Best Things to do in Tokyo On A Budget – Have some fun in the city of Wonders

by | Nov 20, 2017

There are plenty of amazing things to do in Tokyo and it can be overwhelming and expensive. However, Tokyo on a budget/$50 day is far from impossible. Tokyo is the city of wonders and we would like to show you how you can visit it on a small budget but have big budget fun (2017) if you’re a geeky traveler or into a geek lifestyle! Come, my new nerdy friend, let’s go to Tokyo!

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There is something about “the town for young people” that makes everyone so excited when you say: “I’m going to Tokyo”. Some of us just remember the famous videos of the endless crowd on the underground or the colorful signs lighting up the streets.

Many people say this city is unique in so many ways. Are they right? Can a metropolitan city populated by nearly 14 million people be so magical you don’t want to leave? In short: yep. Japan is one of our top 3 destinations and Tokyo has the biggest buzz of them all! But with all the magic, you have to do a little bit of planning.

Tokyo can be expensive, crowded, overwhelming and without prior research of the city, you will be lost desperately wanting to go home. However, with a little planning you can have one of the most epic trips of your lifetime!

 We want to begin by clearing out the most common misconceptions about Tokyo & Japan generally.

Japanese people don’t speak English. NOT TRUE. We had been for over a month in Japan traveling around and we couldn’t find a person who wouldn’t speak at least a little bit of English. Even the street sweeper was able to give us directions. Every station has English speaking staff. Also, most people under 35-40 will speak English. Although, everyone will be very happy to hear you say even just the simplest words in Japanese. Hello! – Konichiwa! Thank you! – Arrigato! I’m sorry! – Gomenasai!

Tokyo is for the rich because it is expensive. NOT TRUE. May take a bit more effort to stay on a Budget but it is easily accomplishable with our tips. You can stay in Tokyo from ¥5000 – $50 a day including accommodation, transportation, food, and entrance fees.

The public transport is always unbearably crowded. NOT TRUE. Apart from the peak hours, you can comfortably hop on and off the train even at the most touristy sites.

All Japanese people are super strict about their etiquette & you get into trouble if you mess up something. NOT TRUE. Okay, it’s sort of true. Japanese people are very proud of their cultural heritage and they do hard work every day to preserve it.BUT. No one will bite your head off or get offended if you make a mistake.We don’t mean by this that you shouldn’t even try! Always be polite, kind and say sorry! Everyone is very understanding of the cultural differences and Japanese people are welcoming everyone who wants to learn more about their culture & etiquette.

Quick Tips.

~ Always take off your shoes before entering a shrine or someone else’s house. ~ Wear those masks if ill. Also, gives you a good protection against air pollution. ~ If you like your Ramen (noodle soup) you have to show it! In Japan, they show their liking of the food with loud slurping.So, feel free and slurp away! ~ To make sure you always get understood use one of these instant translators Waygogoogle translate or ILI.

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Do I need a Visa to visit Tokyo/Japan?

For Some countries yes, it’s required and to others, it’s not. You should check it on your country’s Japanese Embassy’s online site. For many countries, US, UK, and Hungary as well there is a 90 days visa-free option. You need to have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business “visa-free” stays up to 90 days. Your passports must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan. You get a stamp in your passport when you arrive and you’re good to go to discover Japan in the next 90 days.

When is the best time to visit Tokyo?

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Tokyo is all year around gorgeous but it’s good to keep in mind that the weather varies significantly throughout the year. The summers are hot can get over 30°C winters are cold sometimes under 0°C. For many reasons, I think the best time to visit Tokyo is during Spring.

Numero uno has to be the Sakura celebration when you can be amazed by the breathtaking cherry blossoming. The full blossoming usually happens in March and lasts until April. To make sure always check the Cherry Blossom forecast. Reason number two is that the weather is the most pleasant and you can take long walks in the beautiful city without catching a cold.

Where to stay in Tokyo AKA How & Where to get cheap accommodation in Tokyo?

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I wouldn’t recommend staying in the center. The prices are much higher and the transportation is not just easy to use and safe but also a sight itself. The best place to stay in Tokyo is just outside the center. of the city. You can stay in a private room or rent a flat for two 2 people. Japanese people are friendly, polite, respectful of your private zones and they are also great hosts! But keep in mind if you want to get all these things you’ll have to behave the same way.

The location is not a priority, wherever you stay, there’s going to be a lot of traveling while sightseeing anyway. We stayed near Shinagawa station and with a 10 minutes train ride we got anywhere. It was a great way to see how locals live as we haven’t seen tourists in our area. However, we saw many local shops, cheap restaurants, bars and even hidden shrines on top of a hill where you can have a beautiful view of Tokyo. Again, no tourists. This is the flat we stayed in.

Our apartment was very beautiful. Which was very much comfortable and well equipped, with “smart” bathroom and toilet, and a beautiful balcony with a view of the Tokyo skyline near the river. Starting from $30 a night for a modern flat, you spend much less than in hotels. If you’re new to Airbnb follow our link so you can get $35 off your first stay.

As all your travels, this one starts with finding the right accommodation as well. There are various options to stay budget-friendly in one of the most expensive Asian cities. As always, for solo travelers, Hostels are quite budget-friendly. Prices start from $12.

If you have no problem spending time in small places then try a capsule room.

Heard of Homestay before? You can get good deals to stay on a budget and get a peek into Japanese culture and try some real homemade food. For around $30/person/night you get accommodation and food.

How to get in Tokyo from the Airport?

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To book cheap plane tickets we always use Momondo. You can easily get into the city center from Narita Airport by using either of these options;

Keisei Bus  is one of the cheapest ways to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station. Prices: Adult: $8 in case you reserve it in advance on their website, or $9 if you buy it at the airport Child: $5

By train You have to go to terminal 1 or 2 to get to the trains. Narita Express or N’EX is fast and for a good price to get to any major stations in Tokyo. Price: Adults $36 Children $18 for a roundtrip.

Getting around in Tokyo

By underground is pretty easy and not at all confusing. The signs are straightforward, also in English and there are station managers who speak English and eager to help at every stop, so you are not alone. The underground/train system is basically operated by two companies: Metro/Toei Subway and JR. There are a few lines which belong to other companies (monorail to the airport) but during your exploration, you are most likely to need these two groups.

Metro Ticket prices (2017) range from $1.2 to $10 if you purchase single tickets every time. Not recommended if going for a full day to see the best of Tokyo! In our opinion, you are best to buy a Metro/Subway pass. 1 day: 800 JPY ($7.4) for adults and 400 ($3.7) for children 2 days: 1200 JPY ($11) and 600 ($5.5) 3 days: 1500 JPY ($14) and 750 ($7)

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Photo Credit | TokyoMetro.Jp

With this pass, you will be able to travel around the city. Before starting your tour, sit down in your hotel for ten minutes to check all the stations and links, so you don’t waste time on looking for your options on the road.

Keep in mind that you cannot buy these passes anywhere, but at major stations and in Bic Camera shops (it’s a large electronics retailer).The ticket is valid from the first use, not after the purchase!

Jr passes are a bit more expensive. 24-hour pass: 1590 JPY ($15) and 800 JPY ($7.5) for children. You can purchase it at any JR ticket machine.

Taxi

The Japanese taxis are famous for being super expensive. That is true! They look marvelous, with white lace seat covers. The drivers are super polite but it will cost you! Prices: Sitting in at ¥700 – $7 and every km is about ¥500 – $5. So keep it short but have to try it once. The Taxis are beautiful, they look more like luxury cars than an everyday Taxi.

Where To Eat On A Budget in Tokyo?

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Standing Restaurants If you look around, there are plenty of affordable eateries offering good quality for a low price. There are standing restaurants everywhere, even in the very center, where you can eat starting from $5. You can eat in a standing sushi restaurant called Uogashi Nihon-Ichi even in the middle of Shibuya for $10/person. About 10 pieces of fresh and authentic Nigiris, tea is included in the price.

One of the best and most amusing things to do in Tokyo is simply eating and visiting its amazing and sometimes even weird restaurants. Be open to new experiences! You won’t regret it.

Japanese “Fast Food” Restaurants

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There are many Ramen (Japanese noodle soup) restaurants all around the city. These places are also authentic and cheap with full of locals. You can get a big bowl of Ramen with salad, tea, an egg and rice for $5. And you can find even cheaper places but this price is the average. Ippudo Ramen and Kaotan Ramen both serve great food and since they’re very popular it’s easy to find one in Tokyo.

Convenience Stores You can also eat at home or sit in a park enjoying the Tokyo vibe. The cheapest supermarket we found was Kinokuniya Supermarket. For around $10 you can buy a huge sushi box (20pieces). You can also buy fresh salads for under $5. Freshly made ready to eat meals, for $6. And another quick and easy option is 7-Eleven. You can buy here sandwiches, microwave food, and freshly made foods as well between $2 to $10.

Sit in Restaurants on a much more budget friendly way

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If you want to experience the authentic, delicious Japanese dining but you don’t want to spend 100s of dollars you should consider to hop on a subway and leave the center. As we mentioned we stayed near Shinagawa station and with a 10 minutes train ride we got anywhere.

You’re going to have to buy the passes no matter where you stay but at least you get to dine in nice restaurants for a much more budget-friendly way. We had many wonderful experiences at a lovely walking street called 2 Chome Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-Ku. Just walk down the beautiful street and pick one you like.

We always paid around ¥4000 – $37 for two. Including Sake, Tea, Sashimi for two, and two main dishes. The price also includes the seating charges ¥300pp – $3.

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Fun & Traditional things to do in Tokyo

There are plenty of free things to do in Tokyo but in case you want to visit museums as well you should consider buying the Grutt Pass. The pass costs $18 and it allows free or discounted admission to over 80 attractions across Tokyo and it has many other perks as well.

1| Asakusa ~ Sensō-Ji temple

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The whole area worth a walk around but the famous Sensō-Ji temple is a must see when in Japan. It has a beautiful walking street called Nakamise Shopping Street with traditional Japanese vendors selling traditional and high-quality souvenirs. Admission is free to Sesnso-Ji temple. If you want to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions one of the best things to do in Tokyo is to visit its shrines and temples.

2| Shibuya

Probably this area needs the most time to spend on. You will get lost in all the sights this area provides. Just a couple of the most famous sights which are visited by everyone who travels to Tokyo.

~ Shibuya Crossing

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If you saw more than two photographs of Tokyo this crossing was most likely one of them. It is a highly touristy attraction but also visited by many locals. You just have to stand in the middle of the crowd and snap that shot!

~ Center Gai

These streets are filled with luminous signs, vendors, shops, restaurants, karaoke bars, and with the maximum buzz, you can get in Tokyo. If you’re into geek lifestyle products you have to come here! But be careful because the prices can go pretty high!

~ Yoyogi park

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This park was by far the best we visited in Japan. And it is also a must-see when in Tokyo. You get beautiful green fields. Locals, musicians, entertainers, and Sunday cosplayers. Sakura or the Cherry three blossoming season is wonderful. Visiting a park during this period is hands down one of the most beautiful things to do in Tokyo. If you’re lucky and visit at the right time even cherry trees. Admission is FREE.

~ Meiji Shrine

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Shinto shrine was only recently completed in 1921 it’s a beautiful Shrien worth a visit. They also held traditional weddings there throughout the year. If you’re lucky and visit at the right time you can experience one. Admission is FREE.

3| Tokyo Tower

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This magnificent building gives you an impression of the Eiffel Tower. The Tokyo Tower in the Shiba-Koen district of Minato. Entrance ticket costs: Adults: 900 Yen – $9 | children: 500 Yen – $5 You can have some food or a cup of something at the main observation deck with an unbeatable view from a 150 meters height. In the basement, you will find wonderful souvenir shops offering good products for a good price.

4| SkyTree

Another world famous building overlooking Tokyo is the SkyTree. This beauty is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634.0 meters in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world. Entrance ticket costs for the Tembo Deck: Adults: 2000 Yen – $19 | Junior (aged between 14-18): 1500 Yen – $15 | Elementary school: 900 Yen – $9 | Aged under 6 years old: 600 Yen – $6

5| Ginza

Ginza is a district of Chūō, Tokyo, located south of Yaesu and Kyōbashi, west of Tsukiji, east of Yūrakuchō and Uchisaiwaichō, and north of Shinbashi. This district has also a lot to offer!

~ Tokyo Imperial Palace

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The whole park gives you a few hours of relaxation and wonder. If you visit Japan during Sakura (cherry tree blossoming, Mid March-End of April) you can get an amazing time. This palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is free to visit but you’ll get a small plastic card when you enter which you’ll have to give back to the guards when you leave the premises. Admission is FREE.

~ Shop until you drop

This area provides a bunch of opportunities from high-end shopping to budget buys.

~ Yurakucho Gado-Shita Dining

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This street is Tokyo’s most interesting dining district. It is located beneath the elevated train tracks north and south of Yurakucho Station. In Japanese, it’s called the Gado-Shita from “below the girder”. The whole street is about 700 meters, dozens of restaurants are built into the brick arches below the Yamanote Line.

You can find here a wide variety of vendors, shops, and restaurants.From small yakitori joints and izakaya to beer halls and slightly and even upscale French wine bars. This place absolutely deserves a visit!

6| Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo

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A perfect geek destination for the geeky traveler! There are three Pokemon shops in Tokyo but this one is the biggest! It is near Ikebukuro Station, metro station and it is a must visit for anime fans. Admission is FREE.

7| Tsukiji Fish Market

Experience a fish auction and have some fresh sushi. You have to wake up and visit early morning to get the best experience. Admission is FREE.

8| Visit one of the many Cat, Puppy & Rabbit Cafés

There are many scattered around the city. The name really speaks for itself. There are quite high seating charges: An average of ¥1000 – $10 to ¥2000 – $20/ person/hour. Some include a drink in the price.

9| Akihabara

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If you like all things fun and quirky then this place will be your favorite. It’s filled with colors, lights, and noises. You can meet Cosplayers and take photos of the beautiful The manga shops and cafes, the many maid cafe and electronic stores will give you plenty of fun things to do at the Anime Center of Tokyo.

10| Don’t Miss The Ghibli Museum

The heaven. Every geek and nerd’s dream. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli then the Ghibli Museum is a must visit! It showcases the studio’s works over the years. Hayao Miyazaki helped to create this magical place where you can take a walk in their wonderous world.

Sorry, NO PHOTOS inside the studio! If they catch you trying to take a photo inside you’ll be escorted out of the Museum immediately. All admission to the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka is by advance reservation only. No tickets are sold at the Museum.

Best if you buy your tickets online. Ticket prices: Ages 19 and Older: ¥1,000 – $10 Ages 13 to 18 ¥700 – $7 Ages 7 to 12 ¥400 – $4 Ages 4 to 6: ¥100 – $1

The museum can be reached from Mitaka Station on the JR Chuo Line (15 minutes, 220 Yen – $2 from Shinjuku Station). There are shuttle buses from the station to the museum (210 Yen – $1.95 one way, 320 Yen – $3 round trip, children are half price)

11| Odaiba

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Odaiba is an artificial or man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Why should you visit? Because there are many amazing things await here for the ones seeking some fun and excitement. Most importantly you can get a fantastic view of the magnificent Rainbow Bridge which is one of the most important architectural sights in Tokyo.

You can also spend some extra money here in the various shopping malls or try different Ramen types from around Japan. But there are many other things to do you can visit and take a selfie with the giant Gundam statue or visit the Leisureland that has bowling alleys, a haunted house, a ninja illusion house, and many more fun things to indulge yourself.

12| Ryōgoku

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If you’re a fan of Sumo you have to visit Ryōgoku because it is a famous sumo neighborhood. There are only three Tokyo tournaments held every year so if you want to visit one you have to visit Tokyo in  January, May or September (Although, you can try and visit a tournament in Osaka in March, Nagoya in July or Fukuoka in November.)

There are only a limited number of same-day tickets available so if you want to make sure that you don’t miss it book a ticket online in advance at the Kokugikan sumo stadium website. Price: $20. If you’re not interested in a tournament or there isn’t any at the time of your visit, you can check out the Sumo Museum. Keep in mind it’s closed on weekends and national holidays. Admission is: FREE

If you’re really into Sumo there are two other things you can try. One is to try Chanko-Nabe the Sumo wrestlers special stew. In case you can’t get a ticket to a popular Sumo wrestling show you can still go to Kappo Yoshiba restaurant which used to be a Sumo training stable and taste a traditional Chanko-Nabe that makes Sumo wrestlers so big and strong! 

The other is to visit a morning Sumo training session at a stable and see where & how Sumo wrestlers’ train every day. Admission is: FREE. Yes, you read that right! There are many places in Tokyo where you can watch a free Sumo practice so don’t get fooled and pay $70 or more for an agency. You can visit on most mornings from 7:30 am except March, July, and November because at these times the Sumo wrestlers are visiting other parts of Japan (as mentioned above).

In case you need more info or just would love to see more photos and get to know Japan a little better then read our VISIT JAPAN: 12 REASONS THAT WILL MAKE YOU PACK YOUR BAGS AND GO post.

Thank you for reading!

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