Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about traveling to Tokyo is that it will be one hell of an expensive trip.
Based from what I’ve experienced, there are certain things that you have to set a good amount of money aside for, and if you adopt more practical methods when spending on other things, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy your Tokyo vacation.
1. Go for an affordable accommodation.
Hotels and apartments do not come cheap in a city that puts a premium on residential space. Think about it; you only need a place to sleep, shower and leave your luggage. If you’re doing some serious touring, hostels and AirBnb apartments are your best bet.
2. Plan your itinerary.
If you’ve decided to ditch the tours and go for a more spontaneous, self-driven approach, hats off to you. Concerned about how to navigate as much of Japan as possible? Try focusing on the following wards. I’ve added some of the most popular spots and must-dos for your planning pleasure:
Here, you can go on some serious shopping, spot Hachiko’s statue, see cosplayers in Harajuku, and take a selfie while traversing the world-famous Shibuya crossing.
Experience the peculiar but entertaining Robot Restaurant and unwind at the picturesque Shinjuku Gyoen Garden.
Let your jaw drop at Akihabara—it's a manga, anime and gaming haven.
Sink your teeth into some the freshest seafood in the world at the Tsukiji fish market.
Get a feel of Tokyo’s cultural side, with the majestic Senso-ji temple in Asakusa and Nakamise-dori, the shopping street
3. Download Japan transit apps.
Planning which trains to take in advance helps you save on precious commute money. That’s why in a city with a train system as complex as Tokyo’s—and if you hardly speak Japanese—technology will be your best friend (as well as a good sense of direction).
Don’t worry about the language barrier because station staff know enough basic English to guide you to where you want to go. Japanese people are also extremely friendly and will go out of their way to help you when you’re lost, so you’re in absolutely good hands.
Apps like Hyperdia let you plot your transit, giving you suggestions for possible routes, as well as fare comparison. City Rail Map helps you familiarize yourself with the different stations and the colors of the Tokyo lines. It also offers route suggestions, but without the fares.
4. Splurge (and choose) wisely on food.
It will be very challenging to resist all the gastronomic goodies awaiting you in Tokyo. But the good thing to note is that even the food in convenience stores—and they’re some of the cheapest you’ll find—are incredibly fresh and delicious.
Try the matcha latte in 7-11 and the many onigiri variations in other 24/7 stores like Lawson and Family Mart. I highly suggest you dish out extra money during lunch or dinner—have some ramen, tonkatsu, katsudon, curry or tempura with rice at any random restaurant and I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
5. Purchase items that are locally produced.
Electronic items such as cameras and wristwatches are especially more affordable in Tokyo because they are manufactured locally. Go for stores like Bicamera in Shibuya, which has over several floors of appliances and other amazing tech finds. As a rule, go for stores that have the tax-free sign outside so you save on money when going shopping.
PHOTO: Luis Llerena