This article provides a list of things to do in Tokyo on a budget, budget hostels in Tokyo and how to get around Tokyo using public transportation.
First stop in our Asian adventure is Tokyo. Tokyo is modern, clean and respectful. The locals leave their bikes unattached on the street, help you out when you seem lost and return all of your cash and passports when you forget it on the airport shuttle (read all about it).
How To Get From Tokyo Airport to Tokyo Center
Airport Limousine Bus – From Narita or Haneda Airport: departure every 20 mins, purchase a ticket at counter and hop on the bus which drops you off at major stations in Tokyo. Ride takes about an hour and a half depending on traffic and cost is 3,000 JPY (USD $25)
Tokyo Shuttle: 900 JPY (USD $8)
Subway: Hop on the Keisei Line at the airport, which will connect you to your desired station. It will roughly cost 1,200 JPY (USD $10). More detailed information for the different modes of transportation from TokyoCheapo.
How to Get Around In Tokyo – Local Transportation in Tokyo
We used the convenient and reliable subway system in Tokyo. Fares vary on distance traveled, from 170 to 310 JPY (USD $1.50-3.50). Read this to find out which fare option suits you best, whether you’ll need a day-pass or buy a ticket each time you’ll ride the subway.
Where to Stay in Tokyo: Hostels in Tokyo
We expected to pay high prices for accommodations in Tokyo so we decided to couchsurf for the first couple of days while researching for budget accommodations.
Watch our “Tokyo Apartment” video
After a lovely stay with a local host in a Tokyo apartment, we moved onto hostel living:
Tokyo Central Youth Hostel – dorm bed start at roughly USD $29 for clean dorm bed with panoramic view of the city. Shared baths are extremely clean and breakfast is included. There is also coin-operated laundry machines and free WiFi in common areas. Hostel is located right next to a subway station, which makes it convenient to visit the city. We really enjoyed our stay here.
We also looked into the capsule hotels in Tokyo but the cost was actually the same or more expensive than a regular room for two– though it would be an interesting experience.
What to do in Tokyo – Sights and Activities in Tokyo
Here’s a list of must-do activities when in Tokyo with metro station included:
Tsukiji Fish Market and eat at Sushidai, one of the best sashimi restaurant at Tsukiji. Wake up early (as early as 3am) and head over to the world-famous fish market and attend the early morning tuna auction which opens at 5 am. Attendance is on first come first serve basis, with a limit of 120 people and separated into two groups of 60. By 9am, there isn’t much left to see of the market. Subway Station: Tsukijishijō
Tsukiji Hongan-ji Temple: visit this Buddhist temple next to the fish market. Beautiful architecture. Subway Station: Tsukijishijō
Senso-ji Temple: Beautiful Buddhist temple in Asakusa. There are also many shops and food stalls around the temple. Take your time and enjoy the traditional Japanese feel in this neighborhood. Subway Station: Asakusa
Asahi Beer Hall: Can be seen on the way to Senso-Ji as you get out of the Asakusa station, interesting building in the shape of the glass of beer designed by Philippe Starck. You can also go in and enjoy a beer at the top of the building which has a nice view of the city. Subway Station: Asakusa
Visit the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: One of Tokyo’s largest and most popular park. Admire the beautiful cherry blossoms if you happen to be in Japan during that season (March to mid-April/early May). Subway Station: Shinjukugyoenmae or Sendagaya
Go up the Tokyo Tower: The Japanese “Eiffel” Tower, a communications and observation tower. Beautiful view of Tokyo from the top of the tower. Entrance fee is 900 JPY (USd $7.50) for the main observatory at 150 meters high and an extra 700 JPY (roughly USD $6) if you want to see the Special Observatory at 250 meters. Subway Station: Onarimon or Akabanebashi
Harajuku: Best time to visit Harajuku is on a Sunday. Located between Shinjuku and Shibuya, this trendy neighborhood fills up on Sundays with people engaging in “cosplay” = costume play = eccentric costumes. Takeshita Dori is the main street to see all the teens in their elaborate outfits. See our Harajuku photos here. Subway Station: Harajuku
Meiji Shrine and Meiji Jingu: Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrine. After visiting Harajuku, walk though this serene park to see the shrine. You may see traditional wedding processions on Sundays. Subway Station: Harajuku or Meiji-jingu-mae
Go to the famous Shibuya Crossing: After your serene walk to the Meiji shrine, walk over to the world’s busiest intersection (video here). Shibuya is also a popular neighborhood with many shopping malls, dining and entertainment. Subway Station: Shibuya
Imperial Palace: where the royal family of Japan still resides. No entrance fee. The gardens around the Palace are open to the public, and there isn’t much to see. There are guided tours of the Imperial Palace but you have to plan this visit in advance as space is limited. Subway Station: Tokyo
Visit Ginza: After the Imperial Palace, head over to Ginza, the super luxurious neighborhood of Tokyo, home to many luxurious retail stores. Subway Station: Ginza
Geek out in Akihabara: also known as Electric Town, mecca of electronic goods, arcade games and all things anime. Subway Station: Akihabara
Hop over to Odaiba: get away from Tokyo to this artificial mini island home to the Panasonic Center, Toyota Mega Web (Toyota showroom where you can sometimes test the latest technologies), the Fuji TV Building and many shopping malls. The journey to Odaiba on the driverless skytrain is part of the fun – watch our TimeLapse ride from Odaiba back to Tokyo. Subway Station: Daiba or Ariake
Ueno Park and Peony Garden: a public park in the center of Tokyo. In the winter time, the beautiful peony garden opens for 700 JPY (under USD $6). There are many things to do in Ueno park including visits to the Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, the Ueno Zoo, Toshogu Shrine and much more. Subway Station: Ueno
The best thing is that the majority of these activities are free !
From Tokyo to Kyoto by Train
It is extremely easy to get from Tokyo to Kyoto by train : ride the Shinkansen, Japan’s high speed bullet train. The ride is smooth and quiet and you can view beautiful Mount Fuji on the way. You can either make reservations in advance or just a couple of minutes before catching your train (make sure you are not traveling during holiday season in Japan, in which case you should book your train ahead of time). The ride takes between 2hrs20 to 2hrs50 and cost 13,500 JPY (USD $114).
Tokyo to Kyoto by bus cost between 6,000-7,000 JPY (USD $50-58) depending on whether it is daytime or overnight bus. This article provides information on how to get from Tokyo to Kyoto at different costs.
What did you do in Tokyo? Anything else that could be added to the list of must-dos? Share your travel experience with us! We love to hear from you.
Happy Travels !!xx
View all of our Japan articles: photos, videos, stories and travel tips.