Indianapolis is a budget-friendly place to visit, and its cost of living is 2% lower than the national average. Although it can be expensive to fly into Indianapolis because few airlines are based here, once you’re here, it’s cheap to get around on foot or by bike.

Making your trip to Indy affordable and fun isn’t hard with a little strategy. Here are some top tips to get the most out of your Indianapolis budget.

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Check whether it’s cheaper to fly to a nearby airport

When shopping for flights, look at options that fly into airports in Cincinnati, Chicago and Louisville. All three cities are less than three hours away and offer competitive flight options that can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. Hotel and rental car packages can further lower your expenses. 

Drive to Indianapolis instead of flying

Those who enjoy getting behind the wheel will appreciate that Indianapolis is within a day’s drive for more than half of the US population. Not only is driving a more flexible option, allowing you to come and go as you please, but it also gives you a mode of transportation once you get to Indiana's capital city.

Book flights for July, August or September 

Set on flying into Indy? Choose your vacation days wisely. According to Skyscanner, some of the most affordable flights to Indianapolis are in the summer and early fall. March is one of the more expensive months to visit because the March Madness college basketball tournament takes over, and the city sees an influx of sports fans and players. 

Locked bicycle on the sidewalk in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana
It's cheap to rent a bike to explore Indianapolis © benedek / Getty Images

Cycle the Indianapolis Cultural Trail on a rental bike

If you don’t have a car, a cheap option to get around town is through Indy’s city-wide bike rental called Pacers Bikeshare. Rent a bike at one of the 50 stations and safely visit all six Indianapolis cultural districts at your own pace on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. These bikes have an annual fee of $125 for unlimited 60-minute trips or cost $1 per ride and $0.15 per minute. If you want to venture outside of where the Pacers Bikeshare stations are, you can rent a cruiser for a whole day from Wheel Fun Rentals for $30.

Take advantage of the farmers markets

Costs can quickly add up when eating meals out, with an average dinner for two costing $50 in Indianapolis. Instead, experience Indianapolis’ local eats at a lower price by putting together your own picnic spread from one of the many farmers markets open almost every day of the week. Give your picnic a little free ambiance at White River State Park, the large urban park in downtown Indy.

Visit the city during Devour Indy

The Devour Indy initiative was designed to allow restaurant-goers to support local businesses at a special set price. Devour Indy takes place twice a year for two weeks each, in the winter and summer. The dates change every year, and you can try popular restaurants such as the Latin-influenced Livery and Euro-style Gallery Pastry Bar. During this time, participating restaurants offer discounted rates for their Devour menu. Lunch and dinner options typically range from $15 to $30 per person, and some restaurants even offer carry-out. 

A huge dinosaur model appears to burst through the walls of a building at the children's museum in Indianapolis
The Indy Attraction Pass includes entry to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis © James Kirkikis / Shutterstock

Purchase an Indy Attraction Pass 

The Indy Attraction Pass can be a good option if you’re planning to visit the city’s museums and zoos. This pass costs $48 per adult and offers admission to eight attractions, including Newfields (one of the top 10 largest general art museums in the country) and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (the largest children’s museum in the world). The pass is good for 24 hours and must be used within 90 days of purchase.

Find accommodations with amenities

While Indianapolis doesn’t have a wide selection of hostels, the city has many private rooms available for rent on platforms such as Airbnb. Some options include access to a kitchen or free bike usage. These amenities are a great way to save money on food and transportation.

Use public transportation

While the Indianapolis public transportation system isn’t incredibly robust, it’s affordable and can be convenient, especially if you’ll be traveling through downtown or northern Indianapolis. You can purchase a one-day pass for $4 or use the MyKey payment system. The best part about MyKey is the fare cap, which means that you won’t be charged more than $4 per day or $15.75 per week for unlimited use of the public transportation system. 

Use the IndyGo Trip Planner to see if taking the bus makes sense for where you need to go. You can also explore bus routes and times on the website.

Shoppers walk through City Market in Indianapolis on a path lined with food stalls
City Market has plenty of food choices at affordable prices © Joel Carillet / Getty Images

Check out the City Market and food halls

The Indianapolis City Market has more than a dozen vendors under its 200-year-old roof, making it easy to walk around and shop for the most affordable food options. You can buy a hefty sandwich for under $10 at Cafe Olivia or try Maxine’s Chicken and Waffles, where a meal with two sides costs about $16. Other food halls include The Garage Food Hall in Bottleworks District and The AMP at 16 Tech.

Sign up for Indy Daily Deals

Indy Daily Deals is a free program from the Indianapolis Tourism Board and offers discounts on restaurants, attractions and more around town. You can get 5% to 20% off accommodations at hotels such as Charles Davis Mansion and up to 15% off your bill at restaurants such as Conner’s Kitchen + Bar. Simply sign up to get access to the deals.

Search on Groupon

From dance to cooking classes, Groupon has a lot to offer in Indianapolis. It’s possible to shave off $5 to $10 on admissions for different experiences.

Daily costs in Indianapolis

Private room: $35
Basic room for two: $60–$100
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): $70–$120
Public transportation ticket: $4 for a day pass
Coffee: $2.50–$3
Sandwich: $7–10
Dinner for two: $50–90

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