Budget-Friendly Tokyo Travel Guide

Are you planning a trip to Tokyo or have just arrived in Tokyo and want to see absolutely everything but don’t know where to start AND don’t want to break the bank? That is exactly how I felt when I was in Tokyo. I had all these places in mind but I had no idea where they were, how to get to them, and how I would be able to afford housing and food. Read below to get some Tokyo travel advice and get the most out of your money!

Tokyo is a large city and knowing how to get around on a budget can be difficult. Japan is known for being especially pricey, and I was concerned with my budget, but there are many surprisingly cheap eats and places to stay at! I splurged on some meals and night stays just for the fun of it though! So, how did I get around Tokyo? I somehow, played by ear, asked travel desk customer services, and did some online research, and ended up having the best 3 days. Most of my actions were spontaneous and I had no plan which wasn’t a big deal because even the streets in Tokyo are sights to behold, so I took my time walking around and amassed up to 25,000 steps per day! Through trial and error, I learned what not to do and what to do, and I am sharing my Tokyo/Japan travel tips and some expenses during my time in Japan. (All Expenses underlined).

Tips and Information:

  • Tipping: Tipping is not required anywhere in Japan and can actually be an insult. Don’t be a fool and leave a tip like I did!
  • English: Not a lot of people speak or understand English, so a SIM card is a must! Do not rely on wifi zones or locals to help you get around because few places offer free Wifi and English is not commonly spoken. You may purchase the SIM card at any airport. I purchased mine at Taiwan Taoyuan airport at the “Mobile Desk” station and the 6 day unlimited data plan card was $15 US dollars.  If you are traveling with other people, only 1 SIM card may be necessary because you can open up the hotspot for others to use. Do keep in mind that you must unlock your phone to use an international SIM card. Save time and do this before you leave for your trip! Learn about unlocking your phone HERE.
  • Transportation: The MRT is the best and most affordable way to get around Tokyo! In general, the MRT is very expensive in Japan, but I find the daily pass to be pretty reasonably priced. There are multiple transit options and I ended up purchasing a 1-day pass for the JR Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass) for $6.90 US dollars per day (760 yen). The district pass: IMG_5349This pass allows you to, as the name indicates, visit large cities in the metropolitan area including Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Tokyo, etc. This pass allows you to travel to all the stops in the green circle as shown below:

If you wish to travel to other stops, you may purchase the Tokyo 1-Day Ticket, which includes the JR Metropolitan District stops, the bus, and subway for $16 US dollars.

  • Night scene: Tokyo is busy day and night so don’t expect the streets to be clear even though it is late at night. I arrived at the Shinagawa station at 11:30 PM to go home and the train station was PACKED. I was at Shibuya on a weekday at 10:30 looking for night bites and it was PACKED. Therefore, I highly suggest staying out late because the scene is a sight to behold. Tokyo is also quite safe and I did not feel any danger any time at all. Night scene in Ginza
  • Food: Save money by finding full meals at grocery stores or convenience stores like 7-Eleven. A plate of pasta with meat and vegetables will cost around $4-5 US dollars. You can also find ramen, rice bowls, sandwiches, and sushi for about under $5-6 US dollars. The employees at 7-Eleven will heat up the foods for you so they are ready to eat. Note: All packaging and utensils are plastic, so consider bringing around reusable utensils in a container and a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic use. These are some of the places I went to eat at:

    Ichiran Ramen Shibuya960 Yen/bowl, additional for optional toppings

     Tonkatsu Wako in Aqua City, Odaiba: Whole set meals ranging from 900 Yen to 1600 Yen. This set meal with Tonkatsu cabbage stuffed pork, shrimp, eggplant, and pork cutlet along with rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, steamed egg, and mochi dessert was 1500 Yen.Tonkatsu Wako in Aqua City, Odaiba

    Nadai Fujisoba at Akihabara: 400 Yen-800 Yen/meal. Pork noodles (front) cost 450 Yen, Shrimp pancake noodle (back) cost 480 Yen.

  • Housing: Hotels can be expensive so making use of AirBnb’s or hostels are great ways to have comfortable housing while spending little. I recommend finding places that are walking distance from an MRT station so that transportation is easy. Here are a few housing options that are low-cost and near MRT stations for convenience:
  1. One room, $36/night: This Airbnb is close to Ikebukuro station and Shinjuku station. Click HERE for $55 off your booking (New users only).
  2. Apartment, $27/night: This Airbnb is close to Shibuya station. Click HERE for $55 off your booking (New users only).
  3. Tatami room, $20/night: This Airbnb is 15 min. to the closest MRT station. Click HERE for $55 off your booking (New users only).
  4. Room in apartment, $27/night: Click HERE for $55 off your booking (New users only).
  5. Wise Owls Hostel, ~$20-25/night
  6. Khaosan Tokyo Samurai Hostel, ~$15-20/night
  7. Emblem Hostel, ~$30-35/night
  8. Use Hostelworld.com to search for hostels fit for you.

I hope you found this Tokyo Guide to be useful in planning your next trip to Tokyo. If you have any additional questions, you may leave a comment or contact me in the “Contact Me” tab and I will be sure to get back to you! I visited other places in Japan as well and will be posting more travel posts for Japan soon.

19 thoughts

  1. Great post! We lived in Japan for a year and loved it. As you discovered, there are many ways to enjoy Tokyo without spending too much money.

  2. This is great advice. We’ve been to Tokyo twice and there are many ways to save money. The JR pass is highly recommended (we bought it our first time to Tokyo and it was a money saver for sure), of course unless you aren’t travelling those routes then it may not make sense to get one.
    I believe until March 2021, you can get the JR pass within Japan, but usually you have to buy it in advance online before you travel.

  3. Thanks for this really interesting post. Tokyo is a city that I have in my heart to visit and these precise indications will be the basis for organizing the trip. congratulations to the writer for how she writes and deals with the topic. Giovanni from Italy

  4. I lived in Japan for 3 years and this post is spot on! Worth noting that pulling out US bank money at ATMs will usually result in a $10 fee, so if travelling in a short trip bring enough cash to spare. Also, dine at a Ninja Akasaka if you can “find” it – it’s such a fun experience! Tokyo is such an amazing place, enjoy!

        1. This is good information. One thing people must also be cognizant of is the size of rooms/rentals. Be prepared to stuff suitcases in various nooks and crannies, but don’t expect North American sized rooms. The JR Pass is a must if you’re traveling in Japan and it gave us free passage throughout Tokyo. Just note it must be ordered before leaving and cannot be purchased in Japan itself. Also note that not all trains, or lines, are JR. Otherwise, I agree with all you’ve said. We found English surprisingly widely spoken throughout our trip and Japanese make extraordinary efforts to understand your needs. Definitely venture out into Tokyo at night; it very safe and only assaults your senses: some much light, noise, smells, and action! Get off the train and explore but be careful to not get lost. Also, don’t miss Tower Records near Shibuya. I like your blog site: it’s very slick!

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