6 Ways to Save Money and Enjoy Tokyo

I’m not a big horoscope believer, but when the astrologists say Gemini is a dual sign, I have to say it’s true in this case. I’m a chronic over thinker, but also I get quite impulsive sometimes – in this case, scoring cheap tickets to Japan as a birthday gift from me to me, just 10 days before the trip. I got to drag a friend along to my trip and we planned a short 5-night stay in Tokyo.

I know y’all don’t need to be taught to splurge, but what about saving up in Tokyo, one of the most expensive city in the world? That, I hope to share some tips about.

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1. Eat lunch like a king, eat dinner like a peasant

This lunch spread of deliciousness for just 1,200 Yen!

Restaurants in Japan generally have a significant price difference between lunch and dinner price. Take an example, we had Kobe steak for lunch that cost almost 2,5 times cheaper at lunch! Therefore, I usually have super big lunch like a king (and I may exaggerate the point where you should eat like a peasant, because d’oh you ARE in Japan and luckily, nothing ever tastes bad in Japan) then a more casual dinner that charges you the same regardless the time of the day (think Ichiran and other fast food chain). Sure you can cook, but not sure if it will be much cheaper and isn’t tasting Japanese food the whole reason you’re going?

2. Strictly NO hotels

Splurge a night at an incredible ryokan, then save heaps by staying at Airbnb (if you’re traveling in a group, the more the cheaper merrier!) or hostels (if you solo travel). Last time, I stayed at a female-only hostel (see the video below!) that has small, individual room instead of usual bunk beds, it was super comfy for its price and I appreciate the extra privacy. The bathrooms has amazing amenities and it even has onsen (unfortunately, it was closed due to maintenance work when I was there). I have stayed at few Airbnbs in Japan so far and every apartment was always so convenient and had everything I need.

3. Find a public onsen

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How to make us happy : good coffee, good food and damn good onsen. We are practically a 70-year-old trapped in the body of a 20-year-old.

Tight on time and ahem, budget to stay at traditional ryokan? I feel you. From the mega-onsen theme park in Odaiba with 14 different onsen and costs almost 3000 Yen to a retro public bath with black, mineral-rich water (which I went to and only cost 600 Yen!), there’s no need to be shy of strutting it because after a rainy or chilly day, it definitely warms your heart – and your wallet!

4. Do you really need the pass?

Are you staying for at least a week? Will you be traveling by Shinkansen at least twice? If you answer no for both questions, you can forget JR Pass. I have never bought JR Pass (not even the regional one), since my itinerary never justified the price of a JR Pass. Mind you, you can’t use JR Pass on non-JR trains (subways, Keisei Line, Odakyu Line, etc.), too – so again, do you still need it?

I spend roughly 4.000 Yen to get around Tokyo in 6 days and having a rechargable IC card, like Suica or Pasmo, will make your life so much easier and your trip cheaper (it saves up to 9 yen per trip, not a huge saving but don’t mind if I do). You’ll have to pay 500 Yen deposit that is refundable at the end of your trip and you can also use the card to pay at convenience stores, or to rent locker!

5. Have your lunch outside!

 

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I can’t see how you run out of things to do or eat in Tokyo, but in such city it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. Grab some snacks and onigiri from the nearest convenience store and head out to a park in the late afternoon to chill, it’s better if you bring something you can lie down on (okay, so that you can take a nap), or maybe you can just walk around and see how the locals hang out. Most parks are free, but you need to check the opening hours and whether or not they allow picnic.

6. Early bird doesn’t always get the worm

If it’s your first time or if you travel with kids, you may want to go to Disneysea since it only exists in Japan. However, if you travel in the height of Tokyo summer, let me tell you that it won’t be pretty! The lines are long, the heat is unbearable and it just drains you up.

Beat the heat and enjoy much shorter line with the Starlight Passport or After 6 Passport. Starlight costs 5.400 Yen and allows you to enjoy the park from 3pm onwards on weekends and holiday while After 6  is self-explanatory, you can go from 6pm onward on weekdays and costs you 4.200 Yen. As a comparison, 1-day passport is 7.400 Yen. If I ever go to Disneysea again, I will definitely take this pass!

What’s your tried-and-true tips to save up money in Japan? Let me know in the comments and as usual, hope these tips help you!

Until next time,

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