Japan’s capital may have a reputation for ultra-luxury hotels and expensive dinners, but there’s plenty of ways to make this notoriously pricey city easier on the wallet. Here’s how to get an authentic taste of Japanese culture, sample some mouth-watering cuisine, and get around Tokyo, all while saving a few yen.

What to Do

Learn the History

Tokyo’s diverse collection of shrines and gardens offers a great way for first-timers and travelers on a budget to learn about Japan’s religious heritage. One of the most popular Tokyo shrines is Meiji Jingu, a Shinto complex situated in Yoyogi Park, which is free to enter and charges a nominal fee to explore its inner garden. Other peaceful options include Happoen Garden and Ueno Park, both of which feature outdoor spaces with free admission.

Meiji Jingu Shrine

People Watch and Window Shop

Thrifty travelers can enjoy no-cost people watching and window shopping in dense areas such as Shibuya Crossing and trendy Takeshita-dori Street in Harajuku. Take in the high-fashion blend of colorful urban looks and chic ensembles that make up Tokyo’s world-famous street style, or browse the shop offerings to find your own take on Tokyo fashion.

Harajuku Takeshita-dori

Take in the Culture

It’s possible to learn about Japanese culture in Tokyo while staying easy on the wallet. Consider a rickshaw sightseeing tour through the Asakusa district, a visit to a quirky owl café (complete with a crew of wide-eyed birds), a traditional kimono photo shoot, or a sushi-making class, where you’ll learn to roll your own sushi alongside a trained chef.

Beauty of Japan

Where to Eat

The thousands of ramen shops lining Tokyo’s streets provide one of Japan’s tastiest and most filling cheap eating experiences. While there’s no shortage of inexpensive ramen, visitors especially rave about famous purveyors such as Ippudo and Ichiran. Other budget-friendly dining options include Asakusa Okonomiyaki Sometaro, which serves a Japanese-style omelette, and Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, where you’ll find large portions of flavorful Japanese curry for good prices. And for those hoping to get their sushi fix on a budget, Uobi Shibuya Dogenzaka gets high marks for its cuisine and nifty automated ordering process. Aside from restaurant experiences, a private cooking class is a fun way to combine eating and a cultural activity into one money-saving package.

Traveling Spoon

Where to Sleep

The Japanese capital may be known for pricey accommodations, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options as well. Tokyo “ryokans” (traditional inns) such as Family Inn Saiko and Ryokan Sawanoya offer an authentic and inexpensive Japanese-style sleeping experience, complete with tatami mat flooring and shared public areas. Travelers in search of a more modern hotel option should look beyond cramped capsule hotels and investigate Red Planet Asakusa, which gets high marks for its reasonable prices. For families, the Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo offers a convenient combination of a prime location, budget-friendly rates, and optional kitchenettes in some rooms.

Family Inn Saiko

How to Get Around

After you fly into Haneda or Narita Airport, you’ll find that Tokyo boasts one of the world’s best and most efficient public transit systems. To take advantage of this cost-effective way to travel around Tokyo, budget travelers should skip the taxi and buy themselves one of the widely used Suica cards, reusable transit passes offering access to the city’s various rail systems and train stations. Travelers planning to travel further afield should consider purchasing the money-saving Japan Rail Pass, which offers unlimited travel for periods of seven, 14, or 21 consecutive days on any JR-operated train, including ultra-fast bullet trains that can get you to Kyoto or Osaka in no time. Of course, Japan’s largest city is also surprisingly easy to navigate on foot and bike, making activities such as a walking tour or a cycling tour ideal ways to orient yourself.


Up for a Japanese adventure? Talk to Holiday Tours about planning your next Tokyo holiday.

This article originally appears in Tripadvisor.