Budget Travel

Detroit on a tight budget: food trucks, freebies and FAST buses

Amazing art, cool cars, history-changing music – Detroit rocks for many reasons, including its budget friendliness. While you will need to repay for accommodation, the abundance of free things to complete and the relatively inexpensive of food and transportation help defray expenses.

Here are our some tips for stretching your dollars within the D.

Keep watch for deals on airfare

Detroit Metro Airport is big, with a lot of flights and competition. It is a Delta Air Lines hub along with a Spirit Airlines base, and lots of reasonably priced tickets pop up for flights here – actually, the airport was recently named one of the USA's best for affordable domestic fares by Scott's Cheap Flights.

Take the SMART bus in the airport

The airport is about 20 miles southwest of the city, roughly a 25-minute drive. Taxis cost $55 approximately; Lyft and Uber could be a tad less.

But there is a a lot more economical option if you possess time. The FAST Michigan SMART bus (#261) swings by both airport terminals – North and McNamara – after which runs with limited stops along Michigan Ave to downtown. The trip costs $2 and takes an hour, with buses departing every Half an hour or so. That leaves a lot of extra beer money in your wallet compared to taxis and ride shares.

Use public transportation in case your visit involves the city center

Let's be truthful: having a car is the quickest, easiest way to get around Detroit's sprawl, and frequently it's the best way to achieve far-flung neighborhoods. But you can make use public transportation if you're sticking mostly to downtown, Midtown along with other central areas for your lodging and sightseeing.

Compared to hiring a car, public transit is a bargain. For $5 each day, the Dart Pass allows unlimited rides on Detroit's QLine streetcar and all buses. The QLine glides with the heart of the city past many hotels, top museums and entertainment venues, such as the Detroit Institute of Arts and Fisher Building. And also the aforementioned SMART bus is useful to obtain and from the airport.

The MoGo bike share program, in addition to Uber and Lyft, can fill in the blanks to achieve some of the outlying sights.

Visit in spring or fall in order to save money

Late May through August is Detroit's peak season, when lodging could be more expensive. Winter is actually the least expensive time for you to go, but the cold temperature blows. Spring (especially April and early May) and fall (September through November) hit the sweet spot, when discounted prices and fair weather converge.

Consider staying in a hostel

Detroit has two quality ones: Hostel Detroit is within Corktown near buzzy cafes and nightlife, and Hamtramck Hostel is farther out, some six miles north of downtown, within an area where budget-friendly Polish, Bangladeshi and Yemeni eateries abound. Both hostels work best for those who have a car; Hostel Detroit might be more convenient if you are without wheels.

Look for lodging beyond the core

Move away from Downtown and Midtown, Detroit's central districts most abundant in accommodations, and costs tend to be lower. Try neighborhoods like Corktown, just west of downtown and chockablock with cool-cat bagel shops, burger bars and distilleries, and West Village, east of downtown, where historic homes and folksy small restaurants pop up on leafy streets. Most accommodations in these areas are apartment rentals, so you can save more money by self-catering some of meals.

Graze through Eastern Market

Eastern Market explains a six-block spread of lip-smacking wares every Saturday year-round. Vendors sell veggies, cheeses, cream pies, smoked fish, apple cider and merely about other things you can want. From June through September, a scaled-down market happens on Tuesdays, and there's a craft market with food trucks on Sundays. Appear every day of the week and you'll find bargains in the cafes and specialty shops that flank the causes – just follow your nose to chow on fresh-roasted peanuts, chocolates, coffee and barbecue.

Browse for cheap eats in Mexicantown, Hamtramck and Dearborn

Certain areas are especially bountiful for top-notch cheap eats. Mexicantown shows what it is done. Located southwest of downtown, alongside Corktown, it brims with inexpensive Latin restaurants. Bagley Street is the main vein.

In north Detroit, Hamtramck has a smorgasbord of budget eats. Bosnian, Bangladeshi, Polish along with other cuisines cook in pots here, reflective of the many immigrants who've settled in the community through the years.

In nearby suburban Dearborn, Middle Eastern food, especially from Lebanon and Yemen, may be the low-cost specialty. Warren Avenue, Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road (which connects the other two) are particularly plentiful.

Find the meals trucks

Quite several food trucks ply the town streets, offering mighty plates of soul food, Middle Eastern fare, tacos and more for inexpensive price points. In warmer months, popular spots where trucks congregate include Eastern Market, Cadillac Square and Beacon Park, especially at lunchtime. Check Street Food Finder for locations.

Check for museum discounts

The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau provides discounts to various museums and tours. Past deals have included 20% off admittance to the Wright Museum of African American History, Ford Piquette Avenue Plant and much more.

If you're visiting the top-drawer Henry Ford Museum, consider buying a combination ticket because of its various attractions – if you pay the full price for that Museum of American Innovation, for example, after this you get half off the Rouge Factory Tour. There are similar savings for Greenfield Village.

Take benefit of free sights

Detroit is especially well stocked with freebies within the art and architecture realm. Blow your mind gaping at street art in Eastern Market and the Grand River Creative Corridor, and also at the Heidelberg Project and the Belt, which cost practically nothing. Add in explorations of art deco eye-poppers like the Fisher Building and Guardian Building, and again the price tag is zilch.

Daily costs in Detroit

Hostel room: $30 -40 (dorm bed)
Basic room for 2: $85 -150
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): $80 -160
Public transport ticket: $5 day pass
Coffee: $3
Coney (waitress or): $3 -4
Dinner for 2: $30 -60
Pint of microbrew in the bar: $6

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