The Cheapskate Guide To: New Orleans

Looking for New Orleans budget travel tips? Read on for a local's best cheap travel tips - what to do, where to go, and what to eat on a budget in New Orleans. #neworleans #budgettravel #cheaptravel #louisianatravel #usatravel #usaroadtrip #travelusa #ustravel #ustraveldestinations #americatravel #travelamerica #vacationusa #usatripWant all the secrets to visiting New Orleans on a budget? Those historic hotels and decadent food can add up fast.

Today, a local is sharing her best New Orleans budget travel tips: $25 hostels, free (!?) Indian food, and a $2 ferry ride that shows you the whole French Quarter!

Hey y’all! I’m Sarah Becker Lillard, a wedding photographer specializing in historic home weddings and elopements and I’ve called New Orleans home for nearly four years now.

Recently, I got into real estate and am so excited to be opening up a bed and breakfast in my neighborhood (midcity) with two amazing business partners. When I’m not juggling my two careers, you can find me with my nose in a book, walking my dachshunds on the bayou, or biking around the city with my husband.

cheap lodging in new orleansCheap Lodging in New Orleans

Plan C Hostel – $45

This place is right around the block from me – creative types only apply! A hostel slash music venue slash gathering place, you’re sure to meet people from all over the world.

India House – $17+

Students (or non-US citizens), you’re in luck! This large house in midcity has been turned into an adorable and fun hostel and is right on the streetcar route.

Site 61 Hostel – $25+

This place is the new hostel on the block on a very up and coming street (Tulane Ave). You’ll be right next to the city’s newest brewery and newest bike lane!

Related: Airbnb is always an affordable option and if you’ve never used it before, here’s a $55 credit towards your first booking!

cheap food in new orleans

Cheap food in New Orleans

Rendezvous Tavern – free Indian food on Sundays

Show up a little after 2pm, order a beer, and wait for the Nirvana buffet to open up! Absolutely delicious, typically gone within a couple hours so be sure to get there early.

Cafe Adelaide – 3 free drinks during weekend brunch

My husband and I love to take the streetcar downtown to Cafe Adelaide in the Loews Hotel for brunch on the weekends. If you wear a hat (anything but a baseball cap will do), you get three free drinks! They have four delicious options and my husband and I typically get the burger as our entree. (Gotta soak up that alcohol somehow!)

Gattuso’s – ladies drink free on Thursdays

Pair unlimited free drinks for the ladies with half off appetizers during happy hour (5-7pm) and that’s a pretty good reason to drive the Crescent City Connection bridge to the west bank! Just 10 minutes from downtown in historic Old Gretna. Be sure to designate a driver! As I said, UNLIMITED free drinks.

Twelve Mile Limit – free dinner on Mondays

Show up at 7pm on Mondays for a delicious free meal at Twelve Mile Limit! Past meals have included chicken and rice, pasta, pizza, and barbecue. When they aren’t feeding you free food, Twelve Mile Limit is one of the coolest places to go to hear amazing live music (so stick around after dinner!).

Hare Krishna Temple – free dinner on Sundays

For the adventurous eater, the Hare Krishna temple serves a delicious and free vegetarian dinner every Sunday. You won’t be the only unconverted attendee!

cheap things to eat in new orleans

Pal’s Lounge – free food 3 days a week

My neighborhood bar offers free or cheap food pretty much every day! Their calendar rotates (so check their Facebook), but staples include free red beans and rice on Monday, free chili dogs on Saturday, and free mac and cheese on Sunday. They stock up board games inside, so stick around after dinner!

American Sector – 75 cent sliders

Every day from 3-6pm, have a scrumptiously cheap slider or two after touring the National World War II Museum next door!

Parkway Bakery + Tavern – $10 poboy for 2

They claim to have invented the poboy and whether or not that’s true, they’ve been around for over 100 years! Destroyed during Katrina, they’ve come back better than ever and are a personal favorite of Beyonce and President Obama. My favorite is the surf and turf poboy (shrimp and roast beef – enough said) and one can easily feed two people.

Juan’s Flying Burrito – $10 nachos for 2

When I have nothing to cook for dinner, my husband and I head to Juan’s (branches conveniently located in three different neighborhoods) and split the Hawaii 504 nachos. With tip, it’s just a little over $10 and we barely finish it between the two of us! The atmosphere is also super fun, I could stay for hours (and I have).

Hansen’s Sno-bliz – $5 snowball for 2

Hansen’s is a New Orleans establishment (and cheap!). Snoballs are a Southern summer delicacy – thank a slushie, but more solid. Definitely get the condensed milk on top!

cheap things to do in New Orleans

Cheap things to do in New Orleans

NOLA Brewery Tour – free

Check out the awesome two-story NOLA Brewery on their tour (includes free beer!) on Fridays from 2-3pm. They’ve got a game room – enough said.

New Orleans Museum of Art Sculpture Garden – free

An absolutely amazing collection of sculptures with a beautiful walking path. Free every day! For Louisiana residents, the museum next door is free on Wednesdays.

Take the streetcar – $1.25 each way

Whether you want to go up to City Park and the cemeteries or downtown to the riverfront, you can take the streetcar! This isn’t just for tourists; I use it all the time! Download the RTA Transit App to help you get around town.

cheap things to do in New Orleans

The Fly at Audubon Park – free

Gorgeous place on the river in Audubon Park. Get a snoball or take a picnic dinner out there and enjoy the sunset!

French Quarter wandering – free

Mosey down Royal Street and listen to the street bands, visit the St. Louis Cathedral (free), window shop the antique stores on Royal St., and people watch in Jackson Square. If you need a snack, get in line at Cafe du Monde for some beignets (less than $3 for a bag).

Algiers Ferry – $2 round-trip

See gorgeous views of the French Quarter on the ferry ride over to Algiers Point, the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans! Compact and with no lack of character, have a quick walk around and enjoy the view before heading back! Ferry runs every half hour.

Frenchmen Art Market – free

Frenchmen is the most gregarious street in New Orleans. The art market (every Thursday – Sunday night) is an eclectic mix of local artists and a great place to pick up a souvenir or take some photos!

Thanks so much for sharing, Sarah! New Orleans locals – what would you add to this list? 

P.S. 22 cheap (or free!) things to do when payday is far away & How to live out of a suitcase glamorously

photo credits: Lars Plougmann // Phil Roeder // Infrogmation of New Orleans // nolamaven // Jessica Spengler // Shelly Prevost // wikipedia // cc

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  1. L

    Hi Sarah, and Sarah! This is a lovely post, but there are some formatting issues and leftover editorial comments – might want to take a quick look!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ahhhh! Thanks for the head’ up – updated!

  2. Manisha

    We took the ferry on our trip to NOLA. There is a bar right off the dock which has the best ever french onion soup. It was recommended by a local and she was absolutely right! The ferry trip is super short but still a chance to experience the Mississippi on the other end. But beware of the last trip if you are heading over the evening.

    • Matt

      FREE ferry and the Dry Dock is awesome!

  3. Sarah Becker Lillard

    Sarah thank you so much for sharing this! So excited to be on one of my favorite blogs talking about one of my favorite things (NEW ORLEANS!). xoxo.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Thank YOU for sharing all these awesome insights – wish I would have had this when we were in NOLA a few months ago!

  4. NZ Muse

    I must confess we actually stayed in a fringe caravan park in New Orleans to save money! It was quite an experience 🙂 Loved the city

  5. Lauren

    I’m heading to New Orleans in July so I’m super excited to try some of these places out! Thanks!!!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Have so much fun!

  6. Lauren

    Such a great list! I lived on Carrollton for a year and used to walk to Juans at least four times a week… Dem nachos!

  7. Donna Simmons

    Seniors 65+ get even better transportation deals: Algiers ferry $1 each trip $2 round trip versus $2 one way or $4 round trip and 40₵ one way for all buses and streetcars (must have correct amounts for ferry and streetcars or check For all others check out NOTA online for a Jazzy pass $3 for 24 hours unlimited rides on streetcars and buses or integrated pass $7 ferry, streetcars and buses

  8. Lyn

    Looking forward to New Orleans, thanks for the insider tips.
    I’ll watch out for you walking your dachshunds- we’ll be leaving ours at home in the UK 🙂

  9. Lyn

    We’re here and loving it! What a beautiful city ❤️

  10. Misty

    I’ve been to NOLA twice now. Looking forward to reading your blog again before our next trip.

  11. Mikaela

    Is your airbnb up yet!? I’m going in November!


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