Budget Travel in Japan: Ten Money-Saving Techniques

Budget travel in Japan: Ten tips for frugal travelers  in Japan

1. Accommodations in Japan are known to be expensive, but there are still great deals to be found.

  • For cheap rooms look at youth hostels and business hotels first, or try spending the night in a capsule hotel.
  • Love motels offer unique ambience at affordable prices. They can also be rented by the night or by the hour.
  • Family-owned and operated Japanese style inns called minshuku offer a reasonably priced bed, and if you’re lucky, you might get a meal or two. Plus, you’ll gain first-hand knowledge of traditional Japanese lifestyles. Contact the Minshuku Association of Japan for more information.

2. A car rental is both economical and convenient if you are traveling in the remote countryside in groups of two or more.Japan’s domestic car rental agency, ToCoo, offers excellent rates, and they offer support in English.

Special tips:

  • Check for discount coupons online.
  • An international driving permit is required for renting a car in Japan.
  • Rental cars are economical, but the price of toll fees and gas prices can add up. Do your homework in advance.

3. Take a tour with a Goodwill guide. These guides are local residents and volunteers who offer personal tours of their city or town.

Special tip:

  • You are expected to pay entrance fees and buy lunch for your guide.

4. Avoiding taxis and expensive parking fees and opt for public transportation or walking.In Japan, tourist attractions are a lot closer than you think.

Special tip:

  • Buy day passes instead of single tickets if you’re traveling by public transpo.

5. Traditional meals like sushi and udon might be expensive at a fancy restaurant, but they’re relatively inexpensive at supermarkets, convenience stores, department store food courts, and small family-owned restaurants.

6. Shop for souvenirs at flea markets and 100 yen shops. Avoid pricey mega-department stores.

READ:  Journey through the Cambodian Countryside

7. Lodging and meal expenses drop once you leave big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Find a room in the countryside and enjoy your room at half the price.

8. Select one or two tourist attractions that you don’t want to miss and skip the rest. You’ll save a bundle by avoiding expensive entrance fees.

9. An overnight ferry or bus ride is a cheap way to travel, and you’ll also save on lodging as well.

10. There are loads of free things to do in Japan. Do your research and remember that some of the best Japanese experiences are free: a drive through the rural countryside, window shopping, parks and gardens, even department stores are all excellent places to learn about Japanese culture.


Spread the love

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

12 thoughts on “Budget Travel in Japan: Ten Money-Saving Techniques


    (August 1, 2010 - 10:43 pm)

    1. Compared to Western cities like London and New York, accommodation in Japanese urban areas like Tokyo can be surprisingly reasonable. Love hotels are not a practical option unless you don’t mind the late check-in times (usually after 10pm in order to get the all-night rate) – better to utilize them for their original purposes 😉

    2. If renting a car, it’s best to plan the driving trip as a loop back to the place where you first rented the vehicle. Charges are high if you intend to rent the car in one location and drop it off in another.

    4. The usefulness of day passes can differ depending on the place. In some locations, they can save a lot of money. In other cities, you would have to ride the bus or subway a lot in one day in order to see any real savings. In Tokyo, it might be better to invest in a Suica card, similar to Taipei’s Easy Card.

    5. For sushi, don’t forget conveyor-belt restaurants (Kaitenzushi). For cheap eats in general, restaurants in university areas can also be a bargain. Also, plan your big meal of the day for lunch. Many restaurants in Japan, even expensive ones, have very reasonably-priced lunch sets.

    7. True, although some of the most expensive lodgings in Japan (ryokan) are located deep in the countryside (mainly in hot spring areas).

    8. In many spots, it’s often possible to buy combination tickets to several attractions, which provide a sometimes substantial savings over individual admission tickets. Also, a number of provincial cities offer special discounts on admission fees for foreign visitors.
    .-= Kaminoge´s last blog ..Beating the dog days of summer in Takao 高雄の旅行 =-.


    (August 2, 2010 - 1:58 am)

    Thanks for the tips Carrie! I’ve never been to Japan, and these definitely will help in any future planning. What do you suggest people do if they skip the main sites?
    .-= JoAnna´s last blog ..Images- Flowers of Jamaica =-.

    John Bardos - JetSetCitizen

    (August 2, 2010 - 11:29 am)

    Like Kaminoge said, conveyor-belt sushi restaurants (Kaitenzushi) are often only 100 yen per dish and come with free Japanese tea and pickled ginger. It is possible to get completely full for 1000 to 1500 yen for most people. Real sushi restaurants can easily cost four times the price. The quality is definitely different though. I would recommend one visit to a high end restaurant if you can afford it.

    Nikudon (meat on top of rice) restaurants like Yoshinoya and Matsuya are also very cheap. You can get a full meal for as little as 400 yen. They are all over Japan with large colorful signs in English. You usually have to buy a ticket for your meal from a vending machine. All the meals have pictures so it is easy to order. The machines give change for bills but do not accept credit cards.

    For transportation, getting the Japan Rail pass from your home country can save you hundreds of dollars. Many foreigners procrastinate on this and miss out. One long return trip can pay for the pass itself. You CAN’T get it in Japan.

    For free lodging, don’t forget couchsurfing. Japan is one of the fastest growing couchsurfing countries. Locals love the cultural exchange with English speaking travelers and you will see a completely different side of Japan.

    Ivo Stoichev

    (August 3, 2010 - 10:48 am)

    Either way it’s best to be prepared financially , but I guess sometimes that’s not an option. Though I wonder – how much do capsule hotels cost ? Are they cheaper than regular hotels or at almost the same price?
    Although they don’t seem comfortable, I’d like to check out the experience 🙂

    Asia Market Girl

    (August 4, 2010 - 9:06 pm)

    “For transportation, getting the Japan Rail pass from your home country can save you hundreds of dollars. Many foreigners procrastinate on this and miss out. One long return trip can pay for the pass itself. You CAN’T get it in Japan. ”

    How can I get this?
    .-= Asia Market Girl´s last blog ..China mines still deadly- as bosses ordered below =-.


    (August 5, 2010 - 10:20 am)

    Asia Market Girl, this should answer most of your questions:


    Generally speaking, your travel agent should be able to get the voucher for you, which you then exchange for the pass once you are in Japan.


    (August 6, 2010 - 4:27 pm)

    For cheap cultural activities visit a local International Association’s office (every city has something like that, it might be called different things, but the idea is the same). These places offer super cheap activities, like calligraphy lessons, ikebana, kimono dressing, etc. Since they are not geared towards tourists, but local foreign population, they are really affordable.

    Personally, I can’t recommend free “goodwill” guides, at least the ones in Nikko are totally unprepared, don’t know jack and can’t answer the simplest questions. They just memorize their spiel and that’s it. A total waste of time.

    Also, if renting a car make sure that your country’s international driver’s license in honored in Japan. Not all are, the rule of thumb is:
    “If your country has signed the 1949 Geneva Protocol on Road Signs and Signals, you will be allowed to drive in Japan with an international driver’s license. If your country has signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals in 1968, you won’t be allowed to drive in Japan with the international driver’s license issued in your country.”
    And you won’t be able to rent a car either.
    .-= AnnaTrouble´s last blog ..Tohaisai – Climbing Mt Nantai at night =-.


      (August 27, 2010 - 11:19 am)


      Thanks for the tips on budget travel in Japan.

      My husband and I took advantage of a goodwill guide in Osaka and we were very pleased with our tour. Perhaps it’s simply the luck of the draw. I’ve also had goodwill tours in Thailand and Singapore and I’ve never been disappointed with my guide.

      You make an excellent point about having an international driver’s license. Thanks for stopping by!

    Path to Asia

    (August 6, 2010 - 7:00 pm)

    Nice deductions and a thorough research if I may say. Got to check out Asia for there are different adventures in paradise, rich culture with excellent food and beaches and people. There is a place in Asia for everyone.


      (August 27, 2010 - 11:17 am)

      Path to Asia,

      I could have said it better myself. It’s true. There is something here for everyone. That’s why I love Asia. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, I can always find something to keep me entertained.


    (August 15, 2010 - 4:00 am)

    Good tips! Did some of those when I was in Japan during the Sakura season. Would definitely keep this in mind if I happen to be there again!

    Scottish cottages

    (August 16, 2010 - 4:00 pm)

    I have never been to Japan, as I live in Scotland, but I would love to visit there someday, as I have read a lot about the traditional attractions of Japan, including its temples, shrines and gardens. Thanks for providing such a useful information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *