Tokyo is seriously a dream. It’s a magical place with a hidden gem on every block.
I visited Tokyo last year with my mom and we got to explore the city together. We got lost, tried new food, and bought some fun (weird) souvenirs!
Tokyo is incredibly affordable to travel and explore. Our Airbnb, groceries, restaurant outings, and exploration was all done on a super strict budget.
Tips to save money in Tokyo:
- Use the actionable tips from How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.
- Use Airbnb to save a ton of money and get a more authentic travel experience.
- Use Ebates, a free service that allows you to save money on flights, travel-related expenses, and thousands of other items and services online. Create an Ebates account here. Make an online purchase of $25 and get $10 as a welcome bonus! So easy.
Below is a list of 10 free things you can do in Tokyo. I hope you all enjoy!
Sensō-ji is a Buddhist temple located in the Asakusa district. It’s the oldest temple in Tokyo and by far the most important and well-known.
There is a huge market filled with an array of various stores leading up to the temple. The market is a great place to try out different foods and get some cool souvenirs.
Tip: Rent a kimono at one of the many kimono rental stores in Asakusa and take photos at the Sensō-ji. I saw many beautiful women doing this and wish I had done the same!
Shibuya refers to the shopping district in this district. It holds Tokyo’s busiest railway station and is famous for its crossing, which has up to 2,500 people crossing it at any one time.
Shibuya is also packed with fashion stores and is also famous for its nightlife.
Tip: Head up to Starbucks to get the best view of Shibuya crossing.
3. Imperial Palace
The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the official primary residence of the Emperor of Japan. The Imperial Palace sits in a vast park located in Chiyoda.
It’s free to visit the area near the bridge and where I am standing right here. It’s quite the scenic spot! (Today was a windy day, can’t you tell?).
4. Tokyo Metropolitan Building
Tochō, also known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, is the headquarters for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
You can reach the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for free, which gives a fantastic bird’s eye view of Tokyo.
Related: 10 Ways To Save Money On Vacations
Harajuku is known around the world as an area for crazy outfits and hair, most popular for Japanese youth culture. There are tons of stores for any budget and plenty of dining options to choose from.
Tip: Head up to the Starbucks in the Tokyo Plaza Omotesando. You don’t even necessarily need to buy a coffee. Starbucks is on the 7th floor of this building, and the glass walls will easily allow you to see MT. FUJI and a bird’s eye view of the city. Plus, it’s an oasis up here at this Starbucks.
6. Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Shrine is in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. It is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, his wife.
The park is surrounded by the lushness and beautiful trees and gardens. For how many people were in the park, it was surprising to see how quaint and peaceful it was.
Ginza is known for its upscale shopping stores, also holding many international department stores, restaurants, cafes, and more. It’s a more expensive area to shop in, but it’s still a beautiful sight to see during the night with all of the buildings and shops lit up.
Tip: Visit Kollabo, my new favorite Korean restaurant in the world. It’s a Korean chain restaurant in Toyko with incredibly affordable prices!
8. Ueno Market
The Ueno Market is right off the Ueno line in Tokyo. I was a little confused because it sounds like there are two markets (possibly named the same) so if anyone can clear this up for me, that would be great!
The Ueno Market has tons of affordable stores, selling purses for around $30 American dollars, $20 for shoes (or cheaper), and tons of other clothing.
There are tax-free stores, 100 yen stores ($1 store) and many other little restaurants to eat at.
9. Just walk around and get lost
My mom and I didn’t mean to get lost, but we did at one point when we were attempting to find a Korean restaurant (my mom is Korean, and I am obsessed with Korean food, so that is all we ate, plus I am vegan, so it’s easier to eat Korean food).
Anyway, we were walking a bit and ran into various temples and gardens that were so beautiful and quaint.
Related: 11 Ways To Save Big On Flights
10. Ueno Park
Ueno Park is a huge public park in the Ueno district.
This park is famously known for its cherry blossoms (usually lasts for 14 days in April). It’s a beautiful park, somewhat near the Ueno market, too.
Tip: Download GPSmycity for guided walking tours that will save you time and tell you the historical facts of the monument you are visiting.
- 35 million people live in the city
- a typical apartment is 170 square feet
- no tipping necessary
- passport (no visa) if from the United States
- most people do NOT speak English
- cherry blossom season lasts about two weeks in early April
- delicious, affordable food on every street for less than 1000 yen (10 USD)
- vending machines are abundant (filled with a various array of items that might surprise you)
- heated toilets are common
- Tokyo has some of the friendliest people in the world
- tax-free shopping is available all over the city
Hello – kon-nihciwa (kohn-neech-ee-wah)
Please – onegai shimasu (oh-neh-gah-ee-shee-mahs)
Thank you – arigato (ah-ree-ga-toh)
English? – eigo (ey-goh?)
Yes – hai (high)
No – iie (ee-eh)
Navigating around Tokyo is surprisingly easy, even for someone like me who gets easily lost.
Even though a lot of Japanese people can’t speak English, you’ll be able to get by simply by pointing to pictures and using hand movements.
For the transportation system, there are English translations, as well as Korean, and Chinese.
To get around Tokyo, we purchased a PASMO card, which lets you use any transportation.
You put a certain amount on it, and if you don’t use it all, you can get it refunded at the end of your trip.
I spent around $20 a day. Keep in mind that it doesn’t include accommodations.
My spending was so low because I took the train and only did free things.
I stayed at an Airbnb for $40 a night for two people with an entire apartment to ourselves in Shinjuku, which is a fantastic district to stay in.
It’s great for families, couples, singles, kids, and pretty much anyone! You get some money towards your first stay by signing up here.
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Have you ever been to Tokyo? What else could we do for free in Tokyo?
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