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New York on the cheap: the big apple on a budget

New York on the cheap: the big apple on a budget

Dear Skyscanner,

New York is a place I’ve always wanted to go but I’m a bit short on funds so need to do it on a budget. Can you recommend a way to do the big apple without taking too much of a bite from my bank account?

Toby, Bristol


Dear Toby,

New York is not a city break that comes cheap, or that’s what most of us think. However, if you’re really canny, do your research in advance, and get to know the public transport system, you can still see the Big Apple without feeling like you’re being short-changed.

Once you’ve bagged yourself a bargain flights to New York on Skyscanner (be flexible with your dates and flight times and book well-ahead, check the price of two singles before you book a return, and also check out indirect flights), it’s time to book a hotel.

Where to stay

I’ve recommended a few budget hotels in New York in these pages before, so I won’t cover the ones I’ve done already – here are some others for under £100 a night…

The trendy Lower East Side district is full of cafes and quirky shops as well as more affordable places to stay like the SoHotel, which costs from £95 a night.

It’s a historic hotel dating back to the late 1700s and in a great spot for snooping around Little Italy and Chinatown by day or night. The elaborate decor may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s good fun and even a touch luxurious, amazing given the price.

If you’d rather be in Midtown, check out Hotel Wolcott, which also costs around £95 a night and is a Beaux Arts beauty between Fifth Avenue and Broadway. It has a colourful history (read all about it on the hotel’s website), and is within walking distance of the Empire State Building – perfect for the first-time visitor to the city.

If you want to see a different side to New York, particularly if you’ve been before, why not stay in Brooklyn where your dollar goes further. The Sofia Inn costs from £90 a night and is a classic Brooklyn brownstone building with lots of character. It’s also in a good spot for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and Brooklyn Museum of Art.

newyork.taxis.JPGWhere to shop

If vintage is your love, you’ve come to the right city. Head to Stella Dallas, where there are clothes and accessories going back to the 20s. Everything is in good condition and prices are mercifully not overly inflated, unlike some vintage stores in the city. It’s on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village.

The clothes are brand new at Century 21, but you’ll still need to rummage at this discount store, which offers everything from Nike trainers Jil Sander dresses on five floors. Be prepared for a scramble, and go early to avoid the busiest periods. It’s worth it though for up to 75 per cent off. The shop is on Courtlandt Street, but there are also outlets in Brooklyn and Queens.

What to do

Walking costs nothing, and New York is a perfect walking city. One of my favourites (and everyone else’s) is Central Park – it’s big, leafy, and allows you to take a step back to admire the skyline, as well as playing out numerous scenes from your favourite Big Apple movies. Another great one is over Brooklyn Bridge, giving you a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from the iconic steel bridge, and a welcome cup of coffee or glass of wine in one of the Brooklyn’s characterful cafes or wine bars on the other side.

Finally, there’s the High Line, a former freight train line through the Meatpacking District that has been restored into an elevated pathway flourishing with plants and art installations. It takes you under the contemporary Standard hotel and past the Chelsea Market, perfect for a cheap lunch or even some free tasters from the many enticing stallholders.

If you want to hit the water for another great view of the city, hop on the Staten Island Ferry, which is free. The historic ferry service runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day and offers a great view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island if you can’t afford the ticket to see the famous monument up close.

Most of the big museums in New York have a policy of offering a weekly window when admission is free, including the very popular Museum of Modern Art, which has Target Free Friday Nights from 4pm to 8pm. There’s also the Pay What you Wish window at the Guggenheim on Saturdays from 5.45pm to 7.45pm.

new.york.JPGWhere to eat

For a quick lunch on the run, New York, together with a number of other US cities, is having a food truck moment – mobile food stalls that sell good quality fast food. There’s the unforgettable Big Gay Ice Cream Truck with outrageous additions to its ice cream creations, such as pumpkin butter and key lime curd, plus toppings such as toasted curried coconut to wasabi pea dust.

For something a little more savoury, the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck is ever-popular and offer delicious flavours such as chicken and Thai basil with an Asian green side salad and even a chocolate-filled hot dumpling (beware spillages).

This being New York, burgers are something of a speciality on the dining scene and you should try at least one if you’re a meat-eater. The best bargain, quality burgers are at fast food outlet,

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park (check the website for the other four locations) – get there early to avoid the huge summer-time queues for the double cheeseburgers, finished with “concrete”, which is frozen custard that you top with hot fudge, banana or peanut butter… only in New York.

For a sit-down affair, try a diner like Big Daddy’s, with its three New York locations, all with a movies diner feel – slide-in booths, formica tables and all-day breakfasts of pancake and waffles. The black and white cookie shake comes highly recommended, and the foot-long hot dogs are ever-popular.

Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor

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