Top view of Asakusa area in Tokyo Japan
Photo: F11photo/DreamstimeView of Sensoji Temple from the Asakusa Culture and Tourist Information Center

How to enjoy Tokyo on a budget: hotels, transport, restaurants, attractions and shopping

A Time Out Tokyo editor’s tips for doing Tokyo on the cheap, from free museums and cheap eats to tourist discounts and more

Written by
Chris Hough

We probably don’t need to tell you this, but things are getting more expensive. Thanks, inflation. On top of that, you’ve most likely heard that Tokyo is a costly city.

If you’re visiting from overseas, you might just be in for a surprise. A pleasant one at that. Because the weak yen has turned Japan into a bit of a steal for those travelling here on holiday. And as for Tokyo’s reputation as an expensive city? Well, simply put, it doesn’t have to be. You can find incredible value for money here.

Tokyo is full of bargains on everything you need for a fantastic trip. You can find reasonably priced hotels, money-saving transport deals, low-cost (but high quality) souvenirs, and delicious meals that will leave both your stomach and wallet smiling.

Here, we’ll help you plan a Tokyo trip that won’t destroy your bank account.

RECOMMENDED: Don’t want to spend any money? Here are the 33 best free things to do in Tokyo

Every yen counts

Hotels and accommodation
Photo: First Cabin

Hotels and accommodation

First things first, you need a place to stay. You’ll find that most of Japan’s budget-friendly options are in the east of the city. But that’s no bad thing because this is where you’ll come across top Tokyo destinations like Asakusa for Sensoji Temple and Ueno for its park and various museums.

Hostels, of course, offer some of the cheapest rates. One of the most attractive is Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel in a converted 1920s townhouse in Iriya, not far from Ueno. A place in the dorm costs from ¥3,000 per person per night. The same company also runs Nui Hostel & Bar Lounge in cool Kuramae, a stone’s throw from Asakusa. This stylish hostel with a popular bar has dorm room bunks from ¥2,600 per person per night.

If you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, there are budget-friendly ryokan (Japanese-style inns) dotted around. A convenient option is Sawanoya Ryokan in Nezu, which caters to international visitors. A one-person room with traditional tatami mats will set you back a minimum of ¥5,940 per person per night.

Another accommodation option synonymous with Japan is the capsule hotel. While not as homely as a ryokan, these sleeping pods can be quite cheap. Expect to pay as little as ¥2,000 per night at places like Tokyo ¥1980 Hotel in Iriya, while capsule hotel chains such as First Cabin and Nine Hours have rates from around ¥3,000 per night.

Be aware that capsule hotels are often used by men and that some are male-only. There are a few exceptions, though. Nine Hours Women capsule hotels in Kanda and Shinjuku are female-only and still offer low-cost accommodation, with rates starting at ¥3,400 per night.

It’s also possible to get hotel rooms with your own bed and en-suite bathroom for a price that still leaves aside plenty of money for your holiday spending. There are four Sakura Hotels in the city (Ikebukuro, Nippori, Hatagaya and Jimbocho) and a one-night stay per person can be as low as ¥6,500.

Transport and rail passes
Photo: Piti Sirisriro/Dreamstime

Transport and rail passes

If you’re planning to travel beyond Tokyo to cities like Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Sapporo and even Fukuoka, it's worth considering a JR rail pass. One of the most popular is the Japan Rail Pass, which gets you unlimited travel on almost all JR trains and shinkansen. But note that it will be a lot more expensive from October 2023, so it may not be that cost effective after that. Currently, the pass is ¥29,650 for seven days, ¥47,250 for 14 days and ¥60,450 for 21 days.

It’s possible to buy the pass once you reach Japan, but it’s much cheaper if you get it before you arrive. The seven-day pass, for example, is currently almost ¥4,000 more expensive if you buy it in Japan.

Once you have the pass, you can make some big savings. A return trip on the bullet train from Tokyo to Hakata Station in Fukuoka city costs around ¥44,000, so even with the upcoming price increase, you can make the Japan Rail Pass work for you. But note that it’s only available to foreign tourists who are visiting Japan as a temporary visitor. (For foreign residents in Japan, check out the rail passes available to you here).

The Japan Rail Pass may not be for you if you’re only planning a few day trips from Tokyo. Never fear, though, as there are still plenty of useful money-saving passes for shorter journeys.

You can get to the spectacular mountain retreat of Hakone using the Hakone Free Pass. This two-day ticket (¥6,100) includes the return journey from Shinjuku to Hakone, plus unlimited travel on the Hakone Tozan Railway, the Hakone Ropeway, the Lake Ashi pirate ship and other major forms of transportation in the area.

The beautiful seaside retreat of Kamakura is also a budget-friendly day trip from Tokyo with the Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass. It costs just ¥1,640 for the one-day pass, which gets you a return journey from Shinjuku Station to Katase-Enoshima Station as well as unlimited trips on the Enoden line between Fujisawa and Kamakura stations.

What if you just plan to travel around Tokyo? No problem, as the city’s metro system also offers some handy passes. Foreign tourists visiting from abroad can get the Tokyo Subway Ticket, which provides unlimited travel on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines in the city for 24 hours (¥800), 48 hours (¥1,200) or 72 hours (¥1,500).

Eating and drinking
Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Eating and drinking

It’s very easy to splurge on food in Tokyo. After all, this is the city with the most Michelin stars in the world. (Psst, you can also enjoy Michelin-star meals on a budget, right here). But there are cheap eats to be found all over the city.

Your best friend during any trip to Tokyo is the konbini. Japan’s incredible convenience stores are open 24 hours and are stocked full of food and drink to keep you going whatever your budget. It’s possible to get a hot bento meal, dessert and drink for less than ¥1,000.

Tokyo’s glitzy department stores may not seem like haunts for the budget conscious, but there’s a way to make them work for your yen. Head to the depachika (in-house food halls) about an hour before closing for big discounts on bento boxes, salads, sushi and many more delectable delights. 

Don’t ignore Japan’s chain restaurants, either. You can enjoy a warming bowl of gyu-don (beef rice bowl) from Matsuya and Yoshinoya for less than ¥500. Keep an eye out for family restaurant chains, too, for filling meals that will please your wallet.

Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant Saizeriya has a lunch deal of pasta or a hamburger steak with unlimited soft drinks and soup for just ¥500. Multi-cuisine restaurant Gusto, on the other hand, serves up the likes of hamburgers and mixed grills with unlimited drinks at lunch time for less than ¥1,000.

Museums, art galleries and attractions
Photo: Alexirina27000/Dreamstime

Museums, art galleries and attractions

Tokyo has an incredible array of free attractions that could keep you busy for days on end. You can admire stunning views of the city’s skyline – and even Mt Fuji on clear days – from several free observation decks. One of the best is on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Currently only the South Observation Deck is open, but you can still enjoy fantastic views. There’s a cheap cafeteria here, too.

Many of the city’s museums also offer free or reduced-price tickets on designated days. These include Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum near Tokyo Station, Odaiba’s National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation, and Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park. Speaking of Ueno Park, it’s just one of Tokyo’s many green spaces, and most of them are free to enter.

Tokyo also has more than its fair share of beautiful shrines and temples to explore, which are usually free to enter, too. Don’t miss Sensoji in Asakusa, with the giant Kaminarimon Gate at its entrance. Zojoji Temple in Shiba-Koen, meanwhile, has the striking Tokyo Tower looming over it, which makes for fantastic photo opportunities.

When it comes to seeing art in Tokyo, you don’t necessarily need to spend a single yen. You can find brilliant teamLab pieces all over the city for free. These include interactive displays, temporary exhibitions and permanent installations, which might just inspire you to use a bit of the money you’ve saved up to splurge on the fantastic teamLab Planets museum (¥3,200 for adults).

Aside from teamLab, there are some amazing public art sculptures in the city such as a giant spider by Louise Bourgeois, a towering Godzilla and even a huge Studio Ghibli clock.

You can also find free art in the most unexpected of places, such as luxury brand boutiques and omakase sushi restaurants. So keep your eyes open while exploring Tokyo.

Photo: Gotemba City


You can pick up some excellent souvenirs in Tokyo without emptying your bank account. One of the best places to do this is at Japan’s brilliant ¥100 stores, such as Daiso or Can Do. You’ll find all sorts of souvenirs in these shops, from stationery and kitchen utensils to character goods and even pet toys.

Even Japanese lifestyle chain Muji has budget-friendly options at its Muji 500 store in Mitaka. Everything costs ¥500 or less, including food, stationery, kitchen utensils, socks and towels.

Then there’s Don Quijote, the mega discount store stocked full of a bewildering array of goods, many that will make for great souvenirs. Some stores are even open 24 hours a day, too.

If you’re looking to do some more serious shopping (still on a budget, of course), head to one of the outlet malls just outside Tokyo. You’ll find some impressive bargains at these retail destinations, on everything from designer clothes to home decor.

One of the easiest to reach from the capital is Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu in Chiba prefecture, which is 45 minutes by bus from Tokyo Station. On weekdays, there’s even a special return bus ticket for ¥3,150 that includes a ¥2,500 discount coupon for the mall.

There’s also Gotemba Premium Outlets in Shizuoka prefecture, but just a 90-minute bus ride from Tokyo Station (¥3,300 round-trip). Head you can admire close-up views of Mt Fuji while enjoying a spot of discount shopping.

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