10 Ways to Save Money While Traveling Japan

13 October 2015


Budget Travel Japan

Japan is one of the most expensive countries in East Asia and after a week of traveling in Taiwan (where the American dollar does very well) I felt the weight of the yen even more once I arrived in Tokyo. Talk about sticker shock!

From hanging out with locals and by my own ingenuity I found a few ways to cut down on the cost of traveling Japan for two weeks. Here's the techniques I employed:

1 | Use couch surfing
Japan Budget Travel
My host, Yuki, showing me Osaka
Sure, it's not as easy as simply booking a hotel but who can complain when it's free? If you're new to couch surfing I suggest you first host some people at your own home to start building up a profile with reviews. After that it's about timing: send your request too early and the person will probably reply with "I can't commit to something that far ahead." Wait until the day of and you should expect no reply. The sweet spot is to contact the potential host with a personal message 6-5 days out from arriving. Once you get there, make sure to be a good guest!

2 | Sleep in unconventional places
Japan Budget Travel

Some nights I purposefully stayed in the airport and slept there. As I see it, if my flight arrive at 12 am in a foreign city, I might as well just find a comfy chair and rest until day light. Another option in most major cities through Japan are internet cafes which are open 24/7. In Kyoto I used Tops Cafe which offered my own cubicle, wifi, and unlimited drinks and ice cream. It only cost me 30 USD for the night! You can typically find internet cafes around major train stations.

 3 | Eat konbini and street food
Japan Budget Travel

Convenience stores (konbini) in Japan are so next level. You can get good, warm meals from 7/11 that are perfect for enjoying in a park on a cool Autumn day. Plus you don't even have to pull out cash, just use your Pasmo (Tokyo subway and bus pass) to pay. My favorite konbini snack was hot, salted lemon-lychee water and pickled plum rice balls.

Street food, like most Asian countries, is also abundant in Japan. Make a meal by picking up a few cheap things here and there.

4| Follow the free samples!
Japan Budget Travel

Want a mug of hot, authentic green tea? Kyoto has got you covered. Many of the shops in the tourist areas offer free samples of their wares. Kyoto is also known for yatsuhashi (glutinous rice wrapped around a sweet center). Black sesame is a traditional flavor but there are many other flavors in the shops of Ginza that one can try for free.

5 | Take in some eccentric culture
Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

People watching is completely free and there's nowhere better to do that in Tokyo, Japan. Rockabillies in Meiji Park, lolitas in Harajuku, and cosplayers in Sunshine City are just some things you can spy. If you'd prefer to be inside, passing some time in a manga shop reading "boy love" comics can be fairly entertaining. If that's not your thing, it only cost a couple yen to play vintage video games in Akihabara.

6 | Get a JR Pass
Japan Budget Travel
Mt Fuji from the bullet train
I wish I had followed this advice myself. I decided not to buy a JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) ahead of time because it seemed like such a hassle and my wallet seriously regretted it. If you plan to travel a similar route I did in Japan (Tokyo>Kyoto>Hiroshima), then the pass will totally pay for itself. Plus, you can use it in all sorts of unexpected places like buses and ferries.

7 | Enjoy local festivals
Japan Budget Travel
Japan Budget Travel
Good fortune rakes
Japan is a country that is very in tune with the seasons and as such they have festivals year round to partake in. Immerse yourself in the culture and take in all the amazing sights (for free!) While traveling Hiroshima, I stumbled across the Ebisu festival and was blessed by a Shinto priest!

8 | Take your beers and head to the park

In Japan it's perfectly legal to drink and be drunk in public as long as you're not being disorderly. That's why many locals will go the cheap route and skip the bars, opting instead to buy a pack of beers with friends and taking them to the park. Japan is such a safe country so no one has any reserves about going to the park at night.

9 | Collect free souvenirs
Japan Budget Travel
Japan Budget Travel

I personally I am not much of a souvenir person. Even when I am in a shop, it's hard to come by something that will pique my interest enough to purchase it. I do, however, have a penchant for collecting things. Vibrant fall leaves, curvy liquor bottles, and seashells can all be found on the ground for free and make beautiful souvenirs.

10 | Skip the temples with an entrance fee
Japan Budget Travel
Japan Budget Travel

Certainly the top of any travel itinerary to Japan includes a few famous temples. The most well known, however, often come with an entrance fee. If you're really trying to keep to a tight budget, forgo these temples and instead check out the frees ones. They're all over the place and sometimes right next door to the ones you have to pay for. And honestly, they're just as stunning

10 Ways to Save Money While Traveling Japan

What are your money saving tips for travel?

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5 comments

  1. I wouldn't have thought of the free samples! Reminds me of my leaner college days haha

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  2. Perfect tips for my upcoming trip. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading. I'd love to see your pics after your trip!

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  3. These are great tips to save your wallet and allow you to travel resourcefully or you may say successfully.

    ReplyDelete