This time my travel destination was New York, the Big Apple. In fact, I have never had the real “I have to go to New York, I just have to!” -feeling, but when I found flights within my budget, I thought “Why not? I have not been in the USA yet.” So I asked my friend to come along, and we both booked our tickets.
At the time of searching flights, I did not even search exactly for NYC. I was actually just searching different options, because all I wanted, was to travel somewhere.
Air France calls for a strike
You know the feeling when you are waiting for some trip so much, and then out of sudden, you find out, that the airline company calls for a strike? Exactly at that day, when you should departure. That is not nice at all. I think we were lucky to be able to change our flights to the day earlier, instead of a week later. Yeah, there was a lot of stress, calling to the airline, then to travel agent, then back to airline etc. But after all it turned out to be a good thing, we had almost two extra days at the destination! Any traveler’s dream, right? 😉
How to stay with a low budget in New York?
I know, that for many, the image is New York is “expensive”. Like any other country, it can be expensive. But you can find good deals, and travel with a low budget. You think I am some rich student? Haha, good joke. I also do have a low budget.
Basically, if you want good quality, and near the city center, you have to pay more. That is same almost in any other country. If you are okay with shared bathroom, maybe even shared room, and you can stay a bit out of the city center, you will save a lot of money.
But, there is always a BUT, please, please just read the comments and experiences about the place beforehand. Not only the accommodation itself, but also the area. Do a little research, and be sure to go to a place where you can stay as long as you want, without any problems. And again, that way, you will be able to save money.
Rostel hostel at Harlem
I do not usually write about one place so much, but this is just worth of writing. To warn other travelers, who consider going to NYC. Please, stay away from this place. As long as they do not do any repairs, you should not go there.
First of all, just take a look at Google by search word “Harlem safety”, you can find many horror stories from years back. But in addition to that, you will also find stories about how someone chose to move to Harlem instead of Brooklyn, and why it is an actually great place to live in.
So what to believe?
Anyway, the worst part was not the Harlem itself, I did not find it extremely scary or unsafe, it was the hostel itself.
At our first night, we realized there was some kind of animal in the room, who made noise during night time. I did not wake up for that, but my friend did.
It also found its way to our chips, and next night we decided to put our hand baggage to the closet with a lock. It seemed much safer place than on the floor laying open.
Later, we found out, that even closet was not safe enough. Somehow the mouse, or probably a rat, found its way to my friend handbag. Ate hole to the bag, and that was definitely enough for us. We quickly searched a new place to stay and left. We would have two more nights left but only got money back from one night. Even though we should have received from both nights, but we will try to get the money back from the other night also.
We all love food, right? I suppose New York is one of the most expensive cities to dine out. Very understandable, full of tourists, so it is easy to ask more.
But you do not have to go to the expensive ones. I know that eating in fast food place, like Burger King / Domino’s etc. are not the places you first think when traveling abroad. For us, it was. Especially Domino’s, as there is none in Finland. Big pizza for two is enough.
If that is not what you are searching for, what about diners? Something everyone should experience when going to the USA. There are several different low budget diners, and at least Tick Tock Diner had super delicious food. We even went there twice.
Oh, and of course those small hot dog kiosks around the city, you should try one! 🙂 We saw even business people eating from those, so the stories about how stalls like that are weird and not clean, and locals never eat from those, are not so true.
Low budget attractions
You do not need to pay hundreds of dollars for attractions. With a bit of searching, you can find attractions free of charge or almost free of charge.
I save you from the search and tell some of these attractions.
Lady of Liberty
Just take a Staten Island ferry and you will pass the Statue of Liberty. The ferry will not stop by the statue, so if you want to see it closer, and from the island, you have to pay for a different ferry. Just take a real ferry ride, not from fake sellers.
For us, seeing the statue from the ferry was totally enough. It was much smaller than we thought it would be.
And if you have time, definitely take some time to explore Staten Island. There is one 9/11 memorial, for those firefighters and people who were first in the scene when everything happened. Who helped others, and who died while helping others.
The ferries are going in every 30 minutes around the clock, so you do not have to worry, that you will have to stay forever on the island.
Roosevelt Island Tramway
You can also take a subway, which, as creepy as it sounds, goes underwater, but if you want to see around, beautiful scenery, I recommend to take the Tramway. You will be able to go there by using the subway card, so it does not cost more than a subway. I think the reason for this is because the locals itself use the same Tramway to get work/school and to get back to home.
Big Apple at the night
There are several different observation decks for tourists, where prices vary from 30 dollars to 100 dollars. For example, Empire State Building, and Top of the Rock.
Those are decks made for tourists, but then, there are also few where you do not need to pay so much. We went to Bar 65 Rainbow Room at the top of the Rockefeller Center. It was 65th floor, absolutely stunning views. And all we had to do, is dress nicely and buy one drink from the bar. Which was, well 18 dollars per person, but still cheaper than $30. Plus what would be better, than enjoying the amazing view with one sweet cocktail?
And the cocktail was actually good!
Ps. About the dress code in Tripadvisor and the site itself; we saw people with sneakers and T-shirt, even with sweatpants. So at least at the time, we were there, there was not that strict dress code. But I would still dress nicely, for the sake of the people who go there to enjoy their beautiful evening, perhaps even celebrating something bigger. It is a fancy restaurant, so how would you feel someone in sweatpants and T-shirt taking pictures in front of your beautiful city view?
Free of charge. Huge park, just huge. You need several hours to walk it through, especially if you stop often to take pictures. It is a stunning park, and probably even prettier during summer time when all the trees have leaves on.
But in fact, it is quite weird to walk in the park, where so many movies have been filmed. Oh, and if you are afraid of big dogs, there is a lot of them. But do not worry, even if they are free, usually they do not come to see you.
American Museum of Natural History
You pay what you wish for. Normal price for the adult is $23, for students $18. If you really have low budget travel, you can pay less. But at least we could not. It is a huge museum, and with one general pass, you will get to see an almost whole museum. It has 4 floors, and if you are interested in everything, you just need the whole day. We got tired of reading everything but still spent time nearly 5 hours.
9/11 memorial & museum
Memorial is free of charge. Of course. The museum costs something, but I can not say how much, as we skipped the museum. It would have been super interesting, and maybe I a little bit feel sad, that we did not go, after all. But in my opinion, already the memorial site was eyes opening experience.
It is free of charge to see, and walk around, take couple selfies, maybe sit a while… Also, Timesquare was much smaller than I thought so. If you have watched movies, you can clearly see how big it looks like. But it is not that big in real life.
How to get around?
There are such things as sightseeing buses and city hoppers etc. with those you, of course, get discounts to different kind of attractions.
But you can see the whole city traveling by subway. And those buses do not include subway card. I mean, most subways are underground, but with subway, you can travel around the city.
Or you can just walk, to see major attractions, especially if you are staying near the city center.
Yes, New York is worth seeing. But in my opinion more like a once in a lifetime experience. Next time I rather travel somewhere else. United States is huge country, and one of the places I have wanted to go for years, is Miami, so maybe that is my next US destination! 😉