How to travel Tokyo for less than USD$350 in a week

I have traveled and lived like a local Japanese for the past one year and let me tell you, it is cheap to eat, shop and travel.

I always get this as one of the first comments from my friends and family – Japan is expensive!!!!! And I was filled with questions more than concurrence. As I listened to more stories about their travel, the more I realized the mistakes and myth most tourists have made. My sister spent SGD$3,000  (USD$2,400) for 7 days and total cost for 2 person is SGD$10,000! OMG,.

I only have Japanese friends here in Tokyo, hence for all the places I dined in, stayed, traveled and shopped are the authentic Japanese experiences and local cost.

Today, i’m going to try to share as much tips and tricks on how to travel like a local!

I promise you that you don’t have to eat a single bento from 7-11 and convenience store!!

PS: I tried once from 7-11 and they topped one of the absolutely unpleasant food i ever tasted in Japan. The budget includes eating at izakaya, sushi restaurants and alcohol!

Breakdown of Expenses

I lived in Singapore, which has been listed the most expensive city to live in for consequently four years. So depending where you come from, the benchmark might be different and that is the reason why i found it more affordable.

Remember Tokyo is a world class city so we are comparing with cities like London, New York, Singapore. Tokyo is definitely not be the most expensive of the list.

Let me clarify that this doesn’t include gifts, souvenirs or any day trip out of Tokyo – that will definitely cost you additional hundreds dollars. This is a guide for you to cover the basic expenses for 3 meals, travel expenses and accommodation.


How to travel in Tokyo?

Let’s beat the myth about whether you should buy the 7 days Japan Rail (JR) pass at ¥29,110 (USD$258.05).

That’s always one of the first questions I get from all my friends coming to Tokyo.

Let me give a summary of the train system in Tokyo.

There are a total of 882 stations in Tokyo and a total of 13 lines which run through the city, Japan Rail (JR) is not the only company. Well, yes while JR run through the major stations like Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku, the others are run by smaller subway companies.

Tokyo Train Map
Tokyo Train Map

You can see all the train lines which operates in Tokyo above. One color represent one train company.

So you could have guess, is it even possible to travel Tokyo with one line?
Absolute No.

Let me do a break down for you.

Here is a map I got from JR website and zoomed in specifically into Tokyo City.

These are ALL the stations JR operated in.

JR Tokyo Train map
JR Tokyo Train map

As you can see, JR only run through

  1. Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya ( the 3 places are walkable distance )
  2. Akibahara
  3. Tokyo
  4. Ueno

What happened to the rest of the stations?
Like Ginza, Asakusa, Roppongi, Onarimon for Tokyo Tower, Meguro for Sakura, Odaiba Station?

JR do not run through them.
So is it worth to purchase the JR pass just for these 5-6 stations? The answer is obvious.

You can do the Math if you would like to purchase the 7 Day JR pass at ¥29,110 (USD$258.05). But Sorry guys, this is totally out of the USD500 budget, so we have to break down and see how we can travel efficiently and cost effectively.


Which airport in Japan to arrive?

Always try to land in Haneda airport located in Tokyo City, which is just 46min to Shinjuku. Narita Airport, on the other hand is located on another prefecture, Chiba and will take you 2 hours to reach Shinjuku.

Keikyu is the only line that runs both Narita and Haneda airport and which happen to be the cheapest and fastest.


How to travel to the city from airport?

Narita airport to Shinjuku Station

Take the Keisei line (red train) limited express.

How: Take Keikyu-Kuko Line (red color) to Aoto. Do not exit the station.
Change train and Continue on the same train line to Shinagawa station.
Change and walk to to JR Yamanote Line (lime green)

Haneda airport to Shinjuku Station
Train fare: ¥1,520 + ¥200
Travel time: 100 min
How: Take Keikyu-Kuko Line (red color) to Shinagawa station. Change to JR Yamanote Line (lime green)

Total cost – ¥3,440 ( 2 way)
Total cost – USD$32 (2 way)

Haneda airport to Shinjuku Station

How: Take Keikyu-Kuko Line (red color) to Shinagawa. Do not exit the station.
Change and walk to to JR Yamanote Line (lime green)
Train fare: ¥610
Travel time: 45min

Total cost – ¥1,220 ( 2 way)
Total cost – USD$11 (2 way)
 

Where & What to Eat in Tokyo?

Gurunavi.com is one of the most extensive food listing in Japan.
My Japanese friends always use this to find food and it is in English version as well.

Let’s assume that your hotel/hostel provides simple breakfast and coffee.

Breakfast

1. Onigiri + Coffee from 7-11

This is the most common breakfast for Japanese – the Onigiri rice ball with various fillings.

mayonnaise prawn onigiri & mentaiko crabmeat stick
mayonnaise prawn onigiri & mentaiko crabmeat stick

Cost – ¥130 + ¥100 = ¥240 (USD$2)

Lunch and Dinner

1. Kaiten-zushi (¥100 Rotating sushi bar)

¥100 (USD$0.90) for 2 pcs of sushi.
Yes. Even with a huge appetite, you can have 20 sushi with just 1000yen (USD$9)

2. Izakaya

I must say i eat this almost everyday. Yakitori is my absolute at 100yen each.

Local Izakaya

Yakitori at 100yen menu
Yakitori at 100yen per stick. Ask for English menu if you need to.

 

3. Kastuya かつや – Tempura, Pork cutlet with Curry

They serve the best Crispy Pork cutlet ! Tonkastu! This is the place i absolute love which i can eat every week, it tasted better than any tempura i ate in Singapore! Extremely affordable and the menu changes with the season – oyster (Kaki カキ) in Autumn, Spring Onion during Spring or even eel (unagi うなぎ) during Summer!!

 

I would recommend to add on the soup for just USD$1.

 Website: http://www.arclandservice.co.jp/katsuya/menu.html

4. Matsuya, Yoshinoya – Beef don 牛丼

 

5. 500yen Pizza

500yen pizza restaurants are one of the popular hangouts for young adults in Tokyo! Yes thin crusted 10 inch pizza for USD$4.

 

10 inch thin crust pizza at 500yen

 

The atmosphere is cozy, chilled and westernized and located near the station, it is easy to have a quick bite.

Cona Pizza is my favorite, they have franchises with outlets all over Tokyo. To add on, they have a good and variety of wine selections, additionally, the restaurants are all conveniently located near train stations!

6. Bento at major supermarket

Seriously you havent eaten a bento from the supermarket?
Then you have not truly experience Japan culture.

This is where most Japaneses get their lunch or dinner besides cooking! You will see all Japaneses snatching the fresh bentos right from the kitchen.
All the bentos are fresh cooked on the day, any items are discarded if not sold on that day.

 

So to minimize wastage and ensure that all bento are sold for the day, all bentos are 20-50% off from 7.30pm onward!!
The discount is tier system meaning the later you come, the more discount you get.

 

Half price bento at supermarket

 

Most supermarkets close at 9.30/10pm, so what happens is the discount will starts from 20% at 7.30pm, 50% by 8.30pm!!

This is the time which i get my bento for dinner or keep it for breakfast/lunc the next day.

7. Cook

Honestly all the produces are so fresh and from local, anything you cook is nice without seasoning.
Just get any beef and you get Yoshinoya and that is if you stay at AirBnb 🙂 so if you are on a budget and want to experience the real authentic food, cook.

Breakfast – ¥250 x 6
Lunch – ¥600 x 6 (bento, fast food, pizza)
Dinner ¥1,000 x 6 (restaurants)
Drinks – ¥200 x 6
Total damage – ¥12,300

Where Stay in Tokyo?

Airbnb and hostels are your best bet. Japanese hostel are clean, quiet and provides amenities like hair curler, Shiseido or Kose shampoo!
Alternatively, stay in traditional Ryokan (guest house) and experience the authentic tatami sleeping style.

The tricky part is which area to stay. The cheapest options are Ueno and Asakusa located North of Tokyo, which is near to the airport BUT far (35-40min) to Shibuya.

 


Here are a list of accommodations that are located downtown (Akibahara, Ginza) with great accessibility and facilities and below USD30!

Tokyo Ginza Bay Hotel

Tokyo Ginza Bay Hotel

Cost per night: ¥3,100 (USD28.50)


GRIDS AKIHABARA HOTEL+HOSTEL

https://www.grids-hostel.com/

Cost per night: ¥3,000 (USD28)

Total damage – ¥3,100 x 6 nights= ¥18,600
Total damage – USD170.00

Cost breakdown

Based on 7D6N, arrival in Heneda Airport

  1. Airport transfer – ¥1,220 ( 2 way)  (USD$11)
  2. Food and beverages  – ¥2,050 x 6 =¥12,300 (USD$113)
  3. Accommodation – ¥3,100 x 6 = ¥18,600 (USD$170)
  4. Transportation – ¥800 x 6 = ¥4,800 (USD$44)

    Total cost for one week = USD$338

 

You may also like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pinterest
Pinterest
Instagram
Facebook4
Facebook
RSS