There's no question that New Orleans is one of the most fascinating cities to visit in the United States. Combining ancient French culture with strong African-American and Caribbean influences, New Orleans is a city like no other. The Big Easy has had an outsized impact on the wider culture of the United States, too, so visiting here can help you understand the many contradictions of this vast country.
But above all, New Orleans is fun. From the vibrant nightlife of the French Quarter to the historic beauty of the Garden District, there's plenty to see in New Orleans. With a notoriously rich restaurant and bar scene, the delicious French market, and the famous street performers of Bourbon Street and Charles Avenue - to say nothing of Mardi Gras - New Orleans offers almost infinite possibilities for things to see and do on vacation.
Major cities in the US are not always the cheapest places to visit, and it's true that in New Orleans, you can quite easily spend a fortune if you want to. However, New Orleans remains a significant bargain for travelers, especially when you consider everything it has to offer. Almost from the moment you arrive at New Orleans International Airport and head into the central business district, you'll be able to save money while still enjoying New Orleans on a budget.
And to make things easier on yourself, don't forget to drop off your bags at a luggage storage in New Orleans. Leaving heavy bags behind will make it easier to explore the French Quarter, Jackson Square, City Park, Canal Street, Magazine Street, and everything else you want to see in this amazing city.
Cheap places to stay in New Orleans
New Orleans is certainly a place that has had plenty of challenges in its history, both economic and otherwise. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has largely been repaired, but for years after the disaster, New Orleans was seen as something of a no-go zone. Even now, the process of rebuilding the city's reputation continues, with the result that it's easy to find some great bargains on accommodation, even in the center of the city.
New Orleans has every kind of accommodation you could want, from luxury hotels to minimalist hostels. And as is usually the case with big cities, you can save a lot of money and find a place to stay in New Orleans on a budget if you're willing to consider staying a little out of the center of the city. Public transport can get you everywhere you need to go, and many of the city's top attractions are spread out anyway. Besides, as fun as the French Quarter is, it's not a great place for a restful night's sleep.
If you're wondering where exactly to stay, don't worry because there's a New Orleans neighborhood for everyone. And if you're looking for some hotel inspiration, consider these options:
City House New Orleans
This three-star hotel is located well within New Orleans' legendary French Quarter and is only a few blocks away from Jackson Square. It's even closer to Bourbon Street, so if you're looking to party, this is a location it's hard to beat. For some people, that may be all they need to hear.
The accommodation here is basic, offering mixed-gender dorms with bunkbeds that also give you access to a communal kitchen where you can cook your meals with produce bought fresh at the French market. There are also movie nights, games, and evening events on offer, making this a great option to socialize and meet other travelers. You can get a bed in a mixed dorm for as little as $25, even in the height of the summer tourist season, while a more luxurious queen room can be had for around $100.
Andrew Jackson Hotel
If you're looking for something with a little more charm while exploring New Orleans on a budget, consider this three-star hotel. Also located in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans, this hotel provides easy access to Jackson Square and Canal Street and is a great place to stay if you're looking to experience the vibrant nightlife of the city. Located in a historic townhouse, this hotel is also really convenient for the French market.
The rooms here pay tribute to their 18th-century roots with period furnishings, including four poster beds. The lush courtyard with its water feature is a great place to spend some time on a sunny day, and the room rates include a continental breakfast. In summer, a standard room with a double bed will cost you around $160 a night, which is a great bargain when you factor in the location.
The Lookout Inn of New Orleans
Of course, there's more to New Orleans than the French Quarter, and if you want to stay somewhere a little quieter, you could do a lot worse than this charming inn. Located just around the corner from Royal Street, this two-star hotel is still located in a lively part of New Orleans, but you won't have to deal with the tourist crowds and the noise you'll get around Jackson Square. Ideal for exploring New Orleans on a budget, this boutique hotel offers only four suites, each with a clawfoot tub as well as a mini fridge. There's also a saltwater pool and a hot tub in the backyard. Each suite has its own unique theme, from the Bollywood suite to the Elvis suite. But even in the height of summer, you can rent one of these interesting rooms for only around $100.
Cheap things to do in New Orleans
There's plenty to do in New Orleans, whether you're visiting on a budget or not. In fact, some of the best things to do in the city are either free or available without spending very much money at all. In a city as atmospheric as New Orleans, often, the best thing to do is just take a wander through the French Quarter or the Garden District and soak up the lively vibe of this truly unique place.
New Orleans Museum of Art
The city's premier museum, NOMA, is the oldest art museum in New Orleans and still one of the best. The selection of art on display here is truly impressive, making this the ideal New Orleans Museum to visit for art lovers. Regular entry costs $15, but seniors and active military personnel can get in for only $10, and it's free for anyone under 19, making this a good place to visit for young budget travelers or thrifty families.
This 1300-acre city park is one of the most visited in the whole of the United States. Containing an amusement park, a botanical garden, tons of walking trails, and a café, you could easily spend the whole day or more enjoying the warm weather in this beautiful park. After all, that's what many local New Orleans residents do when they get the chance. It's completely free to enter the park, although some of the attractions inside will cost you an extra fee if you want to enjoy them.
New Orleans is defined by the Mississippi River that runs through it, and it would be easy to make the case that there's no better way to see the Big Easy than from the water. While you can go on an expensive boat cruise with drinks and dancing, you can get the exact same view from the deck of the Algiers ferry. As part of the city's public transportation system, this ferry costs only two dollars to ride, and although you won't be getting a guided tour, you will get to see the city from the river, which is a great experience not to be missed.
Cheap places to eat in New Orleans
New Orleans is a fantastic place to eat thanks to its status as a place where different cultures collide. African-American soul food meets Caribbean influences mixed with a little French je ne sais quoi to create one of the greatest dining scenes in all of North America.
To sample some of the best food in the city, as well as some of the most affordable, you may want to track down some of New Orleans' best street food. However, in this delicious city, something tasty is never far away.
Visit this bar during crawfish season, and you can eat for free - or close to it. This bar hosts a traditional crawfish boil every Friday evening during the season, and these tasty crustaceans are free to eat, provided you buy a drink. But don't forget to tip the chef to show your appreciation for this free food.
Antoine's French restaurant is a New Orleans institution, having been continuously operated in the city by the same family since 1840. This restaurant claims to have invented several classic New Orleans dishes, including oysters Rockefeller. Whether that's true or not, this is a historic place to eat that offers great food at surprisingly affordable prices. The lunch special here is a French-style three-course meal that only costs $20, which is super reasonable considering what you get for your money.
This old-school pizza restaurant may not look like much from the outside, housed as it is in a converted garage. But the prices are enough to tempt anyone in the door. A large slice goes for only $2.50, so you can eat extremely cheaply and fill up on good pizza.
Cheap bars in New Orleans
The tourist traps of the French Quarter seem to get more expensive by the year, but there are so many bars in New Orleans that they'll always be a cheap place to get a drink somewhere in town. Step away from the overpriced bars of Bourbon Street, and you'll find New Orleans still has plenty of bargain drinks available.
Located on the very edge of the French Quarter, this well-established bar has a happy hour that runs from noon until 5 PM. During those hours, select cocktails like daiquiris and Moscow mules cost only six dollars. Also, check out the daily specials, when one of their most popular cocktails will be reduced to only five dollars all day long.
This Mexican restaurant is more than just a great place to eat. On weekdays, the drinks are half-price, so you can get a margarita for less than five dollars. At the same time, the tacos are only two dollars each, so this is a great place to eat and drink in New Orleans on a budget.
This always-busy Irish bar is a great place to hang out and grab some drinks. The famous frozen Irish coffee is only $3.50, and they also offer the cocktails like mimosas and screwdrivers for three dollars.
Bonus budget tips for New Orleans
Travel during the offseason: New Orleans can be crowded and expensive during Mardi Gras and other peak tourist seasons. Consider traveling during the offseason, such as during the summer or early fall, when the weather is still pleasant, but the crowds are thinner, and hotel rates are lower.
Stay in budget-friendly accommodations: There are plenty of budget-friendly accommodations in New Orleans, including hostels, motels, and budget hotels. You can also find affordable Airbnb rentals, especially if you're willing to stay a bit further from the city center.
Eat at local joints: New Orleans is known for its delicious cuisine, and there are plenty of budget-friendly places to eat. Look for local joints that serve po'boys, gumbo, jambalaya, and other New Orleans specialties. You can also save money by eating at food trucks or getting takeout instead of eating at a restaurant.
Walk or bike: New Orleans is a great city for walking or biking, and it's an affordable way to see the city. You can rent a bike from a local shop or use a bike-sharing service like Blue Bikes. Walking is also a great way to explore the French Quarter and other neighborhoods.
New Orleans is a fantastic place to visit at any time of year. And with so many free things to do in New Orleans, it's easy to get the most out of one of the US's most beautiful cities without spending a fortune. Just remember to leave your heavy bags behind at a New Orleans luggage storage and try some of these money-saving tips to make your dollars stretch further.