Pin It

Tokyo Budget Tips: Getting Around Tokyo on $30/day!

tokyo budget tips, japanese rickshaw

Getting Around Tokyo on the cheap and easy | Buy the Budget Tokyo Guide here

I’ve long been waiting to visit Japan.

But I kept holding myself back. Why?

Everyone I’ve spoken to came back to report one thing,  “Japan is expensive.”  How expensive?  One  brave friend recommended a budget of $100/day in Tokyo!  Someone else termed it wallet rape.

Now I may come across as sorta brave for being a woman traveling abroad alone, but one thing I’m not courageous about is cutting a hole in my wallet, during economic recession or when I’m relatively unemployed.

So I thought about avoiding Tokyo altogether… or doing a chicken run of something short, like two days.

Despite being the most expensive city of all Japan however, I really wanted to experience it. I mean, afterall, it’s Tokyo! How could I not visit it if I were going to Japan?

So my fear turned into a dare and then a challenge.  When I really thought about it, I had a feeling it could be traveled for cheaper. Maybe it’s a matter of travel styles or financial priorities that requires more expensive ways. A girl with a camera, who likes to burn calories when I walk (it beats a gym), my needs are pretty simple.  So I booked five days in Tokyo and the rest split with Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka.

Well, if you’ve been reading my Japan posts, you might have an idea of how it went. Working budget Japan has led to an adventure!

My budget cost me on the average $30/day . 

 

Getting Around Tokyo on the cheap and easy

The good news is there’s a lot you can do in Tokyo, cheaply or for free. Yeah, you heard me… Free.  I wasn’t uncomfortable, I still enjoyed myself and best yet, I thought I was cheating the system!

Not everything in Tokyo costs money and there’s also budget deals to help you get around Tokyo on the cheap and easy,  if you know where to look for them. Here’s a few for you…

.

10 Free Tokyo attractions 

What are some things to do and see in Tokyo that will help keep you on your backpacker’s budget ? There are many top Tokyo attractions that are completely free to enjoy, such that traveling Tokyo on a budget, really isn’t hard.

 

1.   Asakusa

Asakusa (pronounced Asah-kusa) is known for its old world charm. You can wander some of the streets in the old district to take you back to a time when Tokyo felt more Japanese vs. the sprawling modern, corporate, shopping mall it is today.

Tokyo’s biggest and oldest Buddhist temple, the Senso-ji is the popular attraction, along with the marketplace of souvenirs and Japanese delicacies. Watch food craftsmen create culinary snacks with care and watch your wallet. There’s a lot of cute Japanese souvenirs, kimonos, keychains and nom-cious snacks to  tempt your splurge!

Where to stay in Asakusa: There are many options in Asakusa from hostels, capsule hotels to hotels in the area, starting from $22. I stayed at Asakusa Smile Hostel, one of the cheapest, but dive-ish. Next time I wouldn’t mind staying at a trendier hostel like Khaosan World Asakusa.  Now that’s Tokyo cool.

skoji, asakusa attractions tokyom Getting Around Tokyo on the cheap and easy

Top Tokyo attractions: sightseeing the temple and markets in Asakusa

.

2.  The Sumo Museum at Ryogoku Kokugikan

Tokyo has a handful of free museums for the backpacker budget. The Sumo Museum at the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Ryogoku is simple, humble and more like a Sumo Hall of Fame, but this little museum topped the list of interests for me. Of course, this is nothing compared to seeing an actual sumo tournament and if your trip falls in sumo season, you might just want to splurge for a ticket. Sumo season is two weeks in Jan, May & Sept.

Otherwise, you might be able to catch a glimpse of sumo wrestler trainees (I saw one biking down the street in a yukata) in the area, as the neighborhood houses sumo stables, where the athletes train and live.

The museum is free, small and showcases wrestlers in the Sumo Hall of Fame.

sumo tournaments, ryogaku, Getting Around Tokyo on the cheap and easy

sumo museum tokyo 

3.  Tsukiji Fish Market

Want to watch tuna bidding at the largest fish market in all of Japan? The market opens at 5 am but come earlier. Only 120 people are allowed into the bidding but afterwards, the market is open to all.  Subways don’t open that early however, so you’ll either need to take a taxi or stay somewhere nearby.

If you’re wondering what to do after the fish market dies down, check out the sushi restaurants outside. These restaurants are very popular even with the Japanese. Alternatively, a better budget idea would be just to walk through the outdoor market a street or two down.

Location: Take the Oedo line to Tsukiji-Shijo station, exit A1. Or take the Hibiya line of the Tokyo Metro to Tsukiji station.

Places to stay nearby: As subways don’t open at 5:00am, it’s best to stay in the area if you can. Here’s a map of accommodations near Tsukiji Fish Market.

sushi restaurants at tsukiji market tokyo

Top Tokyo attractions: Tsukiji Fish Market boasts the largest fish auctioning market Enjoy the neighborhood street market

 

4.   A view Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Forget paying to see a view of the city from Tokyo Tower!  There are other alternative spots for a good city view.The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, spans 243 meters high and offers sprawling views of Tokyo for FREE.

Location:  JR Shinjuku Station west exit requires a 10-15 minute walk to the building and note, Shinjuku Station is big and crowded.  A view Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Getting Around Tokyo on the cheap and easy.

tokyo metropolitan government building, best view of tokyo, tokyo attractions

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

5.  Shibuya Crossing

 Shibuya Crossing is dubbed the Times Square of Tokyo, it’s a crossing that’s lit up big and bright by surrounding stores and a great spot to capture one of the premiere photo shots of Tokyo. It’s known for  its massive crowd and intersection, which allows multiple pedestrian crossings to take place when the traffic light hits red.

Location:  Outside Hachiko Station, an interesting nearby landmark is a memorial statue of a dog, Hachiko. The story goes that Hachiko was a faithful dog, who waited for his master at the station each day, long after his master’s death. Hence, that’s what the station is named after, Hachiko station.

shibuya crossing, crowds in japan, Getting Around Tokyo on the cheap and easy

Top Tokyo attractions : Shibuya Crossing, the Times Square of Tokyo

6.  Kiddy land- Harajuku

One of the favorite stores for tourists  to visit is Kiddy land . Five floors of cuteness from Hello Kitty to favorite Japanese character dolls and anime colllectable figurines. Kiddies will love it, but so will adults.

Location: On Omoetaesando Street, between two stations- Omoetaesando and Meiji Jingumae.

Read Would you love Japan or think it’s just crazy?

kiddy land tokyo, where to buy cut things in japan

Kiddie Land has cute gifts for kids… and adults.

7.  Take a stroll down Omotesando

The walk from Shibuya to Harajuku is known as Tokyo’s Champs Elysees. Lined with trees, it’s packed with tons of shopping and flagship stores, but the architectural designs can be impressive. Some side streets spin-off into pockets of cute cafes, boutique stores and hair salons.

Location: Harajuku Station to Omotesando Station.

 

8.  Harajuku

Harajuku is a popular  fashion hangout district in Japan, known for its quirky cosplay, anime and goth fashion.  The weekends are especially crowded and that’s when the trends and quirks of fashions come out. Dip into a Tokyo idol shop, to see what stars hold Japanese hearts. Or get a surreal beauty makeover at a photo booth shop and see what you’d look like if you were your own plastic surgeon.

Read Would you love Japan or think it’s just crazy?

Where to stay: Here’s a map of  hotels in Harajuku.

9.  Akhihabara

Have you ever felt possessed by a personal hobby? Akhihabara is the home of otaku culture and nerd central.

Those obsessed with manga, electronic stores, pachinko parlors and maid cafes all gravitate here to live in a world outside the norm. Home of the girl group, AKB48, this area is said to have some of the best maid cafes in Tokyo. But the back alleys can feel a little seedy as you see those workers solicit male customers. Unless you’re into manga or electronics, there’s little to see or do here other than shop and look at manga magazines.

Read  Akihabara:  Fetish Japan and the Crazy Otaku Culture 

akihabara district and anime shops in tokyo

Top Tokyo Attractions: Fulfill your manga craze at Akhihabara

 

 10.  Visit parks, temples, cemeteries

As you wander around the city, you may stumble upon an occasional park, temple or cemetery. Taking your lunch to the park is a nice way to relax and feel removed from the bustle of Tokyo. Temples can also be one of the more interesting places to visit, next to cemeteries. Each temple has a different significance. Many have fortune telling stations, where you’ll either shake a box of sticks for a fortune or buy one from a machine.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-DVgc_LCRTJ0/UY-DjQBSfAI/AAAAAAAAWRI/1Vj6C2OL8HA/s600/tokyo%2520temples.jpg

 

Budget Eats in Tokyo

Surprisingly, not only can you sightsee Tokyo for cheap, but you can also eat inexpensively too. What are some budget eats in Tokyo to enjoy?

•  Street shops and 7-11s sell bowls of ramen or udon for around 500 yen.

•  Onegiri (aka rice balls, filled with fish, meat or seaweed) is often goes for 100 -150 yen.

•  Basement food floors in the department store and supermarket ‘Take Out’ sections sell pre-made meals for discount prices.    Tip: After 8-9pm grocery stores do a mark down on foods in the take out section.

•  Shop at a grocery store and cook at your hostel.

•  100 Yen shops and stores, like Daiso sell drinks, Japanese knick-knacks and snacks for 100 yen.

•  Japanese food machines  also offer meals in the 500 yen range. They have pay machines out front (see photo below), where you order your meal, pay for it, then eat it inside.

cheap places to eat in tokyo, where to eat in tokyo

Budget eats in Tokyo, how to eat for cheap in tokyo, budget tokyo, budget japan

Getting Around Tokyo cheaply

Transportation is a silent killer of budgets in Japan. But there’s a way to get around that. Buying unlimited or tourist day passes help immeasurably and taking the slower local trains will reduce your travel expenses, over  express and bullet trains. While there may be more transfers involved, you’ll get to where you’re going all the same.  If you’ve already bought a JR pass to get around Japan, you can use it for the subway system.

japan rickshaws

Taking a rickshaw to sightsee Tokyo is probably not going to be cheap

JR Passes

Passes are sold at 7 day, 14 day and 21 day categories, includes all trains (shinkasen, express, local,etc..) and a few highway buses .  You must pre-purchase your passes in advance. Also big note: you can only buy these passes outside of Japan.

Unlimited day passes or tourist day passes

These handy passes are a godsend. If you buy one, you can get unlimited transportation for anywhere from one day to three. The catch is that 1) you can only buy these tourist passes at the airport (Haneda or Narita Airport) and 2) you can only use the local metro trains (not express trains). Why is the latter a big deal? The express routes, zip direct to the main districts that most tourists want to go, while to get to main districts, you may need to transfer a couple of times.

Read Surviving Japan: Budget Travel in Japan Demystified

Where to Sleep for Cheap in Tokyo

Obviously, hotels in Tokyo are going to run your budget higher than what I quoted. But there are other places where you can sleep for cheap. Some examples are business hotels, hostels, ryokans (traditional styled guesthouses)manga kissatens, couchsurfing and AirBnB.  I stayed at a friend’s house, a hostel and a manga cafe when I was in Tokyo. The cheapest was the manga cafe. Here’s Japan Guide’s breakdown of Japanese accommodations.  

 

 


 Buy the e-guide

If you enjoyed this post, why not buy the eGuide. Packed with information from this post Travel Survival Guides are a travel cheat sheet, breaking down the essentials of traveling with information, maps and directions to take on-the-run.

48 Hours : Japan on $30/day

48-hours-japan-guide-budget

I WANT IT!!

Guide on budget Tokyo includes 60 pages of:

A List of Free Attractions and Directions

Offbeat, fun and quirky options

 Cultural Insights

Travel Survival Tips for Accommodations, Transportation Options, Eating Out

Budget & Travel Tips

Itineraries

General Travel Information for Japan

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Great post!
    Many hotels and such hire out bikes – this is a great, cheap way to get around Tokyo.

    I really woulnd’t recommend any solo female traveller to sleep in a manga cafe overnight. I’m not saying they’d get raped or pickpocketed or anything, but these are pretty dirty places that people sometimes go to for a cheap love making session. Due to safety laws they can’t have full walls between sections so you’re very close to people doing…whatever, really. They are cool during the day and nice to catch up on Facebook but they are the hangout spots of older men wanting to watch some hentai…not really the kind of place a woman would want to sleep in.

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @Sherbet & Sparkles: I feel like you’re talking about …the porn manga cafes. I feel like manga cafes vary and there are the types you’ve mention… and not. As a female solo traveler, I focused on reputable chains where the result has been good- I’ve definitely visited a couple of those you’re talking of, but didn’t stay at them. A friend of mine accidentally stayed at a porn manga cafe; it was near to Tsukiji, which made me feel a bit bad for him. I experienced the opposite (here and here). But, knowing it’s a public space, I was selective. I wanted “nice & clean”, cool bells & whistles, better than a hostel and cheap.

      Solo traveler, female or not, a traveler needs to use common safety sense– dress appropriately and if the place looks dirty and feels sleazy or sketchy ,… leave! Be smart- if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not.

  2. Angela says:

    Wow I can’t believe you did Tokyo for only $30 a day! Everyone I’ve talked to about Japan says it’s crazy expensive and getting around for under $50 is almost impossible. Yet here you are, proving them all wrong!

  3. Robert says:

    Great post! Planning on heading to Tokyo for Christmas and New Years! Any tips for that time of year? BTW, was trying to post a comment from my iPhone but the “related posts” on your mobile theme kept loading more and more stories and wouldn’t let me post my comment! Just thought I’d let you know. Cheers!

    • @Robert: Dress warm. I was there near Christmas and it was *really* cold,… but not painfully. Check when the winter festivals are! There’s a really big one in Sapporo! (A little far from Tokyo but it’s a huge festival) I can’t remember if it’s during the western New Years or Asian New Years. A visit to an onsen would be nice splurge.

      Also, thanks for the headsup about my “Related Posts” wonkiness. I appreciate it and will see what I can do! =-)

  4. We’ve been to Tokyo and travelled on the cheap a few time snow, just about to head back for a third go. I think it gets unfairly compared to South East Asia for its costs, you get great value for the utter pleasure and quality of food and experiences.

    We are always surprised by the cheapness and quality of food from the SevenEleven, Lawson and other convenience stores. They saved us a few times when the exchange rate has been poor.

    Travelling on single trips here and there in the city can be cheaper than using a rail pass, so don’t blow your precious days of use for city travel.

    Also, sometimes a budget hotel or apartment can be cheaper than a hostel (especially for two), so make sure you check all avenues and not auto book a hostel.

    The basement food halls of large department stores sometimes give out free samples, we’ve tried sweets, cakes, fruit and fish for free.

    Coffee can be expensive. Either stick to green tea (often free) or make it yourself at your room. Our favourite coffee chain is Choco Cro (SaintMarc Cafe), they do the cheapest coffee we could find that was still drinkable.

    Love Tokyo, it’s really not as expensive as people think.

    • @Alison: Wow, those are really awesome tips! Thanks for sharing them. You are so right… with Japan, it really is about the quality of the food and experiences. So much pride goes into craftsmanship goes into things. I noticed that with food vendors in Asakusa. =-)

      I tried looking into Air BnB, to stay with a local, but they priced around the same or more than a hostel. One thing to watch out for with those are transportation costs. Even staying with a friend for free, doesn’t mean cheaper or free if your friend is in a prefecture outside of Tokyo main and it costs $20 to get into the city. woof.

  5. halfwhiteboy says:

    wow! just $30 a day? that’s awesome. i would also really want to visit tokyo someday, soon hopefully.

  6. So glad you didn’t chicken out on Tokyo. These are really wonderful tips and thank you so much for sharing! You have probably prevented a lot of “wallet rapes” from happening after this post. Keep it up. Cheers.

Leave a Reply. Holler up and share your thoughts!

Follow the GRRRL

Follow
Before a trip can be a vacation, you'll have to survive it first!
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for Travel Survival Tips, inspiration and YouTube fun! 

GRRR Travel Survival Guides

BOOK YOUR TRIP | TRAVEL PARTNERS

Travel Partners

How you can support our site

Donate to help maintain this site, so we can bring you more free video and travel content!



Featured On

css.php