Want to go to Japan but do not have a lot of money? Fear not, I will give you some tips!
I have been to Japan 4 times. And every time I bring this up with people who don’t know me well, the first comment that comes up is, “You must be rich!” To be honest, I think there is a misconception that you HAVE to be RICH to go to Japan. As a matter of fact, you don’t. I went to Japan without spending so much money. What you need is just but a series of planning.
First of all, decide where in Japan you like to go. This is the most important step. Say for example, you have decided on Tokyo. Now the next thing to do is to look for budget flights to get there from your country. Most of the time, you can get a good price for flights during off peak periods. Other than that, look out for flight promotions by airlines (I usually do this). You will be surprised at the price you can get sometimes. Also, if there are budget airlines in your country flying to Japan, all the better, look out for promotions by these budget airlines too. Chances are, you can get REALLY good bargains during promotions.
After getting your ticket, it’s time to look at your accommodation. Personally for me, how I save money is, I stay in dorms in hostels. When I say dorms, this can mean a room of 4 – 20 people in 1 room. And usually mixed dorms are cheaper than same gender dorms. I think I hear a lot of girls freaking out when I say this. A lot of my friends wondered at how a girl like me can stay with so many strangers (guys included) with no private bathroom. Well, seriously I don’t really mind this and it ain’t such a big deal, I mean you get a bargain so come on. At the end of the day, you just need a bed and shower space and that’s it.
Well, the reasons I like staying in a dorm are, 1) save money, and 2) I get to know people from different countries. Anyway, here I would advice you to take time to search for a cheap and good hostel. Different hostels have different attractive points, for instance, location, free food (breakfast, sake! etc), book X nights to get 1 night free or something, and some even let you stay for free if you help them clean up the hostel! So take time to find one that meets your needs. And of course, it’s important to find a clean dorm with good ratings.
If you are REALLY on a budget and do not have much money to stay in a hostel, then fear not. There’s always couchsurfing. This is a free social networking service which you can make use to make new friends and stay at a person’s place for free! (of course, you have to bring a gift for your host and teach them more about your culture and so on) You might wonder if couchsurfing is safe. It is! And this service has been going on for years! Seriously, this greatly reduces the accommodation cost and you get to interact with a person who is keen to let you learn more about his/her culture! However, you might have to note that you might have to move around every few days but hey, look on the bright side, you get to stay at a person’s place for free!
Transportation expenses in Tokyo. This is probably the killer expense in Japan. As a result, you have to do careful planning so that you don’t waste money. Decide on the places you want to cover for the days you will be there. There are different types of passes available so be sure to check out which type of pass suits your traveling needs cos at the end of the day, you don’t want to spend too much money. For me, I tend to put all nearby places I want to go together and I do a lot of walking. If I can walk to a place without taking the subway, I would. That sounds crazy but yes, I do that! xD And I also try to get out early so that I can cover more places and do a lot of exploring for the day.
Food. A lot of people think it is expensive to have meals in Japan, well I think it depends. Not all places are expensive. And some in fact can be cheap and good. So do keep your eyes open when you are walking around. And a good tip for you is that, many big supermarkets have their bentos on offer after 2pm n 6 pm (sometimes, the discount can be up to 50%! YAY!). Other than that, when I was in Japan, I found this lovely cheap bento place called Hotto Motto. You can get a lot of good bento sets at less than 500 yen! And though they are cheap, they are GOOD as well. Anyway, there are also small eateries which sell food at 500 yen or less (so keep your eyes open!) Of course, there are others places like MacDonald’s or the 100 yen shop (instant noodle but this means u need to cook and usually u can cook it at the hostel). For me, I try to limit my food expense to 1000 yen per day to save money. LOL. Of course, you can make exceptions for a day to try their more expensive food when you are there. Also, some hostels offer free breakfast, so do make sure you have your fill before you step out for the day!
Bring a big bottle over and be sure to top up your drinking water at the hostel. So you don’t waste money buying drinking water.
Sightseeing – in fact, there are many places that you can get discount coupons, Japan National Tourism Organization, Visit Japan, and many more. Be sure to do your research as many museums in Japan have discount coupons that you can print online. And some even offers you nice freebies if you present the coupon. Also, you can get discounts if you are a student so be sure to flash your student card when you buy a ticket to places of interest.
There are many nice secondhand stores in Japan, one particular famous one is Wego where they have a section of secondhand clothes. However if you are not into secondhand stuff, head to Harajuku. There are many cheap and nice clothings, shoes and so on that you can get. Speaking of shoes, there are also many bargain stores that sells nice and good sneakers (YAY! I like!!). Just keep a lookout for stores that have sale.
- books, games, dvds
secondhand stores again. There are HUGE secondhand stores in Japan that you can get REAL GOOD deals. I buy loads of things at secondhand stores. Oh! If you are into DS, you can get cheap DS games at these places (I buy a lot of educational ones to brush up my Japanese). If you are into buying secondhand books and are in the Tokyo area, I suggest you to drop by the Jimbocho used books area. U can get ridiculous deals in this area.
Just a note about secondhand stuff. The secondhand stuff for sale in Japan are as good as new so seriously I do not see any reason why I sholdn’t get them cos they are much cheaper than the original.
You might be able to find random interesting things at 100 yen stores. Also there are small stores in Asakusa that sell things on a bargain, like toiletries, socks, hats and so on. But these stores are not located on the main street so you have to look carefully so that you can get lots of good bargains.
Be extra careful about spending money in Japan becos they have TONS of cute stuff and interesting technology gadgets. This is a HUGE TEMPTATION to spend. So don’t say I didn’t warn you about this!
And now you can do your maths and start calculating how much you need for your trip and start saving money. Try to plan in advance, so that you can get all the good deals and that you don’t have to cramp saving all the money at once. Allocate a portion of money for your trip every month so you will see that sum of money grow.
Finally, brush up on your Japanese before you step into Japan. And use those Japanese that you have learned. Practice, practice, practice.
Hope this post is useful to those who want to go to Japan but are on a budget. Till the next post! Take care!