14 Ways to Visit Japan on a Budget
Traveling to Japan can equate to a 2-week vacation to Indochina. It is that expensive, but you will feel that every centavo is worth it with the services they provide you. While going there is costly, it doesn’t need to be that way. Listed below are the things to consider to save a dent on your wallet:
100 USD = 10,129.50 JPY | 10,000 JPY = 4,275.22 PHP
For a 6 days / 5 nights trip covering Tokyo-Osaka, a budget of P30,000 – 35,000 (including entrance to one theme park like USJ) is okay for an economic traveler. That is to say if you avail of the tips below, control overspending on pasalubong, and bring some cup noodles with you just in case; the said budget will be much more than enough.
Please note that our entry point is Tokyo and the exit is Osaka. You can save more if you do this instead of going back and forth. Another option is to stay at one city at a time. We only did two cities primarily because Universal Studios Japan, which is located in Osaka, recently opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
14 Ways to Visit Japan on a Budget
14. Travel during off-peak seasons.
During off-peak seasons, there will be fewer people and fewer costs. The best time would be mid-September to March. April is when the cherry blossoms pop up, which means tourism will be at its peak. Meanwhile, mid-July to August is hard for tourists since hotels and long distance travels via bus and train are hard to book due to major holidays and summer breaks. In case you travel around the busy dates, though, it would be very important to plan and book train or bus tickets weeks or even months ahead to save you from headache. Take it from us: we learned it the hard way.
13. Avail of airfare promos.
Japan roundtrip tickets via Cebu Pacific can go for as low as P6,200 during their Piso fare promos. Usually, you need to allot at least four months prior to flying on the dates included in the promo.
12. Trains are your best friend.
Trains could become your biggest expense in Japan. However, while it is costly, it is also efficient. Rarely is there a delay in Japanese trains and if ever there is, it is only by mere seconds. Digital displays are present in most stations, stating the arrival and departure in both Japanese and English. Ticketing machines with maps are also available. It is basically the best mode to travel within the metro when it comes to time and comfort.
11. Find affordable accommodation.
Capsule hotels or Internet Cafes are good options to save a dent in your wallet. If you are more on the adventurous side, you can even try Couchsurfing. Japan has a small community of couchsurfers who are willing to extend their help to travellers who are looking for a place to stay for free. Aside from their hospitality, you can also experience culture immersion – something you’d rarely get to experience in a five-star hotel.
10. Don’t take a taxi.
In Japan, taxis have a reputation of being the most expensive cabs in the world, especially when traveling from the Narita airport to central Tokyo, reaching as high as 30,000 yen. Flag-down rates for taxis in Tokyo stand at 720 and 620 in Osaka, as well. If you are traveling in a group of three, taxis could be a good option, but even then, this would only be advisable for short-distance travels.
9. Try Ekiben.
Ekiben can usually be found in train stations. They are basically mini convenience stores where you can buy bentos for as low as 600 yen. They are easily accessible and can be found almost everywhere.
8. Try Voluntouring.
There are small groups per city that provide free tours led by friendly locals who volunteer to tour you around so they can practice their English skills. The only cost you would probably have for this would be the entrance fees for you and the guide. A lunch treat would also be nice.
The Observation Deck located on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building comes with a free entrance. You can see views from 202 meters above the ground. Included in the sights are Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and if the weather is good, Mt. Fuji will also be spotted.
7. Enjoy free sightseeing.
Full of beautiful architectures ancient shinto shrines, public markets, and urban nightlife, Japan will leave you with a lot of memories without you having to shell out a single yen.
6. Sleep while traveling.
Think of it as spending a night in a hotel. For long-distance travels, such as from Tokyo to Osaka, overnight buses are the cheapest. Fares start at 3,500 yen compared to the 14,990 yen fare of the shinkansen (bullet train). Make sure you book the bus ticket weeks in advance, though, because again: competition is hard.
5. Try free food sampling at the Department Store basements.
An entire floor dedicated for food? Yes, there’s many of them in Japan! Some stalls offer free samples, so you can scourge the entire row of food and get your fill. If that still isn’t enough, you can go to another store until you fill up your stomach completely. Also watch out for the closing hours of the supermarket because food will be cheaper by then.
Japan is famous for having various weird Kitkat flavors such as cheesecake, green tea, wasabi, and red beans. They actually have a specialized store dedicated to Kitkat located in the Ikebukuro district in Tokyo.
4. Buy cheap souvenir gifts.
There are many Daiso, Don Quijote, and 100 yen stores all over Tokyo where you can buy cheap food, clothes, quirky items, and more. These are great sources for pasalubong.
Found this Shishio display in a mall in Tokyo, Japan. Have you watched Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno yet?
3. Try Konbinis.
Family Mart, Lawson, 7-11, and other convenience stores have a lot of cheap set meal options. Aside from the food, customer service is also excellent.
2. Avoid fresh fruit.
The Japanese have a fascination with fresh fruit. Most farmers take extra care when it comes to their fruits and vegetables to cater to a market specifically driven to buy fruits as gifts. As such, they are really expensive in Japan!
Walking is probably the cheapest and most health beneficial part of the trip. If you’re lucky, you will see some cosplayers and sometimes even actual Geishas, too!
No wonder the Japanese are thin and healthy. While the trains and bus are efficient, there is no street level transportation (like tricycles) in Japan, so you actually have to walk your way to your destination. In some places, there are bicycles available for rental, which you can use as a last resort if you don’t want to tire out your feet!
For more about my Japan trip, you can visit my personal site HERE.