While it’s known as a helluva town, for whatever reason New York has never been the most popular destination for backpackers.
Perhaps it’s down to the hefty costs involved, or maybe another thing putting people off is the sheer magnitude of the city and the idea of being alone in such a vast urban landscape, which can be daunting for some.
Which is a shame, because when it comes to things to see & do in New York the Big Apple packs one mighty punch.
True, it’s nice spending some of those days on the road chilling on a tranquil beach in some far-flung destination. But it can be equally – if not more – exciting getting your move on in a sprawling metropolis like NYC, and if only some backpackers knew how to make their trip just a little bit easier then perhaps more would experience the magic New York has to offer.
Which is why we put together this list of tips for backpacking in New York. Here, we provide money-saving hints, advice on travel and ways to hook up with the like-minded people to combat any feelings of isolation.
Hopefully, with this information, we can eradicate some of the apprehension and encourage people on the road to come and see the Empire State
Before we get into what to do once you arrive, you’ll need to make sure you’re eligible to travel to the U.S otherwise your trip to New York might end before it’s even begun!
Getting the correct paperwork is relatively simple, particularly if your country of residence is included in the Visa Waiver Program. This allows residents of participating countries to travel to the USA for business or leisure for up to 90 days without a Visa. You just need to fill out an online form, pay a small fee and once you’re accepted you’ll receive an ESTA form which grants you access.
If your country doesn’t participate, you’ll need a Visa. Regardless of which paperwork you need to obtain, be sure to follow the official channels.
As you’ve probably heard, taxis in New York can be expensive. Therefore, unless your budget is higher than the average backpacker’s, then your first port of call should be the subway station to grab yourself a MetroCard. This will bag you some great savings when travelling around the city.
There are a number of options, with day, week and even annual passes available. Work out which is best for you, based on the length of time you’re spending in NYC and save yourself a fortune compared to the iconic – but exorbitant – yellow cabs.
New York Pass
If it’s attractions you’re in town to see, make sure you pick up a New York Pass as this is another surefire way to make some great savings.
Rather than buy individual tickets, which can turn out to be mightily costly once your sightseeing is done, the pass allows you to gain entry to the attractions for a reduced cost.
You simply choose the number of attractions you’d like to see and just pay for those. Great for making savings and ensuring you only fork out for the stuff you really want to do!
As well as pocketing some great savings, you’ll also love the versatility of the pass. Along with the obvious attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, you can also see museums, peddle around Central Park or even go on a cruise of the Hudson River.
For backpackers, sometimes one of the most daunting aspects of solo-travelling can be the fear of loneliness.
Heading to a new place where you know nobody on your own can be nerve-racking, no doubt. Throw in the fact the place is one of the busiest and most populous places on Earth and it can start to seem like some people’s idea of hell.
But all that anxiety can be avoided if you take advantage of some of the excellent meet-up websites and apps that exist on the internet. There is a wide variety to choose from and a little research should help you unearth the one that appeals to you the most.
My favourite is the aptly named meetup.com, as it allows you to connect to other people/groups of the same interests, which ensures you’re approaching like-minded people who you’re likely to get on with more.
Just make sure you exercise caution whenever you arrange to meet a stranger on the web and always meet in a public place.
Stay in Hostels
As the majority of backpackers will know, the cheapest accommodation while you’re on the road is usually hostels.
One issue with New York and arguably the biggest drawback for backpackers is the cost of accommodation and, unfortunately, even hostels in NYC are pretty pricey.
But while there are actually some cheaper hotels & B&Bs, it’s still worth staying at one of the city’s hostels for the social benefits you’ll get. While you might actually save some money staying in a grotty B&B, you won’t get the same opportunity to meet like-minded travellers as you will in a hostel.
There are many different options, ranging from party hostels to the more chilled with a slightly more reserved clientele. Just jump on HostelWorld and take a look at the options available, before choosing the one that suits what you’re looking for from your stay.
This was a guest post, written by Anna Mumford, chief writer at New York Weekend Breaks – an essential guide to NYC, offering travel tips and information on accommodation, dining, and attractions.