Visiting Atlanta on a budget

Atlanta is a lively hub for arts, culture and entertainment, and the number of reasons for that are growing by the day – the city has become an epicenter for film, hip hop and exciting new culinary trends that build on its strong southern roots.

Atlanta can be affordable when compared to other major metropolitan areas, but it’s not exactly cheap, especially since the city is experiencing a rapid population growth spurt. That said, Atlanta does offer a lot of free things to do in addition to the ticketed sights, and with a few strategies to help your budget stretch further, you can visit the city without worrying about hurting your wallet.

Daily Costs in Atlanta

  • Hostel room: $75
  • Basic room for two: $150 a night
  • Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): $200 a night
  • Public transport ticket: $2.50 per ride (after you buy a $2 multi-use ticket)
  • Coffee: $6
  • Sandwich: $12
  • 10 piece wings with fries: $15
  • Dinner for two: $45
  • Beer/pint at the bar: $7

Average daily cost: $200-$250

Shops and pedestrians in Little Five Points
Deciding which neighborhoods you want to experience – like Little Five Points – will help you make better budget decisions for accommodation and transport © Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

Plan ahead to book the best flight deal to ATL

As much as ATLiens love the hometown company, Delta Airlines, loyalists have yet to acknowledge that Delta’s dominance at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport keeps prices higher than they would be with a little more friendly competition. Deals are still available, especially when planning a trip during off-peak seasons, but you may need to watch prices fluctuate before finding the right flight for your budget.

Read more: How to see the best of Atlanta for free

Decide if OTP or ITP has the right price for you

You’ll find the highest concentration of hotels close to the city center in the Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead neighborhoods. Visitors pay for the convenience of being close to Atlanta’s hottest restaurants and other in-town attractions. If you’d like to save money, book a hotel outside of the Interstate-285 loop around the city – and area dubbed Outside of The Perimeter (OTP) by locals. Compare prices for accommodations in nearby cities such as Dunwoody, Norcross, Lithonia and Austell; if you prefer to stay close enough to use public transportation, look for overnight stays in Decatur, Brookhaven and Vinings.

A group of people bike, roller blade and walk down the paved Atlanta Beltline.
Explore the Atlanta Beltline on two wheels © Christopher V Jones / Shutterstock

Rent a bike and tour the city on the BeltLine

Two companies provide bike and scooter rentals in the city of Atlanta: Bird and Lime. Lime rentals are also available in Uber’s app. If you want to support a local bike shop, Clutch Bicycle Shop offers hourly and daily bike rentals. Grab a scooter or ebike and hit the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, it’s most popular section, or the West Side trail, it’s oldest trail. You’ll have the opportunity to stop along the way and admire sculptures and street art, as well as indulge in some local restaurants and shops if you like.

Read more: Atlanta’s top 5 parks for cycling, sightseeing and wildlife-spotting

Use MARTA for affordable public transportation

As soon as you land at the airport, skip the ride share or taxi and instead opt for Atlanta’s mass transit system, MARTA. Each ride is $2.50 one way, plus four free transfers in a three hour period. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to buy a $2 breeze card to pay for your rides. Planning to use trains and buses a lot? Grab a day pass to get unlimited rides for different time periods, which range from a daily pass all the way to a monthly pass. The daily pass is $9, which means after three one-way rides, it’s paid for itself. You’ll be able to use MARTA more if you’re staying inside the perimeter, but the bus system extends to some suburbs as well.

Build your itinerary around free museum entrance days

Atlanta’s premiere art museum, The High Museum of Art, offers free entry on the second Sunday of every month from noon to 5 pm. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta offers four family free days a year, but you have to register for a free session in advance. And of course, there are phenomenal museums in Atlanta that are free every day, like the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

Read more: Top 15 things to do in Atlanta

Syrup being poured over chicken and waffles in Atlanta.
Atlanta has tons of tasty restaurants offering choices for every budget © Stocksy

Enjoy any of Atlanta’s budget-friendly restaurants

Southerners believe in giving visitors and  neighbors their fill of delicious food at any price point, so you’ll find a lot of amazing cuisine options that won’t break the bank. Gut Busters is a local chain with long lines for their oversized breakfast. Home Grown, in the Reynoldstown neighborhood, built its reputation around serving gourmet food at affordable prices. Other great options for lunch and dinner include The Varsity (an Atlanta staple), Soul Vegetarian and The Food Shoppe.

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