Budget Backpackers Guide to Tokyo

Backpack with Canadian flag on it

If 30 million people can live in Tokyo, then a budget traveler should expect to find accommodation, entertainment and food suitable to their pocketbook. Don’t think twice about going if the city’s reputation as one of the more expensive global centers in the world is turning you off, because there are not only cheap options, but free ones as well.

The best advice to consider is to think ahead. By reading this you’re already on your way to understanding how Tokyo can be made affordable. First and foremost you’re going to want to find some budget accommodation. Well, you’re in for a treat, since there are many cheap Tokyo hostels that you can choose from. Consistently ranked one of the best hostels in the city is K’s House, which is part of a chain of Japanese establishments that provide backpackers with all the expected features and amenities at an agreeable price. Another Tokyo kingpin is the Khaosan Tokyo Ninja. Make sure to book in advance to capitalize on savings!

K's House Tokyo

Now that you’re settled into your hostel, you’ll want to get out on the town and check out the sites. All that dazzling neon and high-tech seamless architecture might appear daunting and somehow expensive, but don’t fret. Tokyo’s best sites are in many cases free. For example, it’s free to enter the grounds of the popular Meiji Jingu Shrine, the Sensoji Temple and the Imperial Palace’s East Gardens.

Imperial Palace Gardens

Imperial Palace East Gardens photo by john weiss on Flickr

Speaking of gardens, you’ll enjoy plenty of free and open park spaces to take a walk through. Whether it’s the cherry blossoms in summertime at Ueno Park or the Yoyogi Park’s weekend entertainment that tickles your interest more, you’re sure to have fun while saving money. And that fun continues with free entry to museums like the TEPCO Electric Energy Museum, where you can learn all about the national powerhouse, the Sumo Wrestling Museum, a must-see, or the Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum.

Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum

Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum

You won’t want to miss the cityscape, so be sure to make your way to one of Tokyo’s lookouts. Sure you can spend a bundle to get to skyscrapers’ observation decks, but why spend when it’s free at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building? You’ll find the building in downtown Shinjuku, and the two observation decks on the 45th floor. It’s a breathless sight, with modern structures back-dropped by mountains.

View of Tokyo

Photo by NightFall404 on Flickr

Eventually you’re going to have to eat. This doesn’t have to be an overwhelming expenditure, even though it could be if you’re not careful. One of the most attractive options is to find a sushi conveyer belt restaurant. You know those restaurants that charge by the bite where you sit before moving sushi? Another budget option is to eat at the food stalls in street markets, or at shopping arcades like Asakusa’s Nakimese Arcade. For cheap drinks, look out for daily specials, and consider trying sake. The local brew is often cheaper than the imported one.

Nakamise Arcade

Nakamise Arcade photo by Ken's Blog

Think local when you’re in Tokyo. Try to find out how the locals who don’t spend 60 dollars a day live, and you’ll find the authentic and affordable places you’re hoping for.

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