Being a full-time university student, living on your own and being entirely self-sufficient is hard! And you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to traveling. Friends who still live at home can afford to go to Cuba, Europe and Cancun every year or so, but where’s my white sand beach? I never found a white sand beach this summer, but I did finally keep a promise to a friend and made my way to New York City for a week. It can be a costly trip, but there are plenty of ways to have a great time on the cheap.
These are my tips for visiting the Big Apple on a Small Budget:
Driving (your car is useless once you hit the city and you’ll be burdened trying to find parking)
+ Rideshares are a good way to save money (generally pay a flat rate for gas) but can often be a complicated process of meeting everyone’s schedule and not always reliable. Check out craigslist.ca or kijiji to find rides. McGill and other universities tend to have good online classifieds.
+ Trains from Montreal to New York City leave daily and offer a comfortable ride with WiFi and often have a Bar Car. One way from Amtrak can cost the same as a bus depending when you book. My problem is that morning departures mean I lose an entire day taking the scenic route through the Adirondacks (10+ hours).
+ Greyhound* is generally my favorite. Takes less time than the train, is more reliable than a rideshare, leaves pretty much every hour, and you can leave late-night and just pass out to and from. Long distance trips are also offered with (sometimes inconsistent) wifi access.
*Amtrack/Greyhound ticket times do not account for your wait/processing time at the border.
+ Hostels can be a great idea if booked properly. These are generally better for groups of people since you can bunk together. There is access to shared sleeping quarters, lounge, kitchen area and are often located near social hotspots. If you are four people however, it can be more economical to get a double occupancy hotel room.
+ Couchsurfing isn’t just for hippies. People from all walks of life have joined couchsurfing.org and are usually willing to host out-of-towners for shorter periods of time. Although there is no mandatory exchange, gifts for your host such as wine or a meal are always appreciated. Be kind to your host and their home. (Watch for Couchsurfing 101 on The Gaily later this week!)
3. What to do
+ Unlike Montreal’s Museum pass (almost every museum, 3 days, $80 including STM) New York City’s sights can be a little harder to navigate. Although there is no all encompassing pass, there are a number of mixes offered by different tour companies but BUYER BEWARE, these deals aren’t always what they seem. In their calculation, these passes assume that you would be paying all museums’ full prices, but if you plan right, you can hit up these thifty deals:
- The Bronx Zoo offers “Total Experience” tickets for $12.95 on Wednesdays instead of the regular $29.99,
- The $25 entrance to the Met(ropolitan Museum of Art) is in fact only a suggested donation, you could pitch a dollar and still get in (although all donations do help cover exhibition costs).
- Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for example is free on Fridays from 4-8pm.
- Many of New York’s other most renowned sites have similar entrance fees; a quick google search can have a big impact on your trip expenses.
+ Opt of out the Empire State Building in exchange for Top of the Rock!
- The Empire State Building costs $25 to ride up to the 86th floor, look, and ride down. A view from the ACTUAL top deck will run you $42, and to skip the line you’re looking at $64 per person. Forget it!
- In exchange, consider Top of The Rock (Rockefeller Center). Not only will you get a walk-through history lesson (with option free video history of Rockefeller Center’s Construction & Christmas Tree History) but you’ll also get a nicer view of central park, all for $25.
+ The Museum of Sex also offers admission discounts online.
4. Other things to consider
+ For nights out, try pubcrawlnewyork.com for a group setting in different boroughs of the city, offered every weekend. For CouchSurfing members (one time registration of $25) there are meets planned in the “Activities” sections every week, and my personal experience was amazing!
+ One of my favorite iPhone apps, DrinkOwl, keeps you in the loop on local bar deals every night. If traveling alone, a subway map will come in handy because their subway system was obviously designed by engineers on acid in the 1900’s (38 lines, 468 stations). You will need a map!
+ For visiting certain sights such as the 9/11 Memorial there are no fees but you do need to register online for “tickets”. Don’t have anything suspicious on your person because there are full security check points including bag checks and metal detectors (likewise for Top of The Rock).
+ New York also has a zero tolerance policy for any kind of drinking in public places and smoking in any of their public parks (or Times Square) with fines of $50.
Travel safe & party hard,
Gossip Girl S.