This is how you visit Tokyo on a budget

No one in search of a budget city vacation is going to put Tokyo at the top of their list – this incredible city unfortunately comes with some pretty incredible prices.

But there are ways to make your yen go further without compromising on quality and we’ve got all the best insider tips and tricks you need.

Michelin-star cuisine for less than $10 per meal, nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) and tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) options at izakaya (gastropubs), capsule hotels that marry quintessentially Japanese living quirks with cheap prices, and affordable low-season flight fares mean you can experience the best parts of Japan’s capital without having to max out your credit cards.

Here is how to travel to Tokyo on a budget.

Daily costs in Tokyo

  • Bunk in a capsule hotel: ¥6600/¥8000
  • Basic hotel room for two: ¥22,600
  • One-day public transport ticket: ¥600 (not all trains included)
  • Coffee: ¥400
  • Ramen: ¥1200
  • Conveyor-belt sushi: from ¥100 per plate
  • Pint at a bar: ¥600
  • All-you-can-drink menus: ¥2000
  • All-you-can-eat menus: ¥1800
  • Mid-range dinner for two (with drinks): ¥3600
  • Average daily cost: ¥23,000

Fly in low season or take a connecting flight to save on airfares

Tokyo experiences tourism high-season for large stretches of the year, particularly during the spring sakura (cherry blossom) and fall koyo (autumn foliage) seasons, during which flight fares come at a premium in line with the soaring demand.

This is especially true when flying direct from the US or UK. Traveling to Tokyo in winter or during the mid-June to mid-July rainy season will save you a few bucks, while frugal travelers from the UK should look at connecting through the Middle East or central Europe for lower-cost fares.

Learn more about Tokyo’s festivals and seasons in our guide to the best time to visit.

Low-season travelers benefit from cheaper accommodations

The aforementioned low seasons also bring about much cheaper accommodations. Though beware, Tokyo is comparatively dead during Shogatsu – the beginning of the New Year – when many businesses close to allow employees to spend time with family and give votive offerings to their hometown shrines.

Two young people sitting in adjacent pods at a capsule hotel in Tokyo
You can make big savings by opting for a capsule hotel © electravk / Getty Images

Opt for a smaller accommodation space

It is perhaps cliché that Japanese living spaces aren’t quite as roomy as their Western counterparts, but if travelers make similar sacrifices they’ll benefit from extra pocket money.

Capsule hotels are the epitome of Japanese spatial austerity, with dorms containing multi-leveled bunk spaces, or pods, for guests to sleep in (these typically come with shelves, charging ports, and reading lights).

Lockers are available for larger luggage and bathroom spaces are communal. Capsules can be as cheap as ¥6600 per night.

Alternatively, popular hotel chains like APA, Dormy Inn, and MyStays have locations across the city, and while your room will be barely large enough to swing a chopstick in, your bank account will thank you.

Also note, that whilst Airbnb isn’t super popular in Tokyo, it tends to offer better accommodation deals than the major hotels.

Use IC cards and day tickets for seamless travel on public transportation

Prepaid rechargeable Suica and Pasmo cards, also known as IC cards, work on all city trains, subways and buses. You can purchase these from machines at any station.

They require a ¥500 deposit, which will be refunded (along with any remaining charge) when you return the pass to any ticket window.

Since June 2023, the availability of the cards has been restricted due to a worldwide chip shortage. You can use digital versions or pick up a PASMO Passport at major airports and train stations – it’s a travel card specifically for visitors to Tokyo that also comes with some discounts.

While paper tickets are only a few yen more expensive per journey, it’s also possible to get reimbursements on IC cards when you pass through the wrong barrier in a station (a common occurrence, even for the well-versed commuter); paper tickets don’t offer the same benefit.

Unlimited-ride tickets are also available: the Tokyo Subway Ticket allows unlimited rides on both Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines, with 24-hour, 48-hour, and 72-hour options available. Japan Rail lines, however, are not included.

Woman with a yellow jacket walking in the electronic town district of Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan
Walking can be a cheap delight in Tokyo © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Take yourself on a walking tour

It’s easy to default towards using trains in Tokyo: the rail network is extensive, efficient, punctual, and pretty affordable. But there’s no cheaper way to travel than your own two feet. Heading from Shibuya to Shinjuku?

Make your way through the old cedar forest of Meiji-jingu instead. Going southbound from Asakusa? Look to the Sumida River promenade to direct you on your way.

Splashing out on dinner in Roppongi, followed by cocktails in Ginza? Claw some yen back with an illuminated stroll between the two uber-classy neighborhoods.

Taxis are pricey so don’t miss the last train home

Tokyo trains stop around midnight every night of the year, except for December 31. If you miss your last train home, the alternatives can be costly. Tokyo taxis are expensive at the best of times, never mind the late-night surcharges, and Uber is generally no more competitive.

You could walk, but this is likely predicated on the length of the journey and how much sake you glugged with dinner. Or you could pitch up in a karaoke bar or all-night restaurant until the morning’s first train (usually around 5am), whilst incurring the requisite fees.

Google Maps features a last-train option when determining your best route home – embrace it.

Group of Friends Eating Take Away Food on the Street in Tokyo Japan Davidf GettyImages-1166370053 rfc.jpg
Tokyo has loads of amazing places to eat and many of them are cheap as well © Davidf / Getty Images

Tokyo has many fantastic cheap places to eat

With some of the finest haute cuisine on the planet, Tokyo restaurants certainly know how to rack up a bill: a timeslot in Sukiyabashi Jiro is an infamously brief sushi-eating experience costing several hundred dollars. But with some estimations reckoning Tokyoites have around 150,000 restaurants to choose from, yen-saving options abound.

At many izakaya throughout the city, particularly chains such as chicken specialists Torikizoku and Showa-style diner Hanbey, nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) options are available – the nomihoudai menu usually includes beers, mixers, highballs and soft drinks.

Other chains, like the cheap and cheerful Kin no Kura, have tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) options, which tend to feature everything the kitchen has to offer, from sashimi and edamame to yakitori (grilled chicken) and pizza slices.

Dining on kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi is a cheap alternative to omakase (chef’s choice) sushi tasting menus.

Dine out on Michelin-starred ramen

As of 2023, 263 restaurants in Tokyo were awarded at least one Michelin star. But perhaps surprisingly, some of the city’s highest-quality restaurants are also among its cheapest.

For Michelin-starred ramen, head to Nakiryu (The Crying Dragon) for its spicy dandamen soup, or grab a seat at Konjiki Hototogisu for an umami-filled broth pork and fish stock topped with truffle sauce – both restaurants offer signature dishes for less than ¥1400 a bowl.

Convenience stores serve cheap, tasty meals

Convenience store food around the world often leaves much to be desired, but quick and tasty meals are standard fare at the 7-Elevens, Family Marts, and Lawsons of Tokyo – you’ll find one on nearly every street corner.

For a few hundred yen, you can grab a Cup Noodle and add boiling water from the in-store kettles, purchase a selection of onigiri (rice balls), or indulge in hot chicken and steamed buns at store counters.

Tokyo konbini, as convenience stores are locally known, are open 24/7 making them perfect stop-offs for late-night repasts.

Small eatery in Golden Gai district of Tokyo in the early evening
If exploring the Golden Gai district, check that the bars don’t have a cover charge © Jonathan Stokes / Lonely Planet

Watch out for cover charges in bars

In certain nightlife areas, most notably the warren of Showa-period alleyways in Shinjuku known as Golden Gai, cover charges up to ¥1500 per head are commonplace.

If you plan on bar-hopping – as most imbibers in Golden Gai do – this can add up throughout the evening.

Keep your eyes peeled for outdoor signage stating “No Cover Charge” or try asking the bartender before taking a seat.

Picnic when the weather’s on your side

Belying its tag as a concrete metropolis, Tokyo has some beautiful green spaces. At public gardens, such as Rikugie-en or Shinjuku-gyoen, however, all visitors are required to pay an entrance fee.

During the hanami (flower-watching) season in spring, you can save a few hundred yen plonking yourself under the drifting petals in free-to-enter parks, like Yoyogi-koen or Inokashira-koen.

Public drinking is also permitted in Japan, so you can partake in a liquid lunch without splashing the cash.

Shop at Japan’s best thrift stores

Japan is one of the best places on earth to buy retro goods. Second-hand stores exist all across Tokyo, with items that are usually impeccably maintained, and if you know where to look, bargains abound.

For consumer electronics and musical instruments, check out mega chains Hard Off and Book Off. For video game hardware and software, Super Potato and Retro Game Camp in Akihabara are the places to be.

Shimokita is Tokyo’s hipster hub of vintage clothing stores: Stick Out sells every item at ¥700, Mode Off is a hive of bargain hunting (albeit with sometimes questionable quality), while Flamingo specializes in Americana and usually has some pretty good deals.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top