New York on a Student Budget
Zoë is studying Psychology with American Studies at Sussex University and spent her year abroad in the #USA. She is a Student Brand Ambassador for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Here are her top tips for negotiating New York City on a budget.
New York, New York. The city that never sleeps is world renowned, but, as I learnt very quickly during my year abroad, can come with quite a hefty price tag. However, there’s no need to stress as a student in the big apple, there’s plenty of opportunities for those of us on a budget – if you know where to look. Here are my top tips for navigating the greatest city in the world with not very much in your wallet:
- You may want to experience the classic wild ride in a yellow cab, but avoid taking taxis if you can, as you will get stuck in loads of traffic and be overcharged – the drivers see the tourists coming a mile off! I would always recommend heading underground and using the subway, or walking if it’s an option!
- Speaking of walking, its absolutely free and you see so much of the city. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge offers amazing views of the skyline, and a stroll along the High Line, a public park on an elevated rail line, is also a unique NYC experience.
- A wander around New York’s other public parks will not cost you a thing, and you can head for world famous Central Park, the lower east side’s Washington Square Park, or across the river in Queens to the site of two twentieth century world fairs, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
- If you do choose to take the subway, or visit those hugely busy areas New York is famous for such as Times Square, keep an eye on your belongings. Parts of the city populated by tourists are key targets for those looking to steal not only your money and credit cards, but also your passport. Check out the Passport Hustle video on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for top tips on how to protect your travel documents.
- Whilst roaming around the city, it’s also totally free to find the sites of your favourite TV shows! I made sure I had pretended to be in Friends and also Gossip Girl, but there are countless programmes and movies that you no doubt love and are set in the famous city.
- Once you start to get bit hungry, finding a food market will often end up way cheaper than restaurants in the tourist hubs. From my own experience I suggest heading to Chelsea market, Gotham market, or Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.
- 99 cent pizza is also most definitely the cheapest and best meal you will enjoy.
- The 9/11 memorial fountains are one of the most beautiful things in the city and totally free to access.
- If you want to see the legendary Statue of Liberty, but can’t afford to fork out for the Ellis Island ferry, you can take the free boats to either Staten Island or Governors Island. When on board you are treated to sublime views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, and there’s plenty to do on Governors Island once you get there, which is national monument!
- Manhattan has an expensive price tag, so try heading to the hipster borough of Brooklyn where you will find diverse restaurants and bars with a local feel and at a lower price.
- Some of New York’s iconic museums should also be on your to-do list, despite the admission prices! The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free from 4pm on Fridays, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on Tuesdays from 5pm. There are plenty of other offers like this that can be found on Google.
- Enjoying one drink in a rooftop bar will usually work out cheaper than the $30 to go up the Rockefeller Centre, Empire State Building, or Freedom Tower, while being able to see these amazing structures – I spent my 21st birthday at 230 Fifth with a breath-taking view of the Empire State building opposite!
- In the evenings, hitting a Broadway show is an absolute must, and lotteries are your best friend. I applied for a couple different lotteries across a couple of days, and within three days had box seats to see Aladdin! If you aim for a few each day the odds are definitely in your favour and you’re likely to secure tickets to something. Failing this, you can head to the TKTS booth in Times Square, where they offer discounted tickets for shows the same day, and also for Off-Broadway productions which are often just as spectacular (occasionally making their way to Broadway) for a fraction of the price.
- For a reasonably priced accommodation if needed, New York hostels are of good quality and full of friendly people. I stayed in the New York Budget Inn on 34th multiple times and would recommend it to anyone! Currently, however, I would avoid Airbnbs, as they are in a bit of a grey area right now. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to advertise short-term rentals without the host being present – also known as entire-home listings on the increasingly popular website.
- It’s also worth remembering that accidents and illnesses will not wait until you get home either! America is infamously one of the only developed countries not to have a free healthcare system – and so to make sure medical fees do not completely bankrupt you, make sure you have appropriate travel insurance for your time in the States. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or prescriptions that might not be available overseas.
Although New York may initially seem out of your price range, students can most definitely have an incredible time in this one-of-a-kind city!
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