6 tips for saving money on a Tokyo vacation

Pedestrians walk at a scramble crossing at Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo, Japan.
Pedestrians walk at a scramble crossing at Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo, Japan.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (NYTimes) - Tokyo isn't typically a destination for budget travelers, according to Jonathan Alder, a travel agent and Tokyo expert.

"Hotels, dining out and transportation are all quite expensive in the city, but you don't need to have deep pockets to have an upscale trip," he said.

Following are some tips to enjoy a luxury Tokyo getaway for less.

1. Visit during the winter

Alder recommended visiting Tokyo from November through February, when hotel rates are at their lowest and the weather is mild to chilly.

Avoid going in March and April. The spring months are cherry blossom season, and while the blossoms are beautiful and the festivals are equally worthwhile, prices for hotel rooms are at their peak.


2. Stay in the City Centre

It's key to choose accommodations near Tokyo Station and the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Both are near each other, and the area is the heart of the city. Prices for luxury hotels are higher, compared with other parts of town, but Alder said that it's worth paying up.


3. Spend Sensibly on Meals

Travelers who live to eat should spring for at least one high-end meal. Alder's top picks are Sushi Bar Yasuda for sushi and GO, located in the Palace Hotel, for teppanyaki.

Save big on the rest of your dining costs by checking out the city's many inexpensive fast casual restaurants (for names, ask your hotel's concierge, TripAdvisor or Time Out Tokyo), where you can experience uniquely Japanese cuisine without emptying your wallet.

Alder's go-to dining destination in the city is Tokyo Station, which is full of many inexpensive restaurants.

"The food quality is incredible, and you can get a great meal with a beer for under US$25 (S$32.77) a person," he said.

4. Rely on the Subway

Tokyo's subway is the fastest and most inexpensive way to get around and see all of the city's major areas, neighborhoods and attractions. Prices for a ride start at about US$1.50, but depending on how much you'll travel, look into local and regional rail passes before your trip, which can save you a ton of money.

5. Take Advantage of Free and Affordable Sights

Many of Tokyo's top attractions are either free or inexpensive to visit. Ueno is a district with a picturesque park that's open to anyone (and home to some very approachable deer) and National Museums that have entry fees that are less than US$10.

In the Minato City area, the Nezu museum is a must for its spectacular Japanese gardens and costs less than US$13. The Imperial Palace is free, but travelers need to book their visit in advance, which you can do online on the first day of the month before your trip (for a November visit, for example, you should book on Oct. 1).

6. Shop Japanese Brands Tax-Free

Take your passport along when you go shopping, because it will allow you to buy goods tax free at many stores.

"There's no refund later," Alder said. "You're just not charged." And stick to buying Japanese brands, which are less expensive than foreign luxury labels.