Is Japan expensive to visit?
Many people think that it’s impossible to travel to Japan on a budget, but in fact, the cost of traveling in Japan is quite similar to the one in Europe, or even cheaper!
Of course, you cannot compare the price in Japan to the amount of money that you pay in South East Asia, but there are affordable services in Japan besides expensive ones.
In this article, I list 10 BEST tips to travel to 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 interesting way to explore the beauty of Japan and giving you plenty of time to taking pictures.
>If you visit Tokyo, you can check the metro in Tokyo here
Going from one city to another by buses in Japan can be cheaper than trains. So if you’d like to save some bucks, you should take a night bus instead.
You can check how to get from Tokyo to Osaka by bus here.
However, if you’re in the big city, it’s better to use the metro system or train system there because it’s faster and cheaper than buses in some circumstances.
c) Japan Rail Pass
Have you heard of Japan Rail Pass? If you travel to any area more than 3 days, I suggest you check out and buy railway pass. It’s really convenient and you can use trains as much as you want. You’ll just need to take a good care of your pass, showing it every time 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. In Kyushu, there are many beautiful places to visit 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 traveling to Japan at the peak time.
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? So, they use these time to travel or going shopping. In these periods, the Japanese don’t need to go 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 price of hotels, ryokan, or any type of 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 popular places, and you will need to wait for hours if you want to enter any places, or even to 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 a peak time in Japan. In order to save your money, and save your time, you should choose another time to travel to Japan.
- Read related article: Best websites to find cheap flights!
- Buy Travel Guide to Japan: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide)
- Books tours in 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 Internet Cafe in Japan?
Internet Cafe, or Manga Kissa, is a place where you can read books and sleep over. In Manga Kissa, you can find private cubicles, which have 1 armchair, or a couch, or a flat to sleep. I always choose a small flat because it’s more convenient.
There are showers (depending on which place, you may need to pay shower fee or not), blanket rental and vending machines for food. Manga Kissa usually provides free drink bar, and sometimes with ice-cream too.
Price: A ‘night pack’ (for 6 to 12 hours) starts at around ¥1500 ($15) and 2500 ($25), depending which type of private cubicles that you choose.
b) Hostels in Japan
Staying at a hostel in Japan isn’t bad as you might think!
Even the cheap one (2000¥ ~ $19) is clean and have enough facilities for you to enjoy the stay. I stayed at Hotel 3000 Asakusa Hoten in Asakusa, Tokyo. Even though it’s only 2000¥. it has a great service and a good buffet. You can check it out here!
Also, you can find and book quirky hostels such as Book and Bed, with affordable price ~ 35$/ night
- Read related article: Book and Bed Tokyo Asakusa to find out more about this bookworm paradise!
- Book places to stay in Tokyo
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 cute town in Kyushu island.
5. Having a FREE local guide
Have you heard of Couchsurfing – a platform connecting locals and travelers around the world?
By 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 up with locals and experience the culture and living styles.
You can also stay for free at their place if you ask for it.
- Read related article: All you need to know about Couchsurfing!
- If you are interested in tours, you can book tours in Japan here
6. Eating at budget restaurants
It’s foodie time!
If you are a big fan of sushi, why not going to the ¥100 sushi restaurant? You can choose any type of sushi at a really cheap price!
If you want to try Japanese rice set, you should head to Matsuya or Sukiya. I prefer dishes at Sukiya more than Matsuya, but both of them offer quick meals with good price.
In Matsuya, you don’t even need to talk to a waiter. You just need to purchase the ticket at the ticket machine, then give to the waiter, and your food will be at your table in 1 minute. In Sukiya, you’ll get a menu with more diverse 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 related article: 10 BEST Japanese food you should try!
7. Receiving your Tax-free
There are a lot of stores (especially department stores) offer tax-free shopping to foreign tourists spending over ¥500o.
Some stores may give you coupon or discount instead for 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 you can use wifi for free?
In many big cities such as Tokyo, you can find free wi-fi easily. Free wi-fi can be found in restaurants, shops, hotels, and transportation points such as train stations. You can also use free wi-fi in shopping malls as well.
So, it is not necessary to pay money for the internet if you visit Japan in a short period of time. 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, or you’re addicted to it, you can rent a portable wifi from your accommodation if you’re in Japan for a short time.
You usually pay per day so it’s smarter to purchase a sim card if you need to use data 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) depends on your location. As the opening fee will add up to the real fee, you may be broke before you reach the destination.
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Update on April 1st, 2018
Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links.