Japan is known to be an expensive country, but there are ways for tourists to stretch their cash when visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. Casey, Wolf, and I visited Japan last month for ten days, and we enjoyed our trip immensely. Based on our experience, here are some tips I’ve come up with to help fellow travelers experience Japan on a budget.
- Score airplane tickets in advance at a seat sale. Traveling has been made affordable by the rise of budget airlines that frequently have seat sales. Keep an eye out for the sales, which from Manila to Japan can go as low as P4,000 one way!
- Stay at an Airbnb. Hotels in Japan tend to have small rooms and are also quite expensive compared to the rooms you can rent via Airbnb. I was able to get nice apartments for us in Osaka and Tokyo for less than P2000 per night.
- Purchase unlimited train passes. Japan offers unlimited transportation passes to tourists who wish to explore the country. Many of the passes even come with discounts or free entry to numerous tourist attractions. You can purchase passes online at Klook.
- Buy any additional clothes you may need when already in Japan and not before your trip. If you will visit during autumn or winter, you will need cold weather clothes, which are expensive here in the Philippines. It’s cheaper to buy once you’re in Japan and wash them at your apartment (many Airbnbs have washing machines). You can visit second hand clothing stores, or you can go to GU, which is a budget clothing chain under the same group as Uniqlo.
- Cook breakfast instead of eating out. Many Airbnbs are equipped with basic cooking needs. You can buy groceries from the nearest supermarket and have breakfast at your apartment. Don’t worry about missing out on new food experiences, because even Japan’s staple food items are several notches above what we have here. In particular, their bread is excellent. The slices are thick, and the texture is soft and chewy. Just lightly butter and toast them for a great start to your morning.
- Avail of lunch sets when dining in sit-down restaurants. If you want to try fancier restaurants than the usual fast food or ramen joint, plan to visit during lunch time. The lunch sets are way cheaper than dinner fare.
- Eat at Japanese fast food chains. You don’t have to go to the fancier restaurants to get a good meal in Japan. There are many fast food chains that serve delicious Japanese fare. The best beef bowl for us is at Matsuya, which has branches everywhere. For burgers, there’s Mos Burger and Lotteria. For chicken karaage, you won’t go wrong with 7 Eleven, Family Mart, or Lawson. Pair those tasty thigh fillets with onigiri and you’re good to go at less than 300 yen (around 135 pesos). You’re welcome.
- Visit Universal Studios during an off-peak day to avoid the need for Express Passes. If you schedule your visit on a Wednesday or Thursday that’s not a school break, the lines are manageable enough for you to be able to ride the major rides without using Express Passes. This will save you more than P2000 per head.
- Avoid dining inside Universal Studios. The food inside the park is overpriced. Eat right before entering, and bring a few onigiri to munch on while inside. Just pack it well inside your bag, because outside food isn’t actually allowed, but they’re not strict with their bag check. Bring a tumbler also, which you can refill with water from fountains around the park. The bottled water inside is crazy expensive, so you want to avoid buying. See some of our overpriced (around P1000 per head) food below:
- Walk, walk, and walk some more. People in Japan are used to walking long distances. That’s why so many of them wear sneakers, and that’s why so many are slim. You will need to walk a lot when transferring trains, visiting parks, and basically trying to find your way around. The cabs in Japan are extremely expensive, and besides, it’s more fun to experience the country on foot. Pack your best pair of walking shoes and explore the streets of Japan.
So there you have it. I hope these tips help you make the most out of your Japan experience. Are you excited yet? You should be! Japan is beautiful! Be ready to feel exhausted. Be ready to get lost. And be ready to fall in love.