Despite being on the opposite side of the world, New York holds a unique allure for Aussie travellers. The Big Apple is nestled in firmly at the top of most travellers bucket lists, as they dream of dodging the crowds in Times Square, strolling through Central Park, catching a show on Broadway or biting into a classic New York slice of pizza.
As travellers plan their trip, and wondering how many $2 hot dogs is too many to eat in one day, most will stumble upon (and procrastinate over) the dreaded travel budget. New York certainly isn't the cheapest destination, and when you add in the AUD to USD exchange rate, tax and tipping, calculating your travel budget can be pretty tricky.
Luckily for you, the team at Travel Money Oz have put together a nifty travel budget calculator that combines Numbeo data with the latest exchange rates to give you the most up to date idea of how much you'll spend when you’re in NYC. Before we dive into the calculator though, let's take a look at what you should include in your travel budget.
What goes into a travel budget for New York?
Flights will be a significant expense, especially with NYC being on the other side of the world and all. Expect to pay between $1200 (bargain) and $2500 (you're probably travelling in peak season) for your flights.
Once you arrive in NYC, you'll be looking at the following transport options:
Subway: If it's your first time in NYC, the tube may seem like a maze; however, it is one of the cheapest and quickest ways of getting around the city. Download the CityMapper app for help with routes, and grab a Metro Card from any subway booth or ticket machine to avoid having to buy single tickets for every trip. We recommend grabbing an unlimited weekly travel card for about $32USD, so you don't have to stress about topping up. It will give you access to subways across all of Manhatten and Brooklyn.
Buses: If the Subway stops just that little bit too far from your destination, you can quickly grab a bus to take you the rest of the way. The MetroCard can be used on buses as well.
Cabs: Who hasn’t dreamed of gracefully hailing a cab like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex n the City? If you would prefer to stay above ground, Yellow Cabs are always available. Just hail from the street and go from there. Cabs can be expensive and do require tips. It's also worth noting that if you grab one around Times Square, you will often be charged an extra 'tourist rate’.
Rideshare: A great alternative to cabs, apps like Uber allow you to book on your phone. Not only are they cheaper than cabs, but they don't require you to tip (it is given as an option rather than a necessity).
Car hire: You can hire a car; however, NYC traffic is crazy, and the parking situation is not ideal, so we would not recommend it (no seriously, your sanity will thank us!).
There's no point beating around the bush here - accommodation in New York is not cheap. Staying on Manhattan Island around any of the tourist areas (aka anywhere South, East or West of Central Park) is quite expensive. If you are hoping to travel on a budget, consider staying just off the Island in areas like Brooklyn or Queens. They are significantly cheaper, have a bustling food scene and are only a short subway ride away from Manhattan.
If you do have some more cash to splash and are keen to stay in the action, expect to pay around the following. As you can imagine, prices will change with seasonality and will depend on where you stay.
Hostel: 50-100 AUD per night
Budget hotel: 80 - 300 AUD per night
Airbnb: 100 - 1000+ AUD per night
Hotel: 250 - 6000+ AUD per night
When booking accommodation, consider the proximity to a subway station and whether it has a kitchen to cook your own meals.
New York is incredibly multicultural, so you are bound to find a dish to satisfy any craving. With this in mind, make sure you try some of these classic NYC staples:
- Street meat: hot dogs, kebabs, gyros and curries can all be purchased from curb side vendors. With hot dogs starting at $1USD, it's hard to go wrong. Sure, you can't be 100% sure what's in them, but that's part of the fun, right?
- Bagels: a delicious breakfast or snack on the go. Apparently, NYC's water makes the bagels extra good? Who knows. What we do know is that you should try it with scallion cream cheese. Expect to pay between $2USD (plain bagel) and $10USD (bagel with the lot) for a delish breakfast.
- Pizza: Now I had my doubts, but Pizza in New York really is THAT good. You can grab a slice for as little as $1; however, you really must invest in a full 'pie' (that's what they call a whole pizza) at least once while you're over there.
- Pastrami on rye: a classic, meat-filled dish that is perfect for fuelling your galavanting adventures across the city. Expect to pay around $10USD for a decent sanga.
- NY Cheesecake: Whether it's from a local bakery or a large patisserie, New York Cheesecake is the perfect way to top off a meal. Slices range from $3-10USD.
For all of your other meal requests, just jump on Google and see what the locals recommend. Whether it's ramen, burgers, curry, Italian or doughnuts, read the reviews and go hunting for the ideal meal. Trust me, it's worth a trek across the city.
Before arriving in the Big Apple, you must understand this: you will never have enough time to see and experience everything the city has to offer. Tourist hot spots and attractions aside, the city itself oozes an air of excitement and adventure - simply walking through the different areas, looking in shops and people watching is enough to fill a week. It's worth creating a list of everything you want to see, grouping the activities based on their location and then planning out your days from there.
If you are somehow stuck on ideas of things to do, we recommend the following:
- Visit any of the many, many, many museums. Popular choices include The Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Natural History (aka the home of Night at the Museum).
- Check out Madison Square Garden. It's free to enter, however, tickets to shows will cost a little more.
- Speaking of shows, make sure you swing by Broadway at some point. If you want to see a particular show, it's worth booking in advance. Otherwise, try your hand at a ticket lottery or visit the ticket booth for any last-minute deals.
- Wise up at the New York City Library.
- Pay your respects at Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum. It is a heavy and sombering few hours, however, it is well worth the experience.
- Walk or bike through Central Park. It's huge and filled with cool nooks and crannies to explore.
- Soak up the atmosphere in Times Square and indulge in some of the world’s best people watching.
- If you're visiting in winter, make sure you see the Rockefeller tree and go ice skating at one of the parks.
- Battle the crowds and do a spot of shopping on 5th Avenue.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get a great view of the Manhattan skyline, Lady Liberty and, of course, check out Brooklyn!
- Walk and eat and walk and eat. The city is best seen on foot, and you need a snack in hand at all times to ensure you're properly fuelled, right?
Aussie's need an ESTA when visiting the USA. It is $14USD and can be applied for online. We recommend applying as soon as possible to ensure it is issued in time. Also stop by your doctors to make sure you're up to date with any relevant travel immunisations. Further to this, it's in the best interest of all travellers to invest in a comprehensive travel insurance policy, regardless of where you are visiting.