?

Yes, New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but with careful planning, you can fully enjoy it even if you’re traveling on a budget.

Where to find cheap accommodation in New York?

Consider staying in neighbourhoods outside Manhattan, such as Brooklyn or Queens. You can also find cheap accommodation in Manhattan, but expect less quality.

Is the New York subway cheap?

The subway is relatively inexpensive and is the most economical mode of transportation in New York City. A single ride costs $2.90 and an unlimited seven-day MetroCard costs $34.

What to do in New York for free?

In New York, there are plenty of activities you can do for free. Visit the High Line, Battery Park or Central Park. Enjoy the atmosphere of Times Square or stroll around the Brooklyn Bridge and surrounding area, where you can spend the whole day.

How to save on attractions in New York?

The New York Pass and CityPASS offer admission to multiple attractions at a reduced price. In the article you will find a comparison of tourist cards including other information.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *