New York on a Budget

Yes, oxymoronic, I know! New York is not the kind of place you visit if your coffers are shallow, but trust me when I say that it really is possible to enjoy the city without breaking the bank. So yes, not only can you take your bite out of the The Big Apple at a modest price, but you can do it an still have tons of fun! Here are some inside tips, along with suggestions on avoiding the resident commercial pitfalls.

1. Getting around: Leave the vehicle at home! I’m serious. Go MTA! if you really want to enjoy your trip, of paramount importance, you must park the vehicle….somewhere….not in NY! Should I emphasise that? DO NOT DRIVE TO OR IN NY! Reasons abound.

First, you will not enjoy the trip because you will constantly be searching for parking, and then when you find one, you will spend hours trying to decipher the parking signs, then just when you think you’ve figured it out an you’ve made all the proper inquiries and checked Google, etc., you turn around and there is a boot on your car, and a white piece of paper gleefully waving at you from the windshield….total cost will be approx. $325, which you will have to pay immediately to release your vehicle. That experience will not only consume half of the day, but it would also sour your entire visit!

Then there is the issue of the tolls (approx. $42.00 just to get to the island, and $7.50 every time your go from one of the boroughs to Manhattan), and the rigged GPS system, which will continuously route you through every toll bridge, even if you are just within 2 minutes of walking distance from your destination.

For $103 dollars you can avoid it all with a 30 day unlimited pass for the bus and the subway. Staying only a short time? $31.00 will get you a 7 day pass. Beleive me when I say it is better than paying $2.75 per single usage. My suggestions: 1. get a good old fashioned map! 2. ride the subway……even from the airport, it is a great savings, as the taxi drivers will take you all over the city, and through insurmountable traffic to create a high fare. There are trains direct to JFK, and buses to LGA.

triboro and hellgate bridge, Astoria. photo taken from the train station en route to la guardia airport, nyc 2013
triboro and hellgate bridge, Astoria. photo taken from the train station en route to la guardia airport, nyc 2013

Oh, and did I mention the traffic you must fight if you drive? Nah! I won’t bother. you get the picture. But, if you are a die-hard and are determined that you must drive, then use the ”avoid tolls” option (yes, there is that option if you spend time understanding your phone (that fancy piece of equipment, for which you pay a princely sum, but use only for yakety-yaking!) whenever you plot your route on your GPS.

There are many other routes you can use to get to your destination while avoiding the toll bridges; however, they will be more lengthy and circuituous. Be cautioned also that the GPS system will, in the middle of your trip, continuously reroute you with the objective of directing you through the toll bridges; hence, I repeat – get a map, and print out your route before leaving home.

2. Sightseeing? Of course! You would not be here if you did not want to see the landmarks and take selfies to post on Fb and be the envy of your social circle. But remember that you are on a budget. Yeah, I hate to be Jiminy Cricket, but someone must!

Consider a New York City Pass. Whether you are here for one, two, or up to 10 days, and would like to see the sights, avoid the lines, and use the bus to get around, the NY Pass is definitely the way to do it. The cost is commensurable with the number of days, so for example, 1-day is $109, 3-day pass is $205, and a 10-day pass is $349, Not bad at all, right?

This includes about 84 attractions and is connected with the Big Bus Tour, where you can hop on and off all day at the various stop points for the attractions, or just to enjoy a walk  around the city. If perhaps you are the bike aficionado, you can tour the city on a bicycle at Blazing Saddles, a $49.00 cost, which is free for City Pass holders.

citibike next to citibank, directly across from bald man chocolate on Broadway, NYC
citibike next to citibank, directly across from bald man chocolate on Broadway, NYC
nyc, empire state building
nyc, empire state building

So you are a maritime person! Great, you will love the options that Circle Line City Tours have planned for you! I am as sea-faring as the next Viking, so with options that range from a 30-minute Beast Speedboat ride to the full 8-hour Bear Mountain Cruise (a modest $65.00 for the entire excursion), and many others in between (Harbour Lights Cruise, Liberty Cruise and even various holiday cruises) there is no way you will feel left out of all the fun, frolic, and adventure in this sleepless city of NYC.

nyc skyline from the city line cruise, nyc 2013
nyc skyline from the city line cruise, nyc 2013

Now here is the part you will love, remember that New York City Pass I mentioned above? Well, Circle Line Cruise is indeed one of the tours that is included! Yeah! How cool is that!? Essentially, for the same price you would pay to retrieve your vehicle after the first ticket ($325), you can get 10 days of attraction tickets, transportation, and a stress-free experience (keep in mind though that tickets are per person!).

Also included in the list of attractions is the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rocks, and a host of others, but I will save you some time and trouble with the various skyscrapers – seen one, you’ve seen them all! Think about it, how different will the city skyline vary from one skyscraper to another? Okay enough said, use your own discretion and decide which one you would like to visit, but don’t waste time in trying to get to all, as you may be disappointed, especially if you book them individually and opt to not get the City Pass.

3. Entertainment: Okay, we all love to be entertained, and you’ve out-grown the Facebook fanfaronade, so I will share with you one of my best kept secrets: Club Free Time! I share this sparingly, and so must you! For an annual fee of $20.00 (yes, I said annual), you can obtain tickets to many Broadway shows, concerts, symphonies, and other events for a meagre $4.50 per ticket. No, that is not a displaced decimal point, the tickets are truly four dollars and fifty cents each!

Seem too good to be true? Well, recently I enjoyed The Dingdong, The Quantum Eye, An Invisible Piece of This World, and Trip of Love, to name a few. And as you can see, the regular prices range from $30 – $68.00. No, I did not get shitty seats, au contraire mon frère , I enjoyed prime seating. You can enjoy these Off-Broadway shows also for a fraction of the usual ‘Broadway’ price.

on the brooklyn bridge, nyc, 2013
on the brooklyn bridge, nyc, 2013

4. Dining: Yes, we must get to the food, as it is an essential part of life, right? Okay, so here is the thing, since food is such a personal and particular experience, I will not venture to impose my own gustatory preferences upon you, but I will say that being such a melting pot (the paranomasia is purely accidental) of cultures, there are few places in New York where you will experience less than scrumptuous delights (well, we are not discussing the likes of McDonalds here!).

I will also add that with your handy aformentioned City Pass (I swear, I am not receiving any kickbacks from all of this promotion….hmm, maybe I should, right!?) you receive free admission to the Food on Foot Tour, where you will find a delightful array of New York’s favoured cuisine. The good part is that you dine as you tour (subway and foot), so no time is wasted, but the best part is, as mentioned previously, this fodder in flight is free with your NY City Pass (normally $49.00).

Admittedly, I have no reviews to offer about this experience, as I did not participate, but if you prefer to venture around the city and select your own meals when needed, I have heard nothing but raving reviews about the pervasive food carts that dot the streets of Manhattan.

Priced to suit the thrifty traveler, and complete with the on-the-go packaging, the steamy hotdogs, lamb over rice, gyros, kebabs, and a plethora of  savoury delectables will tempt even the most devout vegetarian. And I will admit here that every time I am in NY, I will indulge once, in a gyro…..there is always one with my name on it…and I have to oblige!

Okay, so I am conditioned. Good, I’ll admit, I am a conditioned American……yes, a contributing member of The Disciplined Society….but we are not talking about me, so let us not distract outselves with mindless chitchat, we can get on Twitter for that.

So there you have it, all the essentials – transportation, sightseeing, entertainment, and dining – a funtabulous way to experience and enjoy the Financial Hub without selling your soul to the gurus of Wall Street! You are now properly equipped to get to all 84 attractions on that City Pass, with some good shoes and lots of batteries for the camera. Buon viaggio!