New York City: also known as The Big Apple and The City That Never Sleeps. It’s an iconic destination that has charmed and enticed millions of travellers from around the world. With the bustle of Times Square, the flashing lights of Broadway, and the proud statue of Lady Liberty, NYC truly is a must-visit destination. But, just how much does it cost to go to New York City? Read on to find out.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to suggest an itinerary of 3 nights in New York City. This short itinerary is perfect for North Americans who are looking for a fun long weekend away. Of course, you can spend much longer here (there is tons to see and do), so you can still use this guide to help budget accordingly. Also, please note that this guide is based on the costs for a single person. If you are travelling as a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels).
|Food and drink||$171|
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use xe.com to find out the average costs in your home currency.
Keep in mind this is just an estimate. New York City is not known to be a cheap destination. However, savvy travellers can cut costs with some of the tips and suggestions I will share throughout the article.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gives you a signup bonus of 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $600 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
Assuming you are flying into New York City from somewhere in North America, you can get some pretty cheap flights if you play your cards right. Booking in advance always helps as does making sure you avoid high season (think Christmas and Thanksgiving especially). There are also three airports that serve NYC making it easy to compare flights offered by different airlines.
The average cost of roundtrip flights to NYC is $200. If you are flying from a closer destination, you’ll be able to find cheaper. Flights from American cities also tend to see better prices than flights from Canadian cities.
Accommodation is where things tend to get expensive quickly in New York City. Most tourists want to stay in Manhattan near a major attraction like Times Square or Central Park. While these locations are perfect for exploring, staying in these spots does increase the budget. However, if you are only in town for a couple of days it may be worth your while to pay a little more on your hotel then spend a lot of unnecessary time commuting from another part of the city.
For that reason, I’m basing the estimate in this article, which equals out to $230/night, on a mid-range hotel located near Times Square. Again, this is just a ballpark and with so many hotel and location choices, you can decrease (or increase) this amount. Unfortunately, NYC doesn’t do ‘budget’ hotels well, at least not in Manhattan. While there are a couple of options, reviews are pretty terrible and unless you are truly desperate, you probably don’t want to stay there. Your best bet is to book as early as possible to get a good deal on a mid-range or even luxury property.
Need some recommendations for hotels in New York City? Take a look at the following suggestions:
Low to Mid-range
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and $200 back at U.S. restaurants as a welcome bonus (must apply by May 15, 2021).
Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 65,000 Marriott Bonvoy when using a referral link. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $700.
Getting around New York City is pretty easy between using your feet and taking the subway. While the Subway may not be the most elegant way to travel, it’s definitely the quickest and the most affordable option. You can buy individual tickets every time ($3) but your best bet is to load up a metro card with $20 or so and use that. This drops the ticket price to $2.75 per ride. If you think you will be using the metro more than that, then it’s worth your while to get the unlimited 7-day pass which is $32.00.
Taxis and Uber are available in the city, but thanks to the legendary New York traffic this not only tends to take much longer, but it also will end up costing you significantly more. The only exception here is going to and from the airport where a taxi or uber is considerably more convenient and comfortable with your luggage. Many taxi companies also offer flat rates from Manhattan to the airport so traffic doesn’t matter. Just ask the doorman at your hotel and they will be able to help set you up with that. Normally, you can expect to pay about $50 each way between the airport and Manhattan (tip not included).
Alternatively, if you plan on doing a lot of the tourist activities then consider getting a hop-on-hop-off bus pass for your stay. It’s a fun and easy way to see the city, especially for first-timers. You can get your tickets here.
As with most destinations, attractions are an area where you can really save or really spend depending on what you want to see and do. New York City has plenty of free things on hand including visiting parks, checking out Times Square, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and window shopping along 5th avenue. Many of New York City’s museums and galleries are free as well (or offer free admission at certain times).
That being said, there are probably a few paid activities you want to take part in as well. Perhaps a boat tour on the river to see the Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline, a visit to the Top of the Rock, or taking part in the total 9/11 experience. If you plan on doing a lot of these types of activities, then you may want to consider getting the New York City Pass which offers better value than going to all the attractions individually.
Finally, don’t forget about Broadway! Going to a Broadway show is a must when in New York City. If there is something specific you really want to see, then make sure to book ahead of time. If you’re up for anything, you can try the TKTS Booth in Times Square the day of and see what you can get.
Food and drink
New York City has a great food and bar scene with tons of options from around the world. Whether you feel like Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, or typical American, you’ll have no problem finding a great place to eat in New York City.
Of course, NYC has its fancy restaurants where meals come with huge price tags, but there are lots of more affordable finds in Manhattan as well. There are plenty of cafes where you can grab a quick breakfast, pizza or sandwich shops for lunch, and some great dinner finds where you can get a drink and a meal for a decent price. Here’s what you can expect to pay for food and drink per day in New York City.
- Breakfast – $7
- Lunch – $15
- Dinner – $35
That’s $57 a day which may seem like a lot, but you can reduce your costs quite a bit if you’re eating fast food or just getting sandwiches from delis. If you plan on trying some of these more upscale restaurants or partying at some of NYC’s bars then know that you will need to increase your budget.
Even though you may not be spending long in NYC, it’s always best to have a little extra money just in case. The city has plenty of shopping opportunities which will be hard to resist and you’ll likely want to buy some souvenirs from a few of the specialty stores. Generally speaking, you should budget another $150 for random spending so you won’t feel guilty if there’s something you want to buy.
So, how much does it cost to go to New York City? Based on my estimate, you can expect to pay $1,561 USD for 3 nights in New York City. Of course, if you are looking for a luxury city experience, you’ll want to budget more. However, if you are a savvy traveller, you can also easily decrease this estimate as well. Either way, New York City is a great destination for all types of travellers and absolutely worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. If you’re looking for some other inspiration, check out my guides to Barbados, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Dubai, Disneyland and Paris.