5 Backpacker Tips for NYC


In a New York state of mind?  Are you ready to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep?  Keep reading for some tips on how to make the most of New York City when you’re experiencing it backpacker-style.

1. Seek out the free stuff

Yes, some of the most iconic sites in NYC are a tad on the pricy side, but a lot of classic Big Apple can be experienced for free or close to it.  The excitement of Times Square and the oasis of Central Park are completely gratis, as are Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library, the 9/11 Memorial, the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Station.  So is a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, which offers great views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and New York Harbor.  Don’t forget to check museum schedules as well.  Many museums are free or pay-what-you-will certain days of the week, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s admission fees are always pay-what-you-wish.


2. Make interesting food choices.

Street food is fundamental to New York City, and goes way beyond the ubiquitous hot dog.  Gyros, tacos, knishes… it’s all available without ever going in to a restaurant. For a good sit down meal, explore the city’s ethnic neighborhoods, where the options will be authentic, delicious and affordable. Craving dim sum? Try Chinatown.  Love a good curry? The city is full of Indian enclaves.  Thinking baklava? Astoria has you covered. Plus, wandering the neighborhoods themselves can be a trip-enriching experience.  Last but not least, don’t forget two other New York standbys- the pizzeria and the delicatessen. For more suggestions, check out the travel section on livingthat.com.

3. Take a stroll

Get a good map, plot out the places you want to see, and then plan your own walking tour.  Organize your adventures so that you only have to use your Metrocard a few times a day, ideally once to go out in the morning and once to return home for the night.  Taking the subway is a classic New York experience you’ll miss in a taxi, and you’ll see much more of the city’s charms on foot.  Minimizing transport costs is just a lovely side benefit.


4. Go to the theater, dahling.

A trip to the city that never sleeps isn’t complete without a visit to Broadway.  Most Broadway shows offer discounted day-of tickets.  There’s a bit of a risk involved, and chances are you’ll have to brave quite the line.  Just remember that patience is a virtue, a virtue that in this case has very sweet rewards.  Don’t forget to check the policies of the theater you’ll be staking out, as rush tickets could be general, student only, lottery or standing room only.  The TKTS discount ticket booth is also a worthwhile option.

5. Use common civility – and common sense.

There are more than 8 million people living in New York City.  While they love that they live in a fabulous place that tourists want to visit, they also have things to do, and you might be in the way. Imagine someone ambling slowly in front of you during your commute, maybe stopping to snap a picture.  If you don’t like that person, try not to be them.  Also, use the same sense you would at home when it comes to safety.  Walking in allies alone at 3 am isn’t wise at home, and it isn’t wise in NYC.  Use common sense, stay safe… and enjoy New York!

Photos: Derek KeyCharles Sporn and Steve Gardner used under Creative Commons License