Japan on a budget

One of the biggest myths about Japan is that it’s expensive. The truth is, Japan can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. Think you can’t afford to make that dream trip to Japan? Odigoer Chloe shares some of her thoughts about why you should do it anyway, and how it can change your life.

1|imageslimChloe HamiltonLV.43 3677 38
Japan has a bit of a reputation for being pricey although I believe this is largely a matter of perspective. As somebody from New Zealand- a country with high living costs and food prices- I actually thought a lot of things tended to be much more reasonably priced in Japan, even with the exchange...more...

Japan can be just as fun and exciting, even on a budget. There are plenty of wallet-friendly options for where to stay, what to eat, see or do, and how to get around. Here are some top Japan travel budget tips from the Odigo community:

Header image via Flickr

Budget stays

Finding accommodation in Japan that meets your budget is easy if you know where to look. Beyond the fancy 5 star hotels are clean and functional business hotels, love hotels and even capsule hotel offerings located across the country.  They're great value for money, and an interesting talking point from your vacation. Away from hotels, hostels and AirBnB rentals are also popular choices.

1|imageslimClaudia MitsuLV.57 1427 13
If you are going on a trip, the costs for accommodations are always a big point on the budget list. Hotels can be super expensive, when you are staying at ones which are there for relaxing, fun and the typical holiday feeling. They include different meals and restaurants, swimming pool, spa area ...more...
1|imageslimDonna RhaeLV.58 1296 5
Japan can be a little bit on the expensive side, so sometimes you have to make sacrifices to save a dollar here and there. If you plan on traveling all around Japan renting hotels can end up burning a massive hole in your wallet, leaving you less cash for more important things. Luckily, Japan has...more...
1|imageslimDonna RhaeLV.58 1467 9
Japan has a wide variety of accommodations that appeal to wide range of interests and budgets. There seems to be something for everybody, and it can be a bit overwhelming to tourists who are first visiting Japan. IntroductionOne of the least understood, but most interesting type of accommodation ...more...
1|imageslimChloe HamiltonLV.43 1877 20
Air bnb is a great option for travelers looking for affordable accommodation. However there are a few aspects you should consider before jumping on and booking:Getting lost. In my opinion the worst part about staying in air bnb accommodation can be finding the place. Some hosts are fantastic and ...more...

Budget eats

Japan is famous for its incredible food, and many of them won't burn a hole in your pocket. From satisfying gyudon bowls at chains like Yoshinoya and Sukiya, to 100 yen sushi stores, and even sweets on a budget - you'll have happy taste buds and a happy wallet.

1|imageslimJohanna ForsbergLV.51 1987 28
If it's one thing you hear time and time again it's the "fact" that Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Though you can find some of the worlds most expensive things here, traveling to Tokyo doesn't have to be that expensive. Depending on where you stay, what you do and what yo...more...
1|imageslimSherilyn SiyLV.62 4991 56
It adds up. Spending US$20 on a single meal out may not seem like much in your home country but what travellers realize soon enough is that the money exchanged at the airport disappear pretty quickly when you need to eat out for every single meal for the duration of your trip. If you are staying...more...
1|imageslimAsha🍙 MehtaLV.65 955 7
Kura Sushi is an extremely popular sushi chain that can literally be found everywhere in Japan, and for good reason- it takes everyone's favourite conveyer belt sushi and adds a fun element by introducing a lucky draw. And the best part- it's incredibly cheap!Kura sushi sells each plate at only 1...more...
1|imageslimClaudia MitsuLV.57 839 9
Talking about Japan, sushi often is THE food to eat. So why not trying out sushi on your trip to Japan? There are many traditional sushi restaurants, which are specialized and where real sushi chefs are working. However, a visit there might become super expensive. As adjustment, Japan also has a ...more...
1|imageslimSherilyn SiyLV.62 283 7
We call it the K-mart of sushi. And we love it.Jiro Ono of the 3-star Michelin restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro would definitely be scandalized by Kappa-sushi's offerings. But Kappa-sushi is not for Jiro or for purists. Sushi used to be considered a high-class and expensive fare (and still is if you g...more...
1|imageslimJohanna ForsbergLV.51 1430 24
Japan, home of sushi and sashimi, is often wrongfully accused of being super expensive. Sure, you can find super expensive things here; like strawberries or melons that cost a small fortune or visit famously expensive sushi places, but you can also find super affordable things of high quality. E...more...
1|imageslimDonna RhaeLV.58 766 14
Food is probably one of the best things about any country you visit. Food gives you the opportunity to actually taste another culture and it's something you can bring back to your friends and family. Japan has a wide variety of tasty treats that'll fill you up without draining your wallet, so you...more...
1|imageslimAngie RinLV.51 883 14
As someone with huge sweet tooth, I was super excited when I saw Japan’s abundant collection of pastries and sweets! Not only do you have your normal everyday goodies, you can even have themed sweets in honor of your favorite anime, manga, or musician.  If you’re coming to Japan with a sweet toot...more...

Budget fun

There are loads of fun things you can do in Japan that don't cost much. From historic shrines and temples, to fascinating museums, beautiful parks and even breweries (hello, sake!) there's something for everyone. If shopping is your thing, stores like Don Quixote, 100 yen and 300 yen stores will help you find just about anything you want at great prices. They're especially great for picking up some souvenirs!

1|imageslimMike BLV.72 992 9
Let's say you really want a one-stop shop for culture, cuisine, and history on your vacation to Japan -- but you, like me, also enjoy having a drink while you do it.  Let's also say that you aren't necessarily made of money (also like me).  So what are you to do?  Believe it or not, Japanese brew...more...
1|imageslimSherilyn SiyLV.62 97 5
Do you crane your neck when an emergency vehicle whizzes past? Do your kids run to the window when they hear the sirens blare, echoing down the street? If yes, there's a place that you absolutely have to go to. And believe it or not, you don't have to spend a single yen to have hours of fun for t...more...
1|imageslimAngie RinLV.51 282 5
 As someone studying arts and design in Tokyo, I definitely believe that Tokyo is one of the best places to fuel your artistic inspirations. Whether you’re interested in digital designs or more traditional takes, Tokyo has it all. Now, galleries, exhibitions, film screenings, they all sound great...more...
1|imageslimthis is japanLV.88 2601 38
You may have heard that saying once or twice in your life that goes like this..."Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer". And it's true - travel does make you richer in terms of amazing experiences, learning about new cultures, and making new friends - but boy, can it give the...more...
1|imageslimAsha🍙 MehtaLV.65 1942 43
Tokyo is well known for being one of the world's most expensive cities, but that doesn't mean that you can't save while exploring this huge concrete jungle. In fact, there are a ton of ways you can sightseeing in Tokyo for free! Here's a list of 5 places where you can enjoy the wonderful Neon lit...more...
1|imageslimTanya CharronLV.44 622 11
A wanderer can be many things and in Tokyo there always something to see or do. If you’re like me, you like walking around a place and just soaking in the sights and culture. Some people even like to just sit around and people watch those that walk around the area. Window shopping or just going i...more...
1|imageslimAsha🍙 MehtaLV.65 896 13
Kyoto is, in my opinion, one of the best large cities in Japan for nature lovers. There's lots of natural beauty tucked away in the many shrines within Kyoto, as well as large green spaces for all at very accesible areas. For those looking for budget friendly options, here is a list of free parks...more...
1|imageslimChloe HamiltonLV.43 240 8
One of my favorite experiences in Japan was completely free- well, save the few hundred yen I spent on some delicious takoyaki.  Yoyogi park is located right next to Harajuku station in Tokyo . I highly recommend having a break there and seeing some greenery during your stay in Tokyo . While it i...more...
1|imageslimEri LinLV.53 362 7
Kanazawa is the perfect destination for those who love strolling through well-preserved historical districts (geisha teahouses, anyone?) and museums. While sometimes referred to as “little Kyoto,” Kanazawa is a worthwhile stop in its own right—and its location next to the sea of Japan makes Kanaz...more...
1|imageslimEri LinLV.53 403 6
Located in the mountainous region of the Gifu prefecture, Takayama is the perfect place to experience a mixture of rural and old Japan. Here are the top five free things to do when you're in Takayama!Sanmichi  Sanmichi, Takayama’s old town, will blast you back hundreds of years to the time when T...more...
1|imageslimEri LinLV.53 581 21
Kyoto is a must-visit city for any traveler to Japan, and for good reason—it is the cultural capital of Japan and has retained much of its deep historical roots. While Kyoto has a reputation for being expensive to travel in, here are the top five free things to do when you’re in the city!  Higash...more...
1|imageslimEri LinLV.53 407 8
Osaka, one of Japan’s greatest commercial and gastronomical centers, is known to be the carefree counterpart to traditional Kyoto. Here are five great things that you experience while you’re there, all for free!   Asahi Beer Factory Japanese beer is world-renowned, and at the Asahi Beer Factory, ...more...
1|imageslimthis is japanLV.88 2890 37
Ah, vacation. That awesome trip that you planned to Japan has finally rolled around. You've got your passport, your bag is packed, and you've got an itinerary full of awesome things to do and see. The only problem is, you've also got a list a mile long of people that you need to get souvenirs for...more...
1|imageslimAsha🍙 MehtaLV.65 704 20
Toji temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO world heritage sites, but that's not the only reason why the temple has become so famous across Japan. On the 21st of every month, Toji temple, which is just outside Kyoto station, holds a very popular flea market that attracts hundreds of vendors selling...more...
1|imageslimAsha🍙 MehtaLV.65 837 25
Buying souvenirs from gift shops can quickly get really expensive. More often than not, these items are overpriced and just not worth the money. For those looking for tangible items to remind themselves of their trips, here are ways you can preserve your memories of your trip, all for free! Pamph...more...
1|imageslimAngie RinLV.51 1007 9
Japan’s game centers (arcades) are the best of the best: an endless selection of games, great prizes, and a super fun time! I will say though that for some, these game centers are notorious money eaters! With 100 yen (roughly $1) being a coin instead of paper, spending definitely becomes 10 times...more...

Budget transportation

Transportation costs can eat up a big chunk of your budget if you're not careful, but there are ways to get the most out of your Yen. Japan has affordable buses, multiple discounted rail passes, and if you prefer to fly, budget airlines that offer prices comparable to bullet trains.

1|imageslimAngie RinLV.51 691 15
There are many forms of transportation available in Japan. Trains, bullet trains, buses, taxis-- they’re all efficient, but some more costly than others. The Shinkansen (bullet train) is Japan’s best and fastest, though can cost roughly 3,000 yen to 10,000+ yen depending on your destination.   Fo...more...
1|imageslimSherilyn SiyLV.62 4220 63
You've listed all the cool places you'd like to check out in Tokyo and planned out the minute details of your daily itinerary. You're all psyched up for your trip. You get to Tokyo and realize that while a  train ride over a short distance costs only ¥170, maybe ¥200 which is really not that bad...more...
1|imageslimthyna vuLV.50 1410 12
Hiroshima and Osaka are both extremely popular stops for visitors to Japan, and there are rail passes offered by JR West to help cover some of the costs. I will say that rail passes upfront can be quite expensive, so they're not necessarily for someone wanting to travel on a tight budget. But if ...more...
1|imageslimthyna vuLV.50 738 3
The Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass is a travel pass that comes in a few different forms, available only for visitors to Japan. While some city-specific tourist passes can be difficult to understand, the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass is, in my experience, very easy to use to navigate around Hiroshima...more...
1|imageslimTravelling FireflyLV.53 628 11
Hakone is a must for many travellers and for good reason, home to lake Ashi, onsens and spectacular views of Mt Fuji this is an area that is rich in history and packs a punch for people wanting a whole lot of quintessential Japan experiences in a short timeframe. Even better, with the Hakone Free...more...
1|imageslimKurt AndersonLV.40 858 12
When people think of traveling Japan, they usually think trains. With good reason, it’s one of the most connected countries in the world. However, when one wants to travel from city to city, trains can get a little costly, especially when using the shinkansen. What if I told you there was a cheap...more...

Stay connected

Staying connected is a big consideration when traveling - how else are you going to upload that ramen pic on Instagram? In Japan, free WiFi is still the exception rather than the norm, and for most people, a pocket WiFi router is the way to go.

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When it comes to travel necessities, free WiFi is basically up there with your passport these days. Having a connection is important for so many things, whether that be downloading maps or train timetables, confirming accommodation bookings, or even just checking in on social media with friends a...more...
1|imageslimScarlett SahotaLV.37 1139 25
One of the things I've missed the most when travelling to foreign countries is the ability to pull out your phone and Google whatever information you need to know. While you can get phone plans/temporary phones, this can be costly and only accessible by one person. What I recommend is getting a P...more...

Budget itineraries 

One of the best ways to stay on budget is to plan a good itinerary. Need inspiration? Here are some recommended Japan budget travel itineraries from our top community contributors:

1|imageslimMiki PLV.57 219 9
When most people think of travelling to Japan, they think of visiting the area of Tokyo and Kyoto. However, Japan has so much more to offer and in this article I will tell you why Hiroshima and Miyajima are two places which fit in perfectly in almost anyone’s first time itinerary and why they sho...more...
1|imageslimTanya CharronLV.44 985 8
People often overlook Osaka because it’s so near to Kyoto and everyone wants to flock there. In reality, Osaka has quite a bit to offer! So here’s a five day itinerary in Osaka that will help you discover this little hidden gem while making sure your wallet doesn’t take a hit! This itinerary can ...more...
1|imageslimMiki PLV.57 866 6
Tokyo may seem like a very expensive city to visit, but it will prove you otherwise. In this guide I will tell you the perfect itinerary to spend a day in Tokyo for only 7000 yen including all meals, snacks, drinks, sights and sleeping arrangements. In this guide I will tell you exactly where to...more...
1|imageslimTanya CharronLV.44 589 10
Tokyo is an expensive city and for those of us who like to save a buck or two it can really have us thinking twice about visiting. Just walking around Tokyo can be an experience in and of itself (it’s free too!), but visiting specific areas while walking enables you to always have something new t...more...