The world is changing in a way where the travel gods are now in our favor. Specifically, traveling to Asia has never been cheaper.
Now all budget travelers alike can afford to hop on that plane and get their adventure started! Though Japan may not be considered a ‘cheap’ Asian destination by any means (compared to Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, etc.), it’s super easy to see Japan on a budget without breaking the bank.
In this post, I’ll reveal my complete list of tips and tricks on how to travel and experience Japan on a budget.
You’ll find out how to leverage meal times to get the best deals on dining, how to find a home base that will save you money on transportation, how you can stay in apartments and B&B’s for free, and much, much more.
Are you ready to save some money? Let’s dive right in!
*Please note: This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful content. Thanks!
45 TIPS FOR How To Travel Japan On A Budget
Table of Contents
TRANSPORTATION & GETTING AROUND: JAPAN ON A BUDGET
1. Your biggest expense will probably be the flight itself.
Luckily for you, flights to Asia have been getting cheaper and cheaper over the years, to the point where $400-600 flights are pretty common.
If you travel frequently, subscribe to Going (previously Scott’s Cheap Flights) to get email notifications on cheap flights to many locations around the world. This is the only premium / paid subscription I personally own, and it’s saved me thousands of dollars on flights over the years.
I can definitely confirm that Japan pops up every once in a while!
2. Consider the Japan Rail Pass if traveling across Japan.
Transportation across regions in Japan is not cheap, this is no secret. And if you didn’t know that, I’m sorry I had to be the one to break it to ya.
Many travelers when visiting Japan do the classic 2-week trip from the Tokyo area to the Kyoto area. Guess how much a roundtrip train ticket costs to get from Tokyo to Kyoto and back? About $200 USD (~26,160 yen).
Guess how much a 7-day Japan Rail Pass costs? About $210 USD (~29,100 yen). Yup, they are practically the same price.
The JR Pass can really come in handy if you’re planning to make stops in multiple regions across the country. Yes, this pass is an investment in itself, but that also means you can take a bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo and back, as well as take a million other side trips at no extra cost!
It can seem expensive upfront, but if you map out how many train rides you’ll need over the course of your trip, you can calculate what makes more sense— buying the pass or buying train tickets as needed.
If you stay in the Tokyo area primarily, this pass will not make sense for you (see below). But if you plan on hitting up 3+ destinations within Japan, start itemizing individual train ticket costs and see if it adds up to the cost of the JR Pass.
Not sure if the JR Pass is right for you and your travel needs? Check out the free fare calculator on the JR Pass website to map how much your trip would cost and determine if you’re actually going to save any money with it.
Pro Tip: The best way to buy your pass is from an authorized vendor before leaving for Japan. While it’s possible to buy the pass when you get to Japan, it’s actually cheaper when bought from outside the country. Passes can only be purchased up to 6 months in advance of the date you plan to use them.
3. Consider other regional passes if you’re staying within a smaller region.
Research extensively before committing to a Japan Rail Pass. Depending on your itinerary, there might be regional passes (or passes for a combination of regions) that suit your needs better, and for cheaper.
Having gone to Japan twice, I’ve found JR passes have very limited use within a city, particularly in major cities like Osaka, Tokyo, and Kyoto (since they have their local transportation systems that the JR pass does not cover).
If you’re sticking to just a city or two, you might be better off with a regional pass instead of the nationwide Japan Rail Pass.
4. Get an IC card for the utmost convenience.
The IC card (or Suica and Pasmo) are rechargeable cards that can be used to conveniently pay fares on public transportation and to make payments at a majority of vending machines, as well as some shops and restaurants.
Simply touch the card on a reader for about a second and you’ll have paid! The convenience of having this was such a luxury—no more fumbling for coins or bills, no more waiting for your credit card to go through!
Don’t forget to get a refund on the stored value as well as a refund for the card on your way home.
5. Take public transportation to and from the airport.
The great thing about Japan is that their public transportation system is about the best in the world.
Getting from the airport to the city center by bus or train is very easy and can save you a ton of money.
Rather than spending $80+ USD for a taxi from Narita Airport to Tokyo, just take the train for ~$30 or the bus for $10.
Most airport websites provide clear information on how to buy tickets and get to the city center.
6. Consider overnight buses.
Kill two birds with one stone–lodging and transportation for the price of one!
Overnight buses are a significantly cheaper option compared to the pricey bullet trains and a very reliable way to get around. If you’re traveling on a budget, let’s say–trying to get from Tokyo to Kyoto or vice versa, going this route will inevitably save you time as well as on costs for a night of hotel.
They’re usually pretty cheap, clean, and comfortable. If you’re able to sleep on a bus (they have reclining seats) or are willing to sacrifice one night of good sleep, then you’ll really accelerate your savings here.
7. Minimize the number of cities you visit in one trip.
Hopping from city to city can really add up in terms of transportation costs.
If you’re staying for a week or less and Tokyo is a must-see for you, I’d recommend not leaving Tokyo–unless for a short day trip or overnight stay somewhere less than 1 hour away.
There’s so much to do and see in Tokyo that you really can’t fit in more without feeling rushed. I’ve only been able to see about 5% of Tokyo and I’ve spent a total of over 10 days there between multiple trips.
If you have extra time, check out some of the smaller neighborhoods. There are literally tons of them, each with its own culture and flair.
If you’re looking to see more outside of Tokyo, some day trips from Tokyo include Hakone, Nikko, Yokohama, or Mt. Fuji. Even Disneyland and DisneySea can be considered a day away from Tokyo!
Here are a few day trip options for inspiration:
- Full-day Mt Fuji, Hakone & Owakudani tour from Tokyo
- Private Tour in Hakone with Optional Hot Springs Experience
- Nikko National Park 1-Day Bus Tour: Nikko Toshogu, Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls – this one’s highly rated and comes very recommended by my friends
- Spend a day at the DisneySea or Tokyo Disneyland parks – Hint hint: DisneySea is the first of its kind across the world!
8. Consider booking flights/hotels with a travel cashback program.
What if I told you you could now get cashback on travel basics like flights, hotels, activities and excursions, rental cars, and more? This is all possible with the shiny new WayAway Plus membership.
The WayAway Plus membership (it’s just $5 per month right now, what a steal) offers members up to 10% cash back on airline tickets, hotel bookings, car rentals, and other travel services. Long story short: I’m never booking a flight without cashback ever again.
RENTING A CAR IN JAPAN
In Japan, the steering wheel is on the right side. Make sure you obey traffic laws and drive safely.
Need a rental car for your Japan trip? Use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.
Their comparison tool does all the heavy lifting for you, so there’s no need to have 15+ tabs open trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. You can even save up to 70% using their tool.
LODGING & ACCOMMODATION: JAPAN ON A BUDGET
9. Stay at APA Hotels or hostels.
APA Hotels are cheap business hotels that are located all around Japan. I stayed in a couple when I was in Tokyo most recently, and though the room was smaller, it was clean and very modern.
Despite them being smaller than your average hotel room in the USA, you don’t need much while in Japan, since you’ll likely be out and about exploring all day, only using the hotel room as a place to shower and a bed to sleep on.
Hostels, or the new breed of boutique hostels, are by far the cheapest way to stay in Japan, and they’re actually quite nice, oftentimes with modern amenities. If you book early enough, you can get some really well-rated ones on Booking.com for cheap.
The good thing about hostels is that they have a local and cultural component. They tend to share a lot of local knowledge (secret places, hidden gems, local restaurant recommendations) and provide you with upcoming local events.
For example, this is a really unique capsule/pod hotel in Tokyo that’s quite cheap: The Millennials Shibuya
There’s a lot more like this all across Japan!
10. Stay at Airbnb’s for less than the cost of a hotel.
If you’re considering booking an Airbnb or VRBO rental, make sure you stay within walking distance of a train station. Better yet, find one near the major train lines.
This means you’ll need fewer train/bus transfers, saving you time and money.
For example, the most ideal accommodation options in Tokyo will be the ones off of the JR Yamanote Line (the JR Yamanote line is probably the most popular and convenient way of getting around Tokyo, connecting all of Tokyo’s major city centers).
11. Try housesitting.
This is the ultimate Japan on a budget tip if you can pull it off!
Housesitting is a way to avoid spending anything on lodging and accommodation while traveling. If you’re flexible with dates for lodging and accommodation, take a look at housesitting as an option.
If you don’t know what housesitting is, it is an exchange in which a person (you) stays at someone’s home and cares for their pets and/or property while they are away. Usually, no money is exchanged between parties.
Check out Trusted Housesitters, the main housesitting service out there today. Keep in mind though, you may need to be flexible with your travel dates to make this work!
12. Find free Wi-Fi and messaging options.
Many vacation rentals and hotels offer perks like free Pocket Wi-Fi during your stay. There are also free messaging apps like WhatsApp and Line, free Wi-Fi calling, as well as cheap international calling options through Skype.
If your hotel/accommodation does not provide free pocket WiFi, then you should rent your own Pocket WiFi for the duration of your trip.
SIM cards are a great alternative to pocket WiFi. You can buy a Japan SIM card that gives you unlimited data for a pretty decent price. You can simply buy online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports.
13. Look for a hotel with free breakfast.
If you’re traveling with lots of members in your group or family, a hotel with free breakfast can save you a lot of money. Plus, you’ll be in Japan, and most of the food provided during breakfast will actually be good!
My go-to booking site (Booking.com) has a “breakfast included” search filter. I always toggle this filter on when I’m looking for a stay that offers free food.
FOOD & EATING: JAPAN ON A BUDGET
14. Grab some meals at the konbinis (convenience stores).
If you’re envisioning a basic 7-Eleven in the USA, get that picture out of your mind. Right this second.
Japanese convenience stores (what the locals call konbini) are so much more than that, as they carry a plethora of food options for daily working people to grab and go.
Once you step foot inside a Lawson’s or a 7-Eleven in Japan, your perception of the convenience store will be changed forever! Convenience stores have significantly cheaper food compared to restaurants, and they often carry full meals and hearty bites.
We often bought rice balls and egg sandwiches for breakfast and lunch if we were crunched on time. You can often eat for under $5 per meal by doing this!
15. Grab even cheaper meals at the supermarkets.
I’ve heard from many locals and exchange students living in Japan that they actually don’t go to convenience stores unless absolutely necessary.
Supermarkets tend to sell the same items for a lot less (though in our opinion, convenience stores have a better variety of rice balls, sandwiches, and drinks).
If you’re looking to save even more, check out supermarkets before heading to the convenience store and note the price differences for reference.
16. Take advantage of the ‘time-sale’.
You should totally go to the supermarket just before closing time. Why? Because when they get close to closing, they start to discount their food!
It’s not just supermarkets; the same goes for the food courts in the basement floors of department stores (this is where all of the super delicious foods are, so definitely don’t miss checking out these areas for dinner).
Every night, lunch boxes that are made fresh daily will be put on sale around 6-7 pm, starting at ~20% and going up to ~75% as the time nears closing. Food with a limited shelf-life such as ready-made bento boxes, side dishes, sashimi, and meats are all up for the taking.
This does not apply to convenience stores though; with that said, your time sale options are still pretty plentiful.
17. Stop by the bakery for a quick snack too.
Japanese bakeries are also really inexpensive sources of food. Oftentimes, they will have sandwiches or bread with meat inside.
I found myself stocking up on bread and light sandwiches for $3-5. A great option for a light snack throughout the day!
18. Opt for more casual restaurants.
There are two kinds of restaurants in Japan: the ones where you simply go to eat and the ones where you go for the service, the ambiance, and the food.
Since my partner and I are budget travelers, we often opt for the prior. Lunch and dinners are had at ramen shops, street carts, conveyor belt sushi shops, department store basement food courts, etc.
By opting for these food options (which are undeniably delicious), you can shave a lot off your food expenses.
If you’re worried about this casual food being unhealthy or not nutritional, this is simply not true. The Japanese diet is actually quite healthy, so these meals will naturally have lots of vegetables and protein.
19. Try instant ramen.
Most hotel rooms will have a hot water boiler. I’d highly recommend buying different types of instant ramen at the grocery store and spending one night pigging out and trying them all.
Japan has some really amazing instant ramen options, and I can attest to the fact that they taste way better than the stuff we have here (get out of here, $0.25 Top Ramen).
The instant noodles in Japan are very similar to the real thing found in ramen shops. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s something that everyone should experience for themselves!
20. Stop in at restaurants for lunch specials.
Most restaurants will have lunch specials that are significantly less expensive than their dinner options (with similar portions and quality as their dinner counterparts). These meals will sometimes come as a set with soup, rice, and even dessert.
If you want to splurge on a meal, make that your lunch meal and keep your eyes peeled for those specials.
21. Look for restaurants off the beaten path.
Don’t be afraid to try out restaurants that are down back alleys or a bit off the beaten path. They can often be cheaper than those with alluring pictures and English menus on the main roads.
Tourist-trapping restaurants, no thanks.
22. Try conveyor belt sushi at Genki Sushi or Uobei.
If you want to try conveyor belt sushi, Genki Sushi or Uobei, has branches from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
These two sister franchises are a great choice. Most of its dishes only cost 70p and you can order your food via multilingual touch screens. The Shibuya branch in Tokyo is super popular, meaning that there is always a line during the dinner rush.
Turnover here is high, so the wait is rarely that long. If you don’t want to wait, I recommend visiting during off-peak hours when you can typically walk right in and get a seat without waiting.
23. Avoid buying fresh fruit/produce.
For some weird reason, fresh fruit and vegetables in Japanese supermarkets are super expensive (similar to Japanese markets in the USA).
If you are looking for vegetables, get them at a restaurant or at some other food establishment and avoid buying them at the market.
24. Do not get pressured to eat at a restaurant by a stranger.
Do not go into restaurants on main streets when beckoned by young boys holding menus. You may find yourself in a hostile environment, where you won’t be allowed to leave unless you pay up.
Though this is usually not a problem throughout Japan, it could happen in the Kabukichō (red-light district) in Tokyo.
25. Go to a chain izakaya for cheap food and drinks.
If you love going to izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) but you think they’re too expensive for you—think again!
There are a few chains such as Torikizoku or Kin No Kura that promise good food and drinks without breaking the bank. They also offer all-you-can-eat or drink courses as well for ¥2,000 (around $20-25 USD).
CHEAP EATS IN TOKYO
Tokyo gets a bad rap for being expensive, but many of the top sights are actually free, and feasting on the city’s top ramen joints and sushi stands won’t leave you broke — if you know where the bargains lie.
Katsu Midori Sushi, Shibuya-ku | A spin-off from Tokyo sushi shop Sushi- no-Midori, this is the city’s best kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) restaurant. It’s a bargain for the quality and it’s always crowded, so you know the plates are fresh! Address: Seibu Department Store, 21-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku; plates ¥100-500.
Onigiri Yadoroku, Taitō-ku | Onigiri, rice shaped into triangles and wrapped in sheets of nori (seaweed), is Japan’s ultimate snack. Try them made-to-order at Tokyo’s oldest onigiri shop (opened in 1954). Address: 3-9-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku; about ¥310-800 each.
Kagawa Ippuku, Chiyoda-ku | Originating from Kagawa, the prefecture synonymous with udon in Japan, Ippuku has a great reputation. Plus it’s a bargain bite! You’ll be handed an English menu to help with the options, but you’ll pay at the vending machine. Address: Tokyo Royal Plaza,1-18-11 Uchikanda, Chiyoda-ku; ¥430-900 per bowl.
Isetan Department Store, Shinjuku-ku | The massive food hall in this department store has outlets from some of the country’s top restaurants. Customize your meal of sushi, dumplings, tonkatsu sandwiches, and even dessert — then take it upstairs to eat on the roof garden! Address: 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku; dishes from ¥500.
Sagatani, Shibuya-ku | This noodle joint possibly wins the prize for Tokyo’s best cheap meal. Expect fresh, stone-ground soba noodles made daily and served with a side of goma (sesame) dipping sauce. You can wash it all down with a cheap beer too. Address: 2-25-7 Dōgenzaka, Shibuya-ku; 24hr; noodles from ¥280.
THINGS TO DO: JAPAN ON A BUDGET
26. Always carry cash with you.
It’s difficult to just get by with a credit card since everything is still so cash-based in Japan. In addition, you can make sure you have money loaded on your IC/Pasmo/Suica card).
This tip might not save you money, but it will save you time and hassle!
27. Take a free walking tour.
“Free” walking tours can be found in the major metropolitan cities in Japan. Tokyo Localized has become one of my favorite companies, offering free day and night walking tours. A quick Google search can yield many other local and intimate walking tour companies.
I usually like to go with the smaller ones, as I find that the guides are funnier and more engaging. These tours will usually provide you with the history of the city and will give you insight into the local culture, including off-the-beaten-path activities and local restaurant recommendations.
Tip the guide what you thought the tour was worth in the end! Usually $10-20 USD will suffice.
28. Spend time at the local gardens.
Botanical gardens and parks are everywhere and free to enter for the most part.
Small donations are encouraged at times, but it costs very little to experience these beautiful and peaceful Japanese gardens. The best part is, you’ll be able to spend a few hours relaxing, escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life, and picnicking among lush surroundings.
29. Carve out time to see less expensive cities.
Tokyo is a world-class destination. What that means is that it can be more expensive compared to other cities in Japan.
Takayama, for example, is a thriving city far cheaper than Tokyo, as is Yokohama.
Kanazawa has lovely geisha and samurai districts, and Matsumoto holds some of the oldest castles in history.
Each of these towns will be cheaper than metropolitan/touristy cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
30. Go on a hike instead of a museum or other paid attraction.
Hiking is not only a great way to spend a couple of hours, but it is also completely free! Pair your hike with a picnic with all the goods you picked up at the konbini and you’ve got yourself a super cheap daytime excursion.
31. Avoid tourist traps.
This might be obvious, but touristy attractions are often more expensive than cultural sites. Entry to temples usually costs around ¥500, while the tourist attractions can be three times as much.
Some tourist traps I can think of off-bat are maid cafes and butler cafes. Often times there will be an X-item minimum, and the food really isn’t all that great. Plus, you’ll have to pay to take a picture with the maids or the butlers! What a money-sucker.
32. Book discounted tickets for attractions on Klook.
Klook is like Viator or GetYourGuide, but for Asia. This is my go-to platform for all things transportation and activity-related whenever I travel to Asia.
Most of the time, you can find admission tickets to popular sites and theme parks in Japan for a fraction of the cost. At the very least, you’ll be able to save a couple of bucks by booking through Klook vs direct!
33. If you love big attractions, consider an attraction pass.
Attraction passes are great for travelers who enjoy experiencing a city’s top attractions. But instead of paying full price for each and every attraction, with an attraction pass, you’ll pay one set price and get free admission to all of them.
Depending on where you go in Japan, you may be able to take advantage of an attractions pass!
Here are a few attraction passes for Japan:
- Klook Pass Tokyo – includes general entry to all-time favorites including teamLab Planets TOKYO, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Tokyo, Tokyo Kimono Experience, Tokyo Sanrio Puroland, TOKYO SKYTREE®, and many more. Add-ons include Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea!
- A variety of others can be found here
34. Skip the ryokan experience and opt for sentos (public baths).
Staying at a ryokan can easily set you back $200 USD or more per night. If being able to soak in thermal waters is what you’re after, consider visiting a sento, or public bath, instead.
Japan’s bathing culture dates back many hundreds of years, which means you’re going to find many sento still in operation today. All you need is a few hundred yen and a towel!
While you will have to pay a fee to bathe, it generally costs very little, usually ranging from a few hundred yen for one adult.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind many bathhouses don’t offer any shampoo or soap, so bring along your own in a small pack that you can carry easily. You also may want to bring a set of clean clothes to put on after you’re washed up.
SHOPPING: JAPAN ON A BUDGET
35. Go vintage/thrift store shopping.
Tokyo (specifically Harajuku) has a really strong thrift/vintage culture. You can often find really unique fashion pieces there for a fraction of the cost of some new goods you’ll find at the mall.
If you’re looking for a cheap yukata or kimono to take home, consider stopping by Chicago, a second-hand store, in Harajuku.
You can also explore the Shimokitazawa neighborhood for vintage stores galore!
36. Don’t have time to shop for souvenirs? Head to a transit hub.
Airports and major train stations actually have some really cool shopping areas. The lower level of major train stations can be full-on shopping centers and food courts!
If you’re waiting to buy souvenirs or seem to have forgotten some last minute, the airport is a good option. Unlike in the USA, the goods here are not drastically overpriced or marked up.
37. Buy Japanese pens as souvenirs.
Japanese pens are such a useful and affordable gift. No one does pens as well as the Japanese. With all the ink styles and ink color, you can have a lot of fun picking these out.
38. Bring food back as souvenirs.
Souvenirs can end up being a large chunk of your budget. Yes, they have tons of cute and cool trinkets, but they are often pretty pricey.
Consider bringing back Japanese candies, cookies, and snacks instead. These items will actually be used/consumed instead of sitting on someone’s desk or closet collecting dust.
39. Shop at Don Quijote or Cosmos for cheap superstore buys.
With both of these stores, you can find almost everything you need, and it will always be cheap. I often make a Don Quijote run (or two) for candy and souvenirs during my time in Japan, and can easily spend over two hours in there!
You’ll be shocked at how cheap everything is in there compared to drug stores, department stores, and convenience stores. The best part is, if you happen to be stricken with jet lag and wake up early, there will likely be a Don Quijote open near you at any time.
40. Look out for monthly flea markets or antique markets.
Local flea markets can be a really affordable way to find souvenirs to bring home. Not only are they going to be cheaper due to their secondhand nature, but they’re probably going to be higher quality than those mass-produced items you’ll find at generic gift shops.
Wherever you’re going, just do a quick Google search of local events or flea markets.
For example, in Tokyo, there’s the Oedo Antique Market — held near Tokyo Station twice a month, with stalls selling wonderful antique and vintage wares.
Then there’s the Shitennoji Flea Market in Osaka, held on the 21st of every month, selling everything from secondhand kimonos to housewares and even samurai swords.
MONEY TIPS: JAPAN ON A BUDGET
41. You probably don’t need to tip.
Tipping is totally an American practice. In Japan, servers, taxi drivers, and everyone else is paid full livable wages, and it’s nearly universal that a service fee will be included in your bill.
Most Japanese restaurants require customers to pay for their meals at the front register, rather than leave money with the waiter or waitress.
42. Change your money once you get there.
When exchanging cash, most of the time it is better to exchange your money in the country you’re going to. You will usually get the best exchange rates at banks, post offices and possibly hotels.
Avoid the foreign exchange stands you see everywhere in airports, train stations and touristy areas. They charge a fee for everything!
You will almost always get the best exchange rate when buying foreign currency with either ATM cards or credit cards, which will usually be 2 to 7 percent better than the rates you’ll get when exchanging cash.
43. Use credit cards without a foreign transaction fee.
Try to use credit cards whenever possible for large purchases such as hotel bills, tickets, and car rentals. The exchange rate is almost always one of the best, but make sure you charge in the local currency (yen), NOT your home currency.
44. Get an ATM fee-free banking card.
Most credit and debit card issuers charge foreign transaction fees, which typically run between 2% and 3% of the purchase price, as well as ATM fees. That might seem like a minor expense per transaction, but all those extra charges can really add up!
You can avoid these fees by signing up for a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account.
This account comes with a debit card that does not incur currency conversion fees, and you’ll get a full rebate for all your US and overseas ATM charges (this is what I use, it’s changed my international money life for the better).
45. Start racking up credit card points to pay for stuff now.
Credit card sign-up bonuses have been my secret to affordable travel for years now.
If you are a responsible spender, there are so many options for you, from branded airline and hotel credit cards (Delta, United, Marriott, IHG, etc) to cards that allow you to transfer points to travel partners (Chase Ultimate Reward points, American Express Membership Rewards points, Citi Thank You points).
Not only can these credit card points be used in exchange for free flights, but they can also be used for booking hotels and even excursions.
If you’re still in the early stages of planning that big trip to Japan, then you can consider accumulating some credit card points now!
Here are some of the cards I currently have in my wallet:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3x points on travel and dining
- American Express Gold Card – 4x points on dining and supermarkets
- IHG Premier Credit Card – Up to 26X points total per $1 spent when you stay at IHG properties
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card – 3x points on Southwest purchases, 2x on local transit, commuting, rideshare, internet, cable, phone services, and streaming.
As you can see, there’s a points bonus for almost every single category of life. Just by living life, I’m earning points toward my next big trip!
The Bottom Line: How To Do Japan on a Budget
- Flights to Japan and transportation throughout Japan remain your two greatest costs, but there are times when you can find good deals.
- The cheapest way to enjoy Japan is to stick to one or two main cities.
- Cities in Japan are massive with plenty of shops, restaurants, and things to do. Budget-friendly options are at every corner if you bother to look around you.
- Try the street food, these options are delicious and cheap.
- Credit cards (and travel hacking) can be your friend–if you use them wisely and responsibly.
JAPAN TRAVEL INSURANCE
This is a no-brainer. When traveling internationally, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.
I’ve heard of too many unfortunate experiences where friends and family have had baggage lost/stolen, hotels canceled, or have had unexpected medical emergencies while traveling where they’ve had to cut their trips short. My partner even had his shoulder dislocated while surfing in Mexico, resulting in a huuuge emergency room bill!
Without travel insurance, you would have to pay out of pocket for these mishaps. This is why I get travel insurance for all my international trips now!
One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for those traveling outside their home country is SafetyWing.
SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, they will cover the medical expenses.
In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as emergency medical evacuation (much needed if you like to go hiking / trekking in the wild), travel delay, and lost checked luggage.
- WayAway | This site compares flight ticket fares from hundreds of agencies. You’re going to get the best prices on the market, at least $10 lower than those on Skyscanner, Kayak, and Priceline.com. The best part is? The WayAway Plus membership. With the membership, you’ll get up to 10% cash back on airline tickets, hotel bookings, car rentals, and other travel services.
- DEAL ALERT! Use code ‘travelswithelle’ for 10% off WayAway Plus.
- Booking.com | Honestly, this is my go-to accommodation booking site. This site has free cancellation and no prepayment required on reservations which is huge for me. It also has amazing abilities to filter accommodation options by rating and price. Honestly, it’s shaved off so many hours of endless research for me and has made booking hotels and other accommodations a breeze.
- Viator | Viator is a huge online marketplace for all things tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, ATV tours, sailing trips, walking tours, hot air ballooning, and more.
- Go City | Go City offers great value-for-the-money attraction passes in various destinations around the world. Whenever I want to play tourist in a city, I always check to see if Go City operates in that city. The money you can save with this pass is unreal (as opposed to buying admission tickets for various attractions separately).
- SafetyWing | SafetyWing is by far one of the best travel medical insurance for travelers as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those heading abroad.
Despite what many people say, cheap Japan travel is possible and I hope this article provided you with some tips on how to keep your travel costs low and successfully see Japan on a budget!
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