Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities to live in but it doesn’t mean that we can’t eat, sleep, and shop on a budget when we’re there! In order to travel around Tokyo on a low budget, little research and discipline are definitely needed.
1. Forget about expensive hotels, stay in these instead!
First developed in Japan, there are many capsule hotels in Tokyo that would make affordable accommodation, especially for travellers who are out and about and only need a place to sleep. A room in a capsule hotel will cost you about ¥2,900 to ¥5,800 per night. The cubicles are air-conditioned, and they have facilities such as a sauna and a cafeteria.
Credit: Nadeshiko Hotel Shibuya on Facebook
However, a capsule hotel may not suit you if you are significantly taller than 1.8 metres because one cubicle measures about 2 metres in length! Some capsule hotels do not accommodate female guests, so it’s better to check before making your reservation. Some of Tokyo's capsule hotels are even Muslimah-friendly, like the women's only Nadeshiko Hotel Shibuya, Centurion Ladies Hostel Ueno Park, and Akihabara Bay Hotel!Airbnb
If you haven’t visited the Airbnb's website to hunt for affordable and beautiful accommodation in Tokyo, what are you waiting for? The Tokyo apartments listed on Airbnb are mostly pleasing and have mostly positive reviews from past users. Besides, the Japanese are generally polite people who value good housekeeping, so you would likely meet a pleasant host!Since June 2018, Japan has imposed a new law that requires Airbnb hosts to register their homes with the government. Only legal Airbnb homeowners in Japan will display a registration number in their listing. If the Airbnb homeowner does not comply with the new law, you might risk having your reservation cancelled
There are a number of traditional Japanese guesthouses (Ryokans) in Tokyo and the best thing is that it doesn’t cost much to stay in these traditional Japanese inns at all. Ryokans can go as low as ¥7,000 per night, depending on the type of room you choose.
#HHWT Tip: Some Ryokans, such as Homeikan in Tokyo, also offer vegetarian or seafood meals and are able to cater to special dietary requests.
2. Strategise your mealtimes
Have a heavy lunch
Lunchtime is literally the time of the day to feast as food is generally cheaper. Stuff yourself with food that will cost almost double during dinner-time! Many restaurants in Tokyo also offer reasonably priced set-lunches that allow you to eat to your heart’s content.
Not sure where you can dine? From delicious ramen to mouthwatering Japanese curry, check out our ultimate guide to halal authentic Japanese food in Tokyo!
3. Choose halal bento for convenience
4. Plan your route and transport
It is important to plan your route so you don’t make unnecessary detours and spend more on transport. On top of that, prepaid travel cards are popular in Tokyo for a ticketless travel experience onboard Tokyo’s transport systems and we recommend that you get a Suica card!
P.S. The train tickets in Tokyo are tiny and if you lose yours, you'll have to purchase another ticket before you can exit at your destination!Suica and Pasmo cards
- Can be used across subway, trains, and buses, as well as in convenience stores and some shops or vending machines.
- Nation-wide use is available for IC cards, so you can use the Suica and PASMO even if you’re in Osaka or Kyoto! Similarly, IC cards such as the Kansai region’s ICOCA can also be used in Tokyo.
- Prices for subway, train, or bus rides are discounted if you use an IC card (compared to a single-ride ticket).
- If you’re planning a commute-heavy day, an IC card may not be worth it as the individual rides will quickly add up.
- If you’re ending your trip outside of Tokyo you won’t be able to get the deposit back BUT you can still use them again for up to 10 years across Japan!
Tokyo Subway Pass
- Can be used across all subway lines for a convenient and easy journey - it’ll save you time AND money too as line transfers can sometimes come with a small fee!
- Good for short trips or commute-heavy days so if only 1 day out of your itinerary will require you to commute across the city, we recommend you get the 24-hour pass to save money.
- No need to purchase tickets or top up your card.
- Can be pre-purchased outside Tokyo on sites such as Klook, or at major spots in Tokyo such as Haneda and Narita airports, and major travel/electronic stores.
- Only valid for up to 72 hours - won’t be effective for any trips 4 days or longer. We recommend combining it with an IC card if you’re in Japan for at least 4 days!
- Can’t be used on the JR railway lines, so you might need to transfer multiple times to reach major stations such as Shibuya or Harajuku. While using the pass means you won’t have to pay extra fees, it might be slightly inconvenient especially if you’re on a tight schedule.
JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass)
- Tokyo’s JR lines cover most major stations and tourist attractions so it’s totally possible to see Tokyo’s best sights using just the JR line!
- If you’re taking day trips or travelling to/from different prefectures via the shinkansen, a suitable JR pass will definitely be much cheaper than buying individual tickets.
- The pass can be quite expensive and you should calculate the amount you save first before deciding to purchase one.
- If you’re only using the JR pass, you won’t be able to use other subway or bus lines so you might have to plan ahead.
#HHWT Tip: The JR Pass can only be issued to temporary visitors to Japan and you have to purchase it before travelling to Japan. For more information, check out our ultimate guide to navigating Tokyo's public transport!
5. Stay connected with FREE Wi-Fi
Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi app
Download the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi app before you travel to Japan and simply access the app to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspots for free! The areas with these Wi-Fi hotspots include airports, train stations, commercial facilities, convenience stores and more! You'll be able to find the addresses and maps of all coverage areas with this app. Don't forget to complete the membership registration form on the app before your trip!Price: Free (available on iOS and Android) Travel Japan Wi-Fi app
Rent Pocket Wi-Fi
Travelling with your buddies? Why not rent a pocket 4G WiFi router to share among your travelling party- you can enjoy smoother Internet connection, and the cost of rental per person is cheaper too!
- Book a pocket 4G WiFi router and collect it when you arrive at any Japan airport
- Book a pocket 4G WiFi router and collect it at Changi Airport in Singapore
- Book a pocket 4G WiFi router and collect it at KLIA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
6. Budget shopping is your best friend
You can't visit Tokyo without shopping! To travel on a budget, you have to shop in the right places for great deals 😉 Remember to shop around Harajuku, Shibuya, Asakusa and Ginza where most budget shopping spots are located. Here are a few places that we recommend!Don Quijote
Known as one of Japan's famous discount stores, Don Quijote (also known as Donki) offers almost everything and anything. It carries a wide range of products ranging from basic groceries to electronics, and even clothing and other quirky items. With many things to buy, Donki also sells luggage to store your newly-bought souvenirs.
If you are a footwear lover, you're in luck! ABC Mart is just one of the many places where you can find branded footwear including Adidas, Nike, New Balance, and Timberland sold at discounted prices. You can also get limited-edition footwear, exclusive to Japan!
Shibuya 109 is where you can find trendy clothes at affordable prices! If you're a fan of Japan's renowned clothing chain, Uniqlo, you'll be glad to find a huge store just around the corner as well. The prices of Uniqlo products are definitely cheaper in Japan! Before you step into the store, get a leaflet (known to the locals as 'chirashi') that highlights the daily and weekly deals you shouldn't miss.
#HHWT Tip: It's said that Shibuya crossing is one of the busiest intersections in the world so you have to experience the famous Shibuya crossing for yourself! For amazing snapshots, the best vantage points are Starbucks Shibuya Tsutaya and the newest Shibuya Scramble Square!
7. Get souvenirs from the 100-Yen shopsTokyo is filled with 100-Yen shops that would pleased budget shoppers everywhere. You can purchase anything such as quirky stationaries, cosmetic kits, Japanese-themed souvenirs - all for ¥100! Here are some of the must-visit stores: Daiso
8. Conquer all the free activities and sights
Being on a budget holiday doesn't mean you have to skip all the sightseeing! There are so many things to do in Tokyo that won’t cost a cent and here are a few that you can include in your itinerary.Asakusa
Ueno park is a beautiful place to visit, especially when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Take a stroll and admire the scenery or have a picnic if you’re up for a meal with a breathtaking view! What better way to spend your holiday in Tokyo than to experience the city like a local. For a glimpse of this experience, check out our teammate's journey in experiencing cherry blossoms in Japan!
Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine
Take a stroll amid the beautiful forested Yoyogi Park and don’t forget to visit the famed Meiji Shrine! Weekends are when the atmosphere is livelier, as there will be buskers and Lolita fashionistas around. If you're lucky, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of a Japanese wedding procession at Meiji Shrine too!
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Go up to the observation decks for free at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to get an unobstructed and beautiful view of Tokyo city. The North Observatory opens from 9:30AM to 11:00AM and the South Observatory opens from 9:30PM to 5:30PM, but opens till 11:00PM when the North Observatory is closed. A HHWT reader shared with us that the view here is as good as or even better than the view at Tokyo Skytree, so you have to see it for yourself!#HHWT Tip: For more sightseeing spots, check out free things to do in Tokyo that won't cost you a single yen!