7 ways to travel on a budget to Tokyo

Travel on a budget to Tokyo
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Many people think that Japan is very expensive, and Tokyo, a heart of Japan, should be extremely expensive, isn’t it? It’s true that Japan is expensive compared to other Asian countries, but it’s pretty normal if you compare the price to European countries. In this article, I will show you how to travel on a budget to Tokyo.

1. Travel in off-peak time

The first tip is to avoid traveling in the peak time.

There are some main vacation periods in Japan such as New Year, Golden Week (late April to early May), and Obon (mid-August). In these periods, Japanese people do not need to go to work or study, which they always do, so they will spend time traveling or shopping.

During these periods, the service price is very expensive. The price of hotels, hostels, or any type of accommodation increase steadily.

Furthermore, there are so many people on the street, or in any popular places, so you will need to wait for hours if you want to enter any places, or even to buy anything. You will be so tired of just waiting and cannot do anything whole day.

Therefore, it’s not a good idea to travel in peak time in Japan. In order to save your money, and save your time, let’s choose another time to enjoy the best of Tokyo.

A normal night in Shibuya, Tokyo

2. Don’t use taxi

Taxi in Japan is crazily expensive. The price for opening the door is around ¥650 to ¥800 ($6.5 to $8) depends on where you go. Also, after the first kilometer, you will be charged more, and you will be totally broke before you reach the destination.


3. Sleep at Internet Cafe

The cheapest way to stay overnight in Japan is staying at Internet Cafe or called as Manga Kissa, which is a place to read comic books. In Manga Kissa, you can find private cubicles, which have 1 armchair, or a couch, or a flat to sleep. I always choose a small flat because it’s more convenient. There are showers (depending on which place, you may need to pay shower fee or not), blanket rental and vending machines for food. Manga Kissa always provides free drink bar, and sometimes with ice-cream too. A ‘night pack’ (for 6 to 12 hours) starts at around ¥1500 ($15) and 2500 ($25), depending which type of private cubicles that you choose.


4. Don’t buy Mobile Data

In many places in Tokyo, you can find free wi-fi. Free wi-fi can be found in restaurants, shops, hotels, and transportation points such as train stations. You can also use free wi-fi in shopping malls as well. Therefore, it is not necessary to pay money for internet if you visit Tokyo. If you get lost, just enjoy it and ask people on the street!


5. Eat at local and budget restaurants

The best thing when traveling is to explore food. You can save money but still eat delicious food by choosing local and cheap restaurants. If you are a big fan of sushi, why don’t you go to ¥100 sushi restaurant? You can choose any type of sushi with a really cheap price!


6. Use public transportation wisely

a) Local train

Public transportation in Tokyo is not expensive. If you want to save money, you can choose local trains, which stop at every stop. It’s also an interesting way to explore the beauty of Tokyo.

You can check the metro in Tokyo here: http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/


b) Railway pass

If you stay in Tokyo for more than 3 days, I suggest you buy railway pass. It’s really convenient and you can use trains as much as you want.


c) Bus

Going by bus is not a good idea because there are so many people on the street. You may be stuck on the bus for a long time and waste your vacation time.

You can check how to get from Tokyo to Osaka by bus here.


d) Highway night bus

You can choose this type of bus if you plan to go somewhere further. If you want to go to Osaka from Tokyo, using Highway night bus will be a cheaper option.


7. Visit free place

There are a lot of free and beautiful places to visit in Tokyo. Therefore, let’s check them out before you intend to spend money in some other places. Furthermore,  there are a lot of stores (especially department stores) offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists spending over ¥5000, so ask them before you purchase.  

Takeshita Street in Tokyo

Takeshita Street is a good place to visit for free!

In the summer of 2016, I had a solo trip to Tokyo, without internet, didn’t book any hotel or hostel, just stayed at the Internet cafe. It was one of the best memories in my life.

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36 replies
  1. natalietanner says:

    Great tips!! We love saving money when we can…the money you save at any point is money you can spend on more travel! I have heard Tokyo is expensive so I’m glad to know where we can save money on an adventure like this one!

  2. Nicole Anderson says:

    These are really good tips. I spent part of my schooling life in Japan and love the country and it’s people. Tokyo certainly does have a reputation for being expensive but you have shared some really good points to drive costs down while still being able to enjoy this vibrant city.

  3. Vicki Garside says:

    What great tips! I had no idea you could sleep in an internet cafe – it seems like a really good way to keep accommodation expenses down. Although I’m not sure how practical it would be for more than one night. But what an experience! Great tip about traveling off peak too – both the additional expense and the crowds are a bit daunting so off peak would be a good way to go for me!

    • Ha says:

      I traveled more than one night and still stayed at Internet cafes so it was practical. However, if you travel with kids, it’s impossible.

  4. Juliette says:

    We went to Tokyo for the first time earlier this year and were surprised at actually how cheap it was for food! Transport took a little getting used to but we just used the main subway system and a Suica card so we never had to worry too much. The minimarts have a great selection of food for pretty cheap too. We never used taxis (way too expensive) and always had free wifi available. The most expensive part of our trip was the skiing part when we went up to northern Japan.

  5. Yukti says:

    Really money saving tricks by you. I was not knowing that we can take a nap at Internet cafe. I would surely buy Railway pass. Will never use taxis and always use free WIFI. HIghway night bus is also nice tip.

  6. Riely says:

    I had no idea that sleeping at Internet Cafes was a popular thing to do in Japan. I don’t know if I have it in me to sleep from one Internet cafe to the next. I did get the impression that Japan is expensive, but like you said most European countries are expensive as well. Great tips for saving money.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Hey Ha, great tips. Many travelers think Japan is expensive but it’s only as expensive as you want it to be. Also, if you’re looking for cheap grub, follow the office workers! They tend to choose really cheap and filling meals you can find almost anywhere in Tokyo like gyudon bowls and ramen. These are less pricier than sushi but will give you the energy you need to walk around the city.

    • Expatolife says:

      Thank you for your feedback and tips! Some visitors try really expensive places and of course it’s expensive. It’s true that we can find places with cheap price by following what locals do 🙂

  8. leahshoup says:

    This is so perfect for me! I’ve never traveled to Asia, but my boyfriend’s dream is to visit Tokyo. I’ve always thought it would be too expensive but this has convinced me that we could do it if we make smart choices!

  9. James says:

    Very useful tip about not traveling in peak times, I had no idea about Golden Week. I can’t believe how expensive taxis are! I will definitely avoid them. The 100 Yen Sushi restaurants are perfect for eating out cheaply.

  10. Joanna says:

    It’s good to know that one of the cheap things to do in Tokyo is eat. I plan on visit Japan soon and the culinary scene fascinates me, I want to try everything. It’s funny to know that you can also sleep in an internet cafe. I’ve never heard about that before.

    • Expatolife says:

      You should try to sleep in Internet cafe! It was a bit weird to me at first but it’s convenient and cheap. Japanese food are amazing! I will have posts about them soon 🙂

  11. rhiydwi says:

    I had no idea sleeping at Internet Cafes was a thing in Japan! That’s so cool! I’m one of those people who assumed Japan is expensive, so thank you for showing me that it doesn’t need to be 🙂 I’ll definitely bear your tips in mind on my trip (hopefully in 2 years!)!

  12. Iza says:

    These are all awesome tips! I hope that I can travel to Tokyo. I want to eat sushi and sleep in capsule hotels. I wonder what it feels like to sleep in an Internet cafe.

  13. Only By Land says:

    Those Manga Kissas are really good value! I will definitely check one out next time I stay in Tokyo or Japan. The 100 Yen sushi restaurant looks really good value too. These tips are perfect for traveling to Japan on a budget.

  14. Mel says:

    These are such good tips. I had always heard Japan was very expensive so it’s good to know that it isn’t overly expensive. The Manga kiss looks like the place to stay. It’s pretty cozy in there.

  15. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    The expense of Tokyo has been holding me back from visiting. I am not sure if I would like the entire urban experience for too long but it seems like something I need to experience at least once. It is also the gateway to the Japanese countryside that we are craving to experience. I really think the rail pass is a must buy.

    • Ha says:

      I hope my tips will encourage you to visit Japan in the future. It’s true that Japan is expensive, but you can have ways to travel on a budget here 🙂

  16. Bhusha says:

    You’re right! When I think of Japan, budget feels like oxymoron!!!
    //You’ll be broke before you reach the destination// – Lolz!!! That expensive is Taxi, is it?!!!
    Sleep in an internet cafe??? That would sound totally weird anywhere else in the world!


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