10 Best Tips to Travel to Japan on a budget

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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.

travel in japan by train

>If you visit Tokyo, you can check the metro in Tokyo here


b) Bus

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).

japan on a budget

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.


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

where to stay in Tokyo
This is a Book and Bed hostel in Tokyo, Japan. You can find it in other cities as well.


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.

Yufuin japan
Discover Yufuin Floral Village here

  • Read related article: Discover Yufuin – a cute fairytale town in Japan
  • Books tours in Japan


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.


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!

eat sushi in Japan

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!


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.

japan on a budget

Pin it for later!

How to save money and travel to Japan on the cheap? Read here to find out 10 BEST tips for traveling to Japan on a budget! You will want to save this Pin to your Japan board so you can use it when you’re in the area. #moneytips #japan #budgettravel

Update on April 1st, 2018

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links.

  1. This is such a useful list. I managed to keep Japan relatively cheap, except for the transport! Long-distance trains are a killer!

  2. Thank you so much for these useful tips! We’re planning a trip to Japan for next year (hopefully – it’s been on my bucketful forever!!) and these will all come very handy ♥

  3. I am leaving for Japan cherry blossom tour tomorrow, and your post comes in front of me at the correct time. Wonderful article.. shall save it for my guide

  4. These are very useful tips, I wish I read them before my trip, but that was quite some years ago :) I want to stay in that book&bed hostel!!

  5. I have seen pics/vids of the Book and Bed Hostel before and would love to stay there! It’s such a cool concept, and I’m not even a book nerd. I had no idea internet cafes have living spaces too, so I’m glad you mentioned that as an option as well! I think I would blow all my money in Japan on food, so it’s nice to have some ideas for how to save money in other areas!

  6. This is timely as we’re going to Japan this August. I would have to agree that it is best to travel at the off-peak time. Just to skip the crowd and the lines. Also, renting portable wifi is a great idea. We usually get ours from Klook. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. Very helpful. I have also bookmarked your post already.

  7. Wow, those internet cafe are amazingly cheap for a quick night to stay. It really is possible to stay most any place on a budget if you know when to visit and where to go. But considering I’ve always heard Japan is so expensive, it’s nice to see it really can be done affordably. Excellent tips.

  8. Japan on a budget? That definitely sounds like an oxymoron, but good to know that its not!
    My friend recently visited and he too took the Japan Rail Pass and was really recommending it.
    I’ve heard of the Book & Bed Hostel. Indeed an awesome place to stay.

  9. The book and bed hostel is so cute!!!!! I feel like Japan always comes up with the coolest accommodations and cafes and all that. Also, your photos are just stunning!

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this article! I am planning to visit Japan on June and I am very glad that i found this post before my journey :)

    Thanks a lot!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. Everyone says that Japan is extremely expensive but I’m sure that with the proper planning and budgeting you can make it.

  12. The Japan Rail pass helped us save so much money! We went in the super fast bullet trains from one city to another and it was totally worth it to invest in the pass for 1 week. I agree with you, although Japan is expensive, there are always ways to travel on a budget! I know about the capsule hotels but this is the first time I am hearing of the concept of internet cafes!

    1. Great to hear that you save money with Japan Rail Pass. Capsule hotels are great way to experience Japan :)

  13. Thanks for this guide! I had totally ruled out Japan from my bucket list since I heard it is crazzyyy expensive to travel there. But wow, putting it back in!

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