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Enjoying New York City on a Budget
Finding great accommodation in New York City

Getting value for your money in all quality ranges.

Introduction

This page helps you find a suitable place to stay in New York city within your budget. You'll find examples of hotels, hostels, and even an unusually nice YMCA.

You'll learn about New York City hotel areas, and find out how to get a better hotel than expected for your money.

Outstanding NYC hotel bargains. Check out: Hotwire.com


Think convenience and safety

By all means, choose a convenient hotel or hostel in Manhattan. Commuting into New York each day from your third cousin's place in some far off suburb is simply not worth the savings for a visitor with limited time. Airport hotels are another story, and you'll get help deciding whether or not to use them.

Choose a place to stay that is convenient to subway and city bus stops and within walking distance of some of what you want to see.

For safety, choose a place whose neighbourhood is lively day and night, as are the choices below.


Manhattan hotel prices

Unfortunately, even a budget hotel room with bath now costs at least $100 per night plus a multitudinous array of taxes and fees—and in peak seasons you may pay much more. We'll go over some ways to save, but expect to pay more than you're used to if you stay in Manhattan.

And, even at these rates, vacant hotel rooms are often hard to find. New York is "in" again, as crime has dropped and 9/11 is not so fresh in people's minds.

Beware of "cheap" hotels ("cheap," believe it or not, means around $75 or under in New York), the type you often see advertised in Village Voice newspaper classified ads.

These are often dangerous or filthy or both. Sadly, Dr. Voyageur knows this from experience.


Let's Go New York City

A fine source of good quality budget hotels and alternative accommodation is Let's Go New York City, which is compiled and written by Harvard University students. Most bookstores carry this.

You may especially like this guide because 1) each listing is visited and updated each year—the next year's edition comes out near the end of the previous year—and 2) it's written for people who want to experience New York in depth using as little money as possible.

However, be warned that thousands of readers are basing their stays on this guidebook. That can make it very difficult to find rooms available at the hotels listed at the prices listed.


Hotwire and priceline.com

For less expensive accommodations that are clean and secure, try services that do not tell you where you'll stay until you pay. You pick the neighbourhood, you pick the quality, but you do not pick a specific hotel. This really saves money, especially for first class and better hotels.

For most of us, the quality range, neighbourhood, and price are all we want to know.

The two best choices are—

Hotwire.com (no bidding) and

Priceline.com Hotels (bidding, but you have to have a credit card with a U.S. billing address).

Be sure to note that Hotwire and priceline.com hotels are non refundable and that dates of arrival and departure cannot be changed.

With these, you lock in the price you wish to pay in the area you want to stay ahead of time.

These are your best chance for really big savings on better hotels.

In 2005, Dr. Voyageur stayed at the 4-star New York Hilton—a fine hotel near Rockefeller Center and Trump Tower—for just over $100 a night plus tax using priceline.

This was on the same weekend that he had been quoted $150 - 250 for 2-star hotels on sites that let you pick a specific hotel.


Best hotel neighbourhoods

Think Midtown, especially for a first time visit.

Central Park South, Midtown South, Midtown East, Midtown West (the New York Hilton), and Times Square are all convenient choices. The bustling streets of these neighbourhoods help keep you safe.

Consider hotels in the area between Penn Station and Grand Central Station. This includes the Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building—in an area called Midtown South—for best Manhattan discounts on moderate cost accommodation.

The Upper West Side is great for being close to Lincoln Center and Central Park and for hanging out in the evening. And, the Upper East Side is reasonably convenient to most popular attractions.

Hotels in Lower Manhattan work well for those who have extensive business there or for experienced New York travellers who want to be close to many of the most popular music clubs and trendy restaurants. However, some portions of this area are simply not safe and it takes time to reach the theatre district and other Midtown attractions.


Airport hotels

Sometimes, you just can't find decent budget accommodation in Manhattan. Or, you want a first class hotel, but just don't want to pay Manhattan prices. Or, you're arriving really late or departing early.

In these cases, consider staying near JFK Airport, LaGuardia, or Newark airports.

Prices are way, way lower than on Manhattan. (See Hotwire.com for examples.)

JFK is especially convenient because most nearby hotels have free vans that will drop you off and pick you up at the AirTrain shuttle terminal.

From there, you'll take a frequent AirTrain to Jamaica station, where you'll transfer to the express MTA "E Line" subway to Midtown or Lower Manhattan. You can transfer to any subway stop in New York City for the same price.

The AirTrain and subway combined cost $7.00 each way—a bargain!


New York International Hostel

If you don't mind group sleeping rooms, consider using a hostel in New York City. This gives the cheapest sleep in the city.

The mother of all hostels in the U.S.—the biggest hostel of them all, the air conditioned New York International Hostel, affiliated with Hostelling International—provides a good place to stay.

Some criticize its large size, of course, and its less than central location on the northern end of the Upper West Side, but with Manhattan's astromonically high real estate prices, you cannot expect this hostel to be adjacent to Rockefeller Center.

The New York International Hostel is convenient to subways, to Central Park, and to one of New York's most vibrant and popular neighbourhoods, the Upper West Side, where many younger New Yorkers live.

The hostel is a well-run, lively spot with lots to do.

Numerous city buses and subway lines (lines 1, 9, B, C, etc.) stop nearby, as well as various tour bus shuttles. Many group activities, including group walks, are offered.

Before staying elsewhere, buy or borrow a hostel rating guide. Anyone can call their place a hostel, and some are terrible in New York.


Vanderbilt YMCA

A great choice for travellers who want private single or twin bedded rooms but are willing to share bathroom facilities, in order to save money, is the Vanderbilt YMCA (224 East 47th Street at Third Avenue, 1 212 756-9600).

The Vanderbilt YMCA takes both men and women on the same floors in tiny rooms for about $75 - 85 per night plus a $10 key deposit.

The Vanderbilt has one of the most convenient locations in New York City.

Sandwiched between the United Nations and Times Square, the Vanderbilt is within easy walking distance of the theatre district, Rockefeller Center, and a host of other attractions.

Unlike so many YMCA accommodations in the United States, which can be quite grungy due to lack of funding and filled with totally dysfunctional guests, the Vanderbilt YMCA sparkles and welcomes a mostly young coed international crowd. Security is excellent (but never guaranteed).

Be sure to book as far in advance as possible, and offer a credit card as a guarantee.

If extra sensitive to noise, ask for a room at the end of a hallway away from elevators, phones, and washrooms.

The Vanderbilt has a travel desk for airport shuttles and tours.


Pickwick Arms Hotel

The modest Pickwick Arms Hotel (230 East 51st near Lexington, 800 742-5945 or 212 355-0300) has some rooms without bath for around $100 in a very convenient, reasonably safe location in the heart of Midtown.

You'll be within walking distance of much sightseeing and shopping, including the theatre district.

This pleasant place is a good deal for its location. Advance reservations are essential.


The Plaza Hotel

Ah, the Plaza. We're movin' on up.

For those with ample purses, the Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, has the best location in New York. Without question. This is an awesome place to stay.

The rates are hefty, but inexpensive for this calibre of accommodation and superb setting. Note that its phone number, 759-3000, still starts with the old "PLaza" prefix.

If you've watched films, you've experienced the Plaza.

Big Business, Home Alone Two, North by Northwest, Crocodile Dundee (both), the Great Gatsby, Barefoot in the Park, Cotton Club, Funny Girl, Plaza Suite (of course), and many more were filmed here. In "Scent of a Woman," Al Pacino refused to die without a last meal in the Plaza's Oak Room.

Although it cribbed the Beetles during their first U.S. tour and served Princess Diana high tea in its Palm Court, the Plaza usually lacks the hip clientele of some other deluxe New York hotels.

On the other hand, the Plaza also lacks the uneven service, the pretentious but poorly prepared food, and the marginal locations of some of these.

Go for the Plaza, if you can afford it. However, do not expect large rooms and views at the basic price.

Recently, New York City successfully fought off a plan to have the Plaza completely converted into condos.


New York walking tours and day trips

So, you have a roof over your head. You've oriented yourself to the city by reading about its neighbourhoods and street system. You've learnt about New York City transportation on these pages.

Now it's time to really experience the New York area by walking in the city. You also can take some fun day trips to places near New York.


Go to other pages in this section:

New York City orientation: starting on the water and introduction

New York City orientation: Manhattan neighbourhoods

New York City orientation: understanding Manhattan's street system

New York City orientation: using New York City transportation

New York City orientation: seeing the Statue of Liberty

Or, others:

New York City day trips

New York City walks

Safety

Zagat NYC restaurant guide

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