How to travel Japan cheaply

How to Travel Japan Cheaply

So you’ve planned a trip to Japan. After checking some prices you may have noticed that your wallet has run away and is hiding in the corner. Fear not with our blog post on how to travel Japan cheaply your wallet will come back and find you.

You are right to have realized that Japan is expensive, unlike traveling in other Asian countries you’ll have to plan your trip wisely and be a bit more choosy about your activities. We visited Japan this last summer and stayed there traveling for a month. Needless to say, we don’t have a ton of money so we did this trip on a tight budget. Overall we averaged about 30$ a day, not including plane tickets. In total, we spent 800$ for the whole month. Here are our best tips on how to travel cheaply in Japan from our most recent trip.

Travel Japan Cheaply
Enjoying our Shinkansen ride!

Getting to Japan

Plane Tickets:

When you are booking your plane tickets to Japan it is cheapest to book your plane tickets in advance and book your tickets to and from Japan not from a western country but from an Asian country. For instance, if you are trying to travel Japan cheaply you can fly in from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, or South Korea. Vietnam and Thailand are usually also cheap to access from Western countries and cheap to fly to Japan. This is also a great excuse to visit two countries in one trip. Who doesn’t love that?

Another tip to try is to be flexible on your beginning on your arrival and departure cities. I loved using Sky Scanner to search for tickets because I could see the cheapest city to enter and leave Japan from very easily. Skyscanner also found me some local promotions which were great and saved me loads of money. Osaka is really cheap to fly into and leave Japan so keep that in mind as you try to travel Japan cheaply.

Ferries

A less thought of option to enter Japan is by sea. There are many different ferry companies that take passengers from local countries like South Korea, China, and Taiwan into Japan for very low prices.  This is a fun unique way to visit Japan and allows you to start your trip in some less traveled areas of Japan which gives you a better peek into Japanese culture and lifestyle. entering Japan from the sea instead of air will give your trip a nice change of pace from the usual routine of flights and airport hopping.

How to Get Around in Japan

Train Tickets

I know when I first started researching for my trip to Japan I was convinced that it would be really easy to travel Japan cheaply. I’d heard that they had a great train system (which is true) and that they had a rail pass. But once I started delving into the dirty details of the rail pass I realized that it was super expensive and maybe wasn’t even worth it.

Since we were visiting Japan for a month. We toyed with the idea of the 21-day pass but that was out of our budget. So then we decided to get the 14-day pass and looking into how to purchase it was very difficult, time-consuming, and seemed near impossible since we were leaving in less than a month and all the sites say that the pass has to be mailed to you. I still don’t know how to order a Japan rail pass and I don’t understand why the system is so difficult.

At this point, we were a bit like… “Let’s just see what happens once we land.” I’m really happy we did. Traveling Japan cheaply is tough and if you are doing a short trip the Japan rail pass is a good deal. For instance, traveling from Tokyo to Hiroshima would easily cost 400-600$ depending on the train. But for long-term travel, it’s not the plan for you.

Travel Japan Cheaply
View from the train

Get the Local Rail Passes

My pro tip to save money and travel Japan cheaply are to get the Sheishun 18 rail pass. This little pass is just over 100$ and although it only allows you to take the slower local trains it’s hands down worth the price if you have the time. The best part is it’s flexible!!! You DON’T have you to use it on consecutive days. We used this pass to travel from Osaka to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Suzu, and Suzu to Tokyo. It’s fantastic just takes a while. The downside to this pass is that it can only be used on certain dates. Also if you are traveling to a different region of Japan, not in the JR East region, you’ll need to find the local equivalent pass to this, but it’s worth the research.

To purchase this pass go to any local JR station and ask to purchase it. Also they attendants can help you plan out your trips by printing out the trains and the stops you’ll need in order to get to your destination. It’s fantastic and totally worth it.

Food

As we said earlier we were on a rather tight budget as we were traveling Japan cheaply and one of the best ways that we controlled our budget was by planning out our meals. Usually, we would eat breakfast at our hostel if possible we always got a hostel with a kitchen and made our own breakfast. Usually, this was eggs, with some sort of rice or carb, and some local veggies from a nearby store or vendor. Lunches consisted of eating at 7-11 which may sound unpleasant, but their 7-11 and Lawson’s food is actually really good with many healthy-ish options.

Travel Japan Cheaply
Cheap diner food that is scrumptious in Japan.

Dinners we got to spend more money and was where most of our food money went. We like eating at more local places anyways but in Japan when you are traveling cheaply, this really helps you save money. Great dinner food is everywhere and your hostel or hotel can give you directions. One of my favorite parts about eating in Japan was that the food quality was so high it didn’t matter what I got it was never going to make me sick. I felt really comfortable trying loads of new foods.

Another pro-tip is that if you want to eat at a fancier dinner place make sure to go get their lunch specials. The lunch specials are always loads cheaper than dinner and just as good. The Japanese love a good lunch. This is what we did when we ate Kobe beef and we each got our own piece of beef for under 20$. Food in Japan is some the best I’ve ever tasted so make sure to indulge.

Life Hack- Water from the faucets in Japan is drinkable so make sure to bring reusable water bottles and a bag to carry them. While you are out and about you can always refill the bottles and save money and plastic.

Accommodation

Accommodations in Japan are rather expensive, but fear not you can still travel Japan cheaply. We were able to use Hostelworld and occasionally Booking.com to find accommodation for around 20$ a night a few times this wasn’t possible. In Hiroshima, for instance, we paid 24$. Our favorite hostel was CharinCo in Osaka. I’d definitely recommend staying at this hostel for as long as possible. The employees are great the bathrooms nice and I really liked the location.

Travel Japan Cheaply
Cheap and traditional accommodation found on HostelWorld.

We also had some moderate success using CouchSurfers to have a few free nights accommodations. I’d highly recommend this if you are traveling in a pair, I’m not sure I’d do it solo. We had a lovely host and she took us to some super fun cultural places and restaurants.

Working while Vacationing

One of the best ways that we were able to save money whilst traveling in Japan was through Workaway. We were able to work for two weeks on a beautiful farm in Suzu. It was one of our favorite experiences. But being able to do a Workaway saved us loads of money on accommodation and food. Email me if you’d like to find out more information!

Most Workaways in Japan preferred people who could work for longer than 3 weeks and had a work permit. But if you start early enough and are diligent about messaging people I know you’ll be able to find a Workaway position. The great thing about Workaway is that it’s cheap to sign up for a year it’s about 45$ for a couples account and you can use it all over the world. Unlike Woofing which is 60$ only for working in Japan. Definitely consider working while to traveling cheaply in Japan. Email me if you’d like me to put you in contact with our wonderful and fun hosts. ** There is a Workaway post in Japan working for a guy who is American his profile is all about himself. It is strongly recommended that you don’t work for him as he is very difficult to work for.

Conclusion

All in all, you can have a fantastic trip while you travel Japan cheaply! Let us know below if any of these tips worked for you. Did you find any other money savers to help you travel Japan cheaply? Let us know your favorite parts about your Japan trip! As always feel free to email me with questions at hailey@mentortravel.org or comment below. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Travel Japan Cheaply
Our beautiful Workaway location in Suzu.

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