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Japan is famous (or should I say, infamous) for being an expensive country to travel to. While this can be the case, it is still possible to travel to Japan on a budget. The trick is that you just need to know where to look to save a dollar here and there.

From visiting free attractions to getting yourself a cost-effective Japan Rail Pass, traveling to Japan is quite possible on a smaller budget.

Here are some of my best tips to save money in Japan while still being able to enjoy the Japanese culture and the best the country has to offer.

1.   Check if You Need a Visa

Knowing whether or not you need a visa to visit Japan is one of the first cost-related things that you need to consider before you’ve even booked your trip. Besides flights and booking your accommodation, securing a visa is often an additional cost that’s overlooked by many travelers.

So, do you need a visa for your Japan trip?

The good news is that if you’re from the United States, the United Kingdom, some parts of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, you don’t require a visa to travel to Japan.

As for the other nationalities, you’ll need to check if you need a visa and apply for one online or by visiting the necessary visa office. If you need help getting started, iVisa is an excellent resource for getting your Japan visa. Simply enter where you’re from and where you’re going, and iVisa will help you with the rest.

2. Travel Off-Peak

If you’re looking to travel Japan on a budget, planning your trip during Japan’s off-peak season will ensure that you get more reasonable prices for your accommodation, flight tickets, and other travel-related expenses.

Cherry blossom season around early April and the fall foliage season in mid-November are among the most popular dates to visit Japan. Some other popular dates include Japanese New Year on January 1, Golden Week from April 29 to May 5, and Obon in mid-August.

These are generally Japan’s peak seasons and when you can expect to pay more.

If you’re not too bothered about missing out on these events, then traveling in the off-peak season is a surefire way to save money on your trip. Traveling during the winter months from mid-January to March can prove to be a money saver since accommodation becomes much cheaper.

Another thing that helps a lot when it comes to saving money, especially during the off-peak season, is traveling in groups and with family. There are plenty of budget-friendly Tokyo accommodation options that cater specifically for families.

Remember, just because you’re traveling out of season doesn’t mean that you’ll miss out on all that Japan has to offer! Check out this two-week Japan winter itinerary if you need some inspiration to help get you started for your trip.

Mount Fuji in Japan

3. Travel by Bus for Short Distances

Japan’s transportation network is certainly impressive. While trains are a great option when traveling longer distances (more on that next), buses are the much more cost-effective option when traveling locally.

Japan’s extensive bus network travels to most major cities in the country.

These day and night buses are often cheaper than trains since the travel time might be longer. However, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of using this transportation mode. While it is cheaper, a trip from Tokyo to Osaka, for example, can take up to nine hours on a bus.

But, if you’re not in a rush, this is a great way to travel the country cheaply.

Companies like Willer Express offer bus passes for travelers looking to visit most major cities on a budget. From JPY10,200 ($69), you can secure a three-day unlimited bus pass to use from Monday to Thursday.

Alternatively, Bookaway is another great site to find cheap bus tickets in Japan.

A wedding in Tokyo

4. Get a Rail Pass for Long-Distance Travel

Alternatively, if you’re planning on taking frequent, long-distance trips, then getting a Rail Pass might be a better option in the long run.

As mentioned, traveling by bullet train, otherwise known as “shinkansen,” is much faster than going by bus. For example, your nine-hour bus trip from Tokyo to Osaka becomes a much quicker three-hour trip via train. This is a huge benefit if you’re short on time and want to make the most out of your Japan trip.

You can get a one or two-week Japan Rail Pass to cover all your intercity trips. Starting from $325 for a seven-day pass, it’s not necessarily cheap, but it could be worth the purchase if you need to get around quickly or plan on covering longer distances.

If you’re planning to stay in one region of Japan, a regional pass might be much more convenient and cost-effective. These train tickets are cheaper than a general pass, with an Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass costing $169 for seven days.

Are you still wondering if a JR Pass is worth it? In my opinion, it’s generally only worth buying if you’re planning on traveling long distances around Japan mostly via rail.

5. Walk and Travel Like a Local

Japan’s cities are easily navigable by rail, bus, and tram. Their rates are relatively cheap compared to US public transportation networks and day passes are available if you plan on moving around a lot. 

In addition, most Japanese cities are easily walkable, so why not enjoy the city from the sidewalk and at a slower pace, instead of on a train or bus?

If you’re unsure of the best way to get around, I highly recommend you chat with a couple of locals about how they would go about navigating Japan. Whether they’re hotel staff or friends in your hostel, getting to know how a local travels is one of my key tips for foreign visitors who want to stick to a strict budget.

Norbert in a capsule hotel

6. Try a Capsule Hotel

Not only are capsule hotels a unique curiosity in Japan, but they are also a cheap accommodation option for saving a bit of money now and then.

However, I only recommend staying in a capsule hotel for a night or two due to their small size, lack of decent storage space, and reduced privacy.

These hotels are often found near major transit hubs (since many locals use them after work), so they’re great if you need to catch an early train or want to be in a convenient location to move around the city.

I can highly recommend Resol Poshtel Tokyo Asakusa and Nine Hours Suidobashi if you want to try out this quirky stay.

7. Use Vrbo, Airbnb, or Couchsurfing for Cheap Accommodation

For roomier accommodation, rent an apartment or room from a local using Vrbo or Airbnb. This is usually a much more affordable way to stay, with lower rates than most hotel rooms.

In many cases, you’ll even be able to interact with your host, who could possibly show you around the city if they have time, or help you navigate the transport system.

The same concept applies to Couchsurfing. However, this platform gives you options to stay on someone’s couch or in their extra bed. If you’re especially strapped for cash, this free accommodation could come in handy.

Matsuya bowl

8. Eat at Local Gyūdon Restaurants

Gyūdon, which literally means beef bowl, is a delicious Japanese dish consisting of a simple bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce.

There are several local “fast food” chains serving Gyūdon all across the country. Among them are Matsuya, Sukiya, and Yoshinoya. A bowl of Gyūdon typically starts from JPY400-500 (around $3 to $4), which makes it really economical.

Some other cheap Japanese chain restaurants that are worth trying include Fujisoba for noodles, Osho for gyoza (dumplings), and Mos Burger for delicious burgers, to name a few. 

You might be surprised to hear that you can actually get quite decent food from 7-Eleven as well!

9. Visit Japan’s Many Free Attractions

One of the best things Japan offers is that most of its interesting and popular sights don’t cost anything to enter. You can visit Shinto shrines, parks, markets, contemporary buildings, and historical towns without spending a dime.

While some sights might have an entrance fee, they are often cheap or worth the price of admission.

Japan has a lot of interesting historical sites that might appeal to adult travelers; however, there are tons of things to do on a budget with kids, too. For example, it’s easy to plan your trip to Tokyo and Kyoto with teenagers and still get the most out of your trip without breaking the bank.

Girls walking in Kyoto

10. Buy Cheap

If you want to buy things for daily use or cheap souvenirs, skip the general convenience stores and go to a “100 Yen shop“. As the name suggests, most items in the store are sold for 100 Japanese yen (less than a US dollar), and the shops work similarly to an American Dollar store.

These are also handy stores to stock up on items like water, groceries, and toiletries.

Just note that these stores might go by another name depending on the region you’re in, so it’s best to ask a local where you can find one closest to you.

Ready to see Japan on a very tight budget?

Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip to Japan

Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Kayak. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.

If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.

For hotels, guesthouses, and other types of accommodation, I also recommend They usually have the cheapest fares for guesthouses and hotels. I always book my hotels with

Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness. I’ve used HeyMondo many times throughout my travels.

If you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on travel insurance.

If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.

 offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators, be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.

Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.

Adventure Awaits


Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Save Money on Flights!​

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