Budget guide: How my family traveled to Tokyo, Japan for P25,000 each, all in
What an amazing experience to start my year of travel this 2016. My family and I are very grateful for my recently concluded trip to Tokyo. It was intense and overwhelming. Everything was just super amazing – the food, the culture, the place, the experiences, the family bonding. (READ: The budget traveler's guide to Japan)
Let me share with you our experience, where my family members and I spent P24,000 each.
We paid an estimate of P4700 each for our roundtrip flight to Tokyo (Narita). We got these tickets during the airline’s seat sale last June 2015. Our travel date was January 2016.
- Sign up for mailing lists or newsletters through official airline websites, LIKE airline Facebook pages, and FOLLOW airline twitter/instagram accounts to be updated on flight deals and sales!
- When you browse flights and don’t see the cheap fares, keep refreshing. Also, try booking for one person at a time.
For our previous trip to Osaka, we were granted a single entry visa to Japan. So for our trip to Tokyo, we had to apply again. (READ: Turning Japanese: Kyoto and Osaka on a budget)
Click on this link for the requirements.
We applied through Reli Tours at SM Megamall. We passed the documents, they checked it, we paid the fee, and left. It took us around 45 minutes as there were more applicants on that day compared to when we applied for our Osaka trip.
We got our visa a week later and we’re very pleased because they granted us multiple entry visa for 5 years. Grateful for more Japan travels to come!
We found this great hostel, Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel, through Agoda! No recommendations from family or friends. We based this booking solely on Agoda/Trip Advisor/Hostelworld/Booking.com reviews. We took into account its location, distance from train station, if there is easy airport access, distance from tourist sites, and customer reviews.
This was really a great choice! We really recommend you to consider this accommodation when you stay in Tokyo.
- Airport access station (Asakusa-Toei Line) is a 15-minute walk to/from the hostel. The Narita Sky Access Line (Access Limited Express) takes you from Narita Airport to Asakusa in an hour. No more transfers to other train lines. One way costs P503+ (¥1240).
- The subway (Asakusa-Tsukuba) which can take you to different tourist sites and other train lines is only a 1-minute walk from the hostel.
- The hostel is walking distance to popular Asakusa tourist sites, restaurants, malls, convenience stores, Don Quijote (discount chain store), street foods, and many more.
- Our room for 4 persons (Private Superior Room) was very clean. We had two double deck beds, a sofa bed to put all our clothes on, our own bathroom, and even a small common room with a table and two chairs. There is also an aircon/heater. It was very spacious as well.
- There is free wi-fi, free hot water and green tea, a kitchen where you can cook, utensils that you can use, dining area, sofas, desktops, and Tokyo travel guides at the first floor of the hostel.
- Towel rentals cost P20+ (¥50) each.
For more details on the hostel, check out this link.
Navigating through the Osaka train system was fairly easy for me. So when I researched the Tokyo train system, I thought it would be the same. It was very confusing at first. There were so many lines, so many crossovers, and so many names on the map.
After more research and experiencing it firsthand, I got the hang of it. Tokyo’s train system is just amazing and I’m very grateful that we got to experience it.
We bought the PASMO card at Narita airport. We loaded it with P2028+ (¥5000) first and just added later on at train stations when we needed to. We used this for airport access, Tokyo metro/subway/private railways and even the Disney Resort line. For more information on the PASMO card, check this link out.
We used the card for all our train rides. There was no hassle in buying a ticket per route, it was very convenient.
Having an itinerary established beforehand, we studied directions of train routes through this link.
TOKYO TRAINS WERE AMAZING. Riding the Tokyo trains is really an experience in itself, an experience of efficient transportation and disciplined Japanese culture. On our first morning of riding the trains, we were so overwhelmed. The train was packed and EVERYONE WAS SO QUIET. No one was speaking. Super dead air!
We rode, stepped off, and transferred on rush hour train stations – Akihabara and Tokyo. It was all a blur. Almost everyone was wearing black coats/suits/dresses, walking fast in every direction possible, and we were in the middle of it dressed in light colors of beige, green, red, and white. We felt like we were in a movie.
Having been accustomed to always staying on the right on escalators or stairs for slow paced commute in the Philippines, we stayed on the right most of the time. In Tokyo, it’s the opposite. If you want to slow down, you stay on the left. When you’re in a hurry, stay on the right. We were on the right most of the time, and being super overwhelmed, we just followed he crowd.
We jogged, walked briskly, like fish following plenty of other fished, it's like we were being pulled along.
The feeling was so intense and overwhelming, but it was also amazing and fun!
My best train experience: Yurikamome Line was the best train that we rode. It felt like a business class train with an amazing view of the city.
- Stay on the left if you want a slower paced commute!
- There are a lot of convenience stores, restaurants, and food stalls at Tokyo Station. Buy food there if you’re transferring through that station.
- You can return the PASMO card at train stations and any amount left minus the P81+ (¥200)card fee will be returned.
- Be prepared as train fares going around the city of Tokyo are expensive. Rides cost us as low as P60+ (¥150) and at most P160+ (¥400). Yurikamome and Disney Resort lines have relatively more expensive fares than other train lines.
- Trains operate between 5 am to 1 am. The rush hour we experienced in the morning was around 7:00 am at Akihabara and Tokyo stations. The latest train ride that we took was around 9:30 pm.
What can I say? Of course, it was amazing! Food in Tokyo is relatively more expensive than Osaka. Our family though was already content buying food at convenience stores (7/11, Mini-Stop, Lawson). We would buy stocks of Onigiris, Gyozas, and other packed meals. On an average, all of our items would cost P600 (¥1480) per transaction. We would also buy street food that costs less than P400 (¥1000) and that’s for all 4 of us already.
The most expensive food that we bought was at Disney Sea and Tsukiji Fish Market. At most, we spent around P1500+ (¥3780) per person for one meal.
Disney Sea snacks and meals are twice as expensive or maybe even 3 times, than food outside of the resort.
- Bring your passport. While buying items in stores, check if they are a tax free shop. If you have a passport, you’ll get an 8% tax refund.
- When eating at sushi restaurants or sushi conveyor belts, expect that the sushi will have wasabi.
- Buy items at discount chain stores like Don Quijote or Daiso stores.
- Buy Royce chocolates at the airport as gift items, the price here in the Philippines is higher than in Japan.
- For cheaper eats, eat at Daiwa Tsukiji Fish Market, Yoshinoya at Shibuya, and Blue Sky Miso Kitchen at Narita Terminal 2
Travel period: January 2016
Since our trip was during one of the colder months in Tokyo, we really needed to prepare. After our experience in South Korea of negative degrees, we borrowed and bought clothes that would help us endure the weather. During our stay, average temperature was between 2 to 13 degrees Celsius.
- Before going out, put moisturizer or lotion or petroleum jelly on your face and lips to avoid cold or wind burns. My mom and sisters did this but I didn’t. My face and lips hurt a lot after! It stung a lot. I felt like I had a sunburn.
- At Tokyo Station and Asakusa streets, there are stalls that sell fashionable boots at P405+ (¥1000). There are also scarves, gloves, and socks at P40+ (¥100)
- Always check sites for updates on the temperature.
Exploring and experiencing Tokyo, Japan
There are so many sights to see and things to do in Tokyo. Since we only had 2 and a half days to explore this awesome city, we really had to maximize it. Here is a summary of our itinerary:
We were lucky enough to book an accommodation that was conveniently located. Khaosan World Asakusa hostel was within walking distance to many popular tourist sites, discount stores and shops, restaurants, street food, malls, and convenience stores.
- We were there during the week of the “Sweet Duffy” event. Even though we went on the weekday with the lowest expected turnout, there were still many people, and lines were still long. The wait for some rides without fast passes were 50 minutes. If that was what they called a “low turnout,” I’d be afraid to see what “high turnout” or weekend crowds are like. For crowd turnout in Disney theme parks, check here.
- Arrive 30 minutes to 1 hour before the park opens so you can buy tickets and will be able to get early Fast Passes
- Toy Story Mania is the most popular ride in Tokyo Disney Sea, once the theme parks opens, head straight to American Waterfront and get your fast pass. We arrived at around 9:30 am, bought our ticket, and headed straight to that attraction. We saw the long line, waited for 40 minutes, and got a fast pass for 7:15 pm
- Almost ALL shows are presented in JAPANESE. Not a lot of English was used, dialogue was in Japanese. The best shows for our family were The Big Band Beat, King Triton's Concert, and Fantasmic!
- Plan ahead! Know what you want to do beforehand. Because when you see the flyer, you’ll just be overwhelmed. Know what shows you want to watch, rides you want to experience, food you want to eat, places you want to take pictures in. One day is really not enough for every thing that Disney Sea has to offer. (READ: 5 tips for your budget trips)
Tsukiji Fish Market
How We Got To Tsukiji Fish Market from Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel By Train: Asakusa (Tsukuba) – Shin Okachimachi (Toei Subway Oedo) – Tsukijishijo
We loved our experience at Daiwa Sushi. My mom almost cried over how delicious the sushi really was. The sushi flavors just exploded in my mouth. The taste was heavenly. It was really a #foodgasm moment. Daiwa Sushi is one of the most popular Sushi Bars in Tsukiji Fish Market. There is already a fixed set meal worth P1500+ (¥3780) per person. This is the most expensive meal we had in Tokyo.
- To check if the market will be open, click here.
- Try to go early because popular sushi bars like Sushi Dai, Daiwa Sushi, Sushi Zanmai tend to have long lines. According to blogs, average wait is two to 4 hours. We were there at 7:30 am and we waited for 40 minutes before we had our turn at Daiwa Sushi.
- Be mindful of your surroundings. It’s a wet market so a lot of operations are ongoing. Watch out for fast carts going around the place while you cross streets.
- Buy white strawberries (if in season). It's the best! Don’t buy fruits near the restaurants/sushi bars where all the tourists are because prices are higher there. Go to the produce area where fruits and vegetables are cheaper.
How We Got To Odaiba from Tsukiji Fish Market By Train: 15 minutes Walk from Tsukiji Fish Market to Shiodome Station (Yurikamome Line) – Daiba
How We Got To Shibuya from Odaiba By Train: Daiba (Yurikamome Line) – Shimbaishi (Tokyo Metro Ginza) – Shibuya
We were excited to see this because it’s one of the most featured places of Japan in movies. We really had a wonderful time here! We crossed the street so many times while taking videos and pictures. And we were not the only ones doing this; other tourists were as well! There was even a dinosaur mascot disrupting tourists taking videos and pictures. Really fun!
Meiji Shrine and Takeshita Street
We walked 20 minutes from Shibuya to reach the Meiji Shrine and Takeshita Street. It was a very scenic walk. Since we were so tired we just took a picture in front of Meiji Shrine, we didn’t have the energy to explore the whole park. The feel was peaceful and really beautiful.
Takeshita Street is a very busy street. But one thing you’ll find: crepes. Lots of stalls of crepes, and they are delicious. There are also lots of discount chain stores and tax-free shops. There is also free wi-fi at the McDonald’s at the start of the street.
How We Got To Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel from Takeshita Street By Train: Harajuku (JR Yamanote Line) – Akihabara – Asakusa (Tsukuba)
As intense and overwhelming as Tokyo was, it wouldn’t have been as amazing if it wasn’t for my family. Work, friends, special people tend to cause less family time but travels like these reconnect us in so many meaningful ways. I had such a grateful time bonding and laughing with my sisters and mom. We got lost. We fought at times, and many more! We did all these TOGETHER. Tokyo was one of our best travels yet, and we will forever cherish this experience.
Here's a rundown of our expenses, total:
- Roundtrip Cebu Pacific Flight to Narita (Includes NAIA Terminal Fee, Japan Airport Fees, 20kg Check in Baggage): P4,695.99
- Visa Processing Fee: P950
- Travel tax: P1620
- Accommodation – Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel (3 nights): P4,492.12
- Train – Pasmo Card (Roundtrip Airport Access, Tokyo Metro/Subway/Private Railways, Disney Resort Line): P2,248+
- Disney Sea 1 Day Passport: P2,822+
- Food & Miscellaneous Expenses: P7,500+
All for a total of a little under P25,000.
Have you ever traveled to Japan? Do you have any budget tips and tricks?Let us know in the comments below. – Rappler.com
Note: This story was originally published on Irene's blog.
Irene Maligat is a grateful traveler. One of her main goals in life is to inspire and empower a lot of people to travel gratefully. Her passions are sports, reading, motivational writing, travelling, and events planning & management. Visit her website at Inspiring Grateful Travels