Japan Travel Tips For Budget Traveler: Top Things You Need To Know

If you’re a budget traveler and Japan is your next destination, here’re the top Japan travel tips for you!

Japan is known for many great things in the world so I don’t surprise if you want to travel to Japan one day. It’s the country of beautiful nature, cutting edge technology innovation, unique Japanese culture and many other things.

With the biggest love we all have for this beautiful country, let’s dive into the best things about Japan you need to know before you travel to Japan. This article can be your Japan travel guide and help you discover Japan to its best of best. There’s are many things you think you know already but think twice – I’m afraid that you don’t know it right yet!

Now let’s go!

Japan is expensive? NAH! It’s not THAT expensive

Ranked among the best countries to live in, Japan – Tokyo, specifically – is also listed among the most expensive places on Earth regarding life expenses. But, when it comes to Japan travel, you’ll find that you don’t have to spend your whole bank account here. It’s cheaper in comparison with some European countries if you do a little research before landing on this rising sun country. In fact, Japan is an affordable country and you don’t need to delay your trip just because you might not have enough money.

Japan Travel Tips


Japan travel tips: Free/Cheap Accommodation


First of all, there are many cheap hostels or dormitory available if you’re a budget traveler. You can go to Airbnb to rent a small but adequate apartment in great locations such as Shibuya. You can also go for a cheap capsule hotel too.

Internet cafes, Comic Book Cafes, Manga Cafeteria

Price: from 800 yen to 1500 yen ($7-$13)

Duration: 5-8 hours

What you might have: unlimited access to comic books (manga), video games, internet, foods and drinks, shower, place to sleep

Hostels

Price: from free to 3,500 yen ($30)

Where to book: Hostel World, Agoda, Booking

What you need to know: there are hostels that allow tourists or students stay without paying the fee – but in return you’ll need to do some cleaning, or some other volunteer activities like taking care of the pets. Be mind that you need to ask the owner for the requirements, rules, and other detail such as the location of the hostel (not too far from the city or easy to get there or not).

What you might have: cooking kitchen, living room, free Internet access, computers, bike hire, laundry…

Business hotels

Price: from 5,600 to 8,300 yen ($72-$106)

What you need to know: designed for businessmen, these types of hotels are perfect option for couple travelers too.

What you might have: free wifi, bathroom essentials such as towels, soap, shampoo, toothbrush, comb, etc.

Capsule hotels

Price: 3000 to 4500 yen ($38-$58) per night

What you might have: shared bathroom, locker to keep your luggage, sleeping pod, TV, light and alarm

Note that many capsule hotels only allow males.

Couchsurfing

Price: free

What you might have: free place to stay (a couch or a spare room), meeting local people and learning about their life, tips about the local life…

However, couchsurfing is not very popular in Japan and is available in bigger cities only. Plus, if you travel alone, you have more chance to find a couchsurfing place – that is to say, couple or group of travelers aren’t the target of this free accommodation in Japan.

Japan Travel Tips


Japan travel tips: Transportation


Travel within Japan includes long-distance travel between islands and urban travel around a city. Japanese public transportation is the best on Earth. You can travel just about everywhere by trains or buses in Japan – they are very well priced, clean and reliable. Just avoid the rush hours so you won’t have to get stuffed into the train like sardines. Don’t use taxi – it’s always the most expensive transportation mean, in any developed country.

Pro tips: although there’s always an economical way to travel in long distance when you want to go to the best places to visit in Japan, try avoiding visiting too many regions at once. It still costs you a huge amount of money even when you have a plan to save money from it.

Urban transportation

Moving around a city in Japan, you can just walk, hire a bicycle, and hop on a bus or a train (Japan Railway). Day passes (tickets use within a day), regular tickets or prepaid cards are not significantly different in price but use which type of ticket will depend on your route.

Japan Travel Tips

The best way to move around and also the most economical way (from a few hundreds yen per day only) is to rent a rental bicycle. It’s suitable for exploring small/medium sized cities as well as rural towns.

Pro tips to save more on urban transportation in Japan: plan your route wisely. Try to concentrate on visiting just one part of the city each day instead of go from north to the west so you can walk more.

Long-distance transportation

The most wallet friendly way when travelling in long distance is night buses. The ticket is the cheapest among other long-distance transportation means and it allows you to sleep on the bus –so you can save money on hostels at night. The chair is comfortable enough for you to sleep too. Usually, going by night bus, you will have a free wifi connection, a blanket, a pillow, and slippers. They occasionally stop so you can find something to eat. The minus for this method is that it’s pretty slow.

You heard about Shinkansen, the bullet train that moves VERY fast, right? But even many Japanese can’t afford it. So it’s not an option for budget traveler. You can take a train (Japan Railway). It’s not as cheap as the buses but it’s not expensive at all. However if you travel to a far-away place, you might need to change trains often.

Hitch hiking

The last option – also very cheap or even free – is to go hitch hiking to your destination. This is suitable for adventurous budget traveler who has a lot of time and doesn’t mind walking for a long distance in days. This method is like an exercise but it’s also the best way to meet the local and exploring Japanese life.


Japan travel tips: Food


Comparing to accommodation and transportation cost, eating Japanese traditional food is surprisingly cheap. In any Japan travel guide, you’ll see that Japanese cuisine is A MUST for you to try. You’ll be amazed at the local food AND its beverage for sure.

Even if you’re too broke for a meal, there’s always discounted (but fresh and tasty) food at Combini stores (convenient store). Cheap foods and meals are available at the 100-yen shops, sushi trains, street food shops serving ramen, donburi, curry…

If you have to cook for yourself, avoid buying fruits and vegetables because they are usually expensive, unlike meat and seafood.

Japan Travel Tips - food

You need to know Japanese language when travel to Japan? Not really!

It’s true that Japanese people are not very good at foreign languages, even global ones like English. However, it doesn’t mean that you can use English in Japan. My Japan travel guide here is that you still have great memories in Japan even if you don’t know about speaking Japanese, because all the signs there have Latin/English words for you to read. And although people aren’t that good in communicating in foreign language, they still can understand you if you write down English on a note. Many also can speak passable English too since many Japanese words itself are derived from English.

Plus, Japanese is WAY too kind and helpful when you need their help to do anything. So, don’t worry about the language part. Just be polite and you’ll be good.

Pro tips: although you don’t need to know Japanese, try learning some basic sentences such as Thank you (Arigatou gozaimasu) or sentences you think you might need to use to get help. People will really appreciate that.

Remember to keep self and public hygiene

Simple, always carry a bag to keep stuff you used because no one throws rubbish on the street as well as there’s hardly a recycle bin on the street. Bring a small handkerchief or wet paper with you in case you need to sweep out your sweats or sneeze. Getting sweat up all over your face and body is not nice at all.

Japan Travel Tips

Also, don’t eat or drink while walking. It’s considered rude and gauche.  If you need to eat when you’re out on the street, stand still or find a place to sit down first.

If you visit anyone’s house, remember to remove your shoes before going inside. That’s why you’ll need to wear good socks too or else be embarrassed by those dirty smelly socks or by the holes on them.

In Japanese culture, keeping the public cleanness is always the responsibility of each citizen so you will even see them wearing surgical/medical masks on the street a lot too.

Keep quiet when necessary too!

Talking loudly in public is something you never see in Japanese culture. People are more like, being quite all the time, especially when you are on a train or a public transportation.

If you need to talk with your friend, lower your tone so you won’t bother others.

Don’t tip in Japan!

While many Western countries consider tipping is a must to appreciate a good service, in Japanese culture, people believe that good service for customers is a responsibility so there’s no need for tipping here. It’s even considered rude or disrespectful for them. So if you try to leave a tip, they’ll just hand it back to you with a smile (by the way, Japanese people are known for two-faced personalities too since many of them may be not happy with what you do but for being polite, they still give you nice words or smile).

Exchange as much money as you can before you go

From buying stuff at the supermarket, convenient stores, train stations… to vending machines, you always need to use cash, not card. Plus, the bank is not easy to find – even when you find one, you’ll have to wait for a long time. So make sure you bring a lot of cash with you (in Japanese yen, not your country currency or US dollar) before landing on Japan.

Utilize wireless hotspots

Instead of buying SIM card, just take advantage of the wireless hotspots in Japan if you need to use the Internet often (if you’re working as a freelancer and going on a trip), especially when you’re in a big city. You’ll be surprised with the Internet speed here – a very fast one, indeed.

Earthquakes are daily things in Japan, get used to it!

And yes, you won’t die. Because earthquake disasters are very rare here. There are 2-3 earthquakes per day in Japan and sometimes they’re too small you don’t even notice.

Enjoy the marvelous Japan when you’re there! It will definitely be one of your best trips ever!

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