The accommodation options in Tokyo can feel overwhelming. There are a wide range of hotels to choose from and most aren’t particularly affordable if you’re on a shoestring budget. Tokyo is even known for its high end hotels and top quality service.
Your costs can balloon quickly if you plan to stay more than a couple days or if you’re traveling with more than one person. So what are some cheaper options?
Breakdown: Different Types of Accommodation in Tokyo
Most major cities in the West usually just offer three options: hotels, hostels, and AirBnBs. Sometimes you can find traditional bed and breakfasts, but those three are the most common.
Hotels in Japan often only have one double bed or one single bed. It’s rare for them to accommodate more than two people, which can be frustrating for group travelers. However, I’ve found that Japan is special in that it offers a lot more options to suit different niches.
We’ll take a look at each one for its benefits and drawbacks.
Hostels in Tokyo
Cost per night: 2000 – 3500 yen / person
Best for: Solo Travelers or Small Groups
Most visitors to Tokyo are already familiar with low-budget hostels. I’ve found that the ones in Japan tend to be much, much cleaner than their reputation in the West. The very cheap places can be sketchy, but the old adage “you get what you pay for” applies everywhere.
Hotels in Japan often charge per-person rates that can get pricey for groups. Most hostels will let small groups of two to four people rent an entire room to themselves, especially at bigger chains. This can be substantially cheaper than a hotel.
Another important plus is that most hostels in Tokyo offer kitchens. You can save a lot of money by making your own meals while on travel. This might be particularly appealing for those with dietary restrictions, such as vegans and Muslims who observe halal restrictions.
Pro Tip: Clean sheets are usually provided at check-in. I highly recommend you use them. I know that while dust and debris are removed from the duvet covers, they’re usually only washed if they smell, have stains, or during a change of season.
AirBnBs in Tokyo
Cost per night: 5000 – 15,000+ yen / person
Best for: Small Groups and Couples
AirBnB has spread rapidly over the world and Tokyo is no exception. Like in most major cities, they’re a bit controversial due to complaints about security, noise, and zoning laws. But unlike in other parts of the world, Tokyo is underserved by hotels and so AirBnB fills the gap.
These apartments are great for groups, since they’re usually private and fully furnished. Japan still uses traditional bedding, called futons, that can accommodate mid-sized groups at very little additional cost.
Like hostels, AirBnB also have kitchens! This is ideal for people with dietary restrictions and for saving a bit of cash. Some also have washing machines and TVs.
Pro Tip: If you plan to stay in one, please be aware that noise levels tolerable in your home country may be considered too loud in Japan. Your host may be bending the rules of their building to provide you with a place to stay. The least you can do is try not to bother their neighbors.
Capsule Hotels in Tokyo
Cost per Night: 2500 – 5000 yen / person
Best for: Solo Travelers
If you’re looking for something that’s fairly unique to Japan, you should look into staying at a capsule hotel. They can be a bit claustrophobic, but are definitely a great experience. Historically, they were just available for men but that’s changed in recent years.
At check-in, you’ll be assigned a locker for your things, a capsule, and a shoe locker. All spaces, including the showers and lounge, will usually be gender segregated. This makes this option less than ideal for heterosexual couples. Food should be eaten in the common spaces and not in the capsule.
Check-out will always be the following morning, even if you’ve booked a capsule for more than one night. They do a very thorough cleaning and will generally want all of your belongings out during the day.
Pro Tip: The capsule itself can’t usually be locked, so I recommend storing important valuables in your locker. Theft in Japan is pretty uncommon, but that doesn’t mean it never happens! Make sure to draw the curtain closed when you’re ready for bed.
Internet Cafés / Manga Cafés in Tokyo
Cost per Night: 1500 – 3000 yen / night
Best for: Solo Travelers
Public Wi-Fi in Japan has become much more commonplace in the past five years or so. Before that, you’d usually have to log in through your internet provider. This lack of connectivity created an opportunity that internet cafés (and manga cafés, to a lesser extent) took advantage of.
Over time, these cafés evolved with demand and eventually offered cheap overnight services for those in need of a place to stay. If you plan to stay in one, don’t be surprised if you see people getting ready for work in the morning. Net Café Refugees, as they’re called, are fairly commonplace due to the low minimum wage and high cost of living.
While I listed the nightly rate above, it’s important to note that these aren’t official accommodation options. As such, you’ll usually be renting per hour. Most offer coin-operated showers and drink services, but they don’t usually have a bed. Sofas and desk chairs are more common.
Some chains, like Manboo!, do offer extra services. These can include laundry, printing services, electronic charging, and cheap meals.
Pro Tip: Staying on a weekday can net you a discount of a few hundred yen a night. This can add up for people on a really tight budget!
Love Hotels in Tokyo
Cost per Night: 4000 – 15,000+ yen / night
Best for: Solo Travelers and Couples
Love Hotels filled another niche in Japan; the thin apartment walls made it difficult for couples to have intimate moments discreetly. In addition to helping married couples, these hotels offered an easier way to keep premarital relations and affairs a secret. Receptionists are usually even hidden from view during transactions.
Many Love Hotels offer a variety of “themes” at an affordable price and are designed with romance in mind. A queen or king sized bed is usually typical, as well as a large bathtub. Decorations vary from beds covered in rose petals to kink-themed to just plain odd.
Love Hotels offer hourly “rest” rates as well as overnight rates. Their higher prices don’t necessarily give them an advantage over AirBnBs, but you’ll get a bit more service from the staff and they’re definitely an interesting experience.
I’ve also found they tend to be located reasonably close to major train stations and highways, meaning they’re easy to access on the go. If you’re traveling as a couple in hostels for most of your trip, a few hours (or even overnight) in a Love Hotel might give you the time you need to make your trip extra special.
Pro Tip: Staying on a weekday can offer substantial discounts, usually in the range of 5000 yen or more in total.
Long Term Options?
There are plenty of people that stay in Tokyo for a month or two. In this case, I usually recommend a few different long-term stay options.
The most obvious one is share houses. These usually offer a private room at a monthly rate with utilities included. Common spaces, like the bathroom and kitchen, are shared. The rent will vary depending on proximity to the city center, age of the building, amenities, and so on, but I’d say it usually ranges between 40,000 and 80,000 yen per month.
If you have a working holiday visa or another visa that permits you to work, you can volunteer at a hostel as a cleaner. This usually involves cleaning 3-5 hours a day, 3-5 days a week in exchange for free rent. I’d say this is the cheapest option for visitors, but it’s the hardest to get.
Chains in Tokyo that I know offer work-rent barter options include K’s House, Yadoya, and 634 Musashi. I know Khaosan used to offer it, but they got in trouble with the law in 2016 and no longer advertise it on their website. It wouldn’t hurt to message them!
Apartment rentals are another option, but I find they aren’t always as cheap as you’d expect. Many cater to business professionals in town for a month or two. However, the costs can be divided easily if you’re in a small group.
Which Option is Right for You?
Are you staying in Tokyo for a few days and want to tell us about your stay? Have you found a great long-term rental you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!
Amanda obtained a Japanese Studies degree in 2014. She has worked in the English teaching, tourism, and real estate industries in the Greater Tokyo Area, which has given her a wide range of expertise. She resided in the Kanto Region for most of her three and a half years in Japan, but Amanda also spent eight months living in the more rural Yamanashi Prefecture.