I will be going to Manhattan for a presentation at Columbia and the flight (roundtrip Caltech/Burbank) will be reimbursed and accommodation will be paid for two days (duration of presentation). After that I will be free to tour on my own.

I won't be able to afford lodging around Manhattan and since I have no idea about NYC, I wanted to reach out and ask:

  1. Where can I find affordable ($50 or less/day) lodging at NYC? It's just a place to rest at night and have my suitcase (it will contain expensive research equipment from school) safe during the day when I am out exploring the city.
  2. I think staying in the suburbs around Jamaica might be inexpensive but if most of the attraction is an hour (or more) of commute, I will be wasting time I could otherwise have used for touring around.
  3. Would buying a "7-Day pass" be financially smart? How is it different from the "7-Day Express pass"?
  4. What are these "express" routes and would I ever need to use them for sight-seeing?
  5. What will be a "good" way to travel to NJ (Harrison PATH station)?
  6. What will be a "good" way to travel to MD (Baltimore Penn Station)?
  • There are some good questions here, but there are too many. Each question should be asked as a separate question. And asking about "good" options is too subjective for this site. What is your criteria for a "good" way to travel? Cheapest? Fastest? Safest? Most scenic? – Flimzy Oct 26 '13 at 22:00
  • @Flimzy: Should I spawn 5 different questions from this one? – newgraduate2013 Oct 28 '13 at 3:41
  • 1
    @newgraduate2013 I dunno about 5, but I certainly see 3 or 4. – LessPop_MoreFizz Oct 28 '13 at 3:49
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz: OK, how does this look for #1: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/21498/… – newgraduate2013 Oct 29 '13 at 6:47

You've got a whole lot of questions here, but I'll try to break it down as best I can:

1) There are some hostel options in the city, but be aware that 50/night is still a pretty tough target to hit. NYC is a very expensive city, and nothing is more overpriced (relative to the rest of the country) than real estate - which in turn, makes turning a building into a hotel or hostel much more expensive than anywhere else, which in turn, keeps rates high.

2) First off, Jamaica isn't the suburbs. It's smack dab in the center of Queens, which is one of the five boroughs of NYC, and very much a part of the city. Secondly, unless you have family or friends out in Queens to stay with or something, I'd advise against doing this. It's not a neighborhood that caters to tourists, and you'll end up spending a lot of time riding the train for a pretty minimal savings (if any at all). Really, the only good reasons to do this are if your primary destinations are in Queens (say, if you were coming to town for the US Open), if you have a car and the savings in parking dramatically swing the overall cost, or if, as I mentioned, you have someone to stay with that reduces your cost of accommodation is free.

3) A 7 day unlimited Metro Card is 30 bucks. Adjusted for the 5% bonus, this is the cost of 12.6 rides. If, in the course of your time in NY, you'll be getting on mass transit more than 12 times, it's a good deal. If you think you'll be using the system, say, less than 8 times, it's an objectively bad deal. If you think you'll use the system between 8 and 12 times, the added flexibility of not having to worry about it might be a good idea.

4) Express Buses are primarily commuter routes that connect the furthest reaches of the city with downtown destinations while skipping a large number of stops. They cost more. An Express Pass allows you access to these buses. You do not need one as a tourist.

5) Go to a PATH stain and get on a PATH train. You'll be able to use dollars stored on your metro card (but not your unlimited pass) to pay the fare, which is 2.50 each way.

6) AMTRAK is probably your best option here, though if you're really trying to save money, there are dozens of low cost bus companies that run along the I-95 corridor between DC, Baltimore, Philly, NYC, and Boston. Use Google.

  • 1
    One further clarification on point 2; it's not that queens doesn't have tourist destinations. It's just that because of the transit layout, you'll find most of them easier to access from a more central point. Jamaica in particular is just an inconvenient base of operations for a tourist. – LessPop_MoreFizz Oct 26 '13 at 22:03
  • I essentially want a safe place for my suitcase. If there are lockers I can rent on a daily basis, I can make do with just a bed in a dorm too – newgraduate2013 Oct 28 '13 at 3:43

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.