By MAY LIN TYE.
Recently I travelled to New York for a month-long holiday. As you probably know, living in this great city is not cheap…in fact, Manhattan apartment rent averages US$4081 a month, roughly NZ$6000. It’s also ranked as the world’s most expensive city to live in, so while New York is never going to be a cheap place to travel to, there are plenty of areas to save money and still have an amazing time! If you’re on a budget, definitely do the following.
#1. Take the subway, not cabs
One of the first things I did when I arrived in New York was get to a subway station and buy a 30-day unlimited Metro card. Unless you’re planning a relaxing, stay-in-hotel-all-day type of holiday, you will always be on the go trying to fit in everything New York has to offer. I estimate that I used my metro card for around six trips a day. New York’s subway system isn’t famous for nothing – it is honestly the fastest, most convenient way to get anywhere, although it can be a little daunting at first (just make sure you move fast). If you’re going for a week or more, there’s also a seven-day card option, otherwise you can always do pay-per-ride. Another plus, there’s heaps of talented street performers at subway stations and sometimes even on the train itself.
#2. Make the most of Starbucks Wi-Fi
If you’re heading to NYC for a relatively short amount of time, you can probably rely on the free Wi-Fi all over the city, instead of getting a sim card or roaming on your mobile. There is a Starbucks on EVERY CORNER, all of which have free Wi-Fi. In fact, there are 283 Starbucks locations in New York – 212 of which are in Manhattan alone. You’ll also be able to get Wi-Fi at most subway stations, plenty of food places, parks, museums, most department stores and other large stores such as H&M. Furthermore, a public Wi-Fi network is in the process of being built for all of NYC!
#3. The New York Pass
The New York Pass is the cheapest way to experience all the big New York attractions. Basically, it’s a pass that you buy for either 3, 5, 7 or 10 days which gets you admission into around 80 attractions, and saves you heaps of money. It includes all the famous museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim. It also includes the Statue of Liberty, walking tours to learn the local history of different areas, tours at famous venues such as Radio City and Yankee Stadium, and bike rentals so you can explore Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Also, make sure you use the pass to check out the observation decks of the Empire State building and Top of the Rock, and sightseeing cruises for incredible views.
#4. Get out of Manhattan
New York is actually made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island, Manhattan being the island most tourists tend to stay on. Spending a day in a different borough is a fantastic way to see the “real” New York, and escape busy, tourist-filled areas such as Times Square. You can use your unlimited-ride metro card to get you there, but all subway rides actually cost the same despite the distance: around US$2.50.
To get to Brooklyn, another way is to walk or bike the Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll get spectacular views, and of course, the bridge is a sight itself. Once you get to Brooklyn, there is plenty to do: eat some of the best pizza in New York at Grimaldi’s, visit the Brooklyn Flea Market on weekends, explore hipster neighbourhoods such as Williamsburg and Bushwick for food and shopping, and get lost in the picturesque Prospect Park.
The Staten Island Ferry is a must-do, and COMPLETELY FREE. Take the ferry from Battery Park as many times as you want, whenever you want: it runs all day and all night!
Another lesser-known activity is the Roosevelt Island Tram – it’s an aerial tram ride with amazing skyline views, to the little island in the East River. And it’ll be included on your metro card, or cost the same as a subway ride.
#6. Free activities!
Free museum days – There are actually certain days when museums may have free admission. For example, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is free on Tuesdays after 5pm. Also look out for museums which have “recommended” admission fees – this may be permanent, like it is at the Met, or on certain days of the week when you can pay the amount you wish. Make sure you look online before going to save $$.
Visit all the parks: Central Park, Prospect Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park… Window shop at all the fancy department stores (during Christmas, the window displays are MAGICAL).
Visit the New York Public Library – take a free tour, get a library card, or just do your own exploring.
People-watching at Grand Central Terminal.
TV Show tapings – tickets are free, but request them well in advance!
Walk the Highline, an elevated railroad turned park in the neighbourhood of Chelsea.
Visit the Lowline, an experiment for an underground park using solar technology.