We all know how expensive Japan can be, but there is a way to get around it. A trip to the country doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket with a bit of planning and know-how. In this post, I will share with you the simple and useful tips I picked up during my trip. This is how you can tour Japan on a budget! 🙂
✮ Avoid taking a cab in Japan especially in cities like Tokyo.
They may be convenient, but they are very expensive. A 15-minute cab ride from Ueno to Shibuya costs about 5,000 Yen. That’s about 48 USD! Here’s what you should do instead: Buy a Suica or Pasmo card and ride the train. The train ride from Ueno station to Shibuya station is only 200 yen. See the difference? Buying reloadable prepaid cards will save you the stress and hassle from buying regular tickets each time you hop on one.
✮ Another thing to consider about domestic travels in Japan is a JR Pass.
Wait, what is Japan Rail Pass? It’s a special ticket that offers unlimited travel on trains operated by Japan Railways Group throughout Japan for a certain period of time. However, it’s only recommended if you are planning to tour major cities in Japan. It’s not practical to get one if your planned activities and itinerary is only focused around Tokyo or in a particular city.
By the way, the pass is designed for tourists so it can only be purchased outside Japan. Please make sure to buy it from authorized JR Pass distributors in your country as the cheapest ticket costs around 28~30,000 yen (approx. 289 USD).
✮ Save money by going on free guided tours in Japan.
Tokyo Free Guide is one of the organizations in Japan that offers foreigners a free guided tour in and around Tokyo. A volunteer tour guide will take you around places you want to see and know more about. You can even create an itinerary and plan everything through email communication. Here are some photos I took from their Facebook page.
While the services they provide is free, you are expected to cover your tour guide’s transportation fees. For more information, you can check out the testimonials from tourists/foreigners they accommodated recently. If you’re planning to visit other to prefectures like Osaka and Kyoto, there are free guides in those areas as well. So if you wish to have a tour with a volunteer guide, book your request via Tokyo Free Guide’s official website.
Another site you can check is Japan’s National Tourism Organization. It lists all the volunteer guides and groups willing to show you around the country. Most of the tours require you to book at least 2 weeks in advance, but there are also tours that do not require any reservations. All you have to do is show up at the meeting place.
✮ Sleep at a Capsule hotel or book your accommodations through Airbnb.
Capsule hotels offer small, compact units that provides guests enough room to sleep in and other basic amenities for less than the price of a one-night stay at a traditional hotel in Japan. It’s affordable, safe and convenient. While Airbnb offers unique and alternative sleeping accommodations for a price within your budget range.
I do not recommend this, but if you are really on a tight budget, you may want to try sleeping inside a cubicle of a 24-hour Internet cafe. Mind you, internet cafes in Japan are different from what we’re used to. Just do a quick search on google and you’ll see. Each customer can go into their designated closed individual rooms and enjoy free access to the Internet and manga with privacy. It has become a growing trend in Japan nowadays. Originally, these cafes provided Internet services only, but some establishments have expanded their services that includes food, drink and shower rooms. This enables backpackers to use the internet cafes like a hotel or hostel.
✮Buy food from convenience stores (konbini) or food courts (depachika).
Do not miss out on Konbini foods when you’re in Japan. They are amazing and inexpensive! You can find all kinds of bentos, salads, onigiris and other prepared meals there all within your price range. Another good thing about konbini is that they refresh the food section everyday. As for Depachika, well… simply put it is a food paradise. Usually located on the basement floor of department stores and it’s where you can discover various traditional food and snacks all in one place!
When looking for less expensive restaurants in Japan, choose ones that have plastic or silicon models of the dishes by the window. You can also follow the locals. They usually go to the cheapest and yet the most amazing izakayas around the area.
And that’s it. I hope these simple tips will save you a few thousand yen! 😉