Although you cannot compare the price in Japan to the amount of money you pay in South East Asia, there are affordable services in Japan besides expensive ones.
In this article, I list the 10 BEST tips to visit Japan on a budget to help you enjoy the best of your trip to Japan without being broke.
1. Using public transportation wisely
a) Local train
If you want to save money (and have lots of time), you can choose local trains, which stop at every stop.
It’s also an exciting way to explore Japan’s beauty and give you plenty of time to take pictures.
If you visit Tokyo, you can check the metro in Tokyo here.
Going from one city to another by bus in Japan can be cheaper than trains. So if you’d like to save some bucks, you should take a night bus instead.
However, if you’re in the big city, it’s better to use the metro system or train system because it’s faster and cheaper than buses in some circumstances.
c) Japan Rail Pass
Have you heard of Japan Rail Pass?
It’s convenient, and you can use trains as much as you want. Please note that you’ll need to keep your Pass all the time and show it when you pass the gate, and on the train, then you’re fine.
You can even use shinkansen in Northern Kyushu if you buy a Northern Kyushu pass. There are many beautiful places to visit in Kyushu, such as Yufuin – a beautiful lookalike fairytale town, or Beppu – a lovely hot spring town.
2. Traveling in Japan at the off-peak time
The first rule is to avoid visiting Japan at peak times.
So, when is the best time to visit Japan?
There are some main vacation periods in Japan, such as New Year, Golden Week (late April to early May), and Obon (mid-August).
Do you know how rarely Japanese people have a break?
The Japanese use this time to travel or go shopping. In these periods, the Japanese don’t need to work or study, which they always do, so all the “must-visit” places or famous vacation areas are full of tourists.
As a result, the service price is insane. The cost of hotels, ryokan, or any accommodation increase steadily.
The price of a flight is high too.
If you’re a budget traveler, I guess you wouldn’t want to pay extra money for these periods, right?
Also, there are many people on the street or in any attractions. And you will need to wait for hours if you want to enter any sites, or even buy anything. You will be so tired of just waiting and wasting your time on it.
Therefore, it’s not a good idea to travel at peak times in Japan. To save your money and time, you should choose another time to go to Japan.
3. Staying in Japan on a budget
a) Internet cafe in Japan
If you find yourself unable to book a place overnight, you should consider staying at the internet cafe.
What is an Internet Cafe in Japan?
Internet Cafe, or Manga Kissa, is a place where you can read books and sleepovers.
In Manga Kissa, you can find private cubicles with one armchair, a couch, or a flat to sleep in. I always choose a small flat because it’s more convenient.
There are showers (depending on which place, you may need to pay the shower fee or not), blanket rental, and vending machines for food.
Manga Kissa usually provides a free drink bar and sometimes ice cream.
Price: A night pack (6 to 12 hours) starts at ¥1500 ($15) and 2500 ($25), depending on the type of private cubicles.
b) Hostels in Japan
Staying at a hostel in Japan isn’t bad as you might think!
Even the cheap one (2000¥ ~ $19) is clean and has enough facilities for you to enjoy the stay.
Also, you can find and book quirky hostels such as Book and Bed Tokyo Asakusa, with an affordable price of around 35$/ night.
4. Visiting free places
There are many free and beautiful places to visit in Japan!
You should have a proper plan before visiting any places and checking out free locations before you intend to spend money.
Many shrines and temples in Japan are free to visit, so you can spend your time wandering around these temples first. However, shrines and temples in Kyoto mostly require an entrance fee.
Also, there are many cute towns that you don’t need to pay the entrance fee, such as Yufuin – a charming village on Kyushu island.
5. Having a FREE local guide
Have you heard of Couchsurfing – a platform connecting locals and travelers around the world?
Using Couchsurfing, you can connect with local Japanese, and some may offer to show you around the city. It’s a great way to meet the locals and experience the culture and living styles.
You can also stay for free at their place if you ask for it.
Read more: All you need to know about Couchsurfing.
6. Eating at budget restaurants
It’s foodie time!
If you are a big fan of sushi, why not go to the ¥100 sushi restaurant? You can choose any sushi at a low price!
If you want to try the Japanese rice set, you should head to Matsuya or Sukiya. I prefer dishes at Sukiya more than Matsuya, but they offer quick meals at a reasonable price.
In Matsuya, you don’t even need to talk to a waiter. You need to purchase the ticket at the ticket machine, then give it to the waiter, and your food will be at your table in 1 minute.
In Sukiya, you’ll get a menu with more different dishes, and you’ll need to order them.
Anyway, my point is that you can surely find budget restaurants in Japan, so you can save some money to discover more beautiful places.
Read more: 10+ best Japanese food you should try!
7. Receiving your Tax-free
Many stores (especially department stores) offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists spending over ¥500o.
Some stores may give you a coupon or discount instead of the next time buying, so you should remember to ask them before purchasing any product.
8. Not using Mobile Data
Why do you need to pay for mobile data while using wifi for free?
In many big cities such as Tokyo, you can find free wifi easily.
You can find free wifi in restaurants, shops, hotels, and transportation points such as train stations. You can also use free wifi in shopping malls as well.
So, it is not necessary to pay money for the internet if you visit Japan in a short period. If you get lost, you can ask people on the street for help :)
In the summer of 2016, I had my solo trip to Tokyo without internet, didn’t book any hotel or hostel, just stayed at the Internet cafe. It was one of the best memories of my life.
9. Renting portable wifi
If finding free wifi is not your cup of tea, you can rent portable wifi or buy SIM Card if you’re in Japan for a short time.
For portable wifi, you’ll need to pay per day, so it may be better to purchase a sim card if you need to use data for more than a week.
10. Not using a taxi
Taxi in Japan is crazily expensive.
The price for opening the door is around ¥650 to ¥800 ($6.5 to $8), depending on your location. As the opening fee will add up to the actual cost, you may be broke before reaching the destination.