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Surviving Tokyo on the cheap

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Tokyo, Japan

Surviving Tokyo on the cheap Reviews

rideouts rideouts
30 reviews
Jul 21, 2007
Tokyo is a very expensive city. It is not, however, the most expensive city in the world. I find it to be comparable to Hong Kong or maybe Paris. The significant difficulty for western travelers to Tokyo will be the language and cultural differences which make it hard to find the bargains you need. Visitors to Tokyo should also know that they will probably find things to be significantly cheaper outside of Tokyo in other smaller cities and towns of Japan.

Remember, depending upon your budget, you won't be able to do everything that you would like to while in Tokyo. Compromise and sacrifice will go a long way to accomplishing budget goals.

Lodging: Tokyo has lots of very expensive hotels, which you will of course, avoid. Tokyo also has lots of so called 'love hotels' which may suit your needs better. The love hotels are used by the locals for one night trysts or places for young married couples to get away from the parents. These hotels don't usually advertise on the net because their target audience is locals who want discretion. Because of this, however, they are much cheaper; I usually stay at the Ibis hotel in Roppongi for about US $100 a night. I think you could find cheaper if you looked around a bit.

I haven't researched youth hostels in Tokyo, so that may merit some research if you are on a tight budget. There are also the much publicized 'Pod Hotels' where you sleep in a small pod that is just the size of the bed. I have heard rumors that these are more expensive than they should be due to the novelty - but it could be worth checking the price on that as well.

Food: Food is one of the best areas for you to economize. Food in Japan can be prohibitively expensive, except for sushi and noodle houses. These are where you should eat every meal. The round table sushi houses can be as cheap as US $5 per meal if you are carefull, and noodle houses can be about the same. These restaurants usually look like bars, with a large counter with chairs, and sometimes the noodle houses are even automated, with vending machines providing the food and a microwave provided to heat it. None the less, these restaurants can be delicious, and in the case of the sushi, I think it is some of the best in the world.

Transportation: Transportation in Japan is expensive. First, Taxi service is very clean, efficient, and expensive. The subway system is very affordable, if difficult to understand at first, and you should use it exclusively. If you are traveling outside of Tokyo, you will find that the direct express routes usually recommended to you are going to be very expensive. Occasionally, you may be able to day regular commuter trains from one town to another and save a lot of money, but it will take a very long time to get there and can be very difficult to figure out your route. There are several websites available to help you figure out how to navigate the system.

There are also bus routes available to sites that are frequently traveled, such as Mount Fuji. These buses can be much cheaper than train or taxi, depending on the luxury of the bus.

Sightseeing: There are many free sights to see in and around Tokyo. There are numerous temples with picturesque Japanese architecture, such as the famous Senso-Ji temple. Districts such as Akhiabara and Hari-Juku can provide a great place for people watching the Japanese youth and working people. There are many parks around, including the main central park where the imperial palace is located and where you can find many scenic views.

There are several wonderful coastal towns just outside of Tokyo that can be reached by train very cheaply. Notably among these is the old capital of Kamakura. Only 30 minutes from Tokyo, this little town has coastal charm, breathtaking antique temples and palaces, and a gigantic statue of the Buddha. These little towns can easily make a nice day trip on a budget.


Alcohol - all alcohol is expensive in Japan, so you may have to curb your habits to save money.

Souvenirs - These tend to be expensive for anything above the cheapest trinket, and commonly desired items such as swords and kimono can be amazingly expensive.

Telecoms - Internet cafe's are few and far between, and sometimes difficult to use if you don't speak Japanese. You may be able to steal wifi from a hotel. Long distance calls are expensive as well, and your cell phone won't work in Japan. Better to just plan to be out of touch.

Other items: There are lots of foreigners working in Tokyo teaching English or working in other jobs. It seems to be pretty easy for foreigners to get jobs, and these jobs offer significant benefits in addition to money, including free housing and possibly food as well. If you are going to be in Tokyo for a while, it may pay to look into employment to increase your budget.

4 / 4 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Sya99 says:
great tips! thanks
Posted on: Jan 14, 2013
lockhart882000 says:
From: ""
Date: 03/09/2011 05:02 PM
Subject: Visiting and Living in Japan

03/09/11 - Thanks for the tips. I will avoid Japan for right now. When I go to Japan I will come through Tokyo, but stay in small towns each time I visit. - Again Thanks (Note this note was written two days before the earthquake. The software at "trav" was acting up, so I could not upload. Earlier comment has nothing to do with 03/11/11. I am hoping for the best recovery possible.) CLC
Posted on: Mar 12, 2011
nzanya says:
Great tips, thank you! :)
Posted on: Jul 12, 2010
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