A Smart Traveler's Guide to Exploring Japan on a Budget

Is it Possible To Travel to Japan on a Low Budget?

Japan is surely a dream travel destination for many people. It is after all a  very beautiful country, with lots of places to explore, promising experiences and delicious food. However, it does not come cheap. While some are lucky enough to be able to go to Japan anytime, there is still a majority of people who have limited resources. However, budget constraints should never be a hindrance from pursuing something that one loves. The key is to be a smart traveler.

It is absolutely possible to travel to Japan on a budget. However, it is important to plan ahead of time in order to assess properly how the finances should work out from the beginning up to the end of the trip. Being a smart traveler can save not just money but also time and effort. Below are major key points that one must think about prior to planning a trip to Japan.

Low-Cost Carriers: Budget Travel to Japan from The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Other Asian Countries

 Upon deciding to go to Japan, the first step to making that dream come to life would be to book airfare tickets. Plane tickets are the first major expense for when planning a trip to Japan because they do not come cheap. Depending on the airline and place of origin, airfare tickets can cost from USD 500 to USD 1,000.

 Thanks to major technological advancements in air travel, the rise of low-cost carriers have been booming for the past decade.There are now airlines which are dedicated to providing air transport at a fraction of the cost of regular airlines, several examples of these are Air Asia and Jetstar.

 The key to getting the cheapest possible flight to Japan would be to book at the right time. Usually, fares are expensive when it is too near or too far from the travel date. Seasoned fliers usually have already mastered the right timing of booking plane tickets. Seat sales also happen frequently, but the competition is very high and good flights tend to get sold out fast. Usually, the best way to learn about flight promotions would be to sign up for e-mail notifications. Subscribers are able to check out seat sales faster than others.

 Before booking a flight with an economy airline, there are things first that one must remember. First of all, tickets booked on a promo or seat sale can not be rebooked, nor transferred. Hence, one must first make sure that the travel duration they are eyeing is feasible. Having a low priced plane ticket forfeited would be far worse than paying for an expensive flight that could be rebooked.

 Budget airlines are usually Asia based, which means that traveling from one Asian country to the other would be far cheaper. This is good for western traveler who is doing multiple country trips as they can explore several Asian countries in one go. In particular, the Philippines has several budget airlines that make flying to Japan economically more than possible. The Philippines is also a great stop for tropical destinations such as Palawan and Boracay. There are also budget airlines that offer trips from Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other Asian destinations going to Japan. 

Budget Ahead: Planning Japan Travel Expenses Per Day

 Once tickets have been booked already. The next step would be to plan out daily expenses. In a way, travel expenses can be classified into two variants, fixed costs, and variable costs. Fixed costs are expenses that will be incurred on a daily basis no matter what, while variable costs are costs that can be regulated and controlled depending on the itinerary.

 Fixed costs are comprised of three major things: food, lodging, and transportation. It would be impossible to travel anywhere without incurring these costs. Before planning an itinerary of activities, it is important to first be able to settle on a place to stay, allocate a budget on food, and research how much fares are for transportation.

A big portion of the travel cost would go to accommodations. This is a sure expense since lodging can not be foregone during travel. Luckily, there are different options that one may choose depending on his or her budget. Of course, hostels are the best way to go for those who are on a budget. However, hostels usually have rooms for sharing with other persons. This may not be ideal for those who don’t like having their personal space invaded.

 There are also hotels at various price points that are available for booking. There are business hotels which are cheaper but offer much more comfort than hostels. There are also five-star hotels, but going to one would defeat the purpose of traveling on a budget in the first place.

 In Japan, there are also ryokan’s which one may opt to stay at. Ryokan’s are hot spring or public baths which have their own set of lodging. Usually, there are fancier ryokan’s which cost more money. The only downside is that lodging rooms in ryokans tend to be old and outdated.Those who are on a budget may find cheaper ryokans to stay at. After all, Japan is the only country in the world with ryokans.

 Another option for lodging would be to book an Airbnb. An Airbnb, for anyone who is unfamiliar, allows users to match with other users who are looking for a temporary place to stay at.  This is very cost efficient since homeowners usually price rental fees much lower than hotels. For a group, renting an entire house may be better since it’s more cost efficient and will come out cheaper once expenses have been split.

 Budgeting on food expenses can be quite tricky. On one side, there is a need to save money. However, on the other hand, it would suck to miss out on the heavenly dishes that Japan has to offer. For purely economic reasons, it would be cheapest to eat at convenience stores most of the time. While convenience stores in Japan are far better that any other country in the world, it would not be memorable to eat convenience store value dishes majority of the time.

 A good tip would be to have a good mix of food options so that one may maximize his or her trip. For one, Japan has a very robust street food scene. There are lots of choices, ranging from takoyaki, yakitori, yakiniku and other popular street food that range from normal to exotic. Japan has street food alleys that offer cheaper a cheaper, yet truly authentic Japanese dining experience.

 On the other hand, there are restaurants that are so popular all over the world that one simply cannot pass them up. A good example of this would be Ichiran ramen - a restaurant that is raved about all over the world. Those who are traveling on a budget may opt to add several restaurants as part of the itinerary. It may be a bit more of a splurge, but it should offset from savings from other meals.

 Another good way to save money on meals would be to bring in some light snacks such as crackers. Those are easy to bring inside bags and are good for filling up the stomach. That one, one doesn’t need to spend on food should he or she find him or herself hungry while walking around Japan.

Transportation costs in Japan can also get expensive. With its technological advancements, it’s no surprise that Japan’s transportation system is so advanced. However, it is also a tad complicated. The next section of this article will discuss how to save on transportation costs while in Japan.

Save Money with Unlimited Railway Passes: Travel Around Japan on a Budget

 Getting around Japan is quite easy as there are plenty of options available for tourists to use. However, fares can get quite expensive so planning ahead of time and doing ample research to determine which transportation would suit the itinerary best is definitely a must.

Coming from the airport, upon arrival to Japan, there are several options already that one may choose from such as trains, subways, and buses. For those who will opt to take the bus, a good tip would be to opt for economy buses. By all means, these are much cheaper than limousine buses.

 Using railway transportation is popular in Japan due to their efficiency. However, do expect that transportation costs in Japan are expensive compared to other Asian counterparts. There are two good tips on how to be able to save up on transportation expenses. The first one is to properly plan beforehand a plan on which transportation should be taken. A good itinerary would have activities in the same area or city clustered together to save on transportation costs. This way, it would save less time and money from having to repeatedly travel back and forth.

 For a certain amount of yen, one may also choose to get a daily unlimited pass that can be used in several lines. It is much cheaper than having to purchase one-way train tickets repeatedly. The key thing to note is that not all daily train passes can be used anywhere since Japan has a lot of railway operators, each one tends to have their own kind of railway passes. It is good to know beforehand if a certain train pass has a route which would cover a lot of the itinerary. Usually, popular tourist destinations are Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Nagoya, Kobe, and Yokohama so there are usually multiple trains and subway systems that pass through these cities.

 Japan Railway or JR is one of the leading railway operators in Japan, so getting an unlimited train pass from them might be a good idea.Usually, these train passes are sold within train stations.

Make a Japan Travel Itinerary Based on Set Budget

 The best thing about traveling to Japan would be the free attractions. Since the country is naturally filled with natural parks and historical sites, it would be a breeze to choose locations that do not cost money to visit. The main key point to remember, however, is that it would only cost money to move from one location to the other, so grouping activities that are in the same area would be optimal. Given that, below are several suggestions on places to visit in Japan that are completely free.

 When in Japan, one simply can not miss going to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Having played a very big part in Japanese history, it would definitely be a surreal experience to see the first Tokugawa shogun’s palace.The place is absolutely otherworldly, with its original facade preserved there.

 History buffs would surely enjoy going around the confines of the castle and appreciating the design elements that were retained from seventeenth century Japan. Millenials would surely enjoy taking photos and posting snap chats around the area. Aside from strolling and taking photos, it is also possible to bike around the perimeter of the castle, which has its own cycling course. Not only is cycling fun and exciting, it is also free, with 150 units available for anyone to use.

 Attending festivals are also a great way to explore Japan for free. There are hundreds of festivals held around Japan all year long, with certain festivals happening during certain seasons. In the winter, one of the most popular festivals is the Winter Illumination Festival where in massive light displays are showcased.

 In the summer, there are fireworks festivals happening in different prefectures. These are usually accompanied by live performances and dancing on the streets. During spring, the famous Senso-Ji shrine in Tokyo holds an annual, month-long celebration dedicated to mikoshis. During autumn, there are fire festivals which allow locals to honor their deceased ancestors and loved ones.

 Since festivals are happening all year long, anyone is bound to encounter a festival happening at the time of his or her visit.  The main thing to remember is to research beforehand on which festivals are happening in what locations so that that the itinerary may be planned accordingly.

 Exploring Kyoto and Osaka are also great options for those who are on a budget. The only expense it would incur would be transportation cost to get to both cities.Kyoto is an extremely beautiful and interesting historical city; one that even those who aren’t on a budget must still bask on the cultural experiences that it has in store.

 In Kyoto, there are plenty of temples to visit that would surely pique one’s interest. The most popular shrine for tourists would be the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. One would surely enjoy looking at the architectural elements used to construct this centuries old shrine. The surroundings are also interesting since a serene little forest lies there. It is the perfect spot to be one with nature and to contemplate one’s life.

 In Kyoto, there is also a district that would make anyone feel like he or she is living in the previous period of time. This is Gion district, and what makes it truly interesting is because it still has a high presence of geisha’s compared to most of Japan. One can go here to observe and take photos, but of course, going to establishments would cost real money.

 During the night, one may choose to explore parks such as Ueno Park in Tokyo. At night, these parks are illuminated by lights, which make them equally beautiful compared to the day. Ueno Park is also a great option since it has street food options around the Kaneiji area.