Last year, I made an impulsive decision to finally visit New York, which I had been postponing for many years. I’ve always wanted to check out the city’s most famous landmarks—like Time Squares and the Empire State Building—as well as the other hidden gems that are known only to born-and-bred New Yorkers. And so, I started booking a flight and packing my bags right away.
There was one tiny problem, though—I had a very limited budget, and New York is definitely not an inexpensive city to visit. I had to cut on my travel expenses; accommodation is one area I’ve decided to spend wisely on, but finding budget accommodation in New York is no mean task!
Although expensive hotels were out of the question, I looked for a place that’s not only cheap but also one where I’d be safe and secure when I visit NYC, as I would be traveling solo.
After much deliberation, I ended up staying in a small yet decent guesthouse (less than a mile from Central Park) where I was able to rest comfortably and safely walk around the neighborhood at any time of the day. I was pretty satisfied with my choice.
Let me share with you how I found an affordable and safe place to stay in the Big Apple.
Verifying whether the place is legit or not
Due to the popularity of Airbnb and Couchsurfing, people offering their homes as private rentals and guesthouses have increased as well. Despite the websites where their ads are posted being legit, there’s no telling whether every rental property advertised there is a scam or not. So I did my own sleuthing and searched for external reviews about the place.
I also asked for the full name of the person-in-charge and contact info of the place. This didn’t only help me find my chosen accommodation more easily when I got to the city, but it also rested my fears when, after doing a quick Google search of her name and checking her background using a people search site, I found out that my host was a real person and has no background records—and that I was going to be in good hands.
Looking at the fine print
…or if it’s not indicated (as in the case of many listings), I made sure to ask. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from my traveler-friends who arrived at the sight of broken showers, rundown air-conditioning units, terrible neighbors, and all sorts of things they didn’t expect from the ad they saw.
So even if it’s a little bit awkward, I asked in the most discreet way I could about the little things like what the neighborhood and nearby unit owners were like, how’s the air conditioning and plumbing, what the place was like at night and early morning, and many more.
I also asked each prospective host to explain to me the guest refund policy in detail so that I’d know if I’d be covered in case something didn’t go as agreed upon.
I found that those hosts doing honest business were more than willing to answer my questions, so I was easily able to narrow down my choices to a place that suited my needs best.
Checking for security measures
Even if I know that the place is a residential unit or a private home, it’s still important for me to find out if there are security alarms, guards, or even just a safe where I can store my valuables to avoid losing them to thieves.
While I was doing my research prior to this trip, looking for budget accommodation in the city, I also came across this amazing guide that offers great insight on exploring New York City on a budget – highly recommended read, with some great tips for orientation as well as money saving.
Thankfully, my experience taught me that the big apple is one the safest cities in the world. Despite that, the same precautionary measures apply, like not bringing expensive gadgets and other valuables along with you. So this is where having a reliable safe in your Airbnb or guesthouse room comes in handy. If you really have to travel with your laptop, for instance, you can just leave it in the room for safekeeping as you explore the streets of New York.