NYC Guide: 2-3 Days in the Big Apple for Budget Travelers

Everything you need to have a fun, short trip to NYC while keeping your wallet intact.

Where to stay around NYC to not break the bank

I’ve been to NYC countless times – it’s my go-to place for a quick getaway. I almost always stay in New Jersey as it allows me to save a lot on accommodation – I would rather spend the money on an experience than on accommodation – I’m only in the room to sleep anyway. A basic hotel room in the center NYC (Manhattan) costs around $200 – $300 USD per night, whereas a basic hotel in New Jersey, just across from Manhattan costs $120 – $200 per night. I have also stayed in Brooklyn, NY, which is cheaper to stay in than Manhattan, but slightly more expensive than in New Jersey.

Areas to stay in in New Jersey:

  • Jersey City
  • Hoboken
  • Union City
  • Guttenberg
  • North Bergen
  • Seacaucus

On my last trip, I stayed in an Airbnb in Guttenberg and it was very convenient to get to NYC from there. There are multiple busses that you can take to NYC from there and it only takes 25-30 minutes to get to Times Square. I’ve also stayed at the following hotels:

Red Roof Inn+ Seacaucus – Meadowlands

Howard Johnson by Wynham North Bergen

West Side YMCA – Central Park NYC


Getting to NYC from NJ

Most buses from NJ will go straight to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC, right in Times Square. This is also where you will take the bus to go back to NJ.

A bus ticket costs $3.50 USD one way, $7.00 USD for a round trip. When you get on the bus in NJ to go to NYC, you can buy tickets on the bus (have exact change). I recommend getting a round trip when getting on the bus in NJ; when coming back to NJ from Port Authority, you cannot buy a ticket on the bus; you are required to have your ticket before boarding the bus. There are ticket machines at the bus terminal, but there are often long lineups or no one to help if you are not sure which one to get. You can also get the NJ Transit app and buy your tickets on the app, scan when you get on the bus. 

Don’t forget to check when the last bus to your area leaves! For example, the last bus from Port Authority back to North Bergen is at 11:30 pm – if you’re in the city after that, Uber or Lyft back. To stay on top of bus schedules, get the MyTerminal app

NYC Subway

Besides walking, the best way to get around NYC is by the MTA Subway. It’s easy to use. Just take your credit card and tap it at the turnstile. 

Travel / health insurance

Just like any time you travel, make sure you have travel insurance in case something happens. The cheapest (e.g $13.20 USD for 5 days) and fastest (hassle-free) option is SafetyWing – you can only get it once you’re in the US, so put a reminder to get it once you arrive. Use my SafetyWing Ambassador referral link

Other options for Canadians: Blue Cross (good yearly plan, call for a quote).

Phone data

There’s Wi-Fi practically everywhere in NYC, but if you feel like you need data, this e-SIM has good rates

You can also get this USA SIM Card with unlimited data for 6 days for $30

Things to do

Essential NYC Experiences

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Start at City Hall Park (City Hall or Brooklyn Bridge-City Subway Station) and follow the signs / crowd. 

Walk the High Line. The High Line is a public park with art installations and gardens built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Get on at either end – 30th Street/10th Ave or Gansvoort St./Washington St. 

Watch a Broadway show. Get cheaper tickets, up to 50% off, the same day at the TKTS booth in Times Square. Line up early.

Hang out at South Street Seaport / Pier 17 or Pier 16. Get off at Fulton Street subway and walk. 

If it’s your first time in NYC you might want to check out

World Trade Center & 9/11 Memorial –

Statue of Liberty – View it from Battery Park, NYC or take the ferry to go around it or on Staten Island near the statue. 

Rockerfellar Center  –

FAO Schwarz – The giant toy store in the Home Alone movie.

The Wall Street Bull – famous bronze bull statue

Other cool stuff

Magnolia Bakery – For Sex & The City fans. Eat the red velvet cupcake. The one in the show is on Bleeker St. There are others on 42nd St. and at the Rockerfellar Center

Hudson Yards: Vessel / The Edge Observation Deck / The Shed for a view of NYC – Hudson Yards is described as “New York’s newest neighborhood and home to more than 100 diverse shops and culinary experiences, offices for leaders in industry, significant public art and dynamic cultural institutions.” It’s a modern and high-tech neighborhood that features a modern mall, Vessel, a futuristic-looking landmark that you can climb (pictured at the right), and The Shed, a event space that can “move” aka transform thanks to wheels.

Chelsea Market 

Museum of Ice Cream – eat unlimited ice cream, play and take fun pics. Check their IG! 

Cheap eats

Dallas BBQ – seriously impressive, huge place, fast service + has giant margaritas

Chinatown – get off at Canal St. subway station

99 Cent Fresh Pizza – awesome, cheap pizza! They have several locations. 

Cheap Eats NYC made this Google Map with a bunch of places pinned
Neat Burger – plant-based burgers

I’ll keep updating this guide as I discover more things. Have you been to NYC? Is there anything you’d add to this guide, or like to see added? Comment and let me know!

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply