My Guide To New York City (On A Budget!)
Everyone knows that New York City is utterly fabulous – it seems like the city is the setting for a good 50% of films, TV shows and books nowadays, so unsurprisingly, it holds a very exciting image for my generation. I have recently come back from an 11 day stay in the City That Never Sleeps, and can vouch for the fact that it really is fabulous, but to be honest, I don’t think I’d want to live there unless I was rich (I touched on this in my earlier updatewhilst in NYC). But never fear, economically challenged readers, I made sure to suss out the best ways to spend my time/fill my tummy whilst keeping as many dollars in my wallet as possible, and rest assured, I’m going to share my findings with you all here.
Free samples. Most students are pretty good at finding these, and they are EVERYWHERE in NYC. Sometimes, I barely needed to buy a meal because I’d filled up on so many testers. A lot of the time they are just on the street outside food shops, sometimes you have to go inside (it’s a good idea to suss out the deli counters in non-chain stores) and markets often offer lots to try. However, Chelsea Food Market had very few. This is possibly largely to do with the fact that it’s not really a market like we have here in the UK, but more of an indoor mall for food shops. Classy foodshops. In a trendy mall.
- Inside Chelsea Food Market
It’s also quite de rigeur for people to ask to try different flavours in ice cream/froyo places, so don’t feel bad about asking to do so. My friend and I walked past the same shop that sold chocolate covered fruit multiple times every day, and every time we did so there was someone standing outside offering free samples, and needless to say we had one each time. Heck, sometimes we made detours on our journey just to walk past the shop in the hope of a sample. Don’t judge. We always got one.
- 2 Bro’s Pizza. I had to dig in before taking the pic. Sorry.
$1 pizza. There are many places in NYC that offer a huge slice of pizza for just $1 (plus maybe 50 cents more for a topping), so don’t even think about going somewhere that charges more than $2. You’re probably thinking “What? $1 pizza? That must be disgusting!” But no, it’s really very delicious. The chain you want to go to is called “Two Bros”, as it really is the best. It’s not a classy restaurant, but at $1, who’s complaining?
$2.50 falafel pittas. There are various places that do deals like this, but I have found the best, and it is undoubtedly Mamoun’s. The queues are always going out of the door (but worry not, they move pretty quickly), and there are two locations in NYC. Check out the website to find them. Pitta bread stuffed with falafel, salad and some sauce – simple but deeeee-lish!
- woohoo Starbucks knows my name!
It’s all about the tap water. All restaurants and cafes will give you free tap water, thank goodness. And if you do want to buy perhaps a soft drink of some sort, do it at the little delis that are everywhere (more like mini grocery stores than English style delis), as it’s much cheaper. However, the aforementioned Two Bro’s Pizza does a two slices of pizza + can of “soda” deal for $2.75, which is pretty awesome. Needless to say I pounced on that multiple times. For basically all of my stay in the city, it was over 30C, so there was a constant need to hydrate. Luckily, Starbucks are happy to give out cups of iced tap water. I also used them a lot for their free wifi and loo (usually nicer than the McDonalds one too, but both offer free wifi).
- The most beautiful shop on 5th Avenue. Henri Bendel.
I had so many free make-overs throughout my time in New York. There are tons of department stores (Bloomingdales and Henri Bendel were my faves!), a Sephora on practically every block and individual make-up shops, like Benefit, and they are all willing to show you their latest products… on your face. Interestingly, in Sephora in particular, they expect you to try all the products out yourself, and it’s full of ladies putting their faces on. They even have special little desks for doing your nail varnish. NAIL VARNISH! You almost would never need to buy your own make-up! My favourite make-up brand is Perfekt. It is INCREDIBLE, and much more widespread in America. It’s expensive, both here and in the US, so I can’t afford to buy my own, but I made the most of being able to try it out multiple times.
Staten Island Ferry
- The Manhattan skyline from the ferry
- The Statue of Liberty from the ferry
This is really great: a free 25 minute ferry ride to Staten Island, going past the Statue of Liberty and offering incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge. It goes every half an hour. Compared to expensive cruises, I think this is a kajillion times better. Need I say more?
- The pond in Central Park
In the summer in particular, there are lots of free activities going on in the main parks, such as Bryant and Central. From Shakespeare in the Park, to Maroon 5 concerts via impromptu street performers and yoga classes, all you have to do is look it up beforehand. And this brings me nicely to…
The friend with whom I was staying discovered this great company called Yoga To The People, which offers loads of yoga classes multiple times a day at various different locations across the city, and as they’re aiming to make yoga accessible to everyone, you pay on a “donate what you can” basis. You can even rent your own mat from them for a couple of dollars too.
Galleries, Museums and Exhibitions
A lot of the big museums offer free entry for a few hours on certain days of the week, so if that’s your thing, it’s definitely worth checking it out before paying for a ticket. I went to the free exhibition at The Fashion Institute of Technology, which had this fab Barbie exhibition amongst others:
Of course, some things in NYC you just have to splash out for, like clothes, manicures (I got mine for $8 though!) and massive brunches. But as you can see, there are ways to keep costs down and still make the most of the city. Does anyone else have any top tips for doing New York on a budget? Or holidays in general? Studenty holidays can be just as fun as millionaire ones, as far as I’m concerned. Just with a little less Champagne.