Japan on a Budget: 5 Essential Tips

During the 2000s, there were about six to eight million people who made their way to Japan each year as visitors. In the 2010s, that number skyrocketed, growing each year until reaching nearly 32 million prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism became a larger focus for Japan, and it’s easy to see why they’d want to have so many come to visit.

Japan has a lot to offer, but it can become expensive in a hurry if you’re not sure what to expect. If visiting Japan has always been your dream but you’re worried about the cost, we have you covered. Here are five essential tips for visiting Japan on a budget.

Picking the Airport and Time

If you want to fly anywhere in Japan, the cheapest time of the year is going to be between March and May while the most expensive times fall at the end of the year. Once October comes to a close, flights start to skyrocket, so try to find that sweet spot of mid-April or early-October for the best prices.

When it comes to airports, you’re going to have a lot of options due to Japan’s size. Tokyo is going to be your best bet for the cheapest airport due to its massive size. Osaka isn’t too far behind while Nagoya, Okinawa, and Kagoshima are a bit more on the expensive side. International carriers like United can get you there the cheapest while flying Japan Airlines within the country is the cheapest.

Get a Train Pass

No matter where you fly into, you can make it to all the great tourist spots in Japan thanks to the country’s rail system. Buying a Japan Rail Pass allows you to travel for one, two, or three weeks unlimited without needing to worry about refilling your card. This is an absolute must even if you don’t plan on using the rail system all that much.

While they aren’t all that cheap on the surface (around $225 USD for the seven-day pass), it’s going to save you a ton in other travel expenses. There is an upgrade option for the Green Pass that’s offered, but you’ll want to avoid that to save money. What Japan considers to be coach class on a train is what we expect the first class to be like on an American flight, after all.

Capsule Hotels

There are a lot of us that need the perfect scenario in which to fall asleep. We need a fan running, we need complete darkness, and maybe a little bit of ASMR until we doze off. Then, there are those that aren’t concerned about being in a super-cramped space, they just need to be vertical. If you’re in that latter category, you’re in luck, because Japan has what’s known as capsule hotels.

Think of them as large human-sized filing cabinets where you can get some sleep. These are popular tourist spots, so not all of them are cheap, but many run for as little as $10 to $20 per night. When you just need a place to rest your head, it’s hard to beat that price compared to some of the larger hotel rooms which can be nearly $1,000 per night.

Visit Familiar Spots

You might scoff at the idea of leaving the United States or Europe, heading all the way to Japan and eating at a KFC, or stopping at a 7-Eleven. However, you shouldn’t, because those two chains in Japan are much, much different than they are in the rest of the world. In fact, the 7-Eleven that most of us know as a convenience store offers affordable great-tasting food that will make you wonder why it’s not the standard.

While Americans and Brits are also used to Dollar General or Poundland, Japan offers 100-Yen stores. Again, like KFC and 7-Eleven, the quality of these stores is through the roof compared to the other countries. These are great spots for toiletries during your stay and even full-on grocery shopping in a pinch.

Head to the Historical Spots

There are going to be some very convincing places in Japan to spend money like the Pachinko machines or the Pokemon Store. Instead, to save money, try visiting many of the historical sites that are completely free of charge and are absolutely breathtaking. 

Some of the best spots that you can visit include the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, the Senso-ji Temple, and Dotombori District. While they might lack some of the glitz and glamour that downtown Tokyo offers, it’s going to save you a lot of money during your stay.

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