I love going back to Tokyo, said to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. At least I thought. Let me tell you this: it’s a myth!
Before I left for Tokyo for the first time 5 years ago, I did all the necessary calculations for my 7-day trip. Although I was only going to stay at 3-star hotels (which means accommodations wasn’t going to be that expensive) and had already bought by Japan Rail Pass before flying off (which means that my transportation cost have already been paid), the prospect of going to the most expensive city without my sources of funding i.e. parents was intimidating. So as a result, I brought RM5800 in cold hard cash to Tokyo for a 7-day trip.
I was surprised to know that Tokyo (or Japan as a whole) isn’t as expensive as I was led to believe. I found the city more affordable than London, Melbourne or Singapore! Just to be safe, I continued bringing lots of cash on subsequent visits, each time realizing that I always have some excess cash to shop with at the end of the trips.
After several visits, I progressively learned the tip and tricks to minimize my traveling cost by knowing, for example, where to stay and what to eat — up to the point that I could sustain with just RM1000 for a 5-day trip.
Before I start listing down how I did it, you need to know that this is budget trip — it covers the basics of your traveling cost in Tokyo (not inclusive of your flight ticket — here’s how to get cheap flight tickets), so it’s perfect for those who just want to take some days off just to chill in the city and experience it for a couple of days.
When it comes to the accommodation, the internet is your best friend.
You can rent out private rooms or entire properties for the duration of your trip. If you’re rajin enough, you can find places offering RM150 a night for 2 people, at a good location. Sometimes the property owners will even throw in pocket wifi for you! Here’s where you can look:
If you want to opt for hotels, there are 3-star hotels that provide spotless rooms and services at good rates. The decent hotels I’ve stayed over and over at include:
I often do my comparison on Booking.com, narrowing down the hotel by the number of stars and the price range and after that filtering the hotels according to the price. Before completing my booking, I was actively on the website to look out for great deals, capping the price of our double room at less than RM300. The cheapest price I’ve secured was in my last trip, RM200 for a double room with shared bathroom — each of us paid only RM100 a night!
If you manage to do it like I did, you’ll be spending about RM500 on your accommodation.
(If you’re taking the AirAsia flight to Haneda and arriving late, sleep at the airport on the first night to save even more.)
If you’re only traveling within the city, buy a Tokyo Metro Pass for visitors. The pass can be purchased at the Visitor Information Center that’s located the right side after exiting the arrival gate.
The Tokyo Metro Pass lets you get on the Tokyo Metro lines (which basically covers the whole of Tokyo). There are 2 kinds of tickets for travelers:
- 1-day ticket ¥600 (RM18)
- 2-day ticket ¥980 (RM30)
Considering that a one way ticket from one place to another could cost ¥160 (RM5) and you’re likely to spend 5x more than that on transportation for 1 day, it’s a better idea to buy the pass. For a 5-day trip, you’ll be spending less about RM100 on transportation.
When I’m not so particular about spending, I’d eat outside all the time so most of my money in Tokyo, in turn, would be spent on food. A proper meal at a restaurant in Tokyo costs around ¥1000 (RM30), so eating 3 times a day (plus pastries and ice chocolate drinks in between) could easily mean spending more RM100 a day on food!
I’ve learned to cut down on food expenses by first, bringing food from home and second, knowing where and when to dine.
For the last trip, I brought food to Tokyo — oats, walnuts, seeds and cranberries and then shopped for fruits at markets and bread at bakeries so that I can prepare my own breakfast to fuel me in the morning.
Since one can’t possibly rely on oatmeals forever, here is the list of cheap eats I visit to fill my tummy later during the day:
- Pastries from bakeries start from ¥180 (RM6)
- Sushi kaiten restaurants offering cheap sushi like Kurazushi and Ganso Zushi, starting from ¥100 (RM3) a plate
- Restaurants offering lunchtime sets, like Shinjuku Sakae Sushi, which offers a ¥720 (RM25) sushi set during lunchtime (instead of ¥1200)
- Chain restaurants offering filling tendon sets (tempura and rice) from ¥580 (RM18) like Tenya
- Chain restaurants like Saizeriya, which offers pasta and pizza for about ¥500 (RM15)
- Shops selling halal kebabs that’s splattered across the city like Anatolia and Kebab Box J, for a ¥500 (RM15) kebab
Or if you’re feeling super cheap, buy salmon onigiri from 7E (or Tokyo’s many konbini/mini-marts), only ¥100 (RM3) per piece. Mineral water costs about the same, ¥100 (RM3).
If you bring plenty of food from home, you can save a lot on food. Budget RM80 a day at most (but I’m sure it’ll be a lot less) for basic food in tokyo. For a 5-day trip, you’ll be spending about RM400.
There’s a lot to see in Tokyo… for free! Here are places you can consider going for sightseeing and they’re all reachable by the Metro Visitor Ticket that you’re using. I’ll be updating the links below in the future:
So… there you go — RM500 for accommodation, RM100 on transportation and RM400 for food. Discovering Tokyo with RM1000 for a 5-day trip (not inclusive of flight tickets). It’s totally do-able, kan?
I highly recommend that you bring extra cash though, just in case you feel like, you know, having fabulous creme brulee at the L’occitane Cafe, going up to the Tokyo Tower or going on a cruise along the Sumida River.
That’s it for now, I’ll be updating this post when I can think of more suggestions — share this post if you think it’s helpful 🙂