Wallet Friendly Wanderlust: 3 days in Tokyo for under $150

If you're planning to visit Tokyo, you may have heard that it's an expensive city to visit. It really can be as expensive or as frugal as you'd like to make it - and if you're going for the frugal route, all you need is a game plan ahead of time to save yourself some yen.

Here is an agenda for three days in Tokyo - you'll be seeing the sights and getting a taste of all that Japan offers, whilst also ensuring that the budget doesn't blow out! I'll include options for lunches and dinners on the cheap too - as for breakfasts, 500 yen a day can get you a breakfast set at many of Japan's chain coffee shops - they're a great way to start the day. Alternatively, you can always grab something for breakfast at a nearby convenience store to fuel you up for a busy day of sightseeing ahead!

Note: I'm basing this on the idea that $150 US dollars = 15,000 yen, although right now then dollar to yen rate is buying closer to 16,500 yen for $150. When you're exchanging your money it's likely the provider will take a commission anyway, so a $150 US - 15,000 yen conversion still leaves you some wiggle room there too.

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Day one 

Asakusa and Ueno

Just before I start - if you haven't checked it out already, the Odigo Trip Planner is a really useful tool in helping plan out your sightseeing. You can access it when you're logged into your Odigo account by going to the "Planner" drop down menu, and clicking on create a trip. It gives you a map and all, so you can get an idea about distances between your locations - and another really handy thing is that it calculates train fare for you. Now, train fare might not be a budget consideration for you if you're using JR lines with a JR rail pass - but if you're purely using Tokyo Metro for instance, it's very handy to know just how much the trains will set you back!


Cost: Free

You may have come to Japan with temples and shrines on your mind - and since Senso-Ji Temple is Tokyo's oldest, I'd be remiss not to add that to an itinerary for you to check out. Also, it's completely free to visit, which makes it perfect for a budget traveler's plans!

Throughout the year there are often events held at Senso-Ji - the biggest being the Sanja Matsuri, which is a festival that celebrates the founders of the temple. The main hall of the temple opens at 6am daily, but the rest of the temple grounds don't close - so you can get there as bright and early as you'd like.

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Nakamise Dori

Cost: Free to browse, prices as marked for purchases

Just outside the Senso-Ji Temple grounds is Nakamise Dori - a wonderful little shopping street that has all manner of interesting goodies to look at. It really is an enjoyable place to just browse without necessarily having to make a purchase, but if you did have some extra yen there are plenty of great things for souvenirs, fun snacks and more.
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Ueno Park

Cost: Free

Parks are an excellent budget travel favorite, usually having minimal or no admission fees. Ueno Park is a freebie, and the perfect spot to wander around. Best of all the grounds have a lot to keep you occupied. It's a great spot to stop and enjoy a pre-packed lunch, or you can always grab some onigiri or a ready meal from a nearby convenience store that they can heat up for you. Shouldn't cost you more than about 500 yen including a drink!
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National Museum of Nature and Science

Cost: 620 yen

The National Museum of Nature and Science is one of my favorites in Tokyo, and it's conveniently located within the grounds of Ueno Park. Loads to see and do - allocate a couple of hours here!
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Ueno Zoo

Cost: 600 yen

If you've still got time after the museum, the Ueno Zoo is a worthwhile spot to stop at. Admission is only 600 yen - which to me is pretty reasonable (especially considering back home for me, the Melbourne Zoo is $36 Australian Dollars admission!)

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Dinner (ramen, perhaps?)

There are loads of restaurants around Ueno that won't set you back ridiculous amounts where you can still get a filling meal. Set yourself aside 1000 yen for this - you'd generally be able to get a good bowl of ramen for that price with no worries and come back with change!

Day Two 

Harajuku & Shibuya

Meiji Shrine

Cost: Free

Day 1's Itinerary saw a temple on the list, and today you get to see a shrine. Meiji Shrine is in a beautiful spot, surrounded by trees and parkland. If you happen to wander through here on a weekend, it's likely that you might even get to see a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony taking place.
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Takeshita Dori

Cost: Free (store purchases are extra)

Takeshita Dori is sensory overload in a geographic location - but in the very best way. It's crowded, it's loud, it's bright - but it's so much fun. There are loads of fun little stores to dive into, and cute eateries galore. Save 500 yen from your budget to get yourself a crepe of your choosing at Marion Crepes, they're a bit of a Harajuku icon (your tastebuds will thank you).
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Yoyogi Park

Cost: Free

Another spot that's right nearby (and nice to stop at for a lunch break) is Yoyogi Park. It's the perfect spot to get a bit of respite after your busy stop at Takeshita Dori just prior to heading here! Before you make your way to the park, a great place to stop and pick up some lunch is the Yoshinoya that is right by the Takeshita Dori entrance closest to Harajuku Station. A gyudon bowl is not only cheap, but filling and super tasty. If you prefer to eat in-store, they have water for free too - so no need to fork out extra for a drink at a vending machine later on. Save yourself 500 yen from that budget for your gyudon bowl!
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Hachiko Statue

Cost: Free

When it comes to icons of Tokyo, Hachiko has to be one of the most loved. Hachiko was a loyal dog that would head to Shibuya Station daily to meet his master after his workday was over. One day, his owner wouldn't return from work, passing away suddenly - but Hachiko would still go to the station at the same time each day to see if he would come home. The Hachiko Statue is a symbol of that loyalty! It's a popular spot to stop and grab a photo - and won't cost you a cent.
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Dinner at Uobei Sushi

Conveyor belt sushi is an experience in itself - and the plates at Uobei Sushi won't cost you the earth. Save yourself 1500 yen for dinner here and you'll be golden! Plates start at 108 yen so you can definitely get a filling meal for a very reasonable price. 

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Drinks at Coins Bar

Being able to enjoy a couple of beverages on the cheap is always nice. Coins Bar in Shibuya has most of their drinks priced at 300 yen, so we will save 1000 yen to cover the cost of a few bevvies with a little bit of wiggle room.

Day Three 


Shinjuku Gyoen 

Cost: 200 yen

A park a day keeps the wallet happy - and this one is worth every yen of the admission fee! There are not only Japanese inspired gardens, but English and French styled ones too - you could spend a sizeable chunk of time here and not get bored. Best of all, it's another great spot for a picnic lunch or a convenience store one.
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Wagashi and tea at the teahouse 

Cost: 700 yen

Japan's many traditions are fascinating - and one of my most loved traditions here are their wagashi (traditional sweets). At Shinjuku Gyoen, there is a teahouse located within the park grounds. You can get yourself some green tea and wagashi - it makes for a beautiful and relaxing experience whilst also getting to sample some yummies!
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Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Cost: Free

Many people visiting Tokyo want to get a great view of the city from above - and might immediately think of Tokyo Tower or Skytree. For a beautiful budget view, head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Completely free, but with all the killer views that you'd have to pay elsewhere for.

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Calico Cat Cafe

Cost: 200 yen per 10 minute stretch

When a lot of people think Japan, they think of the quirky stuff - and cat cafes are right up there! The Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku is one of the biggest, and it's a fun spot to visit. It is 200 yen for every 10 minutes - but I think spending about an hour here is fun. Set aside 1200 yen for that. (By all means if you think you'd be content with less time that's fine too!)

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Dinner at CoCo Curry

A great spot to grab some inexpensive dinner in Shinjuku is the chain CoCo Curry. It's a quick and easy favorite of mine - tasty, well priced for a takeout meal, and it gives you a chance to experience Japanese Curry, which has a different flavor to other curries you may have tried in your life. I've had plenty of visitors come to Japan who weren't the biggest fans of curry before, but got addicted to Japanese Curry! Leave yourself 1000 yen for that (but you'll most likely end up with change).

Then, it's just a short walk to your final destination of the night...

Golden Gai 

Set aside 1500 yen for a couple of drinks

Golden Gai to me is one of the coolest places in Tokyo to grab a drink - alleyway after alleyway of tiny bars, some that fit only three or four people, and each of them full of their own character. Some of the bars do have a cover charge just to get in, so I'd avoid those ones if you're on a budget. Put aside 1500 yen for a few drinks - enough to feel merry, not enough to miss your flight the next day!
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The Totals...

Day 1, 2 and 3 - set aside 500 yen x 3 for breakfasts = 
1500 yen

Day 1

Souvenirs or snacks at Nakamise Dori = 1000 yen
Convenience Store Lunch = 500 yen
Museum = 620 yen
Zoo = 600 yen
Dinner = 1000 yen
3720 yen

Day 2

Crepe at Marion Crepes = 500 yen
Lunch at Yoshinoya = 500 yen 
Dinner at Uobei Sushi = 1500 yen
Drinks at Coins Bar = 1000 yen 
3500 yen

Day 3 

Shinjuku Gyoen Admission = 200 yen
Wagashi and Green Tea at the Teahouse = 700 yen
Convenience Store Lunch = 500 yen
Calico Cat Cafe = 1200 yen (but you may opt for less time, for extra money saving!)
Dinner at CoCo Curry = 1000 yen
Golden Gai Drinks = 1500 yen
5100 yen

If you have a JR rail pass, you'll be fine to use that on JR lines for getting from A to B - if you don't have one of those, save yourself 1000 yen to cover train fare. Using Shinjuku Station as "home base" the Tokyo Metro trains you'd need to catch shouldn't exceed that. If you were staying further out than the main central business district area you might need to allocate a little more.

The total in yen for the full itinerary with all meals plus some snacks and transport is 14,820 - just under the money we had budgeted for. 

My recommendations for 3 days for $150 didn't include accommodation options - so if you're thinking about how to save some dough when it comes to where you'll stay, here are some tips...

Cheap accommodation tips for Tokyo

Air BnB

Air BnB options are becoming more and more popular because of their budget friendly nature. Whether you'd prefer an entire place to yourselves and your travel buddies, or all you need is a single room, you can filter on the Air BnB search for those parameters, and find some sweet deals.

Capsule hotels

If you're really just using your accommodation as a place to lay your head and shower, capsule hotels could be a good choice. There are several different ones around the city - if you search for "capsule hotels Tokyo" you should find a bunch!

Thinking outside of the box - manga cafes 

There are some manga cafes in Tokyo that will allow you to stay overnight - you'll get a recliner, a computer if you plan to watch manga, and some even have shower facilities in the premises that you can use. Definitely the cheap option and probably not the most comfortable compared to some others - but if budget really is the goal, one of these as an overnight option could fit the bill.

Backpackers Hostels

Hostels are somewhere great to get cheap accommodation and usually make a few new friends in the process. Again, Tokyo has several of these (and you'll find them all over Japan, too - great news if you're traveling somewhere else after Tokyo!)

Stay further out from the immediate CBD area - but still in a convenient travel distance

This to me is an under-utilized tip for people who might still prefer a traditional hotel over a hostel or capsule hotel for instance - there are places that are a straight shot to Shinjuku Station, like Tachikawa, where you can often get hotel rooms for under $100 a night. Might not sound all that cheap, but by Tokyo standards for a hotel it's pretty great!

Enjoy Tokyo, and Happy Travels!

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