Tokyo, Japan has a reputation of being a pricey destination. But in reality, it has become more and more affordable. Traveling in this beautiful city can be expensive, but there are things you can do to not break the bank. Since a lot of people do not know this, I thought I would create a travel guide for budget travelers in Japan. Here you will find some useful tips on how to travel to Tokyo on a budget. You will find my recommendations for the best places to visit, best places to stay, how to get around, and a lot more!
How to choose a budget accommodation in Tokyo
Choose a particular season
Accommodation is undoubtedly the biggest chunk of your budget, thus it is important to know a few things before making a reservation. First, choose a particular season when to travel. Each season has its own advantages and disadvantages, and whatever you choose will directly impact your budget.
The most expensive times to travel are the Golden Week (end April-early May), Obon (mid August) and Christmas or New year’s. The most pleasant and relatively cheaper seasons are spring and autumn. If you want to go for the lowest possible prices, choose the winter months (mid January to February).
Choose a type of accommodation
Second, you should take into consideration what type of accommodation you prefer. For budget conscious travellers, I recommend shared dormitory (JPY 2,000 per night), followed by capsule hotels (JPY 2,500 per night). Hostels (JPY 2,500 to JPY 3,500 per night) are also excellent choice because some of them have cooking facilities where you can cook your own food, thereby saving money.
Choose a neighborhood
Lastly, you have to find a neighbourhood with several cheap accommodation options which are also close to tourist attractions. My recommendations are Sumida, Arakawa and Taito ward. These areas are close to Tokyo’s famous attractions like Tokyo SkyTree, Sumida River, Asakusa, Akihabara, Ueno Park and Sensoji Temple.
Best Places to stay in Tokyo on a Budget
Grids Tokyo Ueno Hotel & Hostel (Check Rates and Availability)
Address: 7-10-4 Ueno, Taito Ku, Tokyo, Japan
Hotel Owl (Check Rates and Availability)
Address: 6-59-3, Nippori, Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Rakuten STAY Tokyo Asakusa (Check Rates and Availability)
Address: 2 Chome-16-6 Azumabashi, Sumida City, Tokyo 130-0001, Japan, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
Artsy Inn Higashinihonbashi (Check Rates and Availability)
Address: 10-4 NIHONBASHI HISAMATSUCHO Chuo City, Tokyo Station, Tokyo, Japan
&And Hostel Asakusa Kappabashi (Check Rates and Availability)
Address: 1-11-4, Asakusa, Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
How to save on food and drinks in Tokyo
In Tokyo, you are spoilt for choices when it comes to satisfying your appetite. Basically, food is great anywhere in Japan. While sampling authentic Japanese food is part of the experience, you will surely run out of money if you are going to dine-in at a restaurant every meal times.
In order to travel to Tokyo on a budget, go and check out a few cheap options. Lawson’s 100-yen convenience store (Konbini), for example, is an excellent choice for low-priced goods like fruits, Japanese rice balls, sandwiches, lunchboxes etc. You can also try Japanese food chains like Matsuya, Yoshinoya, Shirokiya, Sukiya, and Osho-Gyoza, where meals are priced from JPY 200 to JPY 800.
In the evenings, Supermarkets are also good choice when it comes to Bento boxes. Remember to go when it gets close to closing time when discounts are applied. But don’t come too late because people from work usually buy these discounted foods and stocks run out pretty quickly.
Another tip: Alway bring a water bottle/container when you travel in Japan. Instead of buying drinks every meal times and every time you get thirsty, just refill your bottle in the hotel or restaurant before you head out to your next destination.
How to get around in Tokyo
Tokyo has a world-class train system and subway infrastructure. But this great accessibility always come with a price. However, there are a number of ways to get around that. If you plan to hit all the city’s spots in Tokyo in one day, then you can purchase one of Tokyo 1-day Passes like Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway Pass, Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass), Tokyo Subway 24-hour Ticket, Toden One-Day Pass (Arakawa Line), etc.
Out of all these 1-day passes offered in Tokyo, I suggest Tokunai Pass (JPY 750 for adult and JPY 370 for children). It provides unlimited rides on local and rapid JR East trains (excluding reserved seats and express trains) within the 23 Special Wards of Tokyo. If this is your first time in Japan, you can stick to the JR Yamanote Line, which offers access to almost all famous attractions in Tokyo.
Walking and biking are also great options when comes to touring Tokyo.
Top Tourist Spots in Tokyo
Tokyo offers visitors a lot of worthwhile places to see and things to do for free. As I mentioned earlier, tourist can stick around the JR Yamanote Line to access Tokyo’s famous attractions. Here are some of my recommendation:
- Explore Meiji Jingu and Ueno Park
- Visit the Tokyo Tower
- See the Hachiko Statue and Shibuya Crossing
- Stroll around Harajuku, Akihabara and Roppongi Hills
- Wander in Asakusa
- Admire the sprawling views of Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
- Hanami viewing (Cherry Blossom viewing)
Where to go shopping on a budget in Tokyo
Shopping in Tokyo is expensive, but fret not. There are plenty of cheap places and shopping options in Tokyo. There are also several stores offering tax free shopping for foreigners. The famous 100 yen stores not only sell food, they also sell souvenirs, household products, gadgets, clothes and so much more! Don Quixote (called Donki by the locals), Daiso and Seria are my top recommendations when it comes to souvenir hunt. For vintage or second-hand clothing, try Harajuku and nearby Shimokitazawa.
How many days is required to explore Tokyo?
I know most of us are time-hungry travelers who try to squeeze in as many travel experiences as possible in a short time frame. If you’re travelling to Japan for only 7 days, then I suggest spending 2-3 days to see Tokyo. This is excluding departure day, theme park day and side-trips out of Tokyo. I made a detailed post about Japan my Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo 7 days Itinerary.
How to Travel to Tokyo on a Budget: 5-day Sample Itinerary
Day 1 (Arrival in Tokyo)
If you are staying in Shibuya/Shinjuku/Harajuku/Shin-Okubo area:
3:00 PM – Check-in hotel
4:00 PM – Meiji Jingu
5:30 PM – Harajuku
6:30 PM – Shibuya or Shinjuku
If you are staying in Ueno/Asakusa:
3:00 PM – Check-in hotel
4:00 PM – Sensoji and Nakamise-dori
6:00 PM – Tokyo Skytree
Day 2 (Central Tokyo)
6:00 AM – Tsukiji Market
9:00 AM – Imperial Palace and East Gardens
11:00 AM – Ueno Park
4:00 PM – Akihabara
Day 3 (Theme parks)
Whole day Disneyland or Disneysea
Day 4 (Sidetrip out of Tokyo)
Side trip to Lake Kawaguchiko, Hakone, Hitachi Seaside Park, Kamakura or Nikko
Day 5 (Departure)
So, there you have it! I hope you found some useful stuff here on how to travel to Tokyo on a budget! Have you been to Tokyo? Do you have other suggestions? Comments? Insights? I’m all ears! Let’s chat down below.
p.s. I also have a Facebook fan page where I’d love to chat with you and answer your Questions!