10 tips to travel around Japan on a budget

Budget calculation

Your Japanese vacation plans are well underway. You’re researching flights, hotels, transportation – then, you take a look at your travel budget, and your countenance falls. Your plans seem to exceed what you can afford. What is such a downhearted adventurer to do?

Travel in Japan has a reputation for being expensive when compared to other countries in the region. However, expenses should not dissuade you from experiencing this geographically beautiful, culturally rich region.

When you purchase a Japan Rail Pass, for example, you will save dramatically on your transportation expenses throughout the country. With a bit of advance planning, you can reduce costs elsewhere as well.

The following tips will help you stay within your budget regardless of your travel plans.

Do your research

Taking a few minutes to search the internet and compare prices at different locations, with various service providers, or at different times of the year may save you a few bucks or many hundreds. You may discover discounts or ways to use your points from travel clubs or credit cards.

Book early

Decreased pricing to fill up the last few hotel rooms or airline seats are becoming increasingly rare. If you wait until the last minute in hopes of a deal, you may find yourself without accommodations at all.

Also, finding a place to stay is generally one of the biggest expenses on any trip – especially if you are staying in Japan for a week or more. Which budget accommodation options are available to make your stay in Japan more affordable?

Book your Japan Rail Pass now

Stay with a friend or relative

If you can call in a favor to an acquaintance, friend, or family member and stay in their home overnight, your rooming is likely to be inexpensive or even free. Many international travelers, however, don’t have contacts in the country they are visiting. Therefore, you may want to try one of the low-cost options listed below.

Hostels

Hostels typically offer dormitory style accommodations with shared kitchens, showers, and toilet facilities. Hostels range in price from ¥1500 to ¥3000 per person, per night. Some offer free or reduced lodging costs in exchange for volunteer work such as cleaning during your stay at the hostel.

Internet Cafés

Also called manga or comic books cafés, you can rent a computer, browse comic books, and have snacks. If you are looking to stay overnight, look for an internet café that has rest areas or private booths containing couches or futons. Internet cafés typically cost between ¥1500 and ¥3000 per person per night.

Capsule Hotels

In the capsule hotels, guests are accommodated in a small space called a capsule – usually an enclosed bunk – rather than an entire room. Most are equipped with lockers to store belongings, light and heating controls, a television, internet, and shared bathroom facilities. Capsule hotels generally cost between ¥2000 and ¥5000 per person per night. Most are segregated by gender, either the entire facility or individual floors being men- or women-only.

Ryokan

The Ryokan, traditional Japanese lodgings, can be quite expensive (often double that of a hotel stay). However, there are budget ryokans available. Some include meals, while others do not. Ryokans may range in price from ¥3000 to ¥10,000 yen per person, per night.

Business Hotels

These western style hotels feature private rooms with a desk, television, bed, and bathroom facilities. Some include a complimentary breakfast, and they are often located conveniently near train stations and city centers. Business hotels generally range in price from ¥5000 to ¥10,000 per night. Besides, many hotels offer a discount for JR Pass holders.

Homestays

Many websites now match travelers with hosts, ranging in price from free to ¥50,000 per month. This can be a great way not only to stay on budget but also to experience daily life in Japan.

The Sunrise Express

One sure way to reduce costs is to combine your travel expenses with your accommodations expenses. The Sunrise Express is an overnight train that runs from Tokyo to Okayama, departing late at night and arriving early in the morning. You’ll get a good night’s sleep and arrive at your destination refreshed. The partitioned nobi-nobi seating on the Sunrise Express is covered entirely by your Japan Rail Pass, or you may pay a surcharge and receive more luxurious accommodations.

Whichever type of accommodation you choose, you are in for an interesting and enlightening holiday in the Land of the Rising Sun. Remember, too, that the Japanese people are known for their kindness and hospitality. Even when experiencing a new lodging style for the first time, you will likely be made to feel right at home.

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