Tips on Travelling to Japan on the Cheap

27.March 2014

Our Journey

Japan is one of the most enigmatic and exciting countries you could ever wish to visit. It is also renowned for being incredibly expensive. The Internet is littered with horror stories from mortified travellers who have had their wallets lightened to the tune of £80 for a steak. Or had palpitations at being asked to part with £30 for a beer. Japan is a country on the bucket list of many. But the majority of these believe it will stay a dream after reading these stories.

I have a very pleasant surprise for you. It IS possible to visit Japan “on the cheap”, but your sense of adventure will play a vital part in it. The fact remains that like any country that has seen a massive surge in tourism the prices have shot up. Remember many foreign visitors are shocked at the prices in London. This article is to help you realise your dream of visiting the land of the rising sun without re-mortgaging the house to do so.

What to do?
The best way to visit Japan on the cheap is to do as many of the “free” attractions as possible. Japan has more free attractions than nearly every other country in the world.

Shopping

In Tokyo the shopping is an event in itself with the infamous neon lights, the geek district in all its nerdy maid café brilliance and the giant department stores containing everything from arcade rooms to rooftop Ferris wheels – go where the locals hang out for incredibly cheap entertainment (just don’t spend £300 on anime figures like I may have done!). Outside of Tokyo the shopping department stores are still incredible – Sapporo has one with a gigantic water park on the roof!

Temples

The big temples in most of the major cities, particularly Kyoto, are reasonably cheap but if you really want to save money visit the small out of the way temples. The locals will generally be warm and welcoming and I received plenty of free lessons in Shinto and Buddhism – Plus some incredible origami cranes from a local old man who chatted with me for an hour.

Parks

You will rarely find such beauty as in Japanese parks. Whether in the big city or the countryside these are incredibly well tended and full of beautiful flowers and trees. The cherry blossoms are undoubtedly the most famous botanical site in all of Japan and we’d recommend planning your trip around them. The pink parks and beautiful spring and summer flowers will give you days of free entertainment.

Views

Every building in Japan seems huge and you don’t have to pay much to get to some incredible 50th floor bars or viewing platforms. The views of the skyscrapers and giant neon lights are absolutely incredible – and a few beers entertainment costs will be well worth the experience.

Cheaper accommodation, eating out, travelling

When travelling around a country there are three things that will eat into your budget remorselessly. These are accommodation, eating out and travelling around. So let’s look at these individually to see how the savings can be made, starting with accommodation.

How much time are you realistically going to spend in your hotel when in Japan? Do you really need the fitness rooms, spa facilities and Olympic size swimming pool? Of course you don’t. What you want is somewhere clean to lay your head and to have a hot shower.

£25 a Night

Sites such as TripAdvisor are not only for those looking for a cheap week in Benidorm. They cover the entire world and you can easily find a room in Tokyo. Although reputedly, one of the most expensive cities’s in the world, it is possible to get basic accommodation for £25 a night. No this isn’t a hostel, but neither is it the Ritz. It is the aforementioned clean place to lay your head and get a hot shower. Want to check it out before booking? Head to Trip Advisor to find reviews of specific hotels. It is also possible to get a good cheap package holiday to Japan from companies like Ice Lolly that is a viable cheap option compared to DIY.

Eat Where the Locals Eat

Noodles, sushi, noodles, rice…our knowledge regarding Japanese cuisine is often sadly lacking compared to their Chinese neighbours. This is probably due to Japanese food being considered an expensive alternative to Chinese in the UK. Forget the fancy restaurants aimed at tourists with more money than sense and stick to the old mantra; eat where the locals eat.

This could be a stand in the street or a man tossing fish in tempura batter where you sit in a local circular restaurant with the chef in the middle. The fact remains that this is real Japanese food. And until you have tasted real noodles in Japan, you haven’t tasted a noodle. Sense of adventure plays a big part in eating out in Japan. And while there will invariably be some things that you can’t bring yourself to eat there is much to enjoy by eating with the locals.

Public Transport
Lazy visitors will have all their travel arrangements booked and paid for in advance. The public transport system in Japan is as advanced as you would imagine in a country as forward thinking as this.

If you are based in one city for the majority of your stay then once again do as a local would; get on your bike. It is the accepted form of transport around the streets of Asian cities, and easily hired. Or buy a bike, use it, sell it again when you leave, simple. Cars are expensive and not that much help if you can not follow Japanese street signs. They also have to pay huge congestion charges which pushes up the price of taxi’s to an exorbitant rate. If you’re travelling around on the infamous Bullet Train then buy a Japan Pass before you arrive – they make transport cheap – and flying is expensive internally.

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