Is looking for accommodation for your upcoming trip to Tokyo freaking you out? I know how you feel. With so many accommodation options to choose from, it can become quite tedious filtering for something that suits your specific needs. And don’t worry – there is something for everyone. From swanky five-star hotels right down to the smallest capsule hotel, you will find something. Here’s five great tips to get you started on booking the perfect accommodation in Tokyo.
Determine your budget
First things first. You need to figure out how much you are willing to spend on accommodation in Tokyo. If you are traveling solo, your budget for each night might be smaller than if you have the option to share the price with a partner or friend. I do recommend that you try to work out some form of budget for your trip because Japan is one of those places that can be inexpensive if you plan and research properly, or very expensive if you don’t. You can find budget accommodation from as little as 1500¥.
Decide on the area
So, you’ve got your budget. Now you need to start looking at the areas you would like to stay in. There are so many options and cool neighborhoods in the city to choose from. I’ve stayed in Asakusa, Shibuya and Ueno. Each area has their own vibe so you will have to start researching.
I usually base the choice of area around the vibe/safety, which main tourist sites it’s close to that I would like to see, and the proximity of public transport. I’ve stayed in Ueno in the past because of the ease of access to the Narita Skyliner (goes straight to and from the airport) and the high concentration of museums and a park to see the cherry blossoms. Trains in Tokyo stop running after 00h00 so if you want to go clubbing or have a late night and you’re not prepared to pay a fortune for a taxi, you might choose to stay in the area where you can just walk back (like Roppongi, Ginza or Shibuya).
The eastern areas of Toyko, like Asakusa and Ueno, generally has lower prices than the center, Shibuya and Shinjuku, or the business districts like Maranouchi. There are even some funky hostels popping up in lesser known areas like Kuramae and Shimokitazawa. With the Tokyo metro and JR lines covering the whole of the city, it will be relatively easy to get around even if you choose and outlier district to stay in.
Decide on the type of accommodation
OK, so now you’ve decided on the area and you’re armed with your budget. The next thing to do is decide on the type of accommodation.
Budget hotels are usually located a bit further away from the city center and rates start at about 12,000¥. They offer small western style rooms and breakfast is usually included. They’re sometimes also known as ‘Business Hotels’ and usually located close to a train station. They’re good options if you don’t feel like staying in a hostel.
If budget allows, you can book a place in one of Tokyo’s luxury 5-star hotels like the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons or Park Hyatt hotel made famous by the movie Lost in Translation. There’s also the beautiful design hotel Claska, located in Meguro to try or the uber cool Trunk hotel in Harajuku.
Hostels have become increasingly popular in Tokyo and across Japan and is a great inexpensive accommodation option. The hostels in Tokyo are trendy and I like the way the bunks have either curtains or sliding doors to give some privacy. There are usually options to stay in a mixed dorm, female or male only. A few ‘female-only’ hostels have also opened in recent years. Some hostels offer small single or double rooms, for a higher price but are still cheaper than a hotel. There might even be free city walks and culture activities hosted by the hostel which is a great way to get to know other travelers and locals.
AirBnB options in Toyko are getting more and you can find a few hidden gems among them, if you are willing to stay in residential areas not so close to the city’s main hubs. Prices for AirBnB in Tokyo are on the rise so you might still find a better deal for a single room in a hostel.
Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns and can range from budget to luxurious. Traditionally styled with tatami floors and futons for beds, this can be a great option for a night or two. There’s usually a meal included and guests can wear yukata and chill in communal baths. Ryokans are popular types of accommodations at resorts and hot springs across Japan.
You’ve probably seen images of capsule hotels on google. Instead of getting your own room, you stay in a small capsule, just big enough to sleep in. You can store your personal belongings in lockers for safe keeping and most capsule hotels have female- or male-only floors.
Homestay or couch surfing
Keen to see how real Tokyoites live? Book a homestay with a Japanese family or crash on someone’s couch.
Read the reviews
Reviews are gold. Reading what other people has to say about accommodations can greatly influence your decision. I must admit, I am a bad reviewer. I only feel the need to write a review if I have a truly horrible or excellent experience. (I’m sure there’s more people out there doing this?) It’s also best to read reviews from more than one site (tripadvisor, google, booking.com) to get a better perspective. If you feel you can’t trust any of the reviews, go with your gut. How does the pictures of the property look? How does their Instagram posts come across? Do they even have a proper website? If any of the answers to these questions make my insides squirm, I decide to move on and look for other options.
Check rates on different booking sites
Not all booking sites are made equal and I would recommend checking the prices on a few different ones once you’ve found accommodation you like. Prices on booking sites like booking.com or Hostelworld may be cheaper than on the accommodation website itself as they sometimes run specials. Deals may even include free breakfast. Once you find the best price for your chosen accommodation on your specific dates, just book and you are ready to go.
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