At the thought of Tokyo as a holiday destination, this word will come to mind : EXPENSIVE. No, we don’t blame you because we were exactly like that! And we are here to help you to debunk that myth! 😀
Contrary to popular belief, Tokyo isn’t that an expensive place after all. Of course, with proper planning that is!
“But what about getting around? Aren’t the Subways confusing? What if I get lost? Do they speak English? I can’t read Hiragana (ひらがな) / Katakana (カタカナ) / Kanji (漢字). HOW?”
Fret not. To be honest, surviving in Tokyo would probably be easier than you think it is. Though the Japanese there speak very little English, most signboards and directions are labelled in English. And armed with the proper tool (i.e. Google Maps and a Portable Wi-fi), you are good to go.
Besides, sometimes when you get lost in this gigantic city, you’ll stand amazed by what this city has to offer. And be blown away! 😀
Note : conversion rate of RM 35.64 = ¥ 1,000
1. Seize the best flight offers available
This whole trip was super impromptu, we did not have this in mind as we already have Miri, Sarawak, Krabi, Thailand and Singapore in our To Travel places in 2015. But when we got wind of Vietnam Airlines doing promotion, we just couldn’t resist.
A full fledged airline, with 30KG baggage allowance, on board meals and in flight entertainment, what’s not to love? Although we had to layover in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for a couple of hours, we had no qualms about it as gNOMe 2 hates long haul flights.
KUL > HAN [3 hours 5 minutes] via Airbus A321. Layover for approximately 3 hours.
HAN > NRT [4 hours 50 minutes] via Airbus A330.
On our way back,
NRT > SGN [6 hours 10 minutes] via Airbus A330. Layover for approximately 2 hours.
SGN > KUL [1 hour 50 minutes] via Airbus A321.
With a 30 KG baggage allowance, on board meals, in flight entertainment and seat preference, we spent :
Cost : RM 950/pax/to&fro
2. A cheap yet comfortable place to crash
Being an advocate for Airbnb, we turned to this website to scour for cheap accommodation. Don’t need any luxurious hotels throughout our stay as we will be out most of the time. Some will choose Ryokans/Hostels, but we just love Airbnb and we don’t know why.
We stumbled upon Leo and Nicole’s humble abode, and we knew that it’s meant for us. Located in Itabashi District within Ikebukuro, Leo and Nicole’s is actually a good 20 minutes walk from Ikebukuro Station. May seem far, but that’s how you can wander and explore the neighborhood! With that being said, you can actually escape the hustle and bustle of the city life when you return back. Their place is very much located in a Japanese neighborhood in Oyama, where you only see Japanese going about their daily and almost no tourists in sight.
Albeit a tad small (most accommodations are), Leo and Nicole’s were very well equipped and had all the basic necessities we needed. We are not really fussy travelers, so this place was all good for us. 🙂
Sign up here using my code for a RM 87 credit on your first booking on Airbnb.
Cost : RM 600/pax for 6 Nights
3. Mode of Transportation to/fro Narita Airport
From Narita Airport to Downtown (Tokyo Station)
Upon touch down, one can get to downtown (Tokyo Station) from Narita via a few options. We have taken the liberty to list them down here, or if you can view them at Japan Guide.
- Take the N’EX (JR Narita Express) – 53 minutes, direct train, approximately ¥ 3,000
- Other Skyliner (Trains) – 1 to 1.5 hours, might require transfers, ranges from ¥ 1,190 to ¥ 2,630
- By the limousine bus – 1 hour 40 minutes, direct bus (departures every 15-20 mins), ¥ 3,100
- Tokyo Access Bus/The Access Narita Bus – 1 hour 30 minutes, direct bus (departures every 20 mins), ¥ 1,000
being el cheapo having ample time and wanting to save more cash to spend on food, we have decided to take option 4, which actually wasn’t bad after all! Tell me, I don’t think any of you can find fault with the transportation system in Japan 😉
Bought the tickets for ¥ 1,000 each, off we went to Bus Stop 31 to wait for our bus. Departures are every 20 minutes, so while waiting, we were busy taking in the FRESH AIR in Tokyo (no haze!) and were jumping excitedly over the cool weather. It was 18degC when we were there 🙂 Bus arrived on the dot, and off we go to Tokyo Station.
Cost : ¥ 1,000/pax + awesome scenery!
And of course, if you have plenty of time to kill on your last day, take the bus to airport and now, you will only spend ¥ 2,000/pax/to&fro [RM 71.28/pax/to&fro]. Hurrah!
From Nippori Station to Narita Airport
We decided to use the Keisei Skyliner from Nippori Station to Narita Airport Terminal 1 as it’s much cheaper compared to a 1 way ticket via the N’EX.
The Keisei Skyliner takes just 36 minutes from Nippori Station to Narita Airport, and cost ¥ 2,470/pax.
Cost : ¥ 2,470/pax
Total Cost : ¥ 3,470/pax/to&fro [RM 123.67/pax/to&fro]
**If you take the Keisei Skyliner from the airport to Nippori (heading downtown), you would have to change trains to get from Nippori Station to Tokyo Station, with a total traveling time of 47 minutes & ¥ 2,640/pax.
Alternatively, if an additional ¥ 500 (approximately RM 18 with conversion rate of RM 35.64 = ¥ 1,000) doesn’t makes a difference for you, you can get the N’EX (JR Narita Express) package. N’EX runs every 30 minutes, and it will take you 53 minutes to get to downtown. Buy the round trip ticket for ¥ 4,000 [RM 142.56/pax/to&fro].
4. Transportation around Tokyo
Tokyo Metro One Day Open Ticket
We used roughly 80% Tokyo Metro and 20% JR East Line throughout our 6 days there. Tokyo Metro tickets are usually sold in denominations of ¥170, ¥200, ¥240, ¥280 and ¥310. Plan your travels wisely, try to go to destinations that are close to one another to save on train fares. If your total fare for that day exceeds ¥600, please do us a favor and purchase the Tokyo Metro One Day Open Ticket.
It costs ¥600 for adults and half the price for kids, and gives you unlimited rides throughout the Tokyo Metro line. Do keep in mind that the validity of the ticket is as per the date printed on the ticket stub. You may purchase this ticket at the ticket vending machine at the subways.
Cost : ¥ 600/pax [RM 21.38/pax]
We barely had to use this, we usually commute to a main station and then we would walk for KILOMETERS, so we only needed this pass for one day and the rest we relied on Suica because the train fares were less than ¥ 600/pax. 🙂 Lots of research and homework, guys!
You can also opt for the Japanese version of ‘Touch N Go’, affectionately known as Suica. Suica can be used not only on JR East trains, but it can also be used on buses, other subways (Tokyo Metro!), convenience stores (コンビニ) and vending machines. Talk about convenience! 😀
Get one Suica at the nearest convenience store, reload and you are good to go!
Note : We relied 100% on the trains to get around Tokyo, so we can’t advise much on buses. Sorry!
5. Research, & do lots of homework
We drafted up our plan based on this golden rule of thumb. Zoom in to one main attraction you really need to see, and then from there, look up on what’s around the ‘hood. Walk to these touristy places, or just explore the neighborhood. With the amount of Ramen you are bound to slurp and down, it’s good to walk those char siews off 😛
Our planning may not be the most economical, but we sure did save a lot on transportation. We will commute to main station and from there, walk non stop, racking up kilometers. What’s better than saving on transportation, immersing yourself in their culture and, toned legs? 😛
Cost : RM 800/pax (Food + Transport)
6. Shop at Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ)
Literally dubbed the Theatre of Bargains, locals and tourists alike flock to Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ), or in short, Donki, to get their hands on the cheap goods there. Patrons can find basic household needs here at Donki all the way to Cosplay costumes and 2nd hand branded goods (Coach, Miu Miu, Prada, etc). Be on a lookout for the famous Penguin mascot.
Donki is located in almost every main town in Tokyo, we have seen them in Ikebukuro, Akihabara, Shibuya and Shinjuku. Most stores are open 24 hours, so yay! for those who love last minute shopping. Items at Donki are tax free, so that’s an added advantage there. 🙂 Shop through the night at Donki!
Get your hands on Matcha Kit Kat, Green Tea & Hello Kitty Pocky, I ❤ Japan tee shirts all here for a fraction of the price! Imagine Matcha Kit Kat is only RM 8. 😀
Check them out here
Cost : RM 600/pax (of course, this amount depends on what you purchase in total).
7. Get ‘help’ from Tralocal
We came across this particular website by the Japanese for travelers like us, Travelers & Locals Japan. The aim of this website is to connect travelers with locals in Japan. Pass your itinerary to them and they will hook you up with locals whom are willing to guide you around.
Say, you are interested to explore Shibuya like how the locals do. You want to dine with the locals and not some mainstream restaurants. Relay that to Tralocal and they will find you a local who is willing to be your tour guide for the day without any payment. Wait, what? For free? Yes, no monetary payment but in exchange, the locals just want to practice their English with you 🙂 Win win for all! 😀
We did not manage to get any local during our 7D6N trip, which was a bummer. Yet, Nori-san, the founder, was kind to go through our itinerary and advise us.
So why not use this free service provided by them? 🙂 We will be sure to try our luck again when we visit Japan the next time.
Cost : Free!
Those tips above are what we drew from our trip, nevertheless, if you need a more detailed explanation on the itinerary, stay tuned for more 🙂
We will be posting our daily activities/must see/eats over a couple of days and linking them back here, so hang on! 😀
Read on :