New York (city) has turned out to be an amazing, sometimes hectic, but above all amazing city in the US. Famous for its fashion, crazy nightlife, art scene, museums, incredible restaurants and world-class theater productions. Every culture, language and cuisine is represented here. You could spend your whole life exploring the city and never really see everything. I have to be honest with you: I'm normally not a big city fan. But wow! New York, you are truly amazing
There is an endless list of things to do in the city. No amount of time you spend here will be enough. Don't worry, in about 5 days you can visit a lot of beautiful places and experience the real New York culture.
In this free travel guide I will also pay extra attention to tips to keep the budget somewhat under control. New York City is not a cheap city! Fortunately, there are countless smart ways in which you can save considerably.
This comprehensive free travel guide is therefore mainly intended to help you not to spend much unnecessarily and to get the best out of your trip, whether you visit New York for 3 or 10 days.
Table of contents
The ultimate tour of North America
This article is part of a large one-year tour the United States en Canada in 2022, with a Dutch 4×4 camper that we shipped ourselves… It is a bucket list worthy and a once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.
We wrote almost 100 articles about this ultimate tour. Below is a handy overview in 5 expandable categories.
2. Highlights & Itineraries
3. Cities & places of interest (AZ)
- Tour America | Amelia City
- Tour America | Amelia Island
- Tour America | Annapolis
- Tour America | Ice Lake Trail
- Tour America | Kennedy Space Centre
- Tour America | KeyWest
- Tour America | Miami
- Tour America | New York City
- Tour America | Ouray
- Tour America | Salt Lake City
- Tour America | Savannah
- Tour America | Seattle
- Tour America | Silverton
- Tour America | St Augustine
- Tour America | Washington DC
- Tour America | Wynwood
4. National Parks & Monuments (AZ)
- Tour America | All National Parks (list)
- Tour America | Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Tour America | Death Valley
- Tour America | Dinosaur
- Tour America | Everglades
- Tour America | Glacier
- Tour America | Grand Teton
- Tour America | Great Sand Dunes
- Tour America | Mesa Verde
- Tour America | Rock Mountain
- Tour America | Yellowstone
- Tour America | Yosemite
5. Plan your vacation to America here
- Itineraries compare | TUI, Americaplus, sawadee en Djoser.
- Motorhome rental companies compare | WorldWideCampers.com
- Fly & drives compare | Americaplus.
- Cruises and city trips compare | Travel deal.
- Flight tickets compare | Skyscanner, TUI, KLM. as KAYAK.
- Rental cars compare | Sunnycars, Alamo en rental cars.
- Tours and Activities compare | GetYourGuide.
- Camping sites reservation| RECREATION.gov
- Hotels & Resorts reservation | Booking.com.
- SIM cards order | USAsim en International sim.
- Parking at airport | Parkos, Central parking of park care.
- travel items (suitcases, world plugs, etc.) | Bol.com.
Why New York City?
- Recognition and why not? - Why not? I usually say that when people ask me why I do what I do. However, for New York City, I don't have to joke about the how and why. New York City is a city that everyone knows without actually having been there. A city that many people have on their walls at home and have seen in countless films and series. It is a city where you can walk around and recognize complete streets or parts of films and series. It therefore quickly feels like a home, far away from home.
- Unique city – The bizarre amount of high-rise buildings alone makes this city a unique experience. I just had a stiff neck from all the looking up the first day, no joke! I've also been to Dubai and yes, some of the buildings are taller… But no city in the world has managed to cram so many gigantic buildings into such a small area. There are streets with buildings over 50 stories on either side, as far as your eyes can see. Bizarre!
- Culture – The recognisability, the buildings and the mix of smells, colours, flavors and cultures make this bustling city perhaps the most popular city in the world to visit as a tourist. Every country, every faith and every culture is represented here. From the Dutch and English roots to Chinatown, Little Sri Lanka and Little Italy. All parts of the world come together here. That's why you really just have to be there once.
Why Avoid New York City?
As explained above, I think everyone should visit New York City once in their lifetime. But if you're looking for reasons to visit New York City above all cannot I can easily name the three main reasons.
- the crowds – People are everywhere. And places like Times Square can get really busy at times. Thousands of people in just a few hundred square meters is no exception here.
- the noise – New York City is not suitable for people who have difficulty with sudden, loud or busy noises. The honking of the cars in the traffic jam and the loud banging and sometimes painful metal scraping of the subway rails in the winding tunnels, just to name two.
- The price – As owner of Wereldreizigers.nl I have been to many places in the world. I have ticked off countless world cities and yet there is no city in the world where I have spent so much money in just a week. In Tokyo, paris, Dubai, Singapore And especially Hong Kong you will soon spend a lot of money on simple things like transport, food, drink and accommodation. New York, however, goes a step further. It is partly due to the fierce inflation of the past two years, but the city is currently perhaps the most expensive in the world.
Top 5 Things to Do in New York City
If you ask me the historical Brooklyn Bridge the number 1 landmark in New York City. The bridge dates from 1883† At the time, it was by far the longest suspension bridge in the world and it was the first bridge to connect Manhattan with Brooklyn. A brilliant piece of 19th century engineering. We had only just arrived in New York and the foggy morning made the party complete as far as we were concerned. What a great photo!
change in the early morning over the bridge. Then you have the bridge almost to yourself and turn around halfway so you can admire Manhattan! It was still very foggy, but slowly but surely the towers appeared.
Then complete your morning walk by walking all the way down the bridge and on the left in the neighborhood called Dumbo to shoot a real Instagram photo of that other famous bridge, the Manhattan Bridge.
From the Dumbo district you can then climb the stairs again up the Manhattan Bridge and walk back to Manhattan while the subways thunder past you with a lot of noise. The nice thing about this whole round is that from the Manhattan Bridge you have another great view of the Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan in the background!
It is a total walk of 1,5 to 2 hours and absolutely worth it. Buy a bagel and coffee-to-go at a Deli before you leave and you'll enjoy the best New York City has to offer – and it won't cost you anything!
2. 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower
It has been more than 20 years ago but 9/11 is still firmly burned into the minds of many. Likewise with me. What initially looked like a bad movie when I saw the first images of the crashed plane on live TV, quickly turned into a shock when I just saw the second plane crashing into the other building on live TV. Three billion people, almost half of the world's population, have seen it happen live on TV.
About 3000 people died in this attack and life in New York City has never been the same since. Almost everyone in New York knows a fatality. The cleanup and rebuilding of the neighborhood took a total of 14 years.
A large 9/11 Memorial and Museum has now been built on the site of the Twin Towers. The place where the two buildings stood are now waterfalls that disappear into a large hole in the ground. It represents the void that New Yorkers experience to this day, of the 3000 people who lost their lives on 9/11.
The Freedom Tower (One Trade Center), which now stands next to ground zero, towers 541 meters above ground zero. It's a bizarre sight next to this deep hole.
I could write a whole book about the 9/11 Museum and Memorial and why you should go there. If you've learned anything about 9/11 at the time, just go there. It's going to be two tough hours. Slowly you get to hear more and more intense stories and see images. Still, it's totally worth it because it's a horrific event that clearly left its scars on New York City.
Of course, you can't miss the gigantic building that towers over everything in New York City. It looks different from every angle. The building has 8 sides which is equal to the 8 sides that the square Twin Towers had together.
3. Top of the Rock
Anyone who comes across New York City on someone's Instagram or searches the Internet will soon come across a recognizable photo of the Empire State Building. These beautiful photos are almost always taken from Top of the Rock, the observation deck atop Rockefeller Center. I myself have been there and took some beautiful pictures at sunset. It's great to see with your own eyes that the city comes to life as soon as the sun goes down and all the lights are turned on.
You can of course also view the other side of the city from Top of the Rock. Below the view of higher Manhattan with the world famous Central Park in the middle.
I don't think I need to explain to anyone that this is one of the most popular sights/things to do in New York City. And that is especially true during the perfect hour, with sunset. Check in advance when the sun will set in New York City on your travel date and then book well ahead your ticket to Top of the rock. The perfect time is 30 minutes before sunset, so you have exactly what I showed above. Before, during and after sunset!
Tip:: Don't worry if you see a long line, just get in. In the meantime, they come to take people out of the line who can go upstairs at certain times (the people with reservation!). We were also allowed to go up at exactly the right time, just before sunset.
Skip the line! With these tickets you don't have to cannot to stand in line at the checkout. The ticket gives you expedited access to the observation deck of Top of the Rock on the 71st floor.
Tip:: book your ticket online now so that you can aim precisely for sunset. You can stay up for an hour and the best moment is 30 minutes before sunset so that you can see both a light New York and a dark and illuminated New York!
- Skip the line
- Same price as at the checkout
- Secure the best time
- Great view of Empire State Building
There are lots of trails to walk and hang out and it's free! Spanning over 40 blocks, it's easy to spend hours wandering or picnicking here. For us it was just a little too early for the latter at the end of March. In the spring and summer it will be extra fantastic here when everything is in bloom and all the trees are green again! Fortunately we had good weather and we saw some color in the vegetation here and there.
A well-known piece in Central Park is of course Bethesda Terrace with the famous red square with the fountain where scenes for countless movies and series have been shot. Some well-known films are: The Avengers, Doctor Who, Friends With Benefits and of course Home Alone 2!
During the spring and summer months, there are often free concerts and theater productions scattered throughout Central Park, so check ahead to see if there's anything to do during your visit! Renting a bike at Central Park is of course also possible. More on that later in this article.
Tip:: Are you going to New York with your family? Read the handy article with practical tips from Familieopreis.nl: New York with kids.
5 Times Square
Well, what can I say? It's so hugely famous, over the top, hugely lit and crowded. However, you can't miss it if you are in New York City. Go there to see it and take a fun photo for your social media timeline. Preferably in the evening when everything is nicely lit, of course.
By the way, you don't see many locals here. There are almost only other tourists. Stand or sit somewhere and just look around you. Not so much to all the gigantic lit billboards, but to all the different people you see around you. It will not disappoint you.
I may be too old for this by now at 37, but I just thought it was funny to see countless girls, fully dressed, in high heels in mini dresses (at 5 degrees Celsius), parading around for the perfect Insta photo to make. That people trip over each other while trying to shoot TikTok videos in the crowd and that you are asked 25 times if you want to buy a joint. It completes the madness of this place!
Note: Beware of anything that seems too good to be true in Times Square. It probably is. Do not buy tickets or activities from street vendors. They prey on tourists here. If you do, you risk being credited multiple times, getting less than you paid for, or getting ripped off altogether. And if you want to take a picture with the costumed characters in Times Square, they'll demand money from you.
Other Things to See and Do in New York
Besides the well-known hotspots mentioned above, there is of course much more to see and do in New York City. I promised you the ultimate free New York City travel guide to be, so here we go! Below are another 24 (!) of the coolest things to see and do in New York City if you've already checked the top five above.
1. Dine at Stardust Diner
After the top 5 sights in New York City, it is the #1 tip I can give you in this travel guide. Go eat here!!! It's not a real attraction, but it is a piece of American entertainment while you eat. Stardust Diner is a real American diner with fun, varied live performances. A place where countless Broadway stars have started!
You have to eat anyway, so why not during a live performance by an up-and-coming Broadway star? Go there and it will not disappoint you. Expect long queues at the door. Waiting an hour is more the rule than the exception here.
Stardust Dinner you can here found on Google Maps. It's close to Times Square, so that's perfect to combine!
Tip:: Stardust Diner has comparatively much more 2-person tables than large tables and security regularly removes couples or groups of two people from the queue. If you are in a group, split up! It will significantly reduce your waiting time.
2. Staten Island Ferry (Statue of Liberty)
Isn't that two-hour line to see the Statue of Liberty appealing? Walk a few blocks to the Staten Island Ferry. This one free ferry takes you across the harbor and offers fine views of both the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline. The journey takes approximately 20 minutes each way. So no expensive tour needed!
3. Empire State Building
At 381 meters high, the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest skyscraper in New York. It is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the city. In 2022, the building will be the 6th tallest in the United States† The building was the tallest building in the world from 1931 until the construction of the World Trade Center's North Tower in 1971.
You are probably familiar with the photo below, taken in 1932 when the construction workers of the skyscraper were having lunch on a large steel beam – without any safety measures.
Extra free travel guide tip: The photo above can be found copyright-free on Wikipedia almost 100 years later, if you want to print it yourself for the living room! Download the photo here .
Not only is the history of this imposing building really cool, the observation deck on the 86th floor is also definitely worth a visit. You get the ultimate 360 degree view of Manhattan from this building because it is very centrally located and you can walk all the way around on the observation deck.
Skip the line! With these tickets you don't have to don't stand in line at the checkout† The ticket gives you expedited access to the Empire State Building's observation deck on the 86th floor.
Tip:: book your ticket online now so that you can aim precisely for sunset. The best moment is 30 minutes before sunset so you can see both a bright New York and a dark and illuminated New York!
You are of course not the only one who thinks this way, so these tickets are often already sold out. So be there on time!
- Skip the line
- Same price as at the checkout
- Secure the best time
- See a 360 of Manhattan
4 Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is the city's historic train station. It was supposed to be torn down in 1975, but was saved by Jacqueline Kennedy, which raised money for its preservation. You may not expect it but the gold-plated clock in the middle of the hall is from real gold and is such a 20 miljoen worth dollars.
The hall itself is gigantic and almost completely covered with shiny marble and the hall is not the only thing that is covered with this beautiful natural stone. All tunnels, escalators, shops and even toilets adjacent to the hall are made of the same precious material. It is incredible to see how well maintained and preserved it all has survived.
Before you leave, also take a moment to look up. There you see beautiful paintings with stars and constellations of which you see more and more the longer you look.
No New York City travel guide or travel blog is complete without a photo of Wall Street. Take a picture with the famous statue of a charging bull (made in 1989) and then walk to Wall Street and see where all those bankers have destroyed the economy on several occasions, most notably in 2008. Personally, I didn't think it was worth it take a picture of the bull or the statue of the girl in front of the building. Especially because there were fences and hordes of people around it. It's nice to just look around you as people zoom in and out of buildings on their way to the next financial disaster. It doesn't get more American than this.
6. Hop on hop off bus
It's really cheesy and something all tourists do, but there's a reason these buses are on every continent in the world be so popular. First of all, they take you from A to B and do so in a way that also shows you something of the city. From a high double-decker bus you see the streets and buildings from a different perspective. It's a nice change from the times when you race a subway through the dark tunnels of New York and barely see anything of the streets.
Beforehand we consciously looked at the weather, which would be a sunny day. That day, of course, we sat at the top of a double-decker bus catching rays of the sun and taking pictures!
Choose a route through lower, middle or upper Manhattan and switch to the route that runs through Brooklyn in the meantime. The route through Middle and Upper Manhattan also comes in Harlem where many Dutch roots can be found.
That is also the reason why I always like to get on a Hop-on-hop-off bus. You also get to know something about the city and its history as you drive around and take pictures.
The Hop-on-hop-off bus in New York costs about 55 dollars per person for 24 hours, but you can often score an offer via the button below. The price is then with a bit of luck around 40-45 dollars per person.
- Explore the city from an open double-decker bus
- Get off where you want
- Learn about the city
- Less fun in bad weather
- Chance of traffic jams during rush hour
7. Circle Line Sightseeing Boat Cruise
At the New York City Pass you can opt for a tour of Circle Line! We also bought this pass because of this activity. For the perfect time, with sunset of course, we had to pay an additional $5 USD per person for the sunset, according to the website on site. However, when we were there, no one asked…
you step here on the boat and sail around Manhattan, under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and past the Statue of Liberty. The tour lasts about two hours and gives you a unique view of the city skyline from the water.
During and just after sunset I took some fantastic photos of lower Manhattan. The buildings were full of color from the setting sun, which still reflects heavily on them.
8. Just walk around
You really don't have to walk from Point 1 to 2 to 3 in New York City, just like every travel guide says. Just walk east to west or south to north without a plan and admire the beautiful architecture of New York City. Without realizing it, you'll pass amazing places like Grand Central Station, Union Square, the New York Times Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flat Iron Building, and more. There are so many historic buildings in New York City that just wandering around and looking at them is a fun activity for any budget traveler.
You don't have to look for famous or special buildings. You just meet them! We went out twice early in the morning in Manhattan and were amazed without looking for anything in particular. We had a foggy morning, and every few minutes a new tower emerged from the fog, or one disappeared.
9. Take a walking tour
A great way to orientate yourself on the city is with a city tour. You will learn some history, discover where the main attractions are and explore every nook and cranny of the city. I think free walking tours in any city are a great activity. If you are on a budget I recommend Free Tours by Foot .
10. Rent a bike at Central Park
Central Park is so big that it is actually impossible to see everything on foot. Therefore rent a bicycle† You can cycle around Central Park in an hour if you are brave. Of course don't do this! Stop along the way for a picnic, visit one of the many squares, the castle, the ponds and just look around you!
Cycling in Central Park is a wonderful activity, especially for a Dutchman! Watch the short video below for an impression of Central Park by bike.
Renting a bike at Central Park is possible here starting at $15.
11. Relax at Battery Park
Located on the southern tip of Manhattan, this park is where the Dutch lived in 1625 FortAmsterdam built to defend their settlement. The British took over the area in 1664 and eventually renamed it Fort George. While the fortress was largely destroyed during the Revolution, the battery was expanded after the end of the war. Today there are more than 20 monuments and plaques in the park, explaining all about the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. You can wander around the fortress and then stroll through the surrounding park and enjoy the beautiful water views of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
12. Hang Out At Prospect Park
Get out of Manhattan and explore Brooklyn's version of Central Park, which spans nearly 600 acres. While you're here, don't miss the nearby Brooklyn Museum. Spend the afternoon exploring the extensive collection of both historical and contemporary art and artifacts (there are over 1,5 million items in the collection). It has art exhibits on Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, Colonial USA, and more. Tickets are $16 USD.
13. The Highline (park)
The Highline (location here ) is a popular park 9 meters above the street on an old railway line, overlooking the river and the city. The park connects the Greenwich neighborhood with Chelsea and the Hudson Yards. It is a fun and interesting way to walk in an artificial park with all kinds of art objects. The park is very well maintained by volunteers with a nice photo opportunity around every corner!
14. Rockefeller Center
This area is always filled with crowds and not just because Top of the Rock is the observatory on top of this building. Wander through Rockefeller Center to see where they film “The Today Show” among other things. Shop around in the shops of expensive brands between the black walls and the many golden details.
15. Attend a recording
While you're here, attend a recording! TV shows such as America's Got Talent, Saturday Night Live, The View, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon feature free tickets for their admissions (although they need to be reserved well in advance). See each show's websites for details and to make reservations.
- America's Got Talent
- American Ninja Warrior
- Late Night with Seth Meyers
- Little Big Shots
- The Tour of NBC Studios – New York
- Saturday Night Live
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
- The Amber Ruffin Show
- The Late Show with Steven Colbert
- The Voice
16. Attend an NBA or Baseball Game
When you are in America, of course you visit a sport that is very big here. We chose because it is still cold, and because it is in the middle of Brooklyn, for an NBA (basketball) game of the Brooklyn Nets.
That everyone stands with their hand on their chest to the national anthem and of course the cheerleaders + time-out shows are all part of it, this is real American culture!
Also read: The Biggest Sports Games in America in 2023
The tickets are also not that expensive at the top of the stadium, I bought two tickets via SeatGeek (similar to Ticketswap), for $27 USD each. After all kinds of fees and taxes, this turned out to be $89 in total, but that aside… I bought tickets via Seatgeek, and on the day of the game I saw the ticket price drop from $39 to $27.
Budget tips: make sure you go in full and without thirst because for the two beers (or half liters) we were allowed to pay 34 dollars, without tip! Hatsiki idea!
17. Visit Jazz Bars
There are plenty of Jazz bars serving classic drinks and playing live jazz and swing music. While the chic cocktails they serve may not come cheap ($15-25 USD), you can count on a great old-fashioned atmosphere here. Stepping into these bars with the music, people dancing and everyone smartly dressed takes you to an era when everything was classy, carefree and fun. Some of the Favorite Jazz Bars in New York City are The Back Room, Pharmacy, The dead rabbit en bath tub gin.
18. Attend a Broadway Theater Show
Many people come to New York City to see a Broadway show. There are plenty of great shows on just a few blocks here. From grand musicals to traditional Shakespeare to bizarre, unusual shows. It's such an integral part of New York life that you just have to experience it.
Through this website you can see the best offers from all current Broadway shows. After purchasing the tickets online, you no longer have to queue at the box office.
Online offers are common, especially if the shows are still relatively new. When it's almost sold out, the prices go up quite a bit so be there in time.
- Unique experience
- You don't have to queue at the checkout
- Good offers online
- Also guided tours
- Popular shows are pricey
19. Visit Radio City Music Hall
This timeless proof of entertainment has fascinated visitors since the XNUMXs (at the time it was the largest hall in the world). The Radio City Music Hall has also been the venue for all sorts of award shows, including the Tonys and the Grammys. Tours run daily from 9.30:17.00 AM to 30:35 PM and cost $XNUMX to $XNUMX USD.
20. New York helicopter tour
It's not an option or activity for someone on a budget, but if you're willing to pay $165 to $220 USD per person, this could be the coolest bucket list experience of your life. Flying in a helicopter is very cool in itself and above a city like New York it is an experience you will never forget!
Yes, it's a lot of money. However, if you consider that an average hotel in New York City already costs 150 dollars a night and that you will probably soon forget that hotel, it is different with a helicopter flight. Book that flight here and make memories for the rest of your life.
The original Trinity Church (location here ), built in 1698, was a small parish church built by the Church of England. When the British took New York after George Washington's retreat, it was used as a British base of operations. After the war came George Washington en Alexander Hamilton here regularly. Dating back to the 18th century, the cemetery is where many famous Americans, including Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth, Francis Lewis (signer of the Declaration of Independence), are buried.
What makes Trinity Church worth visiting is the stark contrast of a 16th-century structure between all those modern skyscrapers of Wall Street.
22. Hip Hop Tours
New York City is the city of the east-coast Hip-Hop Scene. Think big names like Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, NAS, 50-cent and DMX. All these stars saw their careers begin in Harlem or Brooklyn New York. It is not for nothing that various tours are offered which take you deep into the neighborhoods, where you learn and experience everything about Hip-hop history. It's a great way to get to know New York City's hip-hop scene. Hush-Tours is the most popular provider, tickets are here to find.
Also read: East Coast vs. West Coast | United States
23. Visit the Museum of Modern Art
Go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa – location here ), for a lot of beautiful and rare modern art and some lively impressionist art. Personally, I don't like modern art. I just don't "get" it. While I'm personally not a fan, this museum has Van Gogh's Starry Night and other Post-Impressionist art. If you like modern and contemporary art, this is (I'm told) one of the best in the world. Admission is $25 USD and tickets are here available from the official website.
24.Lower East Side Tenement Museum
This museum shows how immigrants from all over the world lived during the late 1800s and early 1900s when they tried to make it in America† You can only visit this museum via guided tours and these must be booked in advance. The great thing about this museum is that it uses live actors to portray and share the stories of newly arrived immigrants as it makes the experience much more memorable. Admission is $30 USD and tickets are available through the official website.
What does New York City cost?
Hotels, hostels and AirBnB
Hostel prices – During the high season in the summer, a bed in a shared dorm can be found from $50 USD. Out of season prices are closer to $40 USD. A private room costs around $95-130 USD per night and doesn't fluctuate much between seasons. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities.
Budget hotel prices – Budget two star hotel rooms start at $95 USD. Also at budget hotels the price fluctuates less violently between high and low season. Prices are slightly higher on weekends, but not shocking. Expect basic amenities such as TV, air conditioning and a coffee maker or kettle.
Mid-range hotel prices – A mid-range hotel of three to four stars in New York can easily cost $150 USD on a weekday and $250 USD or more on the weekend. The price per night in these hotels also fluctuates wildly based on supply and demand. These hotels are by definition a lot more expensive in the high season and the well-known school holidays.
AirBnB – There are plenty of Airbnb options in New York City. Private rooms start at $50 USD per night, while a full apartment averages closer to $150-300 USD per night. Make sure you book well in advance if you want to find a good deal, often these are already fully booked and you will notice that almost nothing is available shortly in advance.
Tip:: always look carefully at the additional costs at AirBnB. Sometimes you think you are cheap, but after all the extra costs (cleaning, taxes, handling fees, etc.) you are still just as expensive or more expensive as a hotel.
Food and drink
Street food – New York has food in many price ranges. Pizza slices can be found on the street for as little as $3 USD. A bagel with cream cheese or a hot dog is usually around $3-5 USD and with egg, bacon and cheese $6-8 USD. There are plenty of street vendors with quick meals around $6-10 USD. Small sandwich shops, kebab shops, salad shops and quick cafe meals are generally $10-12 USD.
Mid range restaurants – You can eat in a mid-range restaurant for $18-30 USD per main course, including vegetarian dishes. Dinner for two with drinks usually averages about $80-100 USD and a beer is about $8 USD.
High end restaurants – prices just go straight up from here as New York City has some really chic and expensive restaurants. I mean, you can pay $500 for dinner here if you want to. But there are also many high-end restaurants where you can go for around $50 USD per main course, or pay $150-200 USD for a few courses and drinks.
drink – Beer costs about $8 USD, while a latte / cappuccino costs an average of $5 USD, even at a coffee shop or Starbucks. A liter bottle of water is $2-3 USD and yes, usually in the supermarkets such as Walgreens and Wholefoods.
Metro – The subway is by far the cheapest way to get around in New York City. A MetroCard costs $1 USD once and then you pay $2,75 USD each way. All those one-way tickets can add up, so if you're in New York for several days, you will in most cases save money by immediately purchasing an unlimited week ticket, which costs only $33 USD. You can simply buy this at any metro station at a vending machine.
Yellow cab Taxi – Taxis have not been this cheap in New York City for a long time. Streets full of yellow taxis are outdated. This is due to the city's excellent metro network and increased fuel prices. A ride in a normal taxi therefore quickly costs $30 USD from lower to central Manhattan. From Manhattan to Brooklyn, also about $30 USD.
JFK Airport Taxi – Do not pay too much for a taxi from the airport. Our own experience has shown that the regular Yellow Cabs are the cheapest in most cases. From JFK to Brooklyn is about $50 USD. Middle Manhattan is about $70 USD and Lower Manhattan (where we were) about $80 USD. I don't know if it was the day or time, but Uber and Lyft taxis from the airport were a lot more expensive at the time, coming in at $130+ USD from JFK to our hotel…
Uber/Lyft Taxi – We also took an Uber or Lyft taxi a few times. As far as we could see, these were almost the same in price – and more importantly – with the regular yellow cabs. We did find these apps very useful to see approximately what a ride should cost and you can have a taxi in front of you within a few minutes wherever you are.
bus – There are also many buses in New York. However, these are often intended for longer journeys or places where no metro is available. Tickets cost about $7-15 USD, depending on your destination. If you don't need to be in the outlying areas, you're better off with a MetroCard.
Nobody talks about it, but one of the things that makes New York City and the US in general so expensive is the constant tip that is expected of you. In the USA is the minimum wage not what we are used to in The Netherlands† You simply cannot make ends meet in the hospitality industry or passenger transport and that is well known. Therefore you are expected to standard to give a 20% tip† It's kind of an unwritten rule in this country.
If you pay for something in a burger joint and you see the bill on the screen, it is standard in your image whether you want to tip 18, 20 or 23%. This is also the case with an uber or taxi. Tipping is not the first thing that comes to mind when budgeting for a trip… In the US you should definitely do that because 20% can be quite a bite out of your budget. You need food every day and transport almost every day.
Tax not included
Another silent killer for your wallet in New York City is the taxes. This is often not included in the price that you see. In the Netherlands we are accustomed that the price in the shop, in a diner or restaurant is inclusive of VAT. In the US it is often different. We once had to pay $30 USD for two wraps and two drinks, after the Tax fees and tip it was suddenly $45+ USD. That's a bit scary! After a few misses, we really started to pay more attention to whether or not this was included in the price.
Tips to save money
Okay, now you know that New York City can destroy your wallet in a short amount of time. It's expensive and you can run out of money very, very quickly if you're not careful. It is mainly the small things that you lose more and more money than you are used to. Bottled water, a beer, a quick bite in between, a taxi and yes, that tip and taxes-not-included are adding up quite a bit… Yet there are also many ways to enjoy New York City without having to worry about it. your body costs.
Free City Tours – Taking a free City Tour is the most fun and the best way to get to know the city. You get to see the main sights and ask all your questions to a local guide. It costs nothing in principle, but a somewhat substantial tip is expected! Give $10-15 USD per person and the guide will thank you. You really won't find it cheaper than that in New York City.
Buy a MetroCard – I already mentioned it in the transportation section, but just buy a 7-day unlimited MetroCard for $33 at the first subway you see when you arrive in New York City. It will save you a lot of money!
Buy cheap theater tickets Broadway tickets can easily cost hundreds of dollars, especially for the new and popular shows. If you don't necessarily want to see a certain show but do want to get the Broadway experience: the TKTS booth in Times Square offers 40-50% off select shows. You just have to go to the counter to see what they have. Be prepared to wait in line for about an hour.
Free Museums – NYC is full of some of the best museums in the world. In addition to the MoMA, many offer free admission on certain days of the week: the Whitney Museum of American Art is pay-what-you-wish on Thursday afternoons. It Solomon R. Guggenheim museum has pay-what-you-wish donations between Saturdays from 16.00 to 18.00 p.m. and the Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design has a pay-what-you-wish policy on Saturday nights.
eat cheap (and healthy) – It's very Dutch; we often just spread our own sandwiches for the afternoon. Complete packed lunches were in our bag when we hit the road again! Buy fruit, bread, cheese, chicken fillet, snack peppers and snack tomatoes at the Walgreens of whole foods and make your own ultimate healthy sandwich. Almost every hotel room in New York City has a fridge where you can keep your food and drinks cool.
It is not only a lot cheaper but also a lot healthier because what they say is true: almost everything you buy on the street or in a restaurant in America is fried, baked, salty, sweet and fatty.
New York City Pass – With this sightseeing pass you have access to a number of real top attractions with a high discount. Planning to see several popular attractions can save you a lot of money. The top-selling pass costs $129 USD per person and gives you access to five top attractions. A variant of the pass (the C3) is also available, featuring three top attractions for a price of $87 USD. We also bought this pass and went with it to Top of the Rock, the 9/11 museum and did the Circle Line cruise.
Visit 5 major New York City attractions with significant savings. You will receive the mobile tickets (QR code) directly in your mailbox and you can then schedule the attractions yourself at the day and time that suits you.
Enjoy popular attractions such as Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History for a deeply discounted price!
- Choice of real top attractions
- Substantial savings (40%)
- Plan attractions yourself
- Tickets via QR
- Also available for 3 attractions
couchsurf – Accommodation is expensive in NYC and with few hostels there aren't many options for a budget traveler. Use a hospitality website like Couchsurfing to stay with the locals for free. There is a huge network in the city with tons and tons of hosts. Apply as far in advance as possible to increase the chance of success!
Bring a water bottle – Tap water is safe to drink in New York City, so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. The water here has a slightly different taste than in the Netherlands with a slight hint of chlorine. If that bothers you, use a LifeStraw! Lifestraw is my favorite brand because their bottles have built-in filters to make sure your water is always clean and safe. They cost about 40 euros and are here for sale.
Transportation in New York City
Metro – New York and its boroughs (and parts of New Jersey) are easily accessible by subway. You can get everywhere you want to go via the metro. You need a MetroCard to get around and you need to put a minimum of $5,50 USD on the card. Fares for each trip are $2,75 USD. You can buy a 7-day unlimited MetroCard for $33 USD. That means you only need to use the metro 12 times to get your money's worth!
bus – If you cannot get to your destination by metro, the bus will take you there. Like the subway, the fare is $2,75 USD, but an express ride is $6,75 USD.
Ferry – The Staten Island Ferry is an important piece of transportation for locals going to and from work. It works 24/7 and is free† The NYC Ferry Service is also a reliable way to commute, connecting Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx along the East River. The ferries make many stops along the East River and cost the same as the subway.
Bike – You can bike almost anywhere in New York City, especially if you want to explore the major parks like Central and Prospect. Citi bike is the bike sharing system. From $3,50 USD per 30 minute ride or $15 USD for 24 hours. There are about 10.000 bicycles scattered around the city, so there is always one within reach!
Taxis – Taxis are certainly not the cheapest option for getting around New York City. The minimum fare starts at $2,50 USD and quickly increases every minute depending on how fast you go and how far you drive (and you usually don't go very fast, so I'd skip them).
Ride sharing – Uber, Lyft and Via are theoretically cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don't want to take a bus or pay for a taxi. Via, Lyft and Uber sometimes offer 'ride sharing' as an option, where you share a ride with other people. This can save money, but will also take longer. Via is the cheapest option.
Car rental -
Sunnycars is based in the Netherlands and is by far our favorite choice for car hire when traveling.
At Sunnycars you can rent a car carefree without having to worry about conditions and insurance.
Sunnycars only offers all inclusive car rental. This means that all prices you see include all other costs, coverage and insurance.
- All inclusive car rental
- Dutch company
- Worldwide offer
- Rent a car without worries
- Not always the cheapest
Best time to visit New York City
Anytime is the best time to visit New York! Each season offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit the city. Early fall offers fresh breezes, bright sun and comfortable temperatures, while late fall and winter are merry with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and of course the countless Christmas decorations.
The winter – January and February – are cold, with temperatures between -7 and -5 °C. But coming in winter means better hotel rates, ice skating and hopping between cozy cafes and bookstores.
Spring – is glorious! New Yorkers celebrate the end of winter by taking to the streets, shopping at open-air markets, frolicking in Central Park, and dining al fresco. We were there at the end of March and with every ray of sunshine that came through it was just visibly busier on the streets and in the parks.
The summer – is hot (with average daily temperatures around 25-30 °C). In the summer there are many festivals, food trucks, packed parks and barbecues. But this is also the time when New York is sold out: literally. The prices are therefore considerably higher than in the early or late season.
Personally, I think the early and late seasons (April-May and September-October) offer the best experience: there are fewer crowds and the weather is pleasant, averaging around 13-17°C in spring and 11-25°C in September and October. Walking around to take pictures is a great way to see the city, but when it's sweltering hot it can be a challenge. However, if you like the heat then summer is the time to visit!
Safety in New York City
Remarkably relaxed and safe! We have never felt unsafe in New York City. However, we were not on the road at night and we were always back at the hotel before 23 p.m. Your main concern in New York City is probably pickpockets operating in the crowded areas.
Every now and then you come across a bum, but this was really not that bad for me. In Nijmegen, where we come from, I don't see that many anymore near the central station and I thought that was remarkable.
If something doesn't feel right or unsafe, leave. Trust your instincts. New York City and especially Manhattan, Harlem and Brooklyn are basically safe enough to just walk around without a plan.
New York City Hotels
Accommodation is expensive in New York and there are not many hostels in the city. If you're staying outside of Manhattan, accommodation costs can drop by 30% or more if you book in advance. These are my recommended places to stay in NYC:
Low price range (Pods and Yotel)
- Yotel New York City– View prices
- Pod 51 – priceen view
- Pod 39 – View prices
- Pod Times Square – View prices
- Hilton Garden Inn Central Park South – View prices
- Hilton Garden Inn NYC Financial Center/Manhattan Downtown – View prices
- DoubleTree by Hilton New York Downtown – View prices
Higher price range
Quite a story, but you made it! Believe it or not, it took me almost a full week to write this all out and find and insert the perfect photos. I also searched for the best links and Google Maps locations so you know exactly where to go, where to order your tickets and how you can possibly save money. I sincerely hope you find this free travel guide useful during your visit to New York City!
Tip:: save this Free New York Travel Guide Before you leave, save it in your favorites so that you always have it at hand and use the table of contents at the top of the page to quickly find certain things.
As a last footnote I just want to say that this website is ad free† Yes, there are affiliate links here and there that sometimes earn me 10-20-30 cents if you actually book something through my links… But I really can't handle that. Apart from the affiliate links, the website is completely free of flashy banners and annoying pop-ups. I'd like to keep it that way! So if you appreciate this huge travel blog, please consider making a donation. What is this free travel guide worth to you?
It is arranged within a minute, and for me it is vital. Without you, this website cannot exist in its current form.
Have fun in NYC!
Plan your vacation to America here
- Itineraries : TUI, Americaplus, sawadee en Djoser.
- Motorhome rental companies : WorldWideCampers.com
- Fly & drives : Americaplus en Travelworld.
- Cruises and city trips for America you book with Travel deal.
- Flight tickets for America you book with TUI, KLM, KAYAK en Skyscanner.
- Rental cars : Sunnycars, Alamo en rental cars.
- Tours and Activities in America you book via GetYourGuide.
- Camping sites in National Parks you book on RECREATION.gov
- Hotels & Resorts in America you book with Booking.com.
- SIM cards : USAsim en International sim.
- Parking at the airport you can arrange via Parkos, park care of iParking.
- travel items (suitcases, bags, world plugs, etc. can be ordered at Bol.com.