Tokyo On A Budget: Japan

By Jody

Even before going to Tokyo, I knew accommodation was not going to come by cheap, but it wasn’t something that I could do without. I wasn’t about to sleep in a park on a hammock, nor was I prepared to shove in earplugs at a 24 hr KTV in search of 6 hours of sleep.

I decided to split our time as such.

3 nights / hotel, 2 nights / Travel Pal. Having a good friend with me (Mike had agreed to come with me on the trip) and both our first time meeting someone on Travel Pal was assuring, it also made the whole experience less intimidating. It would belay any awkward situations and well, I could always use some moral support. Mike is originally from Manchester (UK) and I’m originally from Sydney, Australia, and it was great that we had this time to visit a country together for the first time.

Finding a Host in Travel Pal

I had been on Travel Pal for a couple of months already (having used Hello Pal for the best part of a year) so I wanted to try it out. I created a travel plan, sent out my requests, and just waited.

Two days went by without much success, with as many rejections as there were non-replies due to ermm, the last minute nature of my requests. I guess people tend to want longer notice periods (no surprise there, I only had a week to figure everything out before I fly!)

One day before our flight was slated to depart, one of my requests was accepted!


Questions To Ask

Being clueless first time travelers in the app, and not having any friends who’d done it prior but we did have some friends who had some success with couchsurfing), we just had to figure these out by ourselves:

  • Do we need to bring anything?
  • If so, what do we bring? A present? Food? Something symbolic of Hong Kong?
  • Do we need to hang out with our hosts all the time? Or just a meal or 2?
  • What about money when we ate out? We go dutch, right?

Anyway, we just had to wing it and hope our hosts weren’t weirdos! (For the record, they were pretty amazing people!)

Mike and I bought some egg rolls from the airport as a gift for Takeshi (our gracious host who was so kind to accept our request to stay last-minute!)

Our Hosts

Gift buying aside, our next thought was about how awkward meeting our host might be for the first time. My worst fear was that it would be like a blind date, but worse: you could always bail from a date if it gets weird with an ’emergency call’ but bail on this and you might not have a bed to crash on at night.

Thank god there was none of that. Our hosts – Tak and Miyu were the nicest people imaginable! They were locals to Shibuya, and although their apartment was quite small (we knew before going to Japan how small living spaces can be, after all, I had watched a million episodes of Japanology Plus!), Tak and Miyu extended their hospitality towards us, and we couldn’t be more grateful! Their place was nice and clean, they had a cat (a white Scottish fold!), and a sofabed which we crashed on.

They even had a night out on the town planned!

Hitting the Town

It was Saturday night, and while we didn’t plan for any crazy all-nighters while in Tokyo, I was pretty excited to be able to experience the nightlife, with locals no less.

We hit the Roppongi hills area for an izakaya dinner, followed by some club hopping along the strip. It was one of those that only the locals would know about, hidden in between some alleyways even Google maps failed to locate successfully.

To add to that spontaneous night out, we capped it off with post-drinks ramen and a cab ride back.

Tip to save money in Tokyo – don’t EVER take the expensive cabs! Try your best to map out the train stations before your trip, as this will save you loads of $$$

A ride from Roppongi to Gotanda was all of 2000 yen, and shared among 4 people, it was like hkd50, which was pretty reasonable, although if I didn’t have friends to split the fare with, I may have ended up walking home!

Exploring Yoyogi, Shinjuku and Harajuku

The next day, also our last full day in Tokyo, we had an entire day of chilling out and taking it easy planned. Which involved all of – finding Yoyogi park and temple exploring. Mike and I decided to invite Tak and Miyu, and they were happy to show us around. We made a day of relaxing at the park, followed by getting dinner at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

Overall, our first Travel Pal traveler experience was a success! And it was such a great way to see a new city, through the eyes of locals. Absolutely no regrets trying it out, and we gained a couple of amazing friends in the process. Tak and I are still in contact through Travel Pal and Hello Pal, and I’ve extended an invitation to them if and when they decide to come and visit Hong Kong.

Would I Ever Use Travel Pal Again?

Ultimately I’d still feel better paying for my accommodation, but that’s just me. But given another opportunity with the right circumstance, most definitely!