New York on a shoestring budget

by Richard Oldale

One of the most popular cities in the world, New York is also one of the most efficient at separating tourists from their dollars. If money's tight, check out these tips for visiting on a budget

The pound may have recovered somewhat against the US dollar, but that doesn't necessarily mean it goes that much further. A trip to New York, however, does not mean you have to stretch your bank balance out of shape, as there are plenty of things to do and see without dipping into your pocket or spending over the odds. Below are a few suggestions that enable visitors to save a few dollars and see a side to New York they might ordinarily have missed.

Gallery-hopping in Chelsea 

Fundamentally, this is window-shopping for artwork. On West 22nd Street, in Chelsea, there are several art galleries exhibiting contemporary works from some of the brightest prospects in the present-day art world. Most of the exhibits are either abstract or expressionist, and though the pieces are for sale, the prices are as obscure and confusing as the concepts. In similar fashion, the Morrison Hotel Fine Art Music Gallery (131 Bowery) displays and sells photographs of iconic bands of yesteryear. There's a brilliant range of shots from the three Woodstock festivals, featuring The Who, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, for sale on special offer to celebrate the festival's 40-year anniversary.

Cut-price culture

Art galleries and museums in New York usually charge around $18-$27 (£10-£16) entrance fee, but several have time slots when visitors are allowed to make whatever contribution they can afford. On Fridays, between 6 and 8 pm, the ultra-cool Guggenheim Art Gallery on 5th Ave and 89th St is the best option. The Museum of Moving Images (on 35th Ave and 37th St in Queens) also relies on donations, and offers a fascinating insight into how films are made. The New York Public Library is worth a quick visit for its stunning architecture alone; it doesn't cost anything, and hour-long guided tours are available from Monday to Saturday at 11 am and 2 pm, or on Sundays at 2 pm.

Cycling round Central Park

The largest and most famous park in New York, if not the world, is, of course, Central Park. It covers an area of 843 acres and the best way to get around is by bike; these can be hired from numerous rental operators close to the main entrance near Broadway. Beatles fans will want to stop off at Strawberry Fields, built and designed by Yoko Ono in remembrance of her assassinated husband, John Lennon.

Taking a break on the Staten Island ferry

New York is massive and an extremely tiring place to walk around. When you're ready for a break, why not catch the Staten Island ferry across the water and take a few shots of the Statue of Liberty on your way past. The ferry ride doesn't cost anything and if you aren't interested in the bars, cafés or the baseball ground on the island, you can come straight back on the next ferry. They depart every 20 minutes but you pass the time watching the tropical fish in the departure lounge.

Hitting the beach

For much of the summer, the weather in New York is sunny and warm (though subject to the occasional downpour). Weather permitting, why not take time to relax on the beach for a spot of sun-worshipping in Coney Island. If you have children, the aquarium and Fun Park there are an ideal distraction.

Where to stay

Chelsea Star Hotel (300 West St and 8th Ave)
The hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of Manhattan, allowing easy access to many of New York's iconic landmarks and tourist attractions, and is only two blocks away from the nearest subway. The rooms are modest yet stylish and are equipped with queen-sized beds, flat-screen TVs, telephones and safes big enough to take laptops. Hotel services include room and laundry service, bike rental and internet access. Room prices are $109 (£66), though regular offers are available at $99 (£60).

The Whitehouse Hotel of New York (340 Bowery)
The Whitehouse prides itself on offering hotel services at hostel prices. It may be cheap but it's also very cheerful. Situated in the East Village, next to Bleeker Street and China Town, the hotel is at the heart of New York's vibrant nightlife, with many reasonably priced restaurants and bars playing live music close by. The rooms are small but have air conditioning, wireless internet, cable TV and a TV lounge playing DVDs. Room prices range from $20-$30 (£12-£18).

Where to eat

For Middle Eastern cuisine, there aren't many better restaurants than HummusPlace (109 St Marks Plaza). Renowned for being the connoisseur of chickpeas, it comes highly recommended by New Yorkers. As the name suggests, a variety of houmous dips with pita bread are the deal of the day. All main-course dishes are less than $10 (£6) and the American-sized portions are enough to satisfy any appetite.

If Italian is more to your liking, try Franks (88 2nd Ave between 5th and 6th Street). Prices for main courses range from $17-$20 (£10-£12) per head, which is pretty reasonable for Manhattan. One word of caution, though: alcohol is expensive in the States and with an additional 10-20% service tip, prices for eating out can rise sharply.