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! We've done the research for you so here's how you can scrimp and still enjoy an amazing holiday in Tokyo!
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1. Forget about expensive hotels, stay in these instead!
First developed in Japan, capsule hotels in Tokyo are a more affordable accommodation option, 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 and Akihabara Bay Hotel!
Credit: skas0203 on Flickr
If you haven’t visited Airbnb 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.
Credit: Espen Faugstad on Flickr
There are several traditional Japanese guesthouses (Ryokans) in Tokyo and the best thing is that it doesn’t cost much to stay in these traditional Japanese inns. 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
Credit: Food Diversity.today
Since regular meals cost twice as much during dinner, you can get halal bento in selected convenience stores in Japan. With yummy selections ranging from the beef rice bowl to butter chicken curry, you can get them in these 7-11 stores and Rogers Mart across Tokyo.
Credit: Halal Japanese restaurant Kappou Yama 割烹やま～ハラル和食～ on Facebook
If you're tired from exploring the sights and sounds of Tokyo, halal bento deliveries are also available. However, most bento delivery services require a minimum order or number of sets, which will benefit family and group travellers. Whether you're craving for teriyaki chicken or yakitori, check out these halal bento deliveries that are perfect for your next Tokyo trip!
#HHWT Tip: For added ease, shop around at these Tokyo convenience stores and marts selling Muslim-friendly food!
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
IC cards are reloadable transport cards that can be found across Japan with each city or area typically having their own unique card or design. In Tokyo, the 2 main cards are Suica and PASMO. Suica can be purchased at JR railway stations, and PASMO at non-JR railway stations. To get your deposit back at the end of your trip, you’ll also have to return them at these respective stations.
- Can be used across subway, trains, and buses, as well as in convenience stores and some shops or vending machines.
- Nationwide 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).
Credit: Hans Christian Psaar on Flickr
- 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!
Price for Suica or Pasmo cards: A minimum top-up of ¥1,000 (including ¥500 deposit)
#HHWT Tip: As IC cards are extremely popular for locals and visitors alike, beat the queue to get your own by pre-purchasing your Suica card on Klook!
Tokyo Subway Pass
The Tokyo Subway Pass is one of the most convenient options if you’re only in Tokyo for a short period of time. Average train rides in Tokyo range between ¥200 - ¥400 per ride, so if you’re planning on seeing the major sights, then this pass is definitely worth it! Just make sure to plan out your itinerary first.
- 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.
Price for Tokyo Subway Pass: ¥800 (24 hours), ¥1,200 (48 hours), ¥1,500 (72 hours)
JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass)
JR Passes will definitely come up in a discussion of transport around Japan, and fortunately there are several JR passes that include access to Tokyo’s JR lines AND popular destinations around Tokyo! Remember to check out which JR Pass suits your needs on Klook before purchasing!
- 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 may be 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.
Price for JR Pass: Starting from ¥29,650 (7 days)
#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
Credit: Yayoi Japanese Restaurant | ร้านอาหารญี่ปุ่น ยาโยอิ on Facebook
Download the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi appbefore 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
Exclusively for travellers to Japan, download the Travel Japan Wi-Fi app before your trip to access over 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the country! It covers many areas including airports, train stations, limousine buses, cafes and restaurants, convenience stores and other public areas in Japan.
Price: Free (available on iOS and Android)
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 must 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!
Credit: antonio tajuelo on Flickr
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.
Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson on Flickr
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!
Credit: Tasayu Tasnaphun on Flickr
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 cheaper in Japan! Before you step into the store, get a leaflet (known to the locals as 'chirashi') highlighting the daily and weekly deals you shouldn't miss. If you're travelling during winter, purchase your HEATTECH essentials in Japan instead to save!
#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 relatively new Shibuya Scramble Square!
P.S. Want to plan for your next Japan shopping spree? Check out these 12 Brands That Are Cheaper In Japan Than Back Home!
7. Get souvenirs from the 100-Yen shops
Tokyo is filled with 100-Yen shops that would please budget shoppers everywhere. You can purchase anything such as quirky stationaries, cosmetic kits, and Japanese-themed souvenirs - all for ¥100! Here are some of the must-visit stores:
Credit: Guilhem Vellut on Flickr
Daiso is already a household name in many countries outside of Japan, but the items are definitely more extensive in its home country! Walk along the aisle to find ceramics, bento boxes and facial masks to place into your shopping basket. The biggest Daiso store is located at Takeshita Dori in Harajuku, which is only a walking distance from Harajuku train station.
Credit: Can Do Japan
Most Can Do stores are scattered around Shinjuku and Shibuya, which is convenient for travellers who love to shop. In this 100-yen shop, you would mostly find traditional Japanese items, kitchen essentials and electronics. Looks like you'll have many souvenir options for your family back home!
Credit: Tatsuo Yamashita on Flickr
If you're looking for more 100-Yen shops, another one would be Seria! While the products are mostly handicrafts, kitchenware and party essentials, you can find souvenir-worthy items on the shelves too. The shop also sells Japanese tea towels and Hello Kitty stationaries.
8. Conquer all the free activities and sights
Being on a budget holiday doesn't mean skipping 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.
There are a lot of reasons why Asakusa is a must-see. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Nakamise Street, which leads to Senso-ji Temple. Nakamise is lined with street stalls selling traditional goods as well as Muslim-friendly local snacks. It’s a popular spot for worshippers as well as tourists, so brace yourself for crowds, especially on weekends and public holidays.
Also in the area is Asakusa Shrine, home to the Sanja Matsuri (Sanja Festival). If you find yourself in Tokyo at that time, make sure you catch the festivities! Don't forget to check out our Muslim-friendly guide to Tokyo's Asakusa neighbourhood.
Credit: Chuck Moravec on Flickr
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
Credit: IQRemix on Flickr
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
Credit: Espen Faugstad on Flickr
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!
9. Visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea in the evening
Book the After 6 Passport
Credit: Eugene Phoen on Flickr
Spending the afternoon at Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea is one of the must-do experiences in Japan, but it doesn't come cheap.
If it's on your bucket list, book the After 6 Passport that allows you to spend your evening at Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea at a fraction of the price. At ¥4,200, this pass is only valid on weekdays after 6PM. The best thing about it? There are lesser crowds in the evening! If you can't decide between Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea, we'll help you to choose which theme park you should visit next.
10. Explore the free Insta-worthy spots
Credit: @ilyadesfois on Twitter
One of the best ways to seal your travel experience is by taking snapshots at free Instagram-worthy spots in Tokyo! It's all about knowing the right places for a good photo. Start with the Jimbocho Book District, a place not to be missed by any bookworm in the world. It houses thousands of books in several bookstores all within a street!
Another place that's famous on the feeds of Instagrammers everywhere is the Kaleidoscope Mirror at Tokyo Plaza Omotesando Harajuku. The escalator leads to a lush terrace filled with trees and greenery for shoppers to relax and unwind. It's a drastic change in atmosphere from a bustling fashion district to a quiet and peaceful hideout. To visit more Instagram spots, check out the striking hidden gems in Tokyo for your next picture-perfect getaway!
Do you have any travel hacks or budget travel tips for travelling in Japan? Let us know in the comments! Time to plan your next Tokyo getaway with your loved ones!