New York on a budget (with tips)

New York is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and an awesome city to explore on foot. 5 days in New York are just about the perfect amount of time to spend in the city at an easy pace. I had listed some of our expenses below.

Flight Ticket

Flight (Singapore airline)
SG to NYC, LA to SG1,516 SGD
NYC to SD500 SGD

Getting Around New York

New York has a wide network of buses, metro lines and taxis. The most convenient way to move around is by metro (known as subway), which runs 24/7. Tickets cost $3, but if you have a Metro Card you’ll pay $2.75 per ride.

Tip: Get the unlimited metro card (7 days) at 33usd.

You will need to buy a MetroCard to use the MTA buses and subways, which you can purchase at any subway station. One of our cards was not dispensed by the machine and the only way to get the refund back was to write in to the MTA..

By Subway/Bus:

The City’s rail and bus system is run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and known as MTA New York City Transit. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is inexpensive as well as being a great way to see sights throughout the five boroughs that make up the City. We visited Manhattan, Harlem and Brooklyn with MTA conveniently.

By Taxi:

Do download Uber and Lyft as a backup plan. We used Uber from EWR airport to our airbnb, as we can't seem to locate the airbus. Taxi cost around 70usd which is relatively affordable compared to the airbus (~top up 40usd). It is definitely a relief that we used a cab as it would have been so troublesome to navigate around the subway with our bulky luggages and stairs.

By Ferry:

New York is home to an extensive ferry system that can get you uptown or downtown in Manhattan as well as across the rivers to Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey.

NYC Ferry and NY Waterway are the two main ferry operators, with the Staten Island Ferry also available for commuting and sight seeing tours. The ferry that connects Manhattan to Staten Island is free, and you can view Statue of Liberty as well. The ride there and back lasts about one hour and the ferry runs frequently.  

Glad to know the above tip, or else we would probably take a cruise.

Accommodation

Airbnb is so affordable compared to the hotel. You can stay at Brooklyn or Manhattan. As most of our activities are in Manhattan, it makes more sense to be nearby. We found an affordable airbnb (~600usd for 5 days in December) at a fantastic location, but the reviews weren't too good due to the street noise.

We ended up staying at a Singaporean's apartment at 500usd for 5 nights, near Queens station. It was convenient, safe and quiet. It's important to stay at somewhere safe if your activities end quite late (10pm).

If you are visiting New York during non-peak season, your airbnb prices will definitely be cheaper than ours.

PlaceNightsCost (USD)Per night
LA5683137
OC324281
SD5508102
NY5661132

Attractions

There are attractions such as

  • Empire State Building
  • Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center Observatory) 
  • Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • A cruise that runs all over the island 
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) 
  • Guggenheim Museum 
  • Metropolitan Museum 
  • 11S Museum and Memorial 
  • Intrepid Sea, Air, Space Museum 
  • Madame Tussauds Wax Museum 
  • Tour bus (The purchase of the New York Pass includes the ticket for the Big Bus Hop-on Hop-Off tour bus)

You can purchase the New York pass and Broadway tickets on Klook. What I would like to do in New York was to watch Harry Potter on Broadway but 6 hours spent indoor wasn't too appealing for me. I would do that in London though! There's just too much captivating sights and experience in New York.

Oddly, we didn't enter the attractions that need a paid ticket as we would rather be exploring the streets of New York and they aren't a must do for us. There's just so much to do (we went to tons of farmer's market). Nevertheless, those paid attractions are on the list if we have spare time but we didn't have any. We made sure to walk past the iconic buildings and museums, as their exterior looks fantastic.

Food

The food in USA is affordable and filling. We went to iconic places and had beef pastrami, bagels etc. If we had a dine in meal, it cost around 50-70usd for 2 pax. Daily breakfast was so filling, that we could have skipped lunch and ate a little for dinner. But it's hard to resist all the delicious food so the bulk of our money was spent on food.

Cash/card

We brought 4K USD cash for 2 pax for a 3 weeks trip in USA. Youtrip exchange rate is better than Instarem. We had to use cash for food mostly. Purchases was used on card. We have 2K USD leftover, so do take note of your leftover cash and spend them if you like.

Expenses

Day 1

Cab from airport70.01
Cab to airport74.97
Food at the airport17.9
Coffee7.75
Train34
Essex market 13.07
Pastrami25
Smoked salmon23.02
Dried Pasta17
Cookie5
Napoleon2.5
Momofuku52.84
Mei Lai Wah3.8
Mochinut4.5
Kiwi2.99
Laduree3

Day 2

Hungarian Pastries10.2
Applecider2.5
Clinton Street Bakery58.79
Essabagel19.05
Pastrami25.57
Hot sauce7
Apple cider donut1
Pistachio cannoli21.8
Musketeer Chocolate6
2 pairs of glove20
Harry Potter shop40.29
Butterbeer13.07
Pasta9.3
Pizza9.69
Cheesecake4.29
Levain bakery12.5
Mille feuille bake12.65
Eataly12.8

Day 3

Honeynut3
Breakfast at Barney68
Zabar6.98
Apple, bread and cider6.5
Bag35
Fruits6
Italian food53
Hat8
Pistachio puff2.61
Tj maxx27.19
Eataly53.35
Dunking donut6.67
Coat79.99

Day 4

Pizza10.25
Lobster at grand central market25
Crab cake at grand central market21.12
Los tacos20.9
Milkshake7.35
Miznon26.74
Sasahimi21.78
Lobster at Chelsea market42.46

Day 5

Coffee at Harlem3.66
Mcdonalds7.87
Red rooster42.46
Takeaway breakfast3.29
Trader Joe12.44
Nuts at central park3.99
Chee cheong fun16
Aldi11.09
Lotless28.96
Nuts factory8.4

Day 5.5

Tart10
Bun1.65
Xian23.5
Roast duck29
Tacombi35.79

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