How To Do NYC If You're Broke And Single For Less Than £600 (Including Flights)
The Debrief: Sorry Carrie Bradshaw, we're doing New York OUR way
Illustration by Kraggy
Everything you think you know about New York is probably true. It doesn’t sleep, the people move faster than Londoners and it’s hellah-pricey. It’s also renowned for being the best city in the world and I can vouch for that, even after visiting in climes of -12.
New York has an overwhelmingly large amount of stuff to do, and, even if you have no money, you don't have to miss out on fun. I had five fantastic days in February and managed to do the whole thing on around £600 including flights. Sound too good to be true? I turned to Couchsurfing, Debenhams and um, Tinder to make every last cent count and live like a tourist AND a local. Now I’m definitely hooked. Sorrynotsorry London.
Snagging the best flights
When it comes to the Transatlantic route, the Scandinavians are our saviours. One word: Norwegian. The airline started the London Gatwick to John F Kennedy route in 2013 and one-way tickets start at the ludicrously-low price of £150 if you book in advance, with a return setting you back around £300.
And, if you’re still umming and ahhing about going (what’s left to consider?) don’t let it show on your browser. Those little pop-ups asking you to consent to the ‘cookies’? They track your browsing patterns, meaning that a flight you see on Monday might have increased in price a week later if you’ve been checking it loads. Make sure you clear your history in between each flight search.
Turns out the best rate for my pound/dollar conversion was from Debenhams – even better than my bank. Currency can only be bought in store, but mention that you saw a better rate online and/or show a Debenhams card and you can get even more for your buck. In general, shop around as much as possible and avoid the poor rates in the airports and travel agencies.
Go: Ellis Island Tours. For just $25 you can get a ferry to the Statue of Liberty (it’s so much smaller IRL) and check out the Immigration Museum. So worth the price but leave half a day to see it all.
Go: The Bronx Zoo. Considered the best in the city, and free on Wednesdays.
Go: Times Square. Just to see it. And get that photo.
Go: NYC is full of pay-what-you-wish museums. With some serious balls (I paid $1 entry) you could see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum, and the Guggenheim for basically nothing.
Go: For the best views of the Manhattan skyline, visit the DUMBO pier in Brooklyn next to the Waterfront Pier. It’s better at night.
Eat: $1/99c pizza. Over the past few years, independent cafes and restaurants are offering slices of pizza for ONE singular dollar. If you needed further confirmation that NYC is the best city in the world then here it is people.
Eat: Roberta’s in Brooklyn, Bushwick. So hip it hurts. But the food is delicious and the staff amazingly attentive (as you come to expect in the US after, like 24hours).
Eat: The Halal Guy’s food carts, located on the corner of 6th Avenue and 53rd St in Midtown Manhattan are two identical stands which have become famous for their delicious chicken and rice and bitter rivalry – no one knows which cart came first.
Eat: Bel Aire Restaurant & Diner All-American food, you guys. I had the pancakes and bacon, which comes with this amazing whipped butter, and I’m still on a high.
Party: Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg offers $10 cocktails all night on a Tuesday.
Party: For gentrification in motion and communal seating, check out ‘Biergartens’ which have been popping up all around the city (one in Queens, another in Brooklyn).
Party: The Meatpacking District. Due to financial constraints I didn’t make it here but for the big parties, this area is where it’s at.
Party: Pine Box Rock Shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn. A cool bar with comedy nights, karaoke and 2 for $6 drinks specials.
Avoid: Empire State (which costs $46 and is overrated)
Avoid: The Museum of Sex ($18) overpriced and just not sexy.
Avoid: Staying only in Manhattan – there’s so much more!
Where to crash
After my first ever Couchsurfing experience, I’m hooked! Signing up to the site is free but be sure to check the references of the people you want to stay with, and pass the address onto friends and family whilst you’re there. It’s also a good idea to have a backup accommodation plan, in case the people turn out to be weirdos, and another contact in your country of choice. Bring a British-style gift to break the ice and say thanks (I went for Marmite, crumpets and Fox’s biscuits). If you can’t find a decent host then I’d recommend hostels in Brooklyn, of which there are loads.
Once my Couchsurfing stint ended, I was at a loss of where to stay, but knew I wanted to see the Bushwick/Williamsburg area. After checking into the NY Loft Hostel, I turned to Tinder for a guide. What started out as a platonic meal at Roberta’s quickly turned into a dreamy three-day romance – and we’re still in touch now. Tinder tourism is definitely a thing. And NYC has my heart.
Like this? Then you might also be interested in:
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Follow Georgina on Twitter @Georginalawton
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