Are you trying to do Japan on the cheap? Although its a pretty expensive country there are loads of things you can find which are surprisingly affordable. Check out this post for an three weeks in Japan itinerary.
1. Stay in dorm rooms in Hostels
They are so ridiculously private it’s insane. Most of the dorms we stayed in had curtains around the entire bed so you wouldn’t be disturbed and you have loads of privacy. Some of the dorms in Tokyo were actually like mini hotel rooms! They ALL had lockers and we never had any problems with safety. They ranged from around ¥1,500 Yen ($15.00USD) to ¥2,700 Yen ($27.00USD). I liked them better than the Pod Hostels which were around ¥3,200 Yen ($32.00USD).
2. Travel using overnight buses rather than the bullet trains
The bullet trains are really expensive but they do get you places fast. If you have the time though, you can easily catch overnight buses to places like Kyoto and Osaka that are a quarter of the price.
3. Drink Beers and Sake bought at the Supermarkets
You can drink on the streets here (so I’m told!) so buying beers and drinking them in the park or as you walk around sightseeing is no problem, though I can’t actually say it’s the law. Here’s an example of the price differences:
1lt Asahi Beer bought at:
FamilyMart = ¥275 Yen
Hostel vending machine = ¥300 Yen
Out at the bar = ¥800 Yen
4. Drink at the all-you-can-drink places
They are usually either Karaoke Bars or Restaurants where you can get unlimited drinks for ¥1,000 Yen – ¥2,500 Yen. If you are out to get drunk these places are great. Also, a lot of the clubs that have a cover charge will give you at least a free beer or two, so once you’ve done all that street and all-you-can-drink drinking you won’t need to buy anything in the ridiculously overpriced clubs.
5. Eat at the meat bowl food stores
Also known as Gyūdon. They have delicious thin slices of meat, accompanied by rice and miso soup for around ¥270 yen for the set. That’s equal to around $2.70USD! They can be found in most of the areas that are highly concentrated with restaurants.
6. Eat food from the Supermarkets after 8pm
The food at places like FamilyMart and 7-11 are already pretty cheap, but at around 8pm they will discount all of their fresh food as they are not allowed to keep it for the next day by law.
7. Sightsee at parks, temples and museums
These three things can usually be found in the same place. Parks are always free and always gorgeous, sometimes they even give Japanese gardens a run for their money. Some of the parks such as Ueno park in Tokyo are so big they can take a couple of days to see all of them. Ueno, like some other parks, even had a food stall strip and free temples to see. Museums are usually cheap or free and are quirky and a good way to waste a few hours.
8. You don’t need to tip in Japan
Not at restaurants or hotels or anywhere! The people won’t understand why you left the money there and have been known to run after customers attempting to give back their “forgotten change”.
9. Hire a bike every now and then
It will save money on trains and save your feet. Japan is really big on bikes and you can hire them almost everywhere. Most hostels rent them, sometimes for free to their guests.
10. Get off the Tokyo / Kyoto tourist trail to find much cheaper accommodation
These two cities are the most expensive places to stay. Beppu in the South of Japan was the cheapest I stayed at ¥1,500 Yen a night followed by Hiroshima at ¥2,300 Yen a night. Most of the smaller places will have cheap hostels or hotels so go check them out rather than staying in the big cities.
Also check out my Top Tips for Japan article for more stuff you should know.
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Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY)
$1 USD = ¥97.78 JPY
I was there: May 2013 – Late Spring