Tokyo on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide

Discover how to experience Tokyo without breaking the bank! Dive into our firsthand guide packed with budget eats, savvy transport tips, and affordable stays.

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Tokyo on a budget

Tokyo in [year] is quite the surprise package. It ranks among the most budget-friendly major cities this year, thanks in part to the yen’s current value.

If you’re wondering how to do Tokyo on a budget, here’s a snapshot: During our recent trip, we managed to clock in under $128 USD daily for two people.

This wasn’t a barebones experience, mind you. We’re talking decent accommodations, mouthwatering meals, efficient transportation, and a packed schedule of activities.

Sure, flying to Tokyo can be a significant chunk of your budget, but once you set foot in this city, the cost dynamics shift favorably.

For travelers keen on an authentic Tokyo experience without the premium price tag, [year] seems to be an opportune window. And as we share our tips and insights in this guide, you’ll see how Tokyo offers world-class experiences that don’t demand a world-class budget!

This is our 3 days in Tokyo on a budget video that goes along with this article!

Where to Stay in Tokyo on a Budget

Capsule Hotels

Dive into Tokyo’s accommodations scene, and you’ll quickly stumble upon one of its most iconic lodging experiences: the capsule hotel. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel stay; it’s a uniquely Tokyo experience that merges efficient design with modern comforts.

If you don’t know what a capsule hotel is, we’ll get you up to speed: Imagine a cozy little pod with a bed that’s just for you. It’s kind of like a futuristic hostel!

Don’t worry, capsule hotels are way comfier than they sound, and they usually have shared bathrooms and lounges. Perfect for solo travelers and those who just need a place to snooze.

🛏 On the hunt for the perfect pod? Check out this specialized Tokyo capsule hotel finder tool. Input your travel dates, and it’ll sift through options, spotlighting only the best capsule stays for your adventure.

Manga Cafes

Trey shows us the bed in a Tokyo manga internet cafe!

Ever wondered what it’d be like to be ensconced in a cozy nook surrounded by shelves of manga, with a computer at your fingertips? Manga cafes have got you covered.

Manga cafes range in their features, with some offering showers and free drinks, while others are more barebones.

⛩️ Need to spend a few extra nights in Tokyo? Certain manga cafes offer discounted rates for extended stays. It might not rival the luxury of a ritzy hotel, but hey, it’s a unique Tokyo experience that provides shelter and entertainment rolled into one.

How to Find Manga Cafes

The easiest way to find manga cafes in Tokyo is to use Google Maps and search for “Internet Cafe”.

Many manga cafes are listed under the “Internet Cafe” category in Google. This little trick ensures you’ll be presented with all your options.

Manga cafes on Google Maps in Akihabara
The easiest way to find manga cafes in Tokyo is to search for “Internet Cafe” in Google Maps.

Agoda

If you’ve never used Agoda, it’s basically the AirBNB of the rest of the world, but with a bit more sparkle.

It’s not just about homestays; Agoda rolls out the red carpet for a range of accommodations, be it boutique hotels, swanky apartments, or those cute, tucked-away guesthouses.

We used Agoda for many of our stays when traveling through Asia and for some of our stays in Tokyo.

You can find all kinds of accommodations in Tokyo with Agoda, from small shared apartments to high-rise hotels.

Our favorite part about Agoda is that you can set it up to include all of the taxes and fees in the pricing. No hidden tricks, no last-minute “Oops, forgot about that fee.” You can customize your search to showcase the total price, inclusive of all those pesky taxes and fees.

Guesthouse Or Ryokan

Budget ryokan guesthouse accomodation in Japan

If you’re looking for a more authentic experience, Japanese guesthouses or ryokans offer taste of traditional Japan. Think tatami mats, futon beds, and sometimes even communal baths.

Ryokans range from luxe to budget, but you can find some affordable ones if you look around.

Some guesthouses (especially the ones in the city) have more western-styled furnishings so you won’t need to sleep on the floor. But you’ll still be in a single home with shared bathrooms and living areas.

And if you’re looking for travel buddies, guesthouses are a great place to meet other travelers!

How to Get Around Tokyo on a Budget

Use Tokyo’s Extensive Metro and Rail System

Chloe shows us how to ride the train in Tokyo

Fortunately, Tokyo has some of the best public transportation of any city in the world. In fact, Tokyo’s rail system alone is sufficient to get you nearly anywhere you need to go in the city.

The main drawback of Tokyo’s rail system is that it can get SUPER packed, especially during the morning and evening rush hours.

🚆 Tokyo travel tip: Don’t move your luggage (like switching accommodations or going to the airport) in the morning or evening—the trains are SUPER packed during those hours.

When you land at Haneda or Narita, do yourself a favor and snag a Pasmo Passport or Welcome Suica IC card.

Getting permanent Pasmo and Suica cards is impossible right now due to a chip shortage, but their tourist versions—the Pasmo Passport and Welcome Suica cards—are still available.

Here’s why these IC cards are so nice: no more scratching your head to figure out if you need a subway or a train ticket (yes, there’s a difference). Swipe that card and hop on any ride you want. You can even use them to catch the bus, ride a taxi, and pay for almost anything around Tokyo.

Use Bikeshare to Cruise Around the City

Chloe using Hello Cycling bikeshare to cruise around Tokyo
Chloe using Hello Cycling bikeshare to cruise around Tokyo!

Bikeshare is somewhat of a new thing in Tokyo, but the city now has multiple bikeshare services that have expanded throughout the city.

However, as a foreigner, you’ll be hard-pressed to use Tokyo’s most ubiquitous bikeshare system, Docomo. Docomo requires a Japanese phone number and their app doesn’t even appear in the app store unless you have a Japanese iPhone (trust us, we tried).

If you want to rent a bicycle in Tokyo, you should use Hello Cycling, which is the best bikeshare for foreigners in Tokyo.

It’s pretty easy to set up a Hello Cycling account as a foreigner (however, some of the app is still in Japanese so you might need to use Google Translate)

One huge bonus of using Hello Cycling is that you can link your foreign credit card to the app and pay for your bicycle using a credit card (if you’ve ever been to Japan you’ll know that it’s sometimes impossible to pay for things online using a foreign credit card!).

We used Hello Cycle to bike all over Tokyo for our Self-Guided Tokyo Bicycle Food Tour (which is something we totally recommend doing if you’re on a budget!).

Avoid Taxis and Rideshare at All Costs

Taxis are CRAZY expensive in Tokyo and should be avoided at all costs.

The same goes for rideshare – Tokyo doesn’t have actual rideshare. Instead, all of the rideshare apps simply interface with the local taxi system, so you’ll be paying normal taxi prices if you try to get an Uber.

Where to Eat in Tokyo on a Budget

Tokyo is a city of extreme convenience—so that means you can find a quick meal for an excellent price.

As long as you aren’t shelling out for the top grade wagyu and premium sushi, you’ll find that food prices in Tokyo are quite reasonable.

And tipping? Not a thing in Japan. So, you can hit up a different restaurant for every meal and still have cash to spare.

Gyudon Restaurants – Sukiya, Matsuya, and Yoshinoya

A gyudon set is a budget meal in Tokyo

If you’re heading to Tokyo on a budget, no food option comes as close to budget as gyudon.

So what’s gyudon anyway? Gyudon is thinly sliced beef with a touch of sweet teriyaki sauce, all over a bed of rice. And if you’re not too fond of beef, they also have other options like pork, chicken, and even fish.

Gyudon restaurants are located all over Tokyo. Seriously, they’re like Starbucks—nearly every street has at least one.

If you’re looking for a specific gyudon restaurant, the big 3 are Sukiya, Matsuya, and Yoshinoya.

The best part of eating gyudon is that it’s a super quick process. From the time you order your food at the self-serve kiosk until the time you get your food is only a few minutes. I’ve seen salarymen in and out of a gyudon restaurant in less than 15 minutes!

Konbini (Convenience Stores) – 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson

Chloe shows us the buget food in a Tokyo konbini

Ever think you’d hear someone rave about a convenience store meal? If you’re picturing those 2 a.m. hot dogs from back home, reset that image.

Japanese convenience stores, or “konbinis” as they’re fondly called, are culinary wonders in their own right. Trust us, you haven’t truly been to Japan until you’ve munched on some konbini grub.

Japan’s convenience store food is on a completely different level. And we’re not just talking sandwiches—think onigiri, bento boxes, fried chicken, pasta, sushi, and desserts.

🇯🇵 Japan insider tip: Most Japanese locals agree that 7-Eleven has the best Konbini food. But don’t get us started on the “Famichiki” fried chicken from Family Mart. It’s a game-changer!

What’s even cooler? These konbinis are geared up with microwaves and hot water dispensers. Yes, that means you can warm up your bento or whip up instant ramen right on the spot.

And the best part about konbinis? They’re open 24/7. So you can satisfy your hunger any time of day… or night.

Grocery Stores

I know what you’re thinking, “Groceries? I’m on vacation!” But hear us out.

If you want a delicious and super affordable meal those grocery aisles are your best friend. For what you’d spend on a single sushi piece at a high-end joint, you could get a full-on meal!

From sushi sets, sashimi platters, tempura, salads, and katsu curry, to grilled fish – the range is wild. Every time you visit a Japanese grocery store, you’ll find something new and exciting to eat.

👀 Here’s an insider tip: Go for grocery store bentos in the evening. Many stores start discounting their prepared foods around then. The bentos will have stickers on them that give 20-30% off. Score!

On our camper van trip around Kyushu, we ate grocery store bentos almost every night. And buying our instant ramen and green tea at the grocery store was always a little cheaper than getting it at the konbini.

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Budget conveyor belt sushi in Tokyo

If you’ve ever strayed away from eating sushi because of its high price, now’s the time to go all out!

Sushi is super affordable in Tokyo, and with the number of budget sushi options available, you’ll be able to enjoy as much sushi as you want without breaking the budget.

There are a few different conveyor belt sushi restaurant chains in Japan that provide fresh handmade sushi for a low price:

Kura

Kura is probably the most well-known of all the conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Tokyo.

Kura has nearly perfected the art of no-human contact in their dining—everything from seating to ordering to paying is automated so you won’t even talk to a person when eating at Kura.

👉 Skip the line: If you want to eat at Kura, we recommend reserving a spot on their website. The lines at Kura can get INSANE, so it’s almost never worth it to walk in at their busy locations in Tokyo.

Sushiro

Sushiro is another popular conveyor belt sushi chain, with locations all over Tokyo. We recommend Sushiro for groups with picky eaters—they also offer options such as fried chicken and ramen.

Katsumidori

Katsumidori is regarded as having some of the better-quality conveyor belt sushi. But if you think that a jump in quality comes with a jump in price, it’s still well within the “budget dining” range. We recently ate at Katsumidori and the total price came out to $14.99 USD for the two of us.

Skip the Cafes

You know that feeling when you just need a caffeine boost to kickstart your day? That’s us. Every. Single. Day.

Now, we aren’t exactly coffee connoisseurs who crave the fanciest brews from the trendiest cafés.

Luckily for us, most accommodations in Japan have electric hot water kettles so we can make our coffee or tea right there in the room when we wake up. This has saved us hundreds of dollars at this point since we don’t need to go out and buy our coffee in the morning.

☕︎ Coffee drinking on a budget? We never leave home without our AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Press. Wake up, brew, and enjoy – all without the café price tag. Just grab a bag of ground coffee from a local grocery store, and you’re set. Quick heads up: if you happen to snag one from our link, we get a little thank-you commission (at no extra cost to you). Cheers to that morning brew! 🙌

Things to Do in Tokyo on a Budget

Heading to Tokyo for the first time? Lucky you! You’re in for a treat because the sheer experience of navigating the day-to-day Tokyo life is a thrilling adventure on its own, and guess what? It’s super budget-friendly.

Trust us, just hopping on a train or walking the bustling streets is an experience of its own. It’s like living in an entirely new world where even the regular stuff feels novel and exciting.

But there’s even more: Tokyo is brimming with free or super affordable activities that’ll make your trip memorable without burning a hole in your pocket.

Wondering where to start? We’ve got some solid recommendations for you:

Visit a Temple Or Shrine

You know what’s fascinating about Tokyo? Amidst the skyscrapers and the neon lights, the city is peppered with age-old shrines and temples. And the best part? Many of them welcome visitors and are totally free!

Here are some temples and shrines that you can visit in Tokyo for free:

Sensō-ji Temple

Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa in Tokyo

📍 Sensō-ji Temple – Google Maps

Located in Asakusa, this is Tokyo’s oldest temple. Wander around and marvel at the giant lantern at Kaminarimon Gate. Entry is free but the souvenir shops and snack stalls might have you reaching for your wallet!

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

📍 Meiji Shrine – Google Maps

Nestled amidst a lush forest near Harajuku, the Meiji Shrine is a free, serene getaway right next to the city buzz. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a traditional Shinto wedding procession. Bonus: the adjacent Yoyogi Park is a great place to chill!

Nezu Shrine

📍 Nezu Shrine – Google Maps

Less touristy but still charming, the Nezu Shrine in Bunkyo is famous for its tunnel of torii gates. It’s like a mini-version of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine. Entry’s free, so snap away and get those Insta-worthy shots!

Gotokuji Temple

📍 Gotokuji Temple – Google Maps

Legend says Gotokuji Temple is the birthplace of the famous ‘maneki-neko’ (beckoning cat) figurine. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but visiting is free. And yes, you’ll see a lot of cat figurines.

Zōjō-ji Temple

📍 Zōjō-ji Temple – Google Maps

This temple offers a wild combo of old meets new – traditional architecture with Tokyo Tower looming in the background. It’s a short walk from the tower, and you can pop in for free.

Immerse Yourself in a Local Museum

If you’re into art or history, then Tokyo is FULL of art galleries and museums.

Seriously, you could spend your entire vacation visiting Tokyo’s museums and still not even scratch its surface.

And if you’re a huge art or history fan, we have two words for you: Grutto Pass.

The Tokyo Museum Grutto Pass gives you free or discounted entrance to 101 museums, art museums, gardens, and zoos in Tokyo.

So if you’re looking for a museum near you in Tokyo we recommend visiting the Grutto Pass facilities website and checking out what museums are in your area.

Ride Through Tokyo in a Self-Guided Bicycle Food Tour

Chloe on a bicycle food tour in Tokyo

Doing a self-guided bicycle tour is something that we always try to do when visiting a new city.

And since Tokyo is a super bicycle-friendly city, what better way to explore Tokyo while also indulging in its flavors?

We did a self-guided Tokyo bicycle food tour on our last visit, and it was the highlight of our trip to the city!

Relax in Tokyo’s Parks and Gardens

  • 📍 Yoyogi Park: A vibrant oasis in the heart of Shibuya, Yoyogi is perfect for a budget day out. Pack a picnic, people-watch, or simply enjoy the open space. It’s especially lively on weekends, with all sorts of street performers to liven up the place.
  • 📍 Ueno Park: Aside from the lovely ponds and walking paths, Ueno hosts several museums. You could easily spend all day here. And Ueno Park is a must-vist in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom!
  • 📍 Nakameguro Park: If cherry blossoms are your thing, but you’re keen to avoid crowds, Nakameguro is a hidden gem. Walk along the canal, enjoy sakura in full bloom, and enjoy some local street food. It’s a more intimate cherry blossom viewing experience.
  • 📍 Hamarikyu Gardens and 📍 Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens: These neighboring gardens offer a delightful contrast. Hamarikyu, with its tidal ponds and tea house, provides a tranquil escape from urban hustle. A short walk away, the smaller Kyu-Shiba-rikyu is a serene traditional Japanese garden. Both of these gardens have a fee, but they’re free to enter if you have a Grutto Pass.
  • 📍 Inokashira Park: Tucked away in west Tokyo in the neighborhood of Kichijoji, this dreamy park has swan boat rentals on its serene lake. If you’re not into the boats, you can also wander its shaded paths. The park is free, but you can also visit its small zoo with a budget-friendly entrance fee. If you’re into Studio Ghibli, the museum is nearby (though tickets are separate and often in demand).

Explore Tokyo’s Side Streets

Chloe standing in the streets of Golden Gai in Tokyo
Chloe wanders the streets of Golden Gai before the crowds arrive!
  • 📍 Golden Gai: Nestled in the lively Shinjuku district, Golden Gai feels like a trip back in time. This maze of narrow alleyways, dotted with tiny bars and eateries, gives you a glimpse into old Tokyo. While some spots might be a tad pricey, just wandering these lanes is free. It’s a photographer’s dream and a great way to experience Tokyo’s nostalgic nightlife vibes.
  • 📍 Kabukicho: This is one of our favorite places to people watch in Tokyo. Just a stone’s throw from Shinjuku Station, Kabukicho buzzes with neon lights, karaoke joints, themed cafes, and more. Keep an eye out for the giant Godzilla head.
  • 📍 Takeshita Dori: Takeshita Dori in Harajuku is a splash of colors, quirky fashion, and trendy shops. If you’re on a tight budget, we recommend going to a purikura photo booth to get your photo taken. It’s a fun activity and only costs a few hundred yen.

What’s Next?

Are you planning a budget trip to Tokyo? Or do you have your own tips for going to Tokyo on a budget?

Feel free to drop a comment below and share your experiences, insights, or questions. We’d love to hear from fellow travelers and exchange ideas! 🎌

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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