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NYC: Budget Accommodation – Hostels vs Couchsurfing


Accommodation for the thrifty traveller in New York is a nightmare at first glance. As one of the most expensive cities in the world, NYC can easily overwhelm the budget traveller searching for a place to stay. Looking for accommodation in New York means thinking outside the box, and that doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards to settle for a rat-infested hovel – I promise.

During my five nights in New York, I tried both Couchsurfing and staying in a hostel, two good options for budget accommodation in NYC. These are some of the best options for travellers looking to spend as little as possible on accommodation, and can lead to some exciting and memorable experiences too.


new york skyline, brooklyn bridge, new york



I stayed in HI New York hostel on the Upper West Side for one night during my time in New York. It’s one of the largest hostels I’ve ever stayed in, with hundreds and hundreds of rooms. I’m not usually one for staying in large hostels, but HI NYC changed my mind about that. They have so much going on, and plenty of social activities, making the most out of a big situation. I met a bunch of people on their weekly pub crawl, and have to admit that I had a blast.

PRICE: If you consider yourself well-travelled and have stayed in plenty of hostels around the world, the price of a night at a NYC hostel might leave you speechless. The price for a night in a hostel in Manhattan or Brooklyn will set you back at least $35, if not more. When I quote that price, I’m talking really simple, basic, bunks beds in a dorm hostel.

PROS: If you’re a social traveller and like to meet other backpackers, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to do so by staying in a hostel in New York. The hostels in NYC are packed pretty much all year round, so you’ll make plenty of friends in no time. The other pro for hostels in New York is that many will have plenty of social activities going on, such as group tours around places like Brooklyn or Harlem, pub crawls, and other social evenings.

CONS: Hostels in New York are pricey in comparison to other hostels in the world, but cheap in comparison to some other accommodation in NYC. In fact, most other accommodation in NYC. The drawback is that your cheap options include staying in a dorm room and sharing a bathroom, and if you’re not into big hostels then you might struggle in New York. Small, cosy hostels are hard to find, but not non-existent.

WOULD SUIT: The go-getting backpacker who loves to be around other travellers, make friends from all over the world, and, for those who are happy to stay in big hostels, wants to check yet another pub crawl off their list.


hi usa, hi nyc, hostelling international, hostels in new york

The map in HI NYC’s common area




During my time in New York I stayed with two different Couchsurfing hosts. Angie is one of the biggest hosts in New York, have hosted hundreds and hundreds of people in her little apartment over the years. I stayed at her place with two other Couchsurfers, one from Barcelona, another from Sweden. We went biking around Central Park together, ate some incredible Japanese BBQ food (my first experience of the cuisine, no less), and played several rounds of Cards Against Humanity. My other host, Amber, lived in Astoria and we had a few chats over some delicious chocolate tea. We didn’t spend too much time together due to clashing schedules, but she was a very kind host, and extremely flexible and accommodating.

PRICE: Major perk of Couchsurfing – it’s free! There are thousands of CS hosts in New York, so it’s one of the best free accommodation options in the city.

PROS: Aside from it being free to use, another pro of Couchsurfing is that it puts you in touch with local people. With a city as big as New York, you’re never going to see and do everything, so it becomes overwhelming thinking about what to pick and choose. The thing I loved about Couchsurfing in NYC is that both of my hosts gave me recommendations on their personal favourite spots, which allowed me to see the city from their perspective. This really brought my experience in NYC to life, and I saw and did things that I might not have seen or done otherwise.

CONS: Even though there are plenty of CS hosts in New York, sometimes it can be hard to pin one down, as they get so many requests every single day. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to contact hosts, and make your emails personal to them. Also, you have to be comfortable with sleeping on a couch or other such temporary bed, which is fine for a few days but if you’re picky then it might not be for you.

WOULD SUIT: Open-minded, generous culture vultures looking to bypass the famous sights in order to get to grips with New York from a local perspective.


As much as I am a Couchsurfer more than I am a hostel-ite (could you tell from the above?!), I have to admit that I still had a good time staying in a hostel whilst I was in New York. That could have been pinned down to making the best out of a bad situation, as I was staying in a hostel that night whether I liked it or not, but regardless of necessity I saw a lot of pros to hostelling in NYC.

But if I had the choice, give me a couch any day. New York is a city so teeming with life and activity that Couchsurfing is in its element in NYC. Having a local to point you in the direction of the kind of things you’ll love is completely invaluable in New York City, and that for me wins every time.


cycling central park, biking central park, couchsurfing nyc, central park new york

Cycling through Central Park with a Couchsurfing buddy


21 responses to “NYC: Budget Accommodation – Hostels vs Couchsurfing”

  1. Seodhna Doyle says:

    Hello myself and my friend are from Ireland and are travelling to NY at the end of December. We are two females in our mid 20’s. Loking for somewhere to stay for our visit. Can you explain to me how I get in touch with these hosts to ask if there is any availability

    Thank you,


  2. sarah says:

    I am just considering trying CSing.
    Is there any reasons that you could think of to why it would not be good to share your Facebook?
    I think that people could get a resonable idea as to what sort of person I am.

  3. Dwayne says:

    Hey GKM this is just what I needed to find-Great post. How do I get in touch with ‘Angie’? As I am going to NY end of September….btw is she near Central Park?

    Thanks mate

    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      Hi Dwayne – you should be able to find her on the Couchsurfing website if you search for NYC hosts. Not sure if she’s hosting at the minute though so if she doesn’t come up it’s because she’s unavailable. Unfortunately I can’t give out any more details otherwise she’ll be inundated! NYC is extremely difficult to get hosted in but just keep trying with different people 🙂

  4. pamy says:

    Hey, this post is awesome!!!!!
    But please, would you help regarding the right website for couch surfing?
    I have found this two, but I`m not sure if I should trust.

  5. luis says:

    Hi, im looking for couch surfing for a few nights, but I dont know how to find someone, or in what web page I can find someone who can offer me a couch for a few nights

    thank you for your post, it helps so much

  6. Hey there!

    Thanks for your post! I’m searching for a couch surfing in new york for a few nights, and wandered if you’d possibly be able to send me Angie’s contact? I am a young, professional designer in London. Have been finding it a bit difficult looking for couch surfing as my first time.

    Thank you so much



    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      Hi Liberty – thanks so much for the comment. Unfortunately I can’t give Angie’s details out here – it’s not fair if I hand them out to people when she gets enough requests through Couchsurfing itself! So it’s best to just go through the Couchsurfing website and see if you can find her on there. I’m not sure if she’s hosting at the minute though. Just persevere with different people 🙂 Finding a host in NYC is tough – I had to go through so many declined requests from other hosts before Angie was able to have me!

  7. Charles says:

    We looking for a room in NY or Brooklyn… Thursday 26 january – 27 – 28…and we came back to Montreal the sunday after noon …low price … And good spot… Thank’s

  8. Nora says:

    I have stayed in West Side YMCA hostel in Upper West Side. Safety, quite okay and own room with shared bathroom but almost 90USD per night for hostel. Huh. I booked that like 3 weeks in prior so I didn’t have too many options but still.

    Now I’m planning new trip to NYC for next May and I should stay there 3 weeks – two by myself and the last one with a friend. I’m now trying to find accommodation that would not eat all my money in that time. I have never tried coach surfing but it sounds good. Do you have any tips for first timer? How many emails you have mailed to get stay for a night?

    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      Hi Nora, thanks so much for checking out this post. I definitely recommend trying out Couchsurfing! It can be very difficult to find a host in NYC, but give it a shot because it can really enrich your experience.

      My top tips would include making sure you have a full profile that says a lot about you, send Couch Requests instead of messages, make sure you read people’s profiles properly and make the message you send to them personal – don’t copy and paste your messages to everyone! The big thing is that a host wants to feel like you’re specifically picking them, not just sending crazy amounts of messages to everyone. If you can get references from other people on Couchsurfing that would be good (perhaps look to see if there is a meet-up near you, they’re fun to go to!) as hosts just want to know you’re a real person, nice and genuine. That’s the key part to all of it – just be normal and take an interest in the hosts! 🙂 Also, leave it until a couple of weeks before you go as people don’t know if they’re going to be in town so won’t be able to give you a yes or no months in advance. Work on building your profile up until May, then message hosts closer to your trip.

      Have a wonderful time in NYC and best of luck with your search!

  9. Grace says:

    Hi, I will be in NYC for a few days beginning 20th Sept 2014, for the People’s Climate March/UN-Climate Summit, would you recommend any of couch hosts? 🙂 I am 28/Female, from Kenya.

    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      Hi Grace! Great to hear about your trip to NYC! So couchsurfing in New York is kind of difficult, in that all the hosts get so many requests. I really had to trawl through and message so many before I managed to get anyone. I honestly have to say it’s all personal choice, and you really do just have to check out who is around when you’re in town – it all comes down to luck in New York. Sorry I couldn’t help you any more than that, but just going straight to the website and taking time to read people’s profiles and getting to know them is your best option. Good luck, and have a fantastic time!

  10. Oh my, I’m researching affordable budget hostels in NYC right now and the same one is popping up as a likely place for me. Afer traveling SEAsia, this is going to be hard to stomach.

    • Gotta Keep Movin' says:

      It certainly will be, Christine! But, I think you will be fine. I stayed in one of the largest hostels in NYC – there are plenty others (especially over Brooklyn-way) that are much smaller and with a more tolerable vibe! You’ll find something to suit you, for sure 🙂

  11. MarcoM says:

    I prefer staying at a hotel or hostel, I just prefer having my privacy, it’s the only thing I have in the big city. I usually go with the cheapest hotels, like the ones on

    • ehiggs88 says:

      That’s definitely fair Marco, Couchsurfing isn’t the most private of options that’s for sure! Although sometimes if you pick wisely someone has a spare room (but usually they swing for Air BnB if that’s the case). Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  12. Dave says:

    Nice overview! Enjoyed getting and drunk and grabbing pizza with you in New York. Thought the hostel was decent but I prefer couchsurfing. Luckily I found a trendy hipster couchhost in Brooklyn for my return leg and we had a fun time going for a bagel, listening to motown and watching Buffy.

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