The thing I hear most when I tell people about travelling to Japan is “I’d love to go but it’s so expensive!” And you know what? They can be right. Japan can be expensive. But so can Budapest, Paris, Munich, Rome and even Thailand if you make it expensive.
It doesn’t matter where I go prices always seem to kind of “match” prices of things from my home country of Canada (the exception being London.. My poor Canadian dollar compare to the British Pound is heart breaking).
But when you think of it Japan isn’t that expensive. Not if you plan it out right and stick to budget. A.K.A. not spending $50 a night on a room or getting a Starbucks twice a day or eating at a nice restaurant everyday or buying trinkets at every city. Restraint it key!
To travel Japan on the cheap isn’t some unicorn fantasy, it’s completely doable if you are smart with your money! Here are somethings I’ve learned from travelling to Japan during both their “peak” seasons:
Here’s Some Tips To Travel Japan On The Cheap
Travel in the off season or plan wayyy ahead – If you travel to Japan during cherry blossom season in April or for the fall foliage in November then beware of higher room rates and larger crowds. Places also book up so quick that you are often left stuck booking the pricier places simply because there is no where else to stay unless your willing to spend the $400 a night on a nice hotel which lets face it.. Not all of us want to throw down that kind of money.
Get a Jrail Pass – I know it’s a lot of money upfront but in the end it’s worth it if you are going to be travelling to a lot of places. Check out which region you will be travelling in and get the Jrail Pass that fits you. The Jrail is also good for some local public transit which I thought was pretty cool.
Eat at grocery stores or 100 yen shops/ bakeries – Not all the time of course because the food prices in Japan are totally reasonable and affordable but if you’re eating out 3X a day then your $7 breakfast, $9 lunch and $13 dinner has suddenly added up to $29 which even if you are only there for two weeks adds up to $406! Aim for $10 a day on food but remember to treat yourself! You are travelling to an amazing country with food to match.
My favourite things to eat were yogurt and a banana, a bun from 100 yen bakery where some buns were 30 yen, kabocha squash, tempura and roasted vegetables from the supermarket which are hard to find I found, and then knowing me I’d eat out somewhere. We discovered MOS Burgres on our last day in Tokyo and they have amazing burgers and even a vegetarian option for super cheap!
Stay at hostels or B&B’s – I know now that staying in a hotel probably wasn’t the smartest idea because I completely forgot you don’t really get a kitchen when staying in hotels. You usually go out to eat unless you have breakfast included which make sure you do if you decide to book a hotel! Hostels are reasonably priced in Japan but beware of peak seasons because prices are unfair for the small shoebox of a room you get. Check out Booking.com for some awesome room deals, usually with free cancelation.
Limit shopping – Probably a “duh” thing to say when you’re trying to travel Japan on the cheap but it’s sooo easy to go on a spending spree especially if you are in Harajuku! Don’t buy knick-nacks like key chains or things you find in gift shops near attractions. It’s all great in theory but I can’t tell you how many kawaii things I bought that I am now like, “What do I do with this?” because I don’t want to through it out but I’m also never going to have five anime key chains hanging from my iPhone like I did when I was 16.. They are also expensive! Some key chains are $12 (It adds up!). Stick to things you realllyyyyy want and hold out for things you are actually going to use like clothes or vintage jewelry.
Japan isn’t as expensive as everyone says it is. Like all counties it’s a pricy as your going to make it be. You just have to be smart with your money and limit your day to day spending. Map out what you want to see and either walk or use the subway stations which are more than easy to navigate. If you are unsure of something ask! The Japanese people I’ve met always go above and beyond to try and help me when I get lost or am looking for something.
Price things out when it comes to places to stay. If you stay at the hostel thats $20/per night instead of $30/per night for two weeks you go from $280 to $420.
Don’t forget to treat yourself though! Hostels are great for budget travelling but you also want to get a good nights sleep and have somewhere comfy to rest up in so if you want to splurge on a Ryokan or a nice hotel then go for it! It’s about the experience.
I hope you enjoyed this post on how to travel Japan on the cheap! What are some of your money saving tips? How do you find Japan’s prices? Sharing is caring!