View of Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building | © Dick Thomas Johnson/Flickr
View of Tokyo from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building | © Dick Thomas Johnson/Flickr
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A Budget Traveler's Guide to Tokyo

Picture of Alicia Joy
Tokyo Writer
Updated: 10 March 2017

Tokyo’s reputation as an expensive city causes many shoestring travelers to give it a miss. That is a big mistake – Tokyo can be one of the most affordable cities for travelers to explore, and this budget guide to the capital is here to prove it.

Where to stay

Asakusa is an older neighborhood and one of the cheapest areas in Tokyo for hotel accommodation. Andon Ryokan is great for a modern ryokan experience, while the APA chain of hotels consistently offers some of the city’s best value for money rates. Capsule hotels for the solo traveler and hostels for groups are an even cheaper option, and they can be found throughout the city.

Nakamise-dori, Asakusa | © Opponent/WikiCommons

Nakamise-dori, Asakusa | © Dieter Karner/WikiCommons

Where to eat

Eating out in Tokyo can be surprisingly cheap. Shokudo (small, casual restaurants) usually have the plastic version of their menu items and the price on display out front, making it easy to choose and order a cheap meal. Combini (convenience stores) sell inexpensive quality eats, decent ramen and donburi can be bought for a few hundred yen apiece, and kaiten sushi is a longstanding favorite of the city’s cash strapped visitors.

Where to drink

Drinking is the main event at an izakaya, and the prices are usually cheaper than other places. These Japanese pubs are prolific in Tokyo, especially around train stations, and the good ones you usually just stumble upon after making a wrong turn. Some places will even have nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) policies for a flat fee. Kinno Kura is an English-friendly izakaya chain that offers both cheap drinks (¥270) and nomihodai (¥3280).

What museums to see

Some of Japan’s best museums are actually free of charge. Be sure to check out the Sumo Museum in Ryogoku and the TEPIA Advanced Technology Exhibition Hall in Aoyama. Many historic and cultural sights like the Imperial Palace Gardens and holy sights like the Meiji Shrine are also free.

The Sumo Museum (Ryogoku Kokugikan) in Tokyo | © J. Miers/WikiCommons

The Sumo Museum (Ryogoku Kokugikan) in Tokyo | © User: (WT-shared) Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage/WikiCommons

What to do

Shop, explore, eat, repeat. Instead of paying to ride to the top of Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree, make your way to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings for free entry to their observatories on the 45th floor. While many gardens ask for a small maintenance fee upon entry, most parks including Yoyogi, Ueno, and Inokashira are equally beautiful and free of charge. In fact, most of Tokyo’s main attractions – the famous shopping streets like Takeshita, Shibuya Crossing, and the neon lights of Akihabara – are also cost-free.

Where to day trip

Trains leave from Tokyo Station for virtually every destination in Japan you could think of. But most touristy destinations will have the requisite high prices, so make your way to the mountains for some fresh air, hiking, and a view of Mount Fuji instead. Mount Takao and Mount Mitake are two of Tokyo’s favorite weekend getaways.

What neighborhoods to check out

Nishi-ogikubo and Asagaya are known for their cheap cafés in the daytime and affordable bars, and vibrant nightlife in the evening. Shimokitazawa is bound to have some great deals at one the many second-hand shops located there, while Takadanobaba, a student neighborhood, is packed with cheap eateries and entertainment.

How to get around

Tokyo’s Metro is fast, convenient, and easily the best and most affordable way to get around the city. A Pasmo card will save you the hassle of having to buy paper tickets every time you want to go somewhere. But Tokyo was made for pedestrians and once you’ve arrived at your neighborhood, it’s best to just walk around and find your way on foot.

Tokyo Metro entrance | © Rs1421/WikiCommons

Tokyo Metro entrance | © Rs1421/WikiCommons