Tokyo Thrift: How to Experience the City on a Budget

When you think budget travel, Japan probably isn’t high on the list, and for good reason; it has been named one of the most expensive places in the world to live. Still, as any experienced traveller will attest, it’s entirely possible to thrift your way to a slightly-more-affordable holiday – even in the nation’s capital. These are a few of the biggest corners you can cut to save money on your Tokyo budget trip.

Tokyo budget trip,Shibuya at night,japan
Shibuya at night

7 Tips on How to Enjoy Your Tokyo Budget Trip

1. Travel Light

It might take a few journeys to get the hang of Tokyo’s train system, but as long as you know where you’re going, single-trip tickets are easy enough to purchase from the ticketing machines at the train station; however, if you’re planning on making good use of Tokyo’s train system, it pays to invest in a prepaid IC card. You’ll find Suica and Pasmo machines at any train station, where you can top up your card or purchase a new one. A word of warning, though; if you’re prone to losing your cards or wallet, resist the temptation to load up your card too heavily – you might not see those yen again. 

2. Stay Cheap and Save Big

Tokyo budget trip,public transport,train,station

Accommodation is typically amongst the biggest budget-burners for travellers, and Tokyo is no exception. In case backpacker hostels don’t fit the bill, hotels range from budget-friendly to off-limits, and with the ability to filter through themes as well as prices, you can find something to fit your personal preferences as well as your budget. The best part is, that location need not be your number one priority thanks to Tokyo’s public transport system, which is widely considered one of the most efficient in the world. Wherever you end up, as long as you can make it to a train station, the world (or at least Tokyo) is your oyster.

3. Seek Out Free Experiences

Tokyo is rich with cultural history and tradition, which means experiencing the heart of the city can be as cheap as you make it. There are plenty of free things to do and places to visit, including the Tsukiji Fish Market, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and the many temples around the city. For those with some pocket change to spare, experiences unique to Tokyo are still on the table; cafes full of cats, owls, and maids abound, and often include unlimited beverages while you’re inside, so drink up.

4. Shop Second-Hand

There’s no shortage of high-end shopping malls lining the streets of central Tokyo, but a trip to a nifty second-hand store could satisfy your need to shop without burning holes in your pockets. Alternatively, if you don’t mind a treasure hunt, outdoor flea markets could be your go-to – let the locals be your guide and try out the Mottainai and Shinagawa markets.

5. Don’t Overlook Your Local 7-Eleven

Culinary delicacies abound in Tokyo, and it can be hard to resist spending all of your hard-earned yen on top-shelf food. Visiting a quality restaurant is no crime, but for the days in between, there’s an array of cheap, tasty options available at local convenience stores, especially if you get your timing right. All of the day’s leftover offerings are heavily discounted in the evenings, creating the perfect opportunity to stock up for the day (or days) to come. On the off chance that there are no convenience stores nearby, street vendors also tend to offer good quality food for less if you are on a Tokyo budget trip.

6. Do As The Locals Do

When push comes to shove, no one knows how to live cheaply in Tokyo quite like the locals. Once you’ve checked a few tourist hot-spots off your bucket list, follow their foot traffic to the best cheap eateries, the thriftiest grocery stores, and the best discount stores in the district. Living and shopping like a local might just leave you with enough spare change to splash out on a trip to Harajuku.

7. Get Back to Basics

Tokyo budget trip,Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden,japan
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

It might sound too good to be true, but a simple Tokyo budget trip to one of its major parks could be enough to fill an entire day, leaving your wallet untouched. Yoyogi Park has much more than greenery to offer, and often plays host to buskers and fashion parades on the weekends. It’s also the place to go for authentic interactions. It’s not unusual to find locals in the park feeding birds straight from the hand or practicing Tai Chi by a nearby lake, proof that experiencing the essence of life in Tokyo can cost you almost nothing.

About Jimmy Gallagher

Rookie traveler. I recently took a 3 month break from work and invested my savings into traveling. I wanted to see as much as I can in the three month period and I want to share my fun experiences here with you.

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