What to do in NYC with a low budget

Traveling in the USA is a dream for a lot of people, especially from Europe, where everybody loves the American style and still lives with the idea of the American dream.  The problem is that – most of the times – it is really expensive and sometimes you can only dream about going beyond the ocean because of the crazy flight/hotel prices. Well, this is something I was really aware of but – when I had to decide where to spend a couple of months of self-discovery and internal growth – I knew in my heart New York City was my destination. And in two months, even if I didn’t have a great budget, I managed to do everything I wanted – and sometimes even more! So, how could I survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world? That’s a secret I really want to share with everybody.  


New York is a charming city, a place where is very difficult to get bored. But it is really not simple – especially for one-week tourist – to find low budget but still funny and creative things to do. Even if there are!  

Pay As You Wish System

Museums, “free” tours by foot, live music in clubs, the pay what you wish system is really appealing for everybody’s pockets! Nobody – especially in NYC – would ever judge you if you only can afford to pay 5$ for a museum or a tour. I had absolutely no shame! Traveling with a low budget can be tricky and difficult sometimes but possible! Especially when cities like the big apple offer tourists the possibility to do so.  


Several are the museums that support the pay as you wish system:
  • American Museum of natural history
  • The Cloisters
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Bronx Museum
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Queens Museum of art
  • The Whitney Museum
Others museums prefer to organize free tours once/twice a week, in order to offer the possibility to everyone to visit the museum completely free.
  • The Museum of Modern Art- free tour on Friday 4pm-8pm
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – free tour on Saturday
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum – free tour on Tuesday 5pm-8pm
  • Neue Galerie – free tour on Friday 6pm-8pm
Even Botanical Gardens, Aquarium, and Zoo are really fond of this method:
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden – free on Tuesday and on Saturday 10 am-noon
  • Bronx Zoo – Pay as you wish on Wednesday
  • New York Botanical Garden – Free on Wednesday
  • New York Aquarium – on Friday 3 pm – closing pay; as you wish

Free activity in Bryant park

The cloisters

This picture was taken during one of the free tours by foot in Hoboken


Free Tours By Foot

What better way to discover hidden gems of the city? Daily, this organization coordinates tours by foot in every part of the city: from Bushwick’s street art to Ghost tour in the village, from Thrift shopping to Broadway backstage tours, you can do everything you may desire and then decide how much the tour was worth it! And you know how many beautiful people you can encounter? It’s a very funny experience that can make you learn a lot about the City and where you can make friends and find travel companions!   Another incredibly beautiful free thing to do is to hop on the Staten Island ferry in order to wave and admire the Statue of Liberty from a very beautiful perspective. Imagine taking the ferry at sunset, looking at one of the most famous skylines in the world, taking pictures of the Statue of Liberty completely free!

View from the Staten Island Ferry

Where To Eat

When traveling with a low budget I really don't want to spend a lot on food. Still, I cannot eat in fast foods every day! NYC – especially its restaurants – is renowned to be quite expensive. But there are still ways to eat healthier without spending too much.


They are absolutely everywhere and offer soups, vegetables, chicken, fish, sometimes even sushi! Usually, you pay 10$99 for one pound of food, which is really convenient!  


To have breakfast without spending a lot – as it happens if you go to Starbucks or Pret a manger – you should really try Corvo. Everything costs 2$ and the coffee is REALLY good and always freshly roasted! Espresso, Americano, Latte, muffins, croissant… everything they offer is amazing and super cheap!

Burger Joint

If you are looking for a fancy but underground place to have dinner in you should really check BURGER JOINT out. This restaurant is really a hidden gem: located beyond a red curtain in one of the fanciest hotel in Midtown Manhattan, this is a place where you can taste one of the juiciest burgers of all times without spending 30$ or more. One Cheeseburger with fries and coke only 12$! The location is absolutely amazing: music from the ’80s, incredible burgers, and you can even sign the wall! Burger Joint is a great way to experience New York City with a low budget.  


East River Food Fair

Guacamole truck, fajitas, burritos, bao, noodles, nachos… Food Fairs are absolutely amazing! Not only you can eat a lot without spending too much but you can even try a lot of different food – something in your country doesn’t even exist! During these events, you can find trucks that offer delicacies from all over the world! This is something I highly recommend both for your pockets and taste buds!


Surfing the net is an easy way to find activities in the place you are visiting, but not always it is possible to know whether there is an event or not going on real-time. That’s why a group of young people decided to open a website where, by subscribing at the newsletter – you can be warned every day about the free activities around New York City.

The skint.com

This is a website that allowed me to go to free concerts, free debates, premieres and so much more! It’s very simple: you only have to subscribe and every day you’ll receive an e-mail concerning all the events going on that particular day! Thanks to the Skint I had the possibility to observe Saturn in Central Park, watch a movie outdoor, on a suggestive rooftop… completely free. And I wouldn’t even know about a lot of events around the city without it- just like the Metropolitan Opera opening night live in Times Square! This is a very useful tool to do a lot of different things and to experience something you would have never imagined!  

Chiara Lopresti

For being quite young I know exactly what I want in life: writing, travelling, doing a job that makes me happy and being surrounded by positive and inspiring people! My name is Chiara, I’ve just graduated from the Humanities in Milan and I’m very passionate about everything related to getting to know new people, new cultures and languages.