The first thing everyone told me when I said that Japan is the first destination I am going to visit during my world trip, is that it will be very expensive. Therefore, I will share with you tips on how to travel to Tokyo on a budget.
Tokyo on a budget: Sightseeing
Let’s get started with some sightseeing and a list of the most famous attractions in Tokyo. One tip upfront: The main attractions in Tokyo are mainly all for FREE.
When traveling to Tokyo on a budget, Shibuya Crossing is a good place to get started. The Shibuya Crossing is the busiest intersection of Tokyo where people start crossing from loads of different directions at the same time. Around 2500 people cross this intersection at the same time, and more than 2.4 million people pass by per day.
You should definitely cross this intersection yourself and then just observe for a while. It’s actually a lot of fun!
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (orange line Ginza or purple line Hanzomon) until Shibuya
Hachiko Memorial Statue
Just next to the Shibuya crossing is the famous Hachiko Memorial Statue. Let me tell you the sad story of this very loyal Japanese dog.
Hachiko was the dog of a university professor and always came to the train station of Shibuya to pick up his owner after work.
When one day the owner died at the university and didn’t return to the train station, the dog still came back to the train station 7 more years and waited for the return of his owner, until he also died at the age of around 15.
Such a cute and heartbreaking story at the same time. It is said that this dog race (Akita) is the most loyal dog in the world.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (orange line Ginza or purple line Hanzomon) until Shibuya
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
If you want to travel to Tokyo on a budget and want a FREE view over Tokyo, then simply visit Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building. This way, you will not need to pay entrance to the Tokyo Tower.
Some days only the South Observation Deck will be open and other days only the North Observation Deck. You can find more info regarding the exact days here.
Once you enter the building you will already see a queue of people waiting for the elevator. It will bring you up until the 45th floor where you have lots of space and different windows to enjoy the view from.
They even have a little souvenir shop up there as well as offer coffee and cake.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (red line Marunouchi) until Nishi-Shinjuku Station
Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley) and Golden Gai
Omoide Yokocho, better known as Piss Alley, and Golden Gai are both located in the Shinjuku neighborhood and within walking distance from each other.
Omoide Yokocho is tiny alleys where you can sit in small stalls and enjoy local food. It actually got its name “Piss Alley” from earlier years when this area was more shady for criminals, who peed wherever they wanted since there were no toilets.
Golden Gai is a network of 6 streets where you will find lots of tiny bars and clubs. Here you can enjoy nightlife and a few drinks. Nothing is opened there during the day, but it gets very busy in the evening.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (red line Marunouchi) until Shinjuku Station
Meiji Jingu Shrine
If you want to travel to Tokyo on a budget, then you should not miss out on visiting the Meiji Jingu Shrine. It is located in a little forest inside Tokyo city and on the way to the shrine you will pass hundreds of Sake barrels, which make a cool photo spot.
Once you arrive at the shrine, you will need to clean your hands and mouth outside at a dedicated washing area. Inside, you have 2 areas:
- Naien: This is the inside area where you will find the treasure museum.
- Gaien: This is the outside area where you will find the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and Memorial hall.
You might even see priests and maidens in traditional clothing doing their daily work. You can donate money, show your respect and even write a note of thanks and wishes that you drop inside a wooden box.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (green line Chiyoda) until Meiji-Jingumae Harajuku Station
Another famous attraction in Tokyo to visit is Hie Shrine. Actually, if you are tired of visiting only shrines, come here anyways as the way up is the best part. You will pass through orange colored poles until you reach the top. I really loved it.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (orange line Ginza) until Tameike-sanno Station or (green line Chiyoda) until Kokkai-gijidomae Station
The Buddhist temple Sensō-ji is by far the most famous attraction in Tokyo. It is actually Tokyo’s oldest temple and next to it you will also find another shrine. Very famous also is the big red lantern which hangs from the ceiling.
At Sensō-ji you can also try your luck. You only pay 100 YEN (approx. 80c), shake a box with sticks, get one of those sticks with a symbol on it, look for that symbol in a drawer in front of you and take out the piece of paper located inside. The paper will then tell you how fortune or less fortune you will be at the moment.
Also, on the way walking to the temple from the metro, there are loads of souvenir and food shops. So, make sure to bring a bit of time with you when visiting Sensō-ji.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (orange line Ginza or red line Asakusa) until Asakusa
Tsukiji Fish Market
All this sightseeing probably makes you very hungry. A very famous place to visit when you travel to Tokyo on a budget is Tsukiji Fish Market. Don’t worry, they don’t only sell fish, but lots of snacks and finger food as well.
While some food is rather expensive, you can also find lots of great and cheap deals there, such as an omelet stick for 100 YEN (approx. 80c), sweet beans candy for 200 YEN (approx. 1,50€), fish on a stick for 200 YEN (approx. 1.50€) and much more.
HOW TO GET THERE: Metro (grey line Hibiya) until Tsukij Station
Do you like electronics? Do you like video games? Do you like high tec gadgets? Do you like Anime? Do you like mangas? Then visit Akihabara in Tokyo – a loud, colorful and exciting neighborhood full of electronics and nerdy stuff!
Another thing you can find in this neighborhood is Maid Cafes – a Café where waitresses dress up as maids and act like anime characters. Since I watched a documentary about those maid cafes prior to visiting Japan, we didn’t enter there though!
Harajuku Shopping Street
Harajuku is a shopping street in Tokyo and known for Japanese pop culture. You will find loads of theme cafes, thrift stores and extraordinary food, such a rainbow sandwich.
You will find shopping there very cheap and see lots of people dressed up in a variety of styles, such as wearing layers of shirts & sweatshirts or skirts & leggings, etc. It’s a very colorful street.
TeamLab Borderless is a digital art museum I was very excited about to visit. It was also the only attraction in Tokyo where we paid an entrance fee off about 25EUR.
Inside teamLab Borderless you will find loads of exhibitions, all mainly created by different light effects and objects. The goal is to explore a new relationship between humans and nature as they believe that there is no boundary between humans and nature or between oneself and the world. Everything/everyone is inside one another.
When we visited there were 2 exhibitions to choose from. One called Borderless and one Planets. Borderless is the most famous, longer and permanently one. Planets is a shorter exhibition and only there temporarily.
My favorite rooms of the borderless exhibitions were the crystal room, lamps room, topography room, and flower forest room.
It is also very interactive, so you will have the opportunity to climb around or jump on a trampoline as well.
HOW TO GET THERE: Underground (blue line Yurikamome) until Aomi Station
Secret tip to travel to Tokyo on a budget
Here comes my secret tip in case you want to travel to Tokyo on a budget. Check out the website Klook for big discounts on everything.
It is a kind of Groupon, but for Asia, and you can find famous sights, transportation passes and all kind of activities on there with a big discount.
Tokyo on a budget: Accommodation
Depending on how many days you want to spend in Tokyo and how much money you want to spend in total, capsule hostels are a great low budget accommodation.
We stayed for 3 days in Tokyo in a capsule hostel for only 18€ per night. The name of the hostel is DJ Ginza hostel and it is located in a nice neighborhood from where we could easily access all parts of the city, either by foot or metro. Tokyo’s main train station was also just around the corner (15 min by foot) which was very convenient as we arrived there by bus from the airport.
The capsule is more comfortable than it sounds or looks like. You are provided with all the basics you need like towels, pillows, blankets and a Japanese mattress (futon). The capsule itself is actually pretty spacious, so 2 people could easily sleep in one.
Furthermore, you also have a safety box inside the capsule where you can leave your personal belongings. You also have a little fan inside the capsule, if you need it (I never used it), different types of light and a little foldable table. I really enjoyed my stay in my little capsule.
Regarding your suitcase/backpack, you can either leave it with you in the capsule or just next to your capsule in a dedicated space for it.
Finally, our capsule didn’t have a door, just a curtain to close, but there are also capsules with real doors. Either way, I never woke up during the night due to noise or anything. I had the best night’s sleep ever! You need to know that the Japanese have very good manners, are very polite and well behaved. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule! In my case though, they were always super quiet.
So, if you want to travel to Tokyo on a budget for multiple days, capsule hostels will be your preferred choice.
Tokyo on a budget: Japanese Food
When exploring a new city, you will be hungry from all the walking. Often, we just jump into restaurants and spend a fortune. Here are my tips for traveling Tokyo on a budget when it comes to Japanese food.
Your life savior in Japan certainly will be 7-11 stores. You can find them on every corner and they are open almost always. Sometimes, you will find stores with the name “Family Mart” which is the same concept as the 7-11 store. So, don’t hesitate to go inside.
You can get a breakfast there as cheap as 1-3€. We often had a sandwich, Onigiri or sweets, along with some juice or ice coffee.
Sushi Conveyor Belt Restaurant
Japan is super famous for having the best sushi in the world. However, it can get very pricy.
If you want more affordable sushi, you can visit a Sushi conveyor belt restaurant. There you will find sushi and other dishes on small plates running on a conveyor belt. You simply take the plate(s) you want and when you are done they count the plates. We had a very delicious dinner for around 20€ only at Rotating Sushi Edo Kanda.
NOTE: Usually, the plates have different colors which are of different prices. Make sure to know which ones are the most expensive plates before eating.
Another way to save money when it comes to food is to enjoy Ramen. Of course, there are super fancy Ramen restaurants, but you also find places for 5-7€. Aim for smaller places that are not exactly in the city center. We found some very good deals in Ginza.
You will also find lots of vending machines where you can order Ramen from. There, you will be given the variety between cheap, medium and expensive Ramen. So, the choice is yours.
When traveling to Tokyo on a budget, make sure to eat at Yoshinoya. This is a food chain that offers a variety of dishes. We had lunch there as cheap as 5€ and it was a super big portion. We were totally stuffed after leaving.
You can find Yoshinoya almost everywhere in the city. Just look for the orange/black logo.
You can eat in a smart way by having just a small or take away breakfast from the 7-11 store. This way, you will be super hungry for lunch.
In that case, just check out the lunch deals all restaurants or tiny places offer as they are very affordable and the food is super fresh.
My favorite Japanese Food
Having explored Tokyo for 3 days, we tried to eat as much local food as possible. My favorite Japanese food so far is Ramen as it is super simple and you just put any random food inside. It will always taste good and different everywhere.
I also like Onigiri, Okonomiyaki (kind of omelet), Takoyaki (octopus balls) and sushi of course.
Tokyo on a budget: Transportation
One thing that is super expensive in Japan is transportation. Don’t worry, we got you covered for this one. You basically have 2 options:
Suica is a rechargeable card that you can use each time you enter a train, metro and even some stores.
You can buy the Suica card at card vending machines at the train stations which cost around 2000 YEN (approx.16€). You will have 1500 YEN (approx. 11€) immediately available to use and 500 YEN (approx. 3€) is taken as a deposit. You will be refunded the deposit money once you return the card.
You can charge those cards on any Suica machine, which can be found in most stations. Look out for the green-colored machines.
Metro/Subway pass for 24, 48 or 72h
Let’s say you stay in Tokyo for 2 days, you might consider buying the 48h pass. This means you have unlimited rides for 48h, from the moment you use the pass the first time.
However, there is a difference between “metro only” and “metro/subway” pass. If you choose the first option it will be cheaper, but you can only use the 9 metro lines, not the subway, meaning: Ginza, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Tōzai, Chiyoda, Yūrakuchō, Hanzōmon, Namboku, Fukutoshin lines are included.
If you also want to ride the subway, you might consider the metro/subway pass. However, we figured out that you can get to the most important places by metro easily. Sometimes with a little detour, but since Tokyo is so well connected you get from A to B super fast.
If you want to do many things on foot and only want to buy single tickets, it is also super easy. You just go to the ticket machine and enter the destination you want to go to. The machine then calculates the amount you have to pay automatically.
NOTE: If you want to buy more than 24h, you will need to buy the ticket at the counter and they will ask for your passport. So make sure to bring it along.
TIP: If you travel to Tokyo on a budget, check out Klook (kind of Groupon) for discounts for these passes as well.
Should you arrive at Narita airport, you have different options to get to the city center of Tokyo. The cheapest one though is to use the Tokyo shuttle bus, for only 1000YEN (approx 8€).
You can pay for the ticket at the counter where the people also speak English. Then just take the exit S3 (actually any works) and walk to the last bus stop number 31:
In order to get to the Tokyo shuttle bus at Narita airport, check out this video for more visuals.
Total amount of money spent
During our 3 days in Tokyo, we only spent around 30€ (average 10€ per day) on transportation, 75€ (18€ per night) on accommodation and around 45€ (average 15€ per day) on food.
In total, we spent around 150€ each in 3 days, which is what we would also spend in Europe on a weekend trip to a new city.
I hope all of these tips will help you to explore Tokyo soon. Should you have any other tips on how to travel to Tokyo on a budget, feel free to share.