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MintLife Blog > Travel Tips > How To Tour New York on a 25 Dollar Budget

How To Tour New York on a 25 Dollar Budget

Travel Tips

New York City is often said to be one of the most expensive destinations in the world to travel to. While there are crazy expensive adventures to be had – like this $1,800 helicopter tour – NYC is also a city you can easily traverse on a budget.

I recently took to the city with only $25 in my pocket for the whole day. Here were my goals:

  • Spend a full day exploring like a true tourist
  • Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner while out
  • Grab a drink somewhere
  • See a show

Sounds impossible with a budget of $25, right? Read on to find out how I did it and tips for traveling like this in other big cities around the world. Don’t forget to watch the video above for a complete recap of my day and more insider tips.

Note: This budget didn’t include transport all day or your hotel accommodations.

Morning & Breakfast $4

Instead of splurging on fancy eggs in an upscale breakfast joint, I grabbed a coffee and bagel to-go at one of NYC’s delicious bagel shops. Here is a list of my favorite bagel spots, but NY bagels are a step above the rest, don’t be afraid to try something off-list. From there, I wandered into Central Park for a quick stroll. Not only is it a peaceful way to start the day, but also a great look into local life. Residents stroll with their dogs, live music can be found under every bridge and, of course, the scenery is downright gorgeous.

Make it work in other cities:

Almost every major tourist city will have a beautiful park to explore. London: Hyde Park. Amsterdam: Vondelpark. Barcelona: Park Guell. You get my point. For food options, consider grabbing some grub in a supermarket or from a local street vendor. If you’re renting an Airbnb, plan ahead and make sandwiches the night before.

Early Afternoon Activity $1

After the park, head to the MET where admission is ‘pay what you wish’. You can choose to pay the full amount ($25) or literally nothing. (I paid $1 to enter) The best thing about stopping at a free, or cheap museum, is that you don’t feel like you have to spend your whole day there since you didn’t pay much to get in. See the classics, wander a bit, and then get out and enjoy the rest of your day.

Make it work in other cities:

Before you travel, make sure to google ‘free museums in X’. Preparation is key and normally you can find some really cool museums to explore or, at the very least, what days are discounted at the top museums.

Late Lunch $6

From the MET, I jumped down to 53rd and 6th for The Halal Guys, some of the best street food in NYC. Not only is it cheap, but it’s also legendary. These guys have gone from one stand on 53rd, to over 6 stands on that square block alone. Plus, you can find carts all over the city and a couple brick and mortar locations. By the way, street food is not only fast (meaning you get back to exploring quicker) but also incredibly filling.

Make it work in other cities:

Don’t be afraid to ask around. Your hotel concierge, a hostel employee, or Airbnb host are all going to have their favorites. Also, they are going to know the best place to find them and the best time to go!

Happy Hour $6

After lunch, I hopped on Foursquare to find a nearby bar for happy hour drinks. I located a great spot with $4 beers and $5 wines – a steal for midtown, or anywhere in Manhattan really. Oh, and even though it’s cheap, don’t forget to tip!

Make it work in other cities:

With so much research to do before you head out, this is the activity I suggest searching for in the moment. I live and die by Foursquare. You can search restaurants around you, not only by food type but also by keywords like happy hour or drink specials. Or, be old school, and keep a keen eye out for signs outside of bars while you walk around.

Showtime $7

Most travelers think this is where you will bust your budget. And they are probably right. Even the cheapest Broadway tickets will cost you around $30, and you may have to win those in a lottery. Instead, I suggest hitting up a comedy show and if you’re in NYC then definitely check out UCB. This comedy club is known for churning out some of the top talent on TV today. Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, and Nick Kroll all got their start at this improv comedy club. Shows cost as little as $7 (or less!), have no drink minimum, and are hilarious.

Make it work in other cities:

Standup, or sketch/improv shows, are generally going to be your cheapest option. Google away and ask around about local theater and off the beaten path shows. You may even find some great free shows but make sure you read the fine print – they may have a drink minimum.

Dinner $1

With my final remaining dollar, it’s time for me to grab some late-night dollar pizza. Also, a tourist attraction within itself, look around at the different walks of life chowing down on cheap greasy pizza beside you. If you’re in NYC, here is a list of the best places to find dollar pizza all over the city.

Make it work in other cities:

Dollar pizza is pretty specific to NYC – I mean we do have the best pizza in the world. But, if you’re looking for late-night, cheap eats, stick around the streets that are lined with bars. You’ll be sure to find something hot and greasy to conclude a long day exploring.

Coming up

Stay tuned for my next video, everything I learned while splurging in South Africa.

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