4 Ways to Save Money When Visiting Japan

Dotonbori, Osaka, JapanHOW TO

One of many questions I have when planning a Japan trip is, can you have budget trip to Japan? The answer is, ABSOLUTELY.

I’d love to experience and enjoy everything as much as I can, and it surely will cost me A LOT. Therefore, I tried our best to explore budget trip, where I can be frugal on some things and spend extra money to other things I’d super love to explore. You can absolutely still have amazing travel experiences in Japan while saving money.

Now, we’re not great at budgeting, so we just cut our expenses as much as we possibly can. Some suggestions can differ from one traveler to another, so we’ll just write down some tips according to our personal experience. And mind you, this is ONLY our personal thoughts on how to cut travel cost, so you might want to do your own research as well. Let’ get down to it.

1# Visit Only One Region

To give you an idea, most travelers want to experience traditional ambience commonly found in Kyoto and also want to see vibrant neon lights and modern skyscrapers in Tokyo. So sorry to inform you, Kyoto is in Kansai region, while Tokyo is in Kanto region. The distance between two regions is 601.8 km, that’s around 14,000 yen by bullet train (Shinkansen) and around 4,000 ~ 8,000 yen by plane.

I know you might get discouraged with this suggestion, but let me tell you the good news, a region has so many wonderful spots to explore. I promise you, you won’t get bored.

Dotonbori, most popular town in Osaka, Kansai.

It’s possible to experience both worlds: traditional and modern, in only one region. You may discover Japan’s traditional temples and parks, and also modern buildings in every region. So, other than spending less money on transportation, you’ll get a less stressful travel.

And if I may make a suggestion, Kanto and Kansai region are the best options for first-time traveler. As both regions are more familiar with foreign tourist, many street signs, train station signs, announcements, and menus are in English.

2# Visit Free-Admission Tourist Destinations

To maximize your budget trip experience, we think you’ll need to prioritize the free-admission tourist destinations. Most museums, parks, temples, historical places, and hiking trails in Japan are free to enjoy.

Temple complex in Nara Park, Kansai.

Travel with big or small budget, we can always take advantage of the opportunity to explore freely, literally. Admission fee to museums is vary, start around 400 to 2,000 yen. But, many museums are free to enjoy. I’d like to remind you that most museums in Japan are closed on Monday, and due to pandemic, some museums might require reservation, so we think you’d better plan your museum visit. Plan and search online before coming to Japan, or you can find travel maps in your hotel, Airbnb, malls, or stations when you’re in Japan.

3# Shop Bento at Supermarket and Konbini

As a foreign tourist, local food is one of things I’m super eager to taste and enjoy. Though I have dietary restrictions, I’m not a picky eater and not a foodie, so it’s easier for me to save money on food.

What I love about Bento and ready-made-foods in supermarket or Konbini is that most of them are traditional Japanese dishes, authentic Japanese foods that are easy to grab and go. I’ve been told and learned from experience, that supermarket products are cheaper than Konbini’s (convenience store). The price difference between Supermarket and Konbini product is maybe around 20 – 50 yen, or more. Supermarket’s Bento and ready-made foods are usually on sale at night, there’ll be a discount up to 50%. Most Japanese do love discounted ready-made foods. So mind you, there won’t be many choices, since they sold out fast. You’d better be fast if you’re going to buy discounted food.

Salad selection. Don’t forget to check out the dressing selection too.

Konbini’s Bento and ready-made foods are also tasty, and sometimes Konbini offer interesting selection of foods and snacks. 7-Eleven and Lawson are two of most popular Konbinis, especially among travelers, and some of their stores provide selection of Halal foods too. Me personally, I have more Konbini trips than supermarket, just because usually Konbini’s location is nearer to my Airbnb.

How to save money with water? It’s said that Japan’s tap water is clean and safe to drink, and yep, I drink a lot of tap water. I rarely buy water bottle.  And if I want to make sure the water is really safe to drink, but still want to save money, I’ll just cook the water.

Locally sourced Vegan menu for 1,000 yen.

For Muslim travelers, unfortunately, I don’t think Japan have much of a choice on low budget Halal Japanese food, yet. When you buy Supermarket or Konbini’s foods, please spare some times to check on the ingredients and condiments. Because the good news is, you may still be able to find Muslim-friendly foods. 

Halal menu at Arashiyama, Kyoto.

I recommend that you don’t cook yourself, because sometimes the ingredients are more expensive than ready-made foods. If I want to splurge my money on food that I’m super curious to try, then I’ll spend my money at least once every couple of days eating at a decent restaurant. Budgeting allows me to spend more on things I really want to try.

4# Walking Trip

One of several ways to save on transportation costs is, do a Walking Trip. On a good weather, you can walk to tourist destinations near your lodging or just walk around the neighborhood. You’ll be surprised of things you’ll see and find even just around the corner. You’ll find hidden temples, interesting vending machines, cool murals, traditional buildings and many more. Especially for me, a walking trip around the neighborhood is as exciting as a tour to tourist destination.

Asakusa Walk of Fame.

The train ticket fare to the closest station is around 128 yen, and around a 100 yen for a bus ride. Most of the time you might need to take a couple of rides to get to your destination. This is one of the reasons I suggest to only travel in one region, so you can get anywhere by bus and train in short amount of time and at an affordable cost, or you can literally travel on foot.

But there is a downside of this travel choice. While a walking trip can help you save money, it might not wise in term of time-saving and it’s exhausting. I think it’s wise not to do this kind of trip every day, since you’ll need to save energy for your next itinerary.

I’d walk around 8-20 km to visit two or three destinations in a day and return to the lodging at night. After a long walk my feet would give up, so usually I’ll take a train ride back to the lodging. You can always change your plan, either walk all day long, or choose between a train ride to your first destination and a train ride home.

Please do your research when planning your Walking Trip itineraries and stay away from sketchy places. Plan a safe route from your lodging to your destination. For female travelers, if I may suggest, it might be wise to avoid or always be extra aware and careful as you walk through alleys even at noon.

That’s it, friends. Have fun planning your future getaway to Japan.