Student Budget Guide to New York - New York City on the cheap
Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York!”
The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps- whatever you want to call, New York City means one thing: an unforgettable holiday. Here are some top tips for exploring the city without breaking the bank.
Transport: To get around the city, the subway is your best bet. An unlimited daily ticket is $7, and a one-week travel card costs $24 – well worth it if you're planning to see as much of the city as possible. Ignore scare-stories warning you to stay off the subway after 7pm: as long as you travel in numbers, the subway is perfectly safe after dark. Subway maps can take some getting used to, but if you remember uptown means all trains travelling north, and downtown all trains travelling south, you won't go far wrong.
Taxis are not cheap – with the heavy New York traffic and the compulsory tip, expect to pay $10 for even a short cab ride. Though you can't go home without at least once waving your arm out and hailing a ‘TAX-AY!!' Carrie Fisher-style.
Food: Most hostels don't serve breakfast, so a diner breakfast will set you back about $10 – not including the tip. New Yorkers don't do things by halves – and this includes their food portions. Don't let the twenty-stone American's spilling out of their seats nearby put you off your pancakes though – sure won't you burn up the calories sight-seeing! On the plus side, a traditional New York diner brekkie will fill you for the whole day, saving you the price of lunch.
There are restaurants and cafés in central New York to suit any taste and budget – vegetarian, burger joints, halal, even low-carb for the Atkins follower. Don't forget to tip - a 15-20% tip on the overall price of the bill is expected. Leave anything less than this and the waitress may run after you shouting “You must leave seven dollars, SEVEN DOLLARS!” Yes, that was kind of embarrassing….
Nightlife: New Yorkers prefer late bars to nightclubs. Most bars stay open until four or five in the morning. Greenwich Village has a good student scene, with dozens of bars to choose from. If you really want to dance, expect to pay a $20 cover charge for a decent club.
Drinks at a bar can be pricey, so buy some cheap beer at one of the many convenience stores before heading out. You can buy a six-pack of beer for as little as $4. Don't forget you must be over 21 to drink in the US – ID is essential.
As annoying as the whole “Aw my gaaawd, are you Irish? My third cousin's husband's mom is Irish!” is, my advice is: if you want freebies, milk your Irishness for all its worth. Get chatting to the bartenders, throw them the auld Irish charm and a cupla focail and begorra - sure you'll have a round of free drinks quicker than you can say “Top o' the morning to ya!”
If a night at a Broadway Show is your thing, be prepared to spend $60 dollars upwards for box-office tickets. Cheaper tickets can be found in Duffy Square at 47 th Street for shows on that day.
Accommodation: For the impoverished student, hostels are your best bet. Hostels can be found for around $20 - $35 a night, depending on whether you want a private or shared room. Don't be expecting the Ritz – but they are comfortable, clean and friendly. Book your accommodation before you go, especially in peak season -sleeping rough in Central Park is not recommended! Good hostels to check out are the Continental Hostel (330 West 95 th Street), the Big Apple Hostel (119 West 45 th Street) and The Wanderers Inn (179 East 94 th Street)
Shopping: Time Square has some good clothes shops, and the huge Virgin Megastore there has great discounts on c.d.s and DVDs. Fifth Avenue may be home to Tiffany's, Saks and Prada, but less expensive stores such as Zara, H & M and Old Navy can also be found nearby. Century 21 has some great bargains if you are prepared to rummage. Woodbury Common is a huge retail outlet located one hour outside Manhatten. Containing over 220 designer stores at discount prices, it's the bargain hunter's paradise. Buses leave several times daily from central midtown locations.
Things to do: Most of New York's attractions are to found in the borough of Manhatten. A sightseeing bus tour is well worth the ticket price - the guide points out things you would miss while on-foot. Tours stop at all the famous sights. Though time and money restrictions mean you can't visit every attraction NYC has to offer, here are some of the best:
The Empire State Building – 102 stories high, on a clear day you can see ships 40 miles out to sea, with a viewing tower on the 84 th floor. Avoid the Sky Ride – a virtual reality ride located in the building. A waste of the €15 cover charge if you are over ten years of age!
Times Square – the area roughly between 42 nd street and 53 rd street. Home of the famous naked cowboy, a huge Virgin Megastore, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, Times Square is a hub of activity day and night.
The Statue of Liberty - ferries for the Statue leave every 25 minutes from 8.30am-4.30pm from Battery Park. Perhaps the most recognizable icon of the USA, expect a long wait with queuing and security checks before boarding the ferry. Post 9/11 the statue's crown is not accessible, though you can climb to the observation platform at the statue's feet. The ferry continues on to Ellis Island, where you might find a long lost family member on the Immigrant Wall of Honour.
The Staten Island Ferry is free- and while there is not much to see on Staten Island you will get stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline. This ferry runs 24 hours a day.
Central Park – Probably the only place in the city you'll find some peace and quiet. It would take a week to view the whole of this park, but try and fit in a few of the highlights during your stay. Strawberry Fields, dedicated to the late John Lennon, is worth a visit and the Jackie Onassis Reservoir is beautiful on a sunny day. In winter, The Wollman Rink will get you in the Christmas mood – remember that scene from Serendipity ?
FAO Schwartz.- Located at the end of Fifth Avenue, this huge toy store is where the giant piano featured in the film Big can be found. You have to give dancing on the piano a go- ignore the fact that everyone else queuing will be half your size and still believe in Santa – it didn't stop Tom Hanks did it?
New York Public Library - Worth a visit if only to view the two famous stone lions sitting outside – said to represent Patience and Fortitude. Oh, and it's free.
Ground Zero- For decades, the World Trade Centre was the most visible tourist attraction in Lower Manhattan. Post 9/11, the site is surrounded by a Viewing Wall, that allows visitors to see the rebuilding that is now underway. The names of the 9/11 victims are included within the wall.
When packing your suitcase, don't forget to bring comfortable shoes, a camera and bundles of energy - and be prepared to fall in love with NYC.