Being a tourist in New York City isn't cheap. With costly accommodations and big-ticket dining and entertainment experiences, a weekend trip to the city that never sleeps can add up quickly. If you’re wondering how to budget for your trip to NYC, look no further. Here’s how much you can expect to spend on accommodations, food, tourist attractions, entertainment, transportation and more.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
There are several items to consider when budgeting for a tourist trip to New York City, such as accommodations, food, tourist attractions, entertainment, transportation and more.
Calculation Accommodation Costs
First thing’s first. You’ll need somewhere to stay. Accommodations are one of the biggest expenses for your trip to the city. For budget travelers, there are cheaper options available if you are flexible. Expect to pay $40 to $100 per night for lower-end accommodations such as hostels, dorms, budget hotels or rooms in shared Airbnb properties.
For mid-level budgets, hotel rooms run for $200 or more per night. More expensive rooms can cost $300 to thousands of dollars per night. If you’re not a dorm person but you’re looking to save money, consider staying close by in Brooklyn or New Jersey for cheaper accommodations.
City Transportation Costs
Cabs and Ubers are convenient but expensive. A taxi trip from JFK International Airport to anywhere in Manhattan will cost you a flat fare of $52, plus tolls and any relevant surcharges – and that’s not even including the tip. Meanwhile, taking the subway or a bus will cost you just $3 if you buy a single ride or $2.75 if you purchase a refillable MetroCard. Note that purchasing a MetroCard carries a one-time fee of $1.
Another affordable transportation option is Citi Bike, which operates bike kiosks around the city. Citi Bike costs $3 for one ride of up to 30 minutes or $12 for a day pass of unlimited 30-minute rides in a 24-hour period. Of course, walking is the cheapest option, but it isn’t always possible in a massive, sprawling metropolis like NYC.
A Variety of Food Expenses
Food is a category in which you could spend as much or as little as you want, depending on the experience for which you’re looking. There are always cheap eats available if you know where to look. In the East Village, for example, there are many pizzerias selling $1 plain slices. However, if you’ve traveled all the way to NYC, you’re probably going to want to take advantage of some of the city's unique culinary offerings.
For budget meals from food trucks or other takeout restaurants, expect to pay $3 to $15 per person for a meal. For mid-range restaurants, you'll spend around $70 for two people to eat a nice brunch. Finally, for higher-end experiences such as tasting menus with world-renowned chefs, you’ll shell out $90 to $325 for a dinner.
Tourist Attraction Costs
NYC has no shortage of tourist attractions, and they can really add up. A typical museum visit costs around $25 per person, while a ticket to the roof of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock will set you back around $40 per person. If you plan on visiting many of the city’s top tourist offerings, consider purchasing a CityPASS or a New York Pass. These passes allow you to visit several of the city’s top attractions for a discounted rate, such as the Guggenheim and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
Also, these passes will save you time. You won’t have to purchase tickets, and in many cases, you can even skip the line. The New York Pass also includes a hop-on-hop-off bus to get you from attraction to attraction. These passes can save you a ton of money and frustration. Make sure to check Groupon and other coupon sites for even more savings.
Cost of Entertainment
An average Broadway ticket will run you $109 per person, but it can cost hundreds more for hot shows like Hamilton. To get cheaper theater tickets, you can try your luck with TKTS, a discount ticket booth offering same-day tickets at 20 to 50 percent off face value. There are locations in Times Square, South Street Seaport, downtown Brooklyn and Lincoln Center. Check their website for their hours and make sure to go early in the day for the best selection.
If Broadway is not your thing, NYC has a wide range of entertainment. Check out a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade for $10 to $15 per person, or catch a concert at Rockwood Music Hall, where live music reigns every night and most concerts cost just $10 to $20 per person.
Shopping in NYC
If you love shopping, New York City has everything you need. From major fashion designers on Fifth Avenue to unique boutiques in SoHo, the city has something for every shopper. That said, NYC designer shopping is not cheap. If you’re on a budget, check out the thrift and vintage shops in the Village or hit the Chelsea Flea Market, open on weekends. If you’re more interested in the big department stores, Macy’s offers out-of-town visitors a 10 percent off pass, which you can print online before your visit.
Free Stuff to Consider
The good news is that not everything in NYC is expensive. There are many free activities available too. Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and see gorgeous views of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty for no charge. Check out one of the city’s many famous parks like the High Line and Central Park. While not technically "free," the Metropolitan Museum of Art is pay-what-you-wish.
So, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to see one of America’s most treasured art museums. There are plenty of free entertainment items to choose from as well. Central Park’s Shakespeare in the Park series boasts free tickets, but you’ll have to stand in line early in the morning to grab them. Throughout the warmer months, parks in NYC are chock full of free concerts and activities. Check out their websites to learn more.
Chelsea Levinson earned her B.S. in Business from Fordham University and her J.D. from Cardozo. She has been writing professionally for more than ten years. She has created personal finance content for Bank of America, H&R Block, Huffington Post and more.