Sightseeing on a Budget in Tokyo
It isn’t known as a budget travel destination, but Tokyo is such a large, diverse city that it’s not hard to find inexpensive or even free things to see and do, if you know where to look. Here’s how to stretch a dollar (or yen) in the Japanese capital.
Buy a Transport Pass
Several different companies (e.g. Japan Rail, Tokyo Metro, and Toei Subway) offer transportation throughout the city. If you’ll be using lots of public transit, a pass is the cost-effective way to go. Options include the Tokyo Subway Ticket, the Toei and Tokyo Metro One-Day Economy Pass, and the Tokunai Pass, among others.
Pick Up a Grutto Pass for Museum Entry
Tokyo offers a huge range of museums, art galleries, zoos, and aquariums, but entry fees can really add up. Valid for two months, the Grutto Pass gives you access to more than 90 attractions. Not available for purchase in February or March.
Enjoy the Free Parks and Gardens
Although many temples and parks in Tokyo charge an admission fee, some don’t. For example, Meiji Jingu and the Imperial Palace East Gardens are two beautiful spots that won’t cost you a yen.
Shop at Markets
Chic, upscale shopping districts such as Ginza are great for window-shopping and people-watching, but if you’re on a budget, keep your wallet in your bag. Instead, head to local food and flea markets, such as Ueno’s Ameya-Yokocho or the Nogi Shrine Antique Flea Market. Harajuku has lots of vintage clothing stores, and you can pick up a secondhand kimono at Asakusa for a fraction of the cost of a new garment.
Get Free City Views
Replete with skyscrapers, Tokyo has plenty of viewing decks. If you’re pinching pennies, though, head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Take your pick of two 662-foot-high (202-meter-high) observation platforms—both free to access.
Seek Out All-You-Can-Eat/Drink Venues
Tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) and nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) venues are one of the most cost-effective ways of eating and drinking out in Tokyo. Usually for a set fee and a limited time (such as 90 minutes), all-you-can-eat establishments let you do exactly that. Nomihodai is a standard offering at karaoke bars in the wee hours—you won’t always be served the top-shelf liquor, however.