New Orleans Travel Guide – Budgets, Tips, Itineraries + More

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Welcome to my New Orleans Travel Guide. In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about visiting the Big Easy.

Ask someone what happens in New Orleans and 90% of the time they will say, “Mardi Gras” or “hurricanes.” While both of these things are assured most years, New Orleans offers so much more than wild weather and even wilder parties.

There are tons to do in the Big Easy! From exploring the roots of jazz to playing on the roots of colossal oaks, New Orleans should keep you occupied for quite a while. Honestly, you could spend a week in New Orleans, a month, even a lifetime, and you’ll still find new things to keep you entertained here.

Obviously, we’d be remiss if we didn’t cover the food or festivals in this New Orleans travel guide as they are, admittedly, pretty spectacular. So don’t you worry – we are going to talk plenty about where to eat in New Orleans, where to find the best live music, and so much more.

Being broke backpackers ourselves, we’re going to be spending a fair bit of time talking about how you can save money while visiting NOLA. With this New Orleans travel guide and our insider information, you’ll gain a better understanding of where to eat, sleep, visit, drink, and possibly more, all on a budget.

So grab your bags and bring your most comfortable clothing with you. By the time you finish all those crawfish and sazeracs, we’re going to be rolling you out of New Orleans in a wheelbarrow.

Special thanks to Adam “The Rocket” Crocket for his contributions to this New Orleans travel guide. Cheers, dude.

 

How Much does Traveling to New Orleans Cost?

New Orleans is a very seasonal town, which means prices will fluctuate greatly depending on when you visit. Come during Mardi Gras and be ready to spend a pretty penny. Visit during the low seasons though and New Orleans can be very cheap.

Regardless of when you are planning a trip to New Orleans, there are always ways to cut costs and spend less. Having good backpacker habits is crucial to visiting New Orleans on a budget and extending your trip.

We have gotten pretty good at limiting our travel expenses. It took us years to perfect our methods and here we are to share them with you. Follow our advice and you’ll be able to visit New Orleans on the cheap, no matter what time of year.

french quarter restaurants in new orleans

A lower daily budget for New Orleans would be around $50-$60. This will get you a dorm bed, groceries, bus tickets, and some extra money for beers or whatever.

Accommodation in New Orleans will be the first and foremost expense. Hotels in New Orleans can be affordable in the summer and fall, but watch out for the spring – prices are highest from February-May.

To save the most on lodging in New Orleans, stick to hostels, book an Airbnb with a big group of people, or use local campgrounds.

Food can be more or less as expensive as you want it to be. Fancy Michelin-star French cooking in the Garden District? Good luck wrapping your head around that bill. You’re better off eating in one of the food halls or just sticking to street gumbo if you’re on a budget.

As always, be mindful of how much you drink as well. Lack of inhibition can really do a number on your wallet.

Below is a breakdown of a daily budget in New Orleans including average costs of each expense.

 

Cost Breakdown of New Orleans

Hostel Dormitory: $15-$25

Basic room for two: $100-$150

AirBnB/temp apartment: $50-$100

Average cost of public transport: $1.25-$3.00

City-Airport transfer: $2.50

Sandwich: $6-$8

Beer at a bar: $4-$6

Coffee: $3-$5

Bottle of whiskey from the market: $20

Dinner for two: $40-$80

 

New Orleans Travel Guide Budget Tips

If you’re looking for more ways to do New Orleans on the cheap, then try using one of these money-saving techniques!

old musician playing guitar new orleans travel guide

  1. Be a coupon clipper – There are visitors coupons on New Orleans official webpage! Print a sheet out and take advantage of some extra discounts.
  2. Practice the three-martini lunch – Though the three-martini lunch harkens to a time when it was socially acceptable to get day drunk, nowadays it mostly refers to amazing drink deals. Certain places in New Orleans offer martinis for as low as $0.25! This shit is just dangerous.
  3. Cheap (sometimes free) oysters – One of the cheapest things to do in New Orleans is to take advantage of the many oyster deals around town. You can find these for as low as $0.50 per shellfish or less. They’re even free at Le Bon Temps Roule on Fridays!
  4. Eat at the local restaurants – New Orleans’ is renowned for its culinary scene, but eating in the touristy areas or at a 5-star restaurant is going to ruin you. Go to a dive bar and eat the house gumbo once in a while or visit a greasy spoon diner.
  5. Happy hour – If you aren’t already impressed by the free oysters or the quarter martinis, well there’s plenty more offers in town. New Orleans has a crazy array of happy hours. Just wander around the city between 4 and 6 pm and you’ll definitely find something.
  6. Cook at home as often as possible – One of the most proven ways of saving money for backpackers; buying your own groceries and cooking at home will save you heaps of cash.
  7. Use a water bottle – Save money by investing in a good water bottle and then drink from the tap. New Orleans’s water is delicious and totally fine to drink.
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Where to Stay in New Orleans Travel Guide

New Orleans is a tourist town and tourist towns are meant to have lots of accommodation! You’ll find all kinds of different lodges in New Orleans, from the weirdest bungalow to the ritziest penthouse suite. The choice is yours!

At the of the day, the biggest factor when it comes to hotels in New Orleans is the price. This is a very seasonal town and prices can fluctuate immensely depending on the time of year. An apartment could be affordable one month and three times the price the next.

To avoid spending too much on accommodation in New Orleans, book ahead as early as possible.

If you’re traveling solo, I recommend booking a hostel. I have summarized a few of my favorite hostels in New Orleans below, though you should also check out our full New Orleans hostel guide.

Sometimes hotels can be overpriced and lacking in character. Granted, New Orleans has a lot of personality, so my opinion may be moot here.

There are some great hotels and definitely better neighborhoods than others to stay in New Orleans. For more information, check out our guide on where to stay in New Orleans.

I generally prefer Airbnb apartments. They are usually more personable and homier than hotels. You can save even more on Airbnb apartments using coupon codes as well! 

Before planning your trip to New Orleans, be sure to check out our guide on how to find the perfect apartment, complete with a code for $35 off your next rental!

new orleans home

Hostels in this city are dirt cheap and, given New Orleans’ wild reputation, are a great way to meet other people. A lot of hostels in New Orleans are inherently social and can be pretty loud at times. Hopefully, you’re not the introverted type who hides in the dormitories.

New Orleans actually has a number of RV parks/campgrounds within the city limits and these should appeal to people traveling on a shoestring budget. Just remember to lock your car and bring a tent!

 

Overall Best Hostel in New Orleans – The Quisby

The Quisby is damn near perfect – it’s clean, orderly, well staffed, tastefully designed, and centrally located. The hostel organizes social events and has a bar on-site for all of your drinking needs. Backpackers will also appreciate the free breakfast and cheap airports transfers. Need we ask for more?

Check for Best Price

The Quisby best hostels in New Orleans

 

Best Party Hostel in New Orleans – Nola Jazz House

According to its Hostelworld description, Nola Jazz “encourages (its) guests to meet each other and socialize” and enjoys “getting the party started.”

If that isn’t a clear and present advertisement for a party hostel than I don’t know what is! The space – essentially a renovated residential home – makes the place feel like a house party that everyone is invited to! Luckily, there’s a free breakfast to help cure that hangover.

Check for Best Price

Nola Jazz House best hostels in New Orleans

 

Best Cheap Hostel in New Orleans – City House Hostel

City House is the best budget hostel in New Orleans but it doesn’t feel like one. There’s a bar, a game room, lots of communal areas, and plenty of different dorm varieties for every type of traveler.

It’s even located in the French Quarter for easy access to New Orleans’ top attractions! Unfortunately, there’s no free breakfast 🙁

Check for Best Price

City House Hostels New Orleans best hostels in New Orleans

 

Top 10 Things to Do in New Orleans

 

1. Visit a plantation

There are a number of beautifully preserved plantations on the outskirts of New Orleans. These offer glimpses of a time when slavery was still common in Louisiana. Visit either the Oak Alley Plantation or the Whitney Plantation and educate yourself about this horrible era.

oak plantation day trips from new orleans

2. Join the party

Mardi Gras is one of the most famous parties in the world, but there are so many more festivals in New Orleans than just this! The likes of Jazz Fest, Satchmo, and Voodoo are all worth attending, if not for their cultural offerings than for their great fun.

 

3. Or the dead

Here’s a bit of New Orleans’ insider information: did you know that there are seven supposed entryways to the underworld here? Referred to as the Gates of Guinee, these portals are fabled in voodoo culture.

Explore New Orleans and see if you can discover their location. Otherwise, visit the graveyards for a more literal deathly experience.

cemetery in new orleans places to go

 

4. Learn about the local history

Some of the absolute must-see places in New Orleans are the many museums that explain its heritage and identity. Places like the Cabildo, the Ogden, and Mardi Gras World provide a wealth of knowledge concerning one of the most culturally unique places in the USA. Don’t forget to ask the homegrown New Orleanians about where they live either.

 

5. Eat everything

There are so many places to eat in New Orleans that it’s hard to know where to start. Cajun, French, BBQ, seafood; all of these are better than the last. You could spend a week in New Orleans, eating out for every meal, and still not come close to grasping the full breadth of the food here.

coffee and beignets in new orleans

 

6. Listen to live music everywhere

If you don’t know what to do in New Orleans at night, then just step outside. Almost immediately, you should hear music blaring from some local lounge or street corner. Just follow the sweet sounds and you’ll find your place soon enough.

 

7. Be a pedestrian

No matter where you stay in New Orleans, there’s always a cool and exciting street nearby. Between the likes of Freret, Royal, St Claude, and everything in between, there is always something going on nearby. Just leave the flat and wander around a bit.

 

8. Chill out under the trees

Two points of interest in New Orleans that may go unnoticed are the Spanish Moss and the enormous trees that host it. For locals, these two floras are among the most iconic features of the city and are great sources of nostalgia. Hang out under a mighty oak and just watch the Old Man’s Beard blow in the wind.

 

9. Fall in a second line

If you only have 3 days in New Orleans, the one thing that you have to look for is a second line march. These mini-parades are lead by Jazz ensembles and are usually organized for specific celebrations. They also have a tendency to grow, as most people can’t resist joining in the line.

 

10. Ride the tram on St Charles

New Orleans has several historic streetcars that are wonderfully vintage. The St Charles line is particularly pretty though as the way is lined with beautiful trees. You’ll get to pass by the Garden District as well, which is one of the most elegant neighborhoods in New Orleans.

 

Best Free Things to Do in New Orleans

The best way to visit New Orleans on a budget is to take advantage of all the free activities. Some of the most fun things to do in New Orleans are totally free as well so enjoy yourselves!

  1. Movies – New Orleans is a big fan of outdoor screenings. These are often held in public places, like parks, and are free to the viewing public as well. Be sure to check out the Moonlight Movies series, Cinema Sundays in the French Quarter, and Rivertown Movies in the Park.
  2. Free museums – New Orleans has quite a few cultural centers that offer free entry on certain days of the week/year. The Historic New Orleans Collection, Newcomb Art Gallery, WWII Museum, and the House of Dance and Feathers are all such places. The Ogden Museum and Art Museum offer free days, but only to Louisiana residents.
  3. Concerts and jam seshes – There is music everywhere in this city – a lot of the time, it’s totally free as well! There are numerous free concerts in New Orleans held year round, like Wednesdays at the Square and Jazz in the Park. Local Bon Operatit also hosts free opera performances every 2nd Wednesday. If you strike out with these, there’s always a street performer around to serenade you.
  4. Comedy shows – New Orleans has an enormous comedy club scene and every week there is something free going on. Open mics, workshops, and improv sessions are just a few of the events. You may have to buy a drink at the bar and we suggest you do just that – being cheap is easy heckling material.
  5. The finer things – Many of New Orleans local breweries offer free guided tours of their facilities. NOLA Brewing offers free beer to participants! The New Orleans Cigar Factory also offers tours of their facilities from 10am-10pm. Smoking is allowed.

outdoor live music new orleans travel guide

 

Best Festivals in New Orleans

Some of New Orleans’ best attractions are its lavish parties! This New Orelands travel guide will help you plan your trip around any one of these festivals for instant good times.

  1. Mardi Gras (February/March) – the most raucous cultural festival in the country. Mardi Gras aka “Fat Tuesday” is New Orlean’s version of Carnival. It includes parades, Indian chiefs, costumes, binge drinking, music, and, of course, beads.
  2. Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival (March) – Dedicated to the beloved author. Features writing competitions, spoken performances, a book fair, and other literary activities.
  3. French Quarter Fest (April) – A showcase of Southern music styles. Quite large and totally free to attend. Claimed to be “the largest free music festival in the USA.”
  4. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest (April) – The single most important music festival in New Orleans. Showcase of everything the city is known for including jazz, folk, bluegrass, Cajun, and then some.
  5. New Orleans Oyster Fest (June) – Celebration of the greatest mollusk ever. Here’s a fun game: eat 20 and try to figure out if you’re sick or horny.
  6. ESSENCE (July) – The largest celebration of African-American music and culture in the USA. Described as a “party with a purpose.” Features rap, hip-hop, R&B, jazz, gospel, and more soulful sounds.
  7. Running of the Bulls (July) – New Orleans own version of the Spanish tradition, but instead of bulls, there is a great stampede of roller-blading Derby girls. They chase people with plastic bats so I hope you’re nimble.
  8. Satchmo Summerfest (August) – Jazz festival celebrating the great Louis Armstrong. Citywide performances. St. Augustine church holds a “jazz mass” that is purportedly amazing.
  9. Blues and BBQ Fest (October) – Fairly self-explanatory festival held in Lafayette Square Park. Free admission.
  10. Voodoo Music (October) – New Orleans biggest Halloween party! A multi-day music festival that features a huge array of genres.

mardi gras parade new orleans

 

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary

The following is a sample 3-day itinerary for a weekend in New Orleans. Most of the top destinations mentioned in this New Orleans travel guide are covered in this section.

 

Day 1: French Quarter and the Bywater

On the first day of our New Orleans travel guide, we’re going to get the touristy stuff out of the way. Today, we’re going to knock out the French Quarter and then hit up Marigny/Bywater.

Let’s start in the French Quarter. This is the oldest part of the city and, as the name suggests, was originally built by the French. Interestingly enough, most of the architecture here isn’t even French – the Spanish are responsible for the majority of the Quarter’s contemporary architecture.

A lot of New Orleans’ must see sights are located in the French Quarter. Here you’ll find the infamous Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, and St Louis Cathedral. You may spend a fair amount of time in Jackson just people watching.

new orleans french quarter things to do

There are a number of interesting sites around Jackson Square. The Cabildo is a museum dedicated to New Orleans’ origins. Preservation Hall is one of the most significant Jazz landmarks in the city.

The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum offers some cool insight into the birth of the cocktail. Finally, you may enjoy dropping by M.S. Rau Antiques to do a little browsing (be sure to ask about the “secret room”).

The French Quarter hosts many of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans as well. Brennan’s, Muriel’s, and Arnaud’s are some of the most prolific in the city and are, consequently, pricey. Definitely pop into the Old Absinthe House for a Sazerac.

When you’re ready to escape the masses, head toward Marigny and Bywater. These are two local neighborhoods in New Orleans and are more laid back.

If you walk up Royal Street, you’ll get to pass the Lalaurie Mansion, Palace French Market, and Studio Be. Royal Street itself is pretty boutique so you’ll get to window shop a lot.

If you can manage it, try making a detour to The Art Garage or Backstreet Cultural Museum.

End your day with a drink at Bacchanal Spirits or by watching a show at Music Box Village.

 

Day 2: City Park and Lakeview

On the second day of this New Orleans travel guide, we head toward the lake for a day of relative peace and quiet. We’ll be spending a lot of time in the park and exploring New Orleans’ many grandiose cemeteries.

From the French Quarter, grab the Canal Street Streetcar and ride it until the end of the line. First, we’ll shoot through the bustling city center. As we pass under the I-10 though, you’ll see the first of the day’s mausoleums on the right: St Louis Cemetery. Hop off if you like or push on.

After about 20 mins, you should reach the terminus of the streetcar. Directly in front of you should be two more of the city’s most opulent cemeteries: Metairie and Greenwood. Wander around these necropolises if you like and admire the many lavish headstones and bronze ornaments. Just please be respectful of offerings and Holy Ground, if there are any.

Just up from the cemeteries is the enormous City Park, which is where we’re heading next. This park is a great place to relax and watch the clouds go by.

New Orleans City Park

You’ll be walking under giant oaks and cypresses that are covered in one of New Orleans’ most famous features: Spanish Moss or “Old Man Beard.

When the trees creak and the moss moves from the wind, it’s one of the most serene moments you’ll have in the city. If you visit the Singing Oak near the Art Museum, you’ll have the chance to hear its own song made from a handful of custom wind chimes.

As mentioned before, City Park is enormous and you could easily spend the entire day here. The Art Museum and Besthoff Sculpture Garden certainly give you more to do but if you miss them, it’s ok.

When you’re ready, head back to the city center via Esplanade Avenue or head up towards Harrison. Harrison is the main street of the residential Lakeview neighborhood and has a number of good bars and restaurants.

 

Day 3: St Charles to Audubon

We’re going to end our New Orleans travel guide by visiting the southwestern portion of the city. Today, you can go as far as Audubon Park if you like. If you’re not in the mood for another park, you can spend the day wandering around Magazine or Freret Streets and go shopping/eating to your heart’s content.

Let’s start at Lee Circle, which hosts two museums that we haven’t seen yet: the National WWII Museum and the Ogden. In particular, the Ogden is worthwhile for its collection of historical Southern art, which often deals with complex issues like slavery and colonialism.

At this point, we’re going to be using the St Charles Streetcar as our primary means of transport. We’ll be passing through and near a lot of the best neighborhoods in New Orleans, so get ready to hop and hop off.

Freret Street and Magazine Street are located a couple of blocks on either side of St Charles Avenue and both are really nice to walk around. You could conceivably walk down one and return back via the other, though that would be a quite a bit of walking.

Very close by Lee Circle is Oretha Castle Haley Blvd (OCH), which is on the cusp of becoming the next big pedestrian street. If you wanted to see a bit of New Orleans before it’s absorbed into the mass consumer matrix, drop by this little slice.

Further along, you’ll eventually arrive in the Garden District. Here you’ll find rows of grand oaks and even grander mansions from the old days. Lafayette Cemetery is also in this area and it is arguably the coolest in the city.

Audubon Park is the end of the line for us. As you leave the tram, you’ll see Tulane to your right. The Newcomb Art Museum is on campus and it’s open to the public as well.  

 

New Orleans Travel Guide and Tips

 

Best Time of Year to Visit New Orleans

If money is no issue for you, then the best time to visit New Orleans is, without question February to May. During this time, New Orleans’ weather is calm and the temperatures are pleasant.

More importantly, this is the time when the best parties in New Orleans occur e.g. Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, and Jazz Fest.

Prices during these months will be absolutely ridiculous though. Most forms of accommodation – hotels, Airbnb, fuckin’ cardboard boxes – will be booked up months in advance.

On that note, a lot of the local businesses and attractions in New Orleans close during Mardi Gras. Unless you’re visiting NOLA specifically for this holiday, you may be better off just waiting until everything has passed.

As June approaches, so does the rain, humidity, and steamy temps. During the summer season (June-September) the city can feel barren at times, as hardly any tourists visit for fear of the heat or hurricanes. As such, you can get some screaming deals on lodging during this time.

hurricane katrina aftermath new orleans

Visiting during the summer can be a more authentic New Orleans experience. The city is definitely sifted of tourists and a lot of really important festivals, like ESSENCE and Satchmo, happen at this time as well.

August and September are peak hurricane months, which is usually a grim time for New Orleans. These storms can wreak havoc on the city and are often treated with a high degree of severity. If a big storm is on the way, don’t be surprised to see stores boarded-up and shut down.

The rest of the year (October-January) is pretty easy as most people are wiped out from the festivals and hurricane season. This is a good time to visit New Orleans because prices are low and the weather is lovely. Temperatures almost never fall below freezing in winter.

 

Getting in and out of New Orleans

New Orleans has one major airport that handles most of its air traffic – Louis Armstrong International Airport. The airport is located quite close to the city but getting to and from is not as easy as it should be.

The airport is a quick 20-minute drive away from the French Quarter but costs a minimum of $35, Uber or taxi. If that sounds like a bit much to you, it is.

Those who want to travel cheaply to the city center from Louis Armstrong can use the E-2 bus, which stops on the second floor. Travel time is 45 minutes.

new orleans skyline and coast

There are numerous Amtrak trains and mainliner bus companies offering services to New Orleans. Union Passenger Terminal is the primary arrival/departure port for all of these.

Visiting New Orleans with a car is a relatively straightforward task. I-10 is the main highway in and out of New Orleans and it runs right through the heart of the city.

When driving in the city center just be aware of where you park – parking meters can be expensive and carjackings are on the rise.

When you’re ready to leave New Orleans, there are plenty of onwards destinations. Just be aware that the South is a pretty big region and that drive times can be longer than you think. Refer below for a list of Southern cities and their distances.

  • Baton Rouge (LA) – 1.5 hours
  • Mobile (AL) – 2 hours
  • Tallahassee (FL) – 5.5 hours
  • Houston (TX) – 5.5 hours
  • Memphis (TN) – 5.5 hours
  • Atlanta (GA) – 6.5 hours
  • Dallas (TX) – 8 hours

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How to get around New Orleans

Once you can wrap your head around the weird layout, New Orleans is actually relatively easy to get around. New Orleans is pretty fun to walk around and the public transport is good enough that you can just about anywhere you need to.

The city itself is shaped like a crescent and tends to disorientate those who are not used to its odd shape. Cardinal directions seemingly don’t exist in New Orleans, which is a phenomenon you can test out simply by asking a local which way is north. (They’ll look at you like you’re crazy.)

The best way to navigate New Orleans is to just refer to major landmarks in the city. If you ask for directions, you will often be told to just “head towards the river” or “the lake.” Figure out where these places are at all times, and you’ll be golden.

getting around new orleans historic tram

Thanks to its overwhelming array of shopping streets, one of the most fun things to do in New Orleans is to just walk around.

You could spend an entire afternoon just browsing around the likes of Magazine Street, Freret Street, or Royal Street, and you wouldn’t be wasting your time.

New Orleans has several historic trams that are as useful as they are enjoyable. The streetcars themselves resemble their European cousins and could fit right in Milan or Lisbon.

There are two streetcar lines: red for Canal Street and green for St Charles. Both are major throughways and can get quite busy.

New Orleans has a public transport system, referred to as RTA. There are plenty of buses running throughout the city. Rides cost $1.25 one way or $3 for an entire day.

 

Safety Guide for New Orleans

New Orleans’ reputation took a bit of a dive following Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of the biblical storm, New Orleans became a wasteland as entire neighborhoods and communities were decimated. What resulted was widespread displacement, food shortages, and an increasing reliance on federal aid.

As time went on, New Orleans became somewhat lawless. Like a purgatory, the poor souls that remained in NOLA had to resort to criminal means to survive. There was looting, theft, and violence. Even after the city began to rebuild, endemic crime still hung around.

Today, New Orleans has returned quite close to its former self and is certainly not the chaotic mess it was following Katrina. Almost all of New Orleans’ points of interest are safe and accepting visitors.

new orleans ruins hurricane katrina

That being said, New Orleans is still one of the most violent cities in America. Luckily, much of the violence is located in the outer neighborhoods – places that should hold little appeal to tourists.

Before even going near these districts, be sure to check their status with the local authorities. Venturing into one of these areas randomly could put you in a bad place.

Regardless of where you are, you must exhibit common sense at all times when visiting New Orleans. Pickpockets and scammers still hang around touristy areas and will take advantage of you if you don’t practice the usual travel precautions.

If you plan on partaking in party favors in New Orleans, be very careful of who you buy from. Dealers are notorious for cutting their blow and selling God knows what to tourists. Wait until you’re with a savvy local who knows the difference before diving in nose first.

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

GET IT HERE

 

Get Insured before Visiting New Orleans

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

New Orleans Accommodation Hacks

Sometimes you need your own roof above your head – we know the feeling. Other times, you’re doing everything you can save a nickel and dime.

If you’re trying to cut the costs of travel to New Orleans, then maybe it’s time to stay somewhere besides a hostel or apartment. If you need to save money, try one of these:

Couchsurf! – Couchsurfing is the best way to save on cash when it comes to accommodation since most of the time you’re crashing for free. Staying with a local host is also a great chance to experience a more authentic side of the city and to visit hidden New Orleans.

Problem is couchsurfing is really popular (duh, it’s free) and demand often outstrips supply. Hosts are picky as well so you’ll need to impress them with an eye-catching message. Definitely try couchsurfing but be ready to be rejected.

best music in new orleans travel guide

Tap into your backpacker network – You never know when you have a friend in a foreign city! If you’ve traveled a lot, you may have met someone from New Orleans or know someone who knows someone.

Reach out to people! Ask to stay with people for a night or two in exchange for cooking dinner or a bottle of wine. If you don’t know anyone in the city, ask your friends if they do – travelers understand the struggle and are usually more helpful than you think.

Camping – Urban camping is a growing trend in many cities. These campsites are comfortable, sociable, safe, and cheap. They are often located on the outskirts of town, which means they are quieter too. Research to see if New Orleans has any and be sure to bring your own tent too!

 

Eating in New Orleans

It is no secret that New Orleans is a foodie town. In a lot of ways, it is home to some of the most prized dishes in the entire USA. People travel from all over the world to sample local favorites, like beignets or bananas fosters, and to search for the best Cajun restaurants in New Orleans.

The food of New Orleans is a divine mix of Creole, African, French, and Southern cooking styles. Honestly, I don’t think I can define the heavenly flavors of New Orleans cuisine simply with words – I can only say that it is supremely delicious and not at all healthy.

Since it’s located right on the Gulf of Mexico, seafood is very big in New Orleans. Crawfish are the primary catch of the day and can be found on just about every menu.

(Insider tip: if you get a boiled craw and its tail is straight, don’t eat it – it was already dead when it was cooked). Catfish is a personal favorite of mine, especially when it’s blackened and spicy.

crawfish in new orleans where to eat

There are a number of New Orleans staples that you have to try.

Beignets are those little, fried dough balls that you get at breakfast. The Muffuletta sandwich is an awesome collab between New Orleans and its Sicilian population (go to Central Grocery & Deli for the original). Sandwich lovers should be on the lookout for po boys, which usually contain a healthy dose of fried meats and a bit of vegi.

You can go to the most famous restaurants in New Orleans to sample delicacies if you like. Honestly, though, you can consistently find some really good food at the smaller, less upscale eateries as well.

Some notable local restaurants in New Orleans are Elizabeth’s, Cru at Feelings Cafe, Gris Gris, and any one of the Ruby Slipper Cafes.

 

Nightlife in New Orleans

New Orleans’ reputation certainly precedes itself – this is one of the most fun, drunkest, most laissez-faire cities in the entire USA and almost never lets up!

There are so many things to do in New Orleans at night. Comedy, live music, honky tonks, line dancing, parties, festivals, binge drinking; you name, New Orleans has it.

The mind reels when trying to narrow down all of the city’s nightlife offerings and options.

Obviously, a live music act is a must see in New Orleans. You can easily walk into a show on the likes of Frenchman Street, which is booming pretty much every night. Diehard jazz fans ought to head to the Spotted Cat, the original Tipitina’s or Kermit’s Mother-in-law Lounge in the Treme. All are hallowed venues among the local jazz community.

For general partying, there are lots of neighborhoods in New Orleans that cater to all types of people.

Bourbon Street is Bourbon Street and by that I mean it’s flooded with tourists, all the time. I’d spend about 15 minutes walking through here if I could. Although, there are a number of quality cabarets and strip clubs here (if you’re into that kind of thing).

A much cooler area to drink in is Bywater. This neighborhood is a lot more local and, as such, way less snooty or idiotic. St Claude Street is a bit of an artist’s haunt and has a bunch of unpretentious bars.

If you wanted the opposite of this, then you should probably head to the Warehouse District. This is New Orleans redeveloped. darling – think SoMa in SF or the Pearl in Portlandand attracts a lot of yuppies.

Finally, Oak Street in Uptown attracts mainly students. If you were looking for cheap drinks and opinionated young adults to go with them, then this is probably the place to be.


Books to Read on New Orleans

Check out this New Orleans reading list to learn more about the city! Each novel does a great job of exploring New Orleans.

  • The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.
  • A Streetcar Named DesireOne of Tennessee Williams’ tour-de-forces – a play that helped launch the careers of iconic actors like Marlon Brando. Concerns a vain diva and her even more vain brother-in-law.
  • A Confederacy of DuncesOne of the greatest American comedic novels of all time. A bumbling, oblivious, fat man stumbles through the French Quarter. Described as a modern Don Quixote.
  • New Orleans, Mon Amour A collection of short stories by acclaimed columnist Andrei Codrescu. Covers all aspects of NOLA from the weird too dark to bittersweet.
  • The Awakening A Southern woman struggles with her feminine identity at the turn of the 19th century. One of the first contemporary American feminist novels.
  • The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina An investigative piece about the effects of one of the worst disasters in recent memory. Highlights heroes and gives the survivors a chance to speak.

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Make Money Online while Traveling New Orleans

Traveling in New Orleans long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city?

Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.

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In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

 

Being a Responsible Traveler in New Orleans

This New Orleans travel guide will bring you ample opportunities to participate in debauchery, and it is very important to have fun, let loose, and get a bit wild at times. 

But there are some things that will put you in the category of a straight up jackass if you do them. Being super loud and obnoxious in a tiny hostel at 3 AM is a classic rookie mistake.

Show your fellow travelers respect whilst traveling in New Orleans and anywhere else for that matter! Use this New Orleans travel guide wisely, young padawans, and don’t put us to shame.

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world.

Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends a up in a landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle

For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here.

For more advice, check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

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Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the FREE Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”


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Been craving a visit to the Big Easy? Check out our New Orleans travel guide before planning your trip! We cover itineraries, where to stay...

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