This post was written when the Aussie dollar was almost on parity with the USD.
Prices may have changed.
Last week I was asked me how I’d spend AU$1,600 on a trip to New York City, and exactly how I’d make it last. Challenge accepted! Here’s how I’d spend a week in New York for just AU$1,600.
New York hotels are some of the priciest around so why not consider staying in an airbnb property? Rent a room or a whole apartment for the same, or cheaper, than a New York City hotel. You can choose what amenities are important to you (WiFi, please!) and hosts often have great tips for the neighbourhood.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve chosen to ‘stay’ at this stylish apartment near Times Square that costs AU$129 per night. That includes WiFi, cable TV and being within walking distance to some of the cities most popular sights, including Times Square, Rockefeller Centre, and the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA)!
Total cost of accommodation for a 6-nights @ $129 p/night = AU$774
Where to eat…
New York has food at every price range, but you can still save money by following a few cheeky tricks.
If you’re staying at an airbnb property then it’s likely you will have access to a kitchen. By cooking a few meals, or even just making your own breakfast, you can save you a chunk of money each day!
Stop by Trader Joe’s or a corner store/deli for cheap groceries and fuel up for a big day. Pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Duane Reade often sell some groceries as well.
If you really want to save big money, consider having your biggest meal of the day at lunchtime. Lunch specials are a pretty common sight around the city, especially when it comes to sushi!
As a general rule, the further away from mid-town you get, the cheaper food will be. So head into Brooklyn, down around Alphabet City or towards NYU’s campus for cheap student eats.
Food budget for 1-week
Breakfast – USD$20 (based on cost of cereal ($5.49 for large box) + milk ($2.89 for a gallon) + yoghurt ($7.98 for 2 packs of 4 yoghurts)
Lunch – USD$140.00 ($20 p/day for seven days, based on receipts from various restaurants.)
Dinner – USD$120.00 ($20 p/night for six-nights, based on ramen costing around $13-15 per bowl + entree + drink)
Blow-out dinner – USD$40.00 (half of meal based on receipt from my last visit to Miss Korean BBQ with two people eating the two meat Korean BBQ, 1 shared entree, 4 drinks (two alcoholic, two soft drink), free water, free kimchi, and the tip!)
Total cost of food budget @ USD$320 = AUD$405.00
Read TimeOut New York for The Best Cheap Eats in NYC
It may seem easy to use a taxi but those $10 cab rides really begin to add up after a while. To save money in NYC walk or take public transportation.
A 7-day Unlimited Pass will set you back $31 USD which includes use on the subway and local buses.
You can also take a Go AirportLink to any of the three airports serving New York City.
Total cost of getting around @ USD$40 = AUD$50.00
What to do with 7 days in New York City…
You can go two routes with these seven days. If you haven’t visited New York before, I’d suggest buying The New York CityPASS. For a 7-day pass, it costs $200.00, but you’ll get access free access to over 80 sights, discount on admission at others, fast track entry and plenty of coupons!
Some of the free activities I’d do with my New York CityPASS include;
- Head to the top of the Empire State Building Observation Deck (normally US$32.00 + free fast track!)
- Take a boat to the Statue of Liberty Island (normally US$31.00)
- Take a bike tour of Central Park (normally US$49.00)
- Behind-the-Scenes tour of Yankees Stadium (normally US$25.00)
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum (normally US$24.00)
- Take the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise around Manhattan (normally US$40.00)
- Grand Central Terminal Audio Tour (normally US$9.00)
- Visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (normally AU$25.00)
- Take part in the NBC Studio Tour (normally US$24.00)
- Take part of the Inside Broadway Tour through the Theatre District (normally US$35.00)
- Take part in a Harlem Gospel Tour (normally US$35.00)
- Take a Greenwich Village Walking Tour (normally US$35.00)
If you aren’t sure if you’d use all the features of The New York City Pass but still keen to explore the city, here are a list of suggestions for the budget conscious traveller.
- Walk the Highline – FREE
- Take the Staten Island Ferry – FREE
- Visit the Coney Island Boardwalk – FREE
- Walk the High Line – FREE
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge – FREE
- Take a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery – FREE on Saturday + Sunday, USD$8.00 Monday – Thursday
- Take the Roosevelt Island Tram – FREE, providing you have a weekly MTA card otherwise $2.80
- Explore Grand Central Terminal’s Main Concourse – FREE
- Photograph the city skyline from the East River State Park – FREE
- Buy discount Broadway tickets at a TKTS Counter – cost varies, expect up to 40-50% off
- Explore Central Park – FREE
- Visit Socrates Sculpture Park – FREE
- Visit Wave Hill – US$8.00
- Take a free walking tour with Big Apple Greeter or Free Tours By Foot – FREE
- Take advantage of Free Entry Museum days – FREE, though some may require a donation
- Take advantage of Free Museums – FREE
Want more New York City tips? Read my New York City Guide!
How’s the budget?
Cost of accommodation for a 6-nights = AU$903
Cost of food for 7-days = AU$405
Cost of getting around for 7-days = AU$50.00
Cost of activities for 7-days = AU$200
Pesky Banks Fees for 7-days = ZERO!
Approx. total cost of a 7-day trip to New York City = AUD$1,558
I could have saved a lot more by staying in a hostel, by eating at the apartment and choosing not to buy the New York CityPASS or buy eating with even cheaper food (bagels, pizza and deli or diner food will save you even more!).
I also could have saved money by choosing an apartment in a different neighbourhood or in New Jersey, but I much prefer hotels or apartments with a little bit of privacy and no shared bathrooms!
One thing I didn’t factor into all of the food pricing was tipping. Tipping is a big part of American culture and it is expected if your waiter/waitress provides you good service.
All in all, I think this is a solid plan for if you have a week in New York. If the New York CityPASS isn’t quite your thing, check out sites like Viator that offers a round-up of great tours – many pretty cheap! – or consider using the NYCgo (official tourism board) website or blogs to create your own walking tour around the different neighbourhoods!
PS: Don’t forget, exchange rates fluctuate. I wrote this at the time when the USD was on parity with the Aussie dollar, and so we got a lot more bang for our bucks!
Want more information on New York City?
Remember to pack these for your trip to New York City!