How to See New York City on $50 a Day

Are you a penny pincher with wanderlust? Don’t fret, here is our guide to seeing and enjoying the Big Apple without spending more than $50 a day.
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Aerial view of New York City
Aerial view of New York City  (Corbis)
Package Trip
Don’t want to do it all yourself? Hook up with Intrepid Travel and take the $39 half-day tour of the Big Apple  that starts at Greenwich Village and ends with a pint at the White Horse Tavern.

No question, New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Urban real estate is a precious commodity and the domain of the highest bidders, who pass those costs down to the tenants bustling below: the delis, the hardware stores, the mom-and-pop shops. And that’s just one reason New Yorkers pay inflated prices for goods and services. Yes, you can go high hog in the Big Apple, but it’s also easy to do New York on the cheap. Here’s a few ways to see the city for less.

Stay with a friend. Or a friend of a friend.
You’re not finding a $50-a-night hotel room in New York City (at least not one you’d want to stay at). Time to open up the ol’ address book, and call everyone you know who has the slightest connection to the Big Apple. Most New Yorkers are not only happy to put up friends (or friends of friends), they’re also likely to play tour guide, know even more “cheap secrets,” and (just possibly) even cook you a meal. Total cost: $0 per day (though you should at least buy them a few drinks at some point).

Make a fresh, inexpensive picnic all year round at farmer’s markets.
Every day, 365 days a year, a Greenmarket is in business somewhere in New York City, selling farm-fresh produce, breads, cheeses, juices, and baked goods. The most well-known, Union Square, enjoys a location at the nexus of prime sightseeing territory and is open four days a week, including Friday and Saturday. You can stock up on picnic fare, grab a seat beneath the park’s canopy of big shade trees, and enjoy a fresh, healthy repast. At the market’s close, prices drop even lower to move the merchandise. Go to for details. Total cost: $5 to $10 per day.

Walk or take public transportation—or take a sightseeing ferry.
The subway is a fast and efficient way to see New York on the cheap. Your key to the city is your MetroCard. You’ll get a bonus by buying a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard over $10, which four people can use at the same time (simply swipe each person through the turnstile). Even cheaper is the Unlimited Ride card, but you’ll have to wait 18 minutes after it’s been swiped to use it again. What’s even cheaper than the subway? Walking. New York is built for walkers, so get a good map and strap on some comfortable shoes—you’ll find serendipity around every corner. But in a city surrounded by water, you simply can’t beat traveling by boat. The best cheap thrill in NYC remains the Staten Island Ferry, which gives passengers swooning views of the great New York harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island on free rides between Manhattan’s lower tip and Staten Island. Total cost: $10 per day.

Published: 29 Aug 2012 | Last Updated: 11 Sep 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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