15 Ways to Travel Japan on the Cheap

Published July 22nd, 2013

travel japan cheap

You may have heard how expensive it is to travel in Japan. Paying for the flight, then accommodation, food, transportation, and entertainment, when added up, isn’t cheap.

But if you’re flexible and willing to learn a little bit of Japanese, you can still enjoy your trip and go home with yen in your pocket. Below you’ll find ways to save on accommodation and transportation and travel Japan cheap!

1. Travel in the off seasons. Avoid Golden Week (late April through the first week of May), Obon (mid-August) and New Year’s. If you go during the rainy season (June and early July) hotels and other venues are often marked down.


2. Consider the Japan Rail Pass. Get it if you plan to visit multiple cities, but not if you only travel around one or two. You can only get a rail pass if you reside outside of Japan. Use Hyperdia or Jorudan to calculate train fares.

3. Save with other rail passes. Japan Railways (JR) sells all kinds of passes and discounted tickets, called “toku kippu”. For example, the Seishun 18 ticket allows you to travel Japan for cheap by local trains (not the bullet or express trains) for up to five days during certain times of the year.

Or the JR Shikoku birthday ticket allows you to travel on JR Shikoku train lines and some buses for three consecutive days for 10,000 yen within your birthday month. Bring three friends and they pay the same price per ticket.

4. Bus it. Highway or overnight buses are one of the cheapest ways to travel around Japan.

5. Local trains are cheaper than bullet trains, albeit slower. And with only one hard-to-find bathroom. They’re faster than the bus, though.

6. Rent a bicycle. Bicycles are everywhere, and sometimes renting a bike to see the sites is a good way to get a little exercise, find a cute hole-in-the-wall place, and not overdo the walking.

7. Between cities, a budget airline might save you money. Check prices at Peach, Jetstar, Skymark and AirAsia.

8. Avoid taxis as much as possible.


9. Stay in cheap or free accommodations, such as hostels, capsule hotels, business hotels, internet or manga cafes, camping, Couchsurfing, Airbnb, to name a few options. Volunteering is another option.


10. Research hotels early–two months or more before your trip. Many hotels offer deals and specials months ahead of time. It’s possible to find something cheap at a nice hotel in Tokyo.

11. Wait until a week or two before to book during the off-seasons, if you can. Some hotels offer special plans–at most a few weeks before–to fill up rooms.

12. Stay at a nice hotel during the week and a cheaper one on the weekends. Saturday night rates, and sometimes Fridays, typically have the highest rates. Weekends always fill up quickly.

13. Use a Japanese travel site to book a hotel, if you can. Japanese booking sites typically offer cheaper rates, such as Rakuten Travel (the English version has less hotels than the Japanese version), Jalan (less hotels on the English site), Rurubu, or Meitetsu Kankou. Look for hotels in English, too, but Japanese sites offer a greater selection and usually have better prices.

14. Check the hotels’ official websites to compare prices. Sometimes the rates on the hotel’s site are lower than on travel sites.

15. Don’t get a hotel plan with meals included, unless you want the ryokan experience, can’t avoid it, or if there are no restaurants, supermarkets or convenience stores near the hotel.

In the next post we’ll look at more tips for traveling in Japan on a budget.