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I think to many people the words budget and Japan seem to be something of a contradiction. There’s this assumption that the cost of visiting Japan for a two-week holiday, would be enough to bankrupt a dictator, but it doesn’t have to. In the last year’s Japan has experienced a boom in tourism.
From 8 million overseas tourists in 2007, to 24 million last year. And with it it’s led to a whole new wave of hostels and hotels, rail passes, buses and low-cost domestic airlines, that have made it cheaper to experience and travel the country than ever before. In fact, this year in the UK Tokyo was ranked as the cheapest long-haul destination thanks to a fall in the value of the yen.
In this article we’ll be looking at ways that you can save money, on transportation, accommodation and dining out and giving you a general idea of how much you could be spending on any given day. The boom in tourism have seen an explosion of new hostels and hotels, opening across Japan especially in Tokyo.
But whether you’re staying at a hotel motel or holiday in, the cheapest place to stay in Tokyo is the area of Asakusa and Ueno, where the majority of the hostels are. So, the absolute cheapest option, accommodation wise is staying in a hostel in a dormitory where you can find a bed for as little sometimes as 2,000 yen.
If I’m traveling in a group, that’s usually the option we go for. The second best option is staying in a capsule hotel which is a bit more expensive, between 3,000 to 5,000 yen per night. If I had to choose between a hostel and a capsule hotel, I would usually go for a capsule hotel, just because the beds are bigger, there’s some degree of privacy with the shutter and you get your own TV! What more could you want? After capsule hotels the next cheapest option is to stay at business hotel.
Where you can find a single room for about 5000 yen per night if you’re lucky, but typically between 5,000 to 7,000 yen. I could recommend some budget hotel chains, like “TOYOKO-INN” or “APA” hotels. But actually I found over the last year the best way is to just go online and compare prices for about half an hour.
And the 3 best websites are probably “Booking.com” “Japan i Can.com” and “Rakuten Travel” and “HOSTELWORLD” if you’re booking a hostel. you can find bargains on “Airbnb” as well, especially if you’re traveling in a group of like three or four people, but if you’re traveling solo I tend to find “Airbnb” works out to be more expensive.
and I use it more for the experience of staying somewhere interesting rather than to travel on a budget. Finally the wild card option is to stay in a love hotel, where you can find a room for about 8,000 yen per night on average. Although with a love hotel you’re paying for the room rather than people in it so if, you’re going with two people then it still works out cheaper than a standard hotel room.
And it’s typically a lot bigger than a standard hotel room. With things like cages, teddy bear caves and jacuzzis at your disposal. Try and book all of your accommodation at least three months in advance to save quite a bit of money. And also for hostels it’s kind of essential, given that they are still a bit of a rarity.
So try and book the ball 3 months in advance not only get a room but to get one the cheap as well. And the last option and one that I use a heck of a lot are “overnight buses” which leads us on to transportation Japan’s transportation infrastructure is legendary. Riding on trains is an effortless joy they’re never late, they’re always clean And passengers aren’t shouting down the phone about how drunk they were last weekend with their friends Barry and Deborah.
But it is a little bit pricey especially the bullet trains. And the first conundrum most foreign travelers have when coming here, is whether or not to get the Japan Rail Pass. Where for about 46,000 yen you can travel the country freely for two weeks on Shinkansen and local trains and save quite a bit of money and have peace of mind along the way.
To give you an idea of how much you could save, if you came to Japan for a two-week trip, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. The cost of catching bullet trains and a round trip would be around 43,000 yen. If you take into consideration other costs such as subway trains and buses, that would likely add up to another 10,000 yen.
At the minimum you’re saving about 6 thousand yen, but probably more! And more importantly, it’ll save you the time and stress of standing around at ticket machines every day for 2 weeks buying train tickets and bus tickets, and that alone is a good enough reason to consider it. However there is an even cheaper way of traveling the country.
Some friends recently visited and we traveled the same route from Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshi Shima. Instead of using 3 bullet trains on the roundtrip, we used 2 night busses and a domestic flight from Hiroshima back to Tokyo. On top of that, we probably spent another 10,000 yen traveling around the cities on the subway trains.
That gave us a total of 34,000 yen! Which is quite a bit cheaper than getting the Japan Rail Pass. If you’re traveling Japan on a budget, let night busses be your secret weapon! because as well as being half the price of a bullet train, if you travel through the night you’re also saving on accommodation as well.
For example… We traveled on the night bus for 2 nights and thus saved 2 nights of accommodation, which would have been around another 8,000 yen. that said if you are traveling by night bus there are a few additional costs. For example… You’ll need to spend at least another 600 yen, on a bottle of wine to make sure you’re fully knocked out for the duration of the trip.
I’d say 50 % of the time, I’m able to sleep on the night bus. And the other 50 %of the time… I arrive at my destination a broken man, cursing the day that buses were ever invented. The 2 best websites for booking are… Willer Express and Japan travel bus.com. Which are both in English and nice and easy to use.
in recent years though, Japan’s also seen a steady stream of low-cost airline carriers popping up. For example to fly from Sendai to Osaka, cost as little as 5,000 yen with “Peach Airlines” far cheaper than by train and even by bus. And if you still want to know if the Japan Rail Pass is worth it or not, you can use the Japan Rail Pass calculator on the Japan guides website.
where you can input the length of time you’re staying and your itinerary to get a rough idea whether or not it’s worth it. And if you want to save even more money there’s an even cheaper way than by traveling by bus. You can travel by… “skateboard” No seriously! I’m not even trolling you, I know it going who travelled all the way from Sapporo Hiroshima on a skateboard.
It took him 33 days and he saved at least 5,000 yen which is the cost of traveling by plane. The only question that remains is… How budget are you willing to go?? Yeah I would have… I would have… just flown it… The cheapest style of restaurant to eat out in Japan are the fast food restaurants.
The three main ones are… Sukiya Yoshinoya and Matsuya Which can be found on most city streets across the country. And all of which sell the same style of rice bowl dishes covered in toppings the most popular being Gyudon, which is thinly sliced beef. So you got rice, beef and three kinds of cheese.
All for 490 yen and without the cheese… It’s 350 yen which is disturbingly cheap! It’s not something you’re going to write home to your family about… probably but it is very filling. After you’ve had this, the next six hours you’re soaring. Also it comes with Tabasco. This isn’t product placement.
It’s not just randomly there, they give it to you with the bowl to give it some flavor. Although be careful because you do get Tabasco all over your hands and it does look like… I’ve committed murder!!! Fast filling and without the same sense of guilt that comes from eating at a western style fast-food restaurant is the ideal place to drop into for any budget traveler, or just people like me who are lazy! And can’t be bothered to cook at home.
Slightly healthier than Western fast-food, although if you’re like me and you smother your food in 3 kinds of cheese you are going to lose those a groundbreaking health benefits. Another good cheap fast food option are the standing restaurants, dotted around train stations. Where you can order a bowl of soba or udon, from the vending machines for as little as 400 yen.
And if I’m in a hurry around lunchtime, I’ll quickly dive in and grab a bowl of “Mushroom Soba” Tastes surprisingly good as well! But then again even if you’re a budget traveler, You probably didn’t come all the way to Japan just to eat a bowl of rice with 3 kinds of cheese for 2 weeks.
Or maybe you did!? But fortunately there’s a really easy way of saving money if you’re going out for the evening. There are a few Japanese words you really need to know before you visit. And one of those words is “Nomihoudai” which means all you can drink! It’s the holy grail of a cheat night out.
Where for around as little as 1,200 yen, you can drink as much as you can from the extensive drink menu, for up to 2 hours! It’s pretty good for 1,500 yen, you get all the alcohol you can drink and all the meat you can eat. OH MY GOD!! (chuckling) It’s less of a barbecue, more of a… just a general.
.. general FIRE!! Some types of restaurants also have “Tabehoudai” all you can eat. Particularly at “Yakiniku” grill meat restaurants such as this one. Just be careful who you leave in charge of the barbecue… His food is on fire! If you do some research online, finding bars and restaurants with “Nomihoudai” is pretty easy to do.
If you’re not a big drinker, but still fancy a beer though the cheapest place to buy alcohol is at the supermarket or convenience store. One really good thing about Japan is you can actually drink alcohol out in public. which you can’t do in the UK. So you can come in here you can grab your your ah.
.. “One CUP Sake” which is basically just a kind of a jam jar filled with cheap sake. And go off down the park and have a bit of fun! That said, it’s not that great so… probably avoid that unless it’s your first time drinking sake. Because then you won’t know, you won’t have anything to compare it to.
It’s also a great place to pick up breakfast or lunch, such as onigiri rice balls or cheap ready meals. Soba noodles, 348 yen pretty cheap! The perfect thing for like a picnic or a light snack. Finally to give you a rough idea of the price of certain popular dishes, here’s a full price breakdown with meals such as sushi and yakitori, unsurprisingly being amongst the most expensive.
And “Wagyu” beef being so expensive I didn’t even bother putting it on the list. So there you have it! Traveling Japan on a budget!