New York City on a budget

New York City on a budget

New York City is where dreams are made of – that is if your dreams include being a banker, broker, or broadway sensation. But for most, New York is just an incredibly beautiful city with a hefty price tag to match. So, say you’re just broke,  here’s a guide to how to see the city without breaking the bank.

Plus, if you’re looking for an easy flight to the States, China Airlines makes the trip three times a week from Singapore at a good price, with a convenient connection at Taipei.

Affordable Activities

There are plenty of things to do in a city as big as New York, and luckily for the budget-conscious traveller, a ton of them are for free.

Take the Big Apple Greeter. This tour service offers free tours by local New Yorkers for travellers who want to see the real side of New York. The volunteers offer a variety of tours, like in neighbourhoods of the various boroughs, the cultural attractions around the city, and even the secret spots only locals know. You can be shown around hipster Williamsburg, Harlem or Chinatown by the very people who walk those streets every day.


(Photo credits: Songquan Deng)

All you need to do is to apply for a tour guide on their website about a month before your trip, and await a confirmation from your greeter. They are pretty popular, with more than 7000 visitors a year, so the earlier you apply, the better! You know what they say: early bird gets the worm (that then shows them around the Big Apple). Choose your tour wisely though, because you can only apply for one tour per trip to New York.

If you want something a little more adventurous, why not try your hand at kayaking down the Hudson river, for absolutely free.

I mean, come on! Look at that view! (Photo credits: Dan Nguyen)

I mean, come on! Look at that view!
(Photo credits: Dan Nguyen)

The Downtown Boathouse is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to sharing the beauty of the Hudson River, made possible by the strong network of volunteers they have. All you need to do is head down to Pier 96 at the end of West 55th St, Manhattan, or Pier 26 in Tribeca, some time from May to October every year, and get suited up to  head into the water. Note: you have to be able to swim, though ironically, you aren’t allowed to swim in the river. Unless you capsize, then by all means swim to safety.

Priceless Places

In a city known for its lavish galas and swanky charity balls, you’d be surprised that a lot of the cultural sites of the city are actually free to visit. Of course, the top of the Empire State Building is off-limits to penniless, and Lady Liberty is not as cheap as her name suggests, but still you can head to Museums, take ferry rides, and take a stroll down iconic avenues without having to fork out a dime.

FREE GLORY (Photo credits: Shakapam)

(Photo credits: Shakapam)

Starting with museums, most of the ones in New York have days of the week when they are free, or pay-as-you-wish. Even the greats like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History museum are pay-as-you-wish, so if you can afford to give them more, by all mean go ahead. The Guggenheim Museum is pay-as-you-wish on Saturdays from 5:45pm-7:45pm, while the Museum of Modern Art free every Friday from 4pm-8pm. For the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art, expect these times to be a bit more crowded, but hey, it’s still a great bargain for the masterpieces you’ll get to see.

Not only that, but plenty of New York classics from the silver screen are also public spaces, so you can go nose around there, or pretend you’re a famous movie star. Reenact the Friends with Benefits flash mob scene with your love, or serenade park-goers with ‘That’s how you know’ from Enchanted at Central Park.

All those people are dancers. They just don't know it yet.  (Photo credits: pisaphotography)

All those people are dancers. They just don’t know it yet.
(Photo credits: pisaphotography)


Bargain Bites

Forget Manhattan’s Michelin Star restaurants, to get a real taste of New York, bodegas and push-carts are your best friend. If you want to dine cheaply, you have a variety of ethnic food to fill your stomach. Mexican, Vietnamese, Thai, middle-eastern cuisines are just some of the wide range of food stands you’ll find throughout the city, on top of the American classics like hot dogs and bagels. Most of these meals cost less than $5 and are your best bet to keeping it cheap while on the go exploring the city. Pinning them down is a little more tricky, but most busy areas should have one or two friendly food stands tempting passersby with the delicious smells of their homely food.

(Photo credits: Stuart Monk)

(Photo credits: Stuart Monk)

From a Bodega, you can get all the normal conveniences of a local mama shop, and some even have sandwiches that would put any Subway to shame. These are located more in the residential neighbourhoods, so perhaps stock up on snacks and drinks to tide you over the night-time cravings.

Getting there

Now that you’re saving on your holiday, why not save the pain of uncomfortable seats and checking so many connecting flights by flying with China Airlines. They fly to New York three times a week, with a quick stopover in Taipei. You can search your flight and book directly at


Because you need more comfort, especially on the longer Taipei – New York flight, China Airlines is using brand new Boeing 777 aircraft, equipped with Premium Economy seats (longer leg room and recline!) and the Family Couch (three economy class seats converted in a wide flat bed – great for kids!).

China Airlines Family Couch on the Boeing 777. Wider and flat, perfect for kids.

China Airlines Family Couch on the Boeing 777. Wider and flat, perfect for kids.

China Airlines Premium Economy Seats on the Boeing 777

China Airlines Premium Economy Seats on the Boeing 777


This article is supported by China Airlines

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