New York City Travel Guide

Looking out onto Central Park in New York City, USA on a clear and sunny day
New York is the most visited city in the United States and for good reason.

It’s famous for….well, just about everything, New York City is the beating heart of the world — which is why I call it home. Every culture, language, and food is represented here.

Unsurprisingly, there is a never-ending list of things to do here. No amount of time you spend in NYC will be enough so don’t worry about running out of things to do. You could spend a lifetime exploring the city and never really see it all. And, whatever your interest, no matter how obscure, you can find it in NYC.

As a budget traveler, visiting NYC can be tough, especially when you don’t know the hidden tricks that make living here affordable. There are plenty of things to do that won’t cost you an arm and a leg — if you know where to look!

This travel guide to NYC can help you make the most of your visit, get off the beaten path, and not break the bank.

Top 5 Things to See and Do in New York City

Looking out onto Central Park in New York City, USA on a clear autumn day

1. Meander through Central Park

It’s free, there are lots of little paths to walk, and, since it spans over 40 blocks, it’s easy to spend hours upon hours wandering around or having a picnic. During the summer months, there are often free concerts and theater productions here too. From the spring to the fall, there are free guided walks on Saturdays as well. Personally, I’m a big fan of laying out in Sheep’s Meadow on a hot, sunny day with a book, some food, and a bottle of wine. If you want to take a guided tour around the park to learn more about the statues and sculptures, ponds, parks, and famous filming sites, take a guided tour with Get Your Guide ($25 USD). It will really give you a good understanding of the park.

2. Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

On September 11th, 2001, almost 3,000 people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in NYC and elsewhere. Visit this somber memorial and take in the view from the Freedom Tower. On the elevator up, you can see pictures of the historical development of the city and how it’s changed over the years. To get a deeper understanding of 9/11 and the events that unfolded, visit the museum. It’s home to moving exhibits that illuminate the scope and significance of the tragedy. The memorial is free to visit; museum entry is $33 USD (free entry Mondays from 3:30pm-5pm but tickets must be booked online). Get tickets beforehand so you can skip the line and save time!

3. Visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met is one of the foremost collections of fine art in the world. If you only see one museum in New York, make it this one. It has a wide array of art, artifacts, photographs, and other exhibits from around the world. There’s a whole collection of armor and another dedicated to costumes. You’ll see pieces from the ancient world as well as contemporary art. I like its expansive Impressionist and Greek exhibits, but there are more than 490,000 works of art on display. It’s chaotic and filled with people, especially on the weekend, but since it is so big, you can usually find some quiet spots away from the crowds. Budget at least a half-day here as a few hours won’t do this place justice. Admission is $30 USD and you can buy tickets in advance.

4. See the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty is a massive Neoclassical statue gifted to the USA from France. It was dedicated in 1886 and stands 305-feet tall (95 meters). It was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi though its metal framework was built by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame). It’s spectacular to see up close and is as big as you imagine, but the real highlight of this combo is Ellis Island. Here, you can learn about the immigrant experience and get a sense of the people who helped build NYC (you’ll even find my family’s name inscribed on the wall). There’s such a great sense of history there that you can’t help but be impressed. Admission is $25 USD.

Here’s an overview of what the tours are like.

5. Walk the High Line

The High Line is a converted train track that is now an urban walking park. It goes from 34th Street down to the Meatpacking District (and vice versa). Lined with overlooks, gardens, public art, food stalls, and greenery, this walk is one of the best things to do in the city, especially on a nice day. Go for a walk, sit with a book, and people-watch — the High Line is a must-see and a true favorite among locals. You can also take a guided tour of the High Line if you want to learn more about its history and the history of the surrounding area.

Other Things to See and Do in New York City

1. Take a walking tour

A great way to orient yourself to the city is with a walking tour. You’ll learn some history, see the main sights, and explore all the city’s nooks and crannies. I think free walking tours are a wonderful activity in any city (I always take them when I arrive somewhere new). If you’re on a budget, I recommend Free Tours by Foot. For paid tours, go with Take Walks. They have specific tours in the city that focus on art, food, and history, and they are pretty affordable too. (I wrote a whole blog post about New York City walking tours that you can check out here.)

2. Ride the Staten Island Ferry

That two-hour-long line to see the Statue of Liberty not appealing? Walk a few blocks to the Staten Island ferry. This free ferry takes you across the harbor and offers a nice view of both the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline. You won’t get to stop at Ellis Island but you’ll get a nice (and free) view while you enjoy the historical route that New Yorkers have been taking for centuries. The ride takes about 20 minutes each way.

3. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get a picturesque view of the New York skyline and harbor. It’s a long walk, but good food and drinks await you on the other side. Stopping to take in the view and meandering along the way makes the walk about 40 minutes. I enjoy doing this walk at night when downtown Manhattan is all lit up. Otherwise, come early to beat the crowds. It’s a super popular spot for taking photos so be sure to bring a camera (or you can hire a NYC photographer if you really want to snag some impressive pics).

If you want a more nuanced experience, take a guided tour across the bridge. Not only will you learn some fascinating history but your guide can show you all the best spots to take photos.

4. Museum hop

New York City has dozens upon dozens of museums worth visiting. You have The Met, Natural History Museum, the MoMA, Frick, Guggenheim, the Museum for African Art, Museum of the City of New York, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (a branch of the Smithsonian Institution), The Whitney, The Brooklyn Museum, and so many more! Pick the ones you want to see the most and visit those unless you have weeks in New York to see them all. Admission varies, but expect to spend around $28 USD per person per museum.

5. Visit Radio City Music Hall

Is there a more American theater than Radio City Music Hall? This timeless testament to entertainment has captivated visitors since the 1930s (at the time, it was the largest auditorium in the world). It’s the home of the precision dance company The Rockettes, who have been performing here since 1932. It’s also been the venue for all kinds of award shows, including the Tonys and the Grammys. There are still concerts, comedy shows, and other entertainment happening all the time. Check their website to find out what’s happening during your visit. There’s also an hour-long tour you can take that will get you behind the scenes to see the Great Stage and The Roxy Suite. Tickets start at $42.

6. Take in the theater

You can’t come to NYC and not see a Broadway show. There are tons of amazing shows here from grand musicals to traditional Shakespeare to offbeat shows. There’s nothing better than witnessing NYC theater, and it’s such an integral part of life here you should check it out. Current highlights include Hamilton, Chicago, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Six, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Lion King, and more. Most shows have performances roughly eight times per week. If there’s a specific one you’ve been wanting to see, you should be able to find a time while you’re in the city. Visit the TKTS booth in Times Square to get half-price tickets. To see what shows are playing during your visit, check out

7. Wander Times Square

No matter when you go to Times Square, it will be packed with people (usually other tourists). There are pedestrian areas where you can sit and hang out and tons of (overpriced) restaurants and stores. It’s still a fabulous place to people-watch for a few minutes from the top of the red steps of the TKTS kiosk. Try to come at night when it’s all lit up with all the signs and neon lights. That’s when it looks the best!

8. Experience the Prohibition Bars

I love the 1920s. One of the reasons I love NYC so much is because there are tons of other people here who love the Jazz Age. There are lots of Prohibition-style bars serving classic drinks and hosting live jazz and swing music. While the fancy cocktails they serve may not be cheap ($15–20 USD), I’m hooked on the atmosphere. Stepping into these bars with the music playing, people dancing, and everyone dressed the part transports me to an era when things were classy, carefree, and fun. Some of my favorites are The Back Room, Apotheke, The Dead Rabbit, and Bathtub Gin.

9. Visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

This museum highlights how immigrants from around the world lived during the late 1800s and early 1900s as they tried to make it in America. It’s a good follow-up to what you see on Ellis Island. You can only visit this museum via guided tours, and they need to be booked in advance. The museum is actually an apartment building that’s been used to recreate the living conditions during different periods of the city’s history. Each tour tells the story of a different family and what their life was like here during their time. The tour will take you through apartments that have been recreated to match the time period of the story. You can choose from tours that highlight women or specific immigrant groups. I like that live actors are used to portray and share the stories of newly arrived immigrants as it makes the experience much more memorable. Tours last 60-75 minutes. Admission is $30 USD.

10. Visit Trinity Church

Built in 1698, the original Trinity Church was a small parish church constructed by the Church of England. When the British seized New York after George Washington’s retreat, it was used as a British base of operations. After the war, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton regularly worshipped here. The graveyard dates back to the 1700s and holds many a famous Americans, including Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth, Francis Lewis (signatory on the Declaration of Independence), John Alsop (Continental Congress delegate), Albert Gallatin (founder of NYU), and Horatio Gates (Continental Army general).

11. Head to Top of the Rock

This area is always filled with hustle and bustle. Wander around Rockefeller Center to see where they film The Today Show, shop, snack, and then take the elevator to the “Top of the Rock” for a bird’s-eye view of the city (I personally think the view is better than the Empire State Building since you get the Empire State Building in your pictures). Tickets cost $40 USD.

12. Just wander

Walk from the east side to the west side and marvel at the beautiful New York City architecture such as 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 to see! You can talk a walk past the United Nations Headquarters on the East side of Manhattan. Madison Square Garden and Chelsea Market are great spots for wandering on the other side of the island. In lower Manhattan, you can grab a slice of pizza in Little Italy or take in the bustle of Chinatown. Just wandering around the city and seeing what there is to see is a fun afternoon activity for every budget traveler.

13. Relax in Battery Park

Located on the southern tip of Manhattan, this park is where the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam in 1625 to defend their settlement. The British took the area over in 1664 and eventually renamed it Fort George. While the fort was mostly destroyed during the Revolution, the battery was expanded after the war’s end. Today, there are over 20 monuments and plaques in the park, covering everything from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to immigration and much more. You can wander around the fort and then stroll through the surrounding park and take in the beautiful waterfront views of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.

14. Visit Wall Street

Take a photo with the famous charging bull statue (which was created in 1989) and then walk to Wall Street and see where all those bankers destroyed the economy. There’s heavy security in the area, but you can sit and watch people whiz in and out of buildings on their way to cause some other financial disaster. Guided tours around Wall St with Get Your Guide cost $35 USD and cover the highs and lows of the (in)famous finance hub, highlighting the lives of famous elites from John D. Rockefeller to Warren Buffet. I found the tour really interesting!

14. See Federal Hall

One of the most overlooked museums in the city sits across the street from the NY Stock Exchange (NYSE). Federal Hall, built in 1700, is where George Washington took his oath of office. You’ll see the Bible that was used when he was sworn in as president, which was loaned to him from the local Masonic Lodge. It was the site of the US Customs House in the late 1700s and the first capitol building of the US. Though the original facade was rebuilt, it’s one of my favorite attractions in the area. I especially love the old vaults. I highly recommend you visit. Admission is free.

16. See Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is the city’s historic train station. It was going to be torn down in 1975 but was saved by Jacqueline Kennedy, who raised money for its preservation. I love coming to the main concourse and looking up at the “stars” in the ceiling as everyone races to and fro. There’s also an amazing eatery in the basement called the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant. And for fancy (and expensive) cocktails, visit The Campbell and step back into the 1920s (dress code enforced). It was once the office of John W. Campbell, a member of the New York Central Railroad’s board of directors and finance tycoon from the 1920s.

17. Visit The Cloisters

Few people make it up to the Cloisters (it’s up near 204th Street), a branch of the Met devoted to medieval Europe. It took me years to finally see it, and I kicked myself for waiting so long. It was built with Rockefeller money from parts of five European abbeys between 1934 and 1939. (They even stipulated that the land across the river would forever remain undeveloped so the view would be unspoiled!). The building and its stunning cloistered garden are very, very peaceful, and beautiful. It’s one of the best things to do in the city. There are free tours each day that explain the history of the museum and the paintings and exhibits. Admission is $30 USD (which includes same-day entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

18. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Head over to the MoMA for lots of beautiful (and weird) modern art and some vivid impressionist art. Personally, I dislike modern art. I just don’t “get” it. How is a shovel on a wall art? While I’m not a fan, this museum does have Van Gogh’s Starry Night as well as other post-impressionist art, so I can’t hate it completely. If you love modern and contemporary art, this (I’m told) is one of the best in the world. The galleries display works from the 1880s through the modern day. The museum regularly has events that are interactive for kids, teens, and adults. They also show films as part of their art exhibitions. Check their website to see what’s on while you’re visiting. Admission is $28 USD. The MoMA’s Sculpture Garden is free of charge to the public daily from 9:30am–10:15am.

19. Hang out in Prospect Park

Get out of Manhattan and explore Brooklyn’s version of Central Park, which spans almost 600 acres. While you’re here, don’t miss the nearby Brooklyn Museum. Spend the afternoon discovering its vast collection of both historical and contemporary art and artifacts (there are over 1.5 million items in its collection). It has art exhibitions highlighting ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, colonial USA, and more. Tickets are $20 USD.

20. Visit the Bronx Zoo

Head north for a look at one of the oldest and biggest zoos in the United States. Opened in 1899, the zoo spans almost 300 acres and sees over 2 million visitors each year. Home to over 650 different species, it’s a great place to visit with kids. Gorillas, birds of prey, bison — there is a huge assortment of animals here and you’ll definitely learn a lot during your visit! Admission is $37.95 USD. Tickets are $17.95 USD on Wednesdays.

21. See a Yankees/Mets/Rangers/Knicks game

Like sports? NYC has some world-class sports teams. I’m not a big sports fan (the Yankees play soccer, right?), but games are fun when you have friends to share the experience with. If you have a chance and the desire, don’t miss a sporting event, because New Yorkers are serious about their local teams!

22. Attend a taping

TV shows like 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 offer free tickets to their tapings (although they must be reserved well in advance). See each show’s website for details and to make reservations.

22. Talk a walk through Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood in Brooklyn was the first rural cemetery in the US and is now a National Historical Landmark. You’ll see graves of famous Americans like the Roosevelt family, Laura Keene (she was one of the actresses on stage when Lincoln was assassinated), and many others. There’s a free map at every entrance so you can easily find where you want to go in the 478-acre grounds. This was also the site of the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War. The grounds are open year-round and free to visit.

23. Visit the Louis Armstrong House

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong and his wife lived in this house on 107th Street in Queens which has been turned into a museum, which opened to the public in 2003. The main exhibition features Louis’s life, career, and impact within the musical and local communities. Other exhibits show the collection of music, photographs, recordings, and other personal items from Louis and his wife, Lucille. You’ll even see a trumpet that Louis gave to King George V of England. There are guided tours available for $20 or you can walk through the exhibit on your own for $10.

(Hey there! Wait one second! Did you know I also wrote an entire guidebook to New York City filled with – not only even more detailed information on the things included on this page but also itineraries, practical information (i.e. hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, prices, etc.), cultural insights, and so much more? It has everything you want in a guidebook – but with a focus on budget and cultural travel! If you want to go into more depth and have something to take on your trip, click here for more about the book!)


New York City Travel Costs

The Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline as seen from the water in New York
Hostel prices – Hostel dorms with 6-8 beds cost between $40-65 USD per night. Private rooms start around $75 USD per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Only a couple hostels include free breakfast.

Budget hotel prices – Budget two-star hotels start at $120 USD per night during the winter and about $160 USD a night the rest of the year. Expect basic amenities like TV, AC, and coffee/tea makers. If you want cheaper accommodation, it’s much better to stay in Hoboken/Jersey City or Brooklyn, where there’s more budget options. In Manhattan, accommodation is going to be the most expensive, especially if you come during the summer, where most hotels are around $200 USD or more per night.

Airbnb is technically banned in NYC for anything under 30 days, unless the host lives there. Private rooms start at $80 USD per night but average closer to $130-150 USD, especially if you want to stay in Manhattan. For entire places, you can still find some listed online but Airbnb is constantly trying to remove those in order to comply with the law. I’d try to avoid them.

Food – New York has every kind of cuisine you can think of — and at every price range too. This is the land of cheap eats and $1000 dinners! Post-COVID, prices have risen a lot and, while can get pricey here, there’s still a few cheap ways to save.

Pizza slices can be found for as little as a dollar, though typically they cost around $3 USD for a slice of cheese and about $5 USD for one with a topping. A bagel with cream cheese or a hot dog is usually around $3-5 USD. The famous “BEC” (bacon, egg, and cheese) sandwich will cost about $10 USD. There are plenty of street vendors with meals between $5-10 USD.

Sandwich shops, kebab places, salad shops, and cafes are generally going to be between $15-20 for a meal.

You can eat a sit down restaurant for $15-25 USD per main course. Appetizers can range from $8-15 USD. Dinner for two with drinks usually averages around $100 USD. This is any random place in NYC that’s not too fancy. Think the random Mexican, Thai, or Italian place you walk across. For sushi, you’re looking at about $40-50 USD for a meal (though you can get lunch specials for around $15 USD) and about $100 USD for an omakase.

If you like fast food (I don’t), you can usually find value meals for $10-15 USD.

Prices just go straight up from there as NYC has some really fancy and expensive restaurants. I mean, you can pay upwards of $350 USD for a prix-fixe dinner! main courses at many high-end restaurants can sometimes be $50 USD each! If you were to go to a really fancy place, you’d probably spend at least $200 for two people, especially if you got drinks.

A latte/cappuccino is $5 USD while bottled water is $2 USD. For drinks, you’ll find beer for around $8 USD, wine between $12-15 USD, and cocktails for between $15-20 USD. (For tips on how to get cheaper drinks, see the money saving section below.)

If you cook your own food, expect to pay between $65-80 USD per week for groceries that includes basic staples like pasta, rice, vegetables, and some meat. Shop at Fairway for inexpensive groceries. If you don’t have a kitchen, Whole Foods and Wegman’s have really good prepared meals and hot / salad bars.

If you want some suggestions on where to eat, here’s a list of some of my favorites. For a complete list of suggestions (I have soooo many), check out my guidebook to the city!

Backpacking New York City Suggested Budgets

If you’re backpacking New York City, expect to spend around $100 USD per day. This budget covers a hostel dorm, public transportation, cooking your own meals, and free attractions. If you plan on drinking, add $40 USD more per day.

A mid-range budget of about $300 USD covers staying in a cheap hotel, eating cheap, enjoying a couple drinks, taking the occasional taxi, and doing more paid activities. You could probably lower this cost a bit (see the next section) but, given the price of accommodation, it’s the most realistic daily budget.

On a “luxury” budget of $600 USD or more per day, you can stay in a fancy hotel and do whatever you want! The sky is the limit after that!

New York City Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

New York City can easily drain your wallet. It is expensive and your money really, really quickly if you aren’t careful. Prices for everything have dramatically increased post-COVID. Luckily, this is the city of starving artists so there are always deals and ways to save. Here are some ways to save money in New York City:

  1. Take a free tour – Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get introduced to the city. You get to see the main sights and ask all your questions to a local guide. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end! This post on NYC walking tours can give you my favorite companies.
  2. Get a MetroCard – You’ll be taking the subway a lot and fares can add up. Get one of the Unlimited MetroCards and save yourself a bundle during your trip. 7-day unlimited cards are $34 USD.
  3. Get cheap theater tickets – Broadway tickets can easily run hundreds of dollars, especially for new and popular shows. The TKTS stand in Times Square offers 40-50% off select shows. You need to arrive at the counter the same day to see what they have but it’s usually a wide selection. Be prepared to wait in line for about an hour. TKTS also has offices at the South Street Seaport and in Brooklyn.
  4. Visit the museums for free – NYC is full of some of the best museums in the world. In addition to the MoMA, many offer free entry on certain days of the week: the Whitney Museum of American Art is pay-what-you-wish on Thursday afternoons, the Solomon R. Guggenheim has pay-what-you-wish between 4-6pm on Saturdays, the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design has a pay-what-you-wish policy on Saturday nights.
  5. Visit the tourism website – New York City’s tourism website has a great list of free activities, museums, and shows. Visiting their website can help you figure out what is free in the city. While NYC is expensive, there’s always free things going on. The tourism board’s website is a great place to find those things.
  6. Eat on the cheap – Between the food carts, dollar slice shops, kebab places, and cheap eateries (Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai are some of the cheapest places in the city) you can eat really cheap in NYC. Some of my favorite places to eat cheap are The Dead Rabbit (oyster happy hours), Percy’s Pizza, Noodle Q (Chinese food with big portions), and Gray’s Papaya (cheap hotdogs).
  7. Get the lunch special – Most restaurant in NYC have lunch specials and those are usually the best time to eat out. You can usually find set lunches for around $15-20 USD. Personally, I tend to eat at lunch and cook my dinners because it’s so much cheaper.
  8. Hit the happy hours – Happy hour is the best time to get discounted food and drinks in the city. We NYers love happy hour because it’s one of the best ways for us to save money while still going out. Drinks will be about 50% of what you normally find. I love the happy hour at The Gray Mare. For current best happy hours, try Eater. They have a good list!
  9. Consider getting the New York Pass – This sightseeing pass allows you free entry to over 115 attractions. If you plan on seeing a ton of attractions, this can save you money. A one-day pass is $134 USD per person while the two-day pass is $179 USD.
  10. Redeem hotel points – Be sure to sign up for hotel credit cards before you go and use those points when you travel. This is especially helpful in NYC because hotel prices are really high, especially since Airbnb has been banned. Be aware that most hotels charge parking fees if you have a car, and adjust your budget accordingly.
  11. Hit the oyster happy hours – Love oysters? Eat them during the happy hours that happen all over the city where they cost around $2 USD.
  12. Stay with a local – 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 locals for free. There is a huge network in the city with tons and tons of hosts. To increase the chance of success, request as far in advance as possible!
  13. Save money on rideshares – Uber and Lyft are 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.
  14. Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

Where to Stay in New York City

Accommodation is very expensive in New York, and there aren’t a ton of hostels in the city. Here are some places to stay in NYC:

For more hostel suggestions, check out my complete list of the best hostels in New York City.

And, to find out exactly where in the city you should stay, here’s a post that breakdowns the best neighborhoods in New York City.

How to Get Around New York City

People crossing the street on a busy road in Manhattan, NYC, USA
Public transportation – New York and its boroughs (and parts of New Jersey) are well-connected by subway. You can get to wherever you need to go, or close to it, via the subway. You need a MetroCard to get around, and you must put a minimum of $5.80 USD on the card. Fares for each journey are $2.90 USD. You can buy a 7-day unlimited transit pass for $34 USD. That means you just need to use the subway 12 times to get your money’s worth.

If you can’t get to where you’re going by subway, the bus will get you there. Like the subway, the fare is $2.90 USD, but an express ride is $7 USD (you can’t use a regular Unlimited Ride MetroCard for express rides).

The Staten Island Ferry is a staple of morning commuters. It operates 24/7 and is free. The NYC Ferry Service is also a reliable way to commute and connects Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx along the East River. The ferries make many stops along the East River and are the same price as the subway.

Taxis – Taxis are definitely not the cheapest option for getting around New York City. The minimum fare starts at $3.00 USD and goes up another $3.50 USD per mile. Skip them if you can. However, during peak times, they are cheaper than Uber since they have set fares.

Ridesharing – Uber, Lyft, and Via are way 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. The shared/pool option (where you share a ride with other people) offers even better savings.

Bike rental – You can bike just about anywhere in New York City, especially if you want to explore big parks like Central and Prospect. Citi Bike is a bike-sharing system, starting from $4.79 USD per 30-minute ride, or $19 USD for 24 hours. There are about 10,000 bikes all over the city, so one is always within reach!

Car rental – Car rentals aren’t super cheap here, usually costing around $45 USD per day. Unless you are heading outside the city, I’d skip the car rental. Public transportation is faster and cheaper. For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars.

When to Go to New York City

Anytime is the best time to visit New York! Each season offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit. Early fall offers crisp breezes, bright sun, and comfortable temperatures while late fall and winter make merry with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and holiday decorations.

Deep winter – January and February – is cold, with temperatures ranging between 18-23°F (-7 to -5°C). But coming in winter means better hotel rates, ice skating, and hopping around cozy cafes and bookstores.

Spring is glorious and New Yorkers celebrate the thaw by taking to the streets, shopping at outdoor markets, frolicking in Central Park, and dining outside. Summer is hot, with average daily temperatures around 77-86°F (25-30°C).

Personally, I think the shoulder seasons (April–May and September–October) offer the best experience: there are fewer crowds and the weather is more bearable, averaging around 56-63°F (13-17°C) in the spring and 53-78°F (11-25°C) in September and October. Walking around snapping photos is a great way to see the city, but doing so when it’s sweltering can be challenging. If you love the heat, however, then summer is the time to visit!

How to Stay Safe in New York City

New York City is a safe place to visit. Violent attacks are rare and tend to be confined to certain areas. And there’s not a lot of gun violence. Petty crime, like theft, around popular tourist landmarks and on the subway will be your biggest concern. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times.

During COVID, crime went up for a bit but crime going down now. There are very rarely instances of violence or crime in any place you’d want to go as a visitor. In Manhattan, most of Brooklyn, and Queens, the city is really safe and you’re unlikely to encounter any major crime. In all my years living in the city, I don’t know anyone that has had something violent happen to them.

That said, there has been a rise in homelessness and vagrants, especially on the subway so you’ll just want to follow the locals and stay vigilant. Most people I know don’t ride the subway after midnight just because there’s not enough people on it.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here. However, the standard precautions apply. For specific safety tips, consult one of the many solo female travel articles on the web.

Beware of anything that seems too good to be true in Times Square — it probably is. Try not to buy any tickets, massages, facials, or experiences from hawkers in the area. They prey on tourists here. If you do, you risk getting your credit card charged multiple times, getting less than you paid for, or getting ripped off altogether. Also, if you want to take a photo with the life-sized costumed characters in Times Square, they will demand money from you.

You can read about common travel scams to avoid here.

If you experience an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

New York City Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

GO DEEPER: Nomadic Matt’s In-Depth Budget Guide to New York City!

Nomadic Matt's Guide to New York CityThere’s a lot of free information online but do you want to spend days searching for information? Prob not! That’s why guidebooks exist.

While I have a lot of free tips on New York City, I also wrote an entire book that goes into great detail on everything you need to plan a trip here on a budget! You’ll get suggested itineraries, budgets, even more ways to save money, my favorites restaurants, prices, practical information (i.e. phone numbers, websites, prices, safety advice, etc etc), and cultural tips.

I’ll give the insider view of New York City that I got from living here! The downloadable guide can be used on your Kindle, iPad, phone, or computer so you can have it with you when you go.

Click here to learn more about my book on New York City!