Top 10 tricks for cheap traveling in Japan

This is a guest blog post written by Matt Baxer from Cheapo Japan, I follow his blog/site since a while ago. He is very good at finding ways to not only survive but also to move around Japan very cheaply. I asked him to compile his top 10 tricks for cheap travelling in Japan, here is the result!

By Matt Baxer / Cheapo Japan

Many say Japan is too expensive a country to travel in, but there are some great ways to keep costs down. Cheapo Japan is here to show you the best tricks for travelling in Japan cheaply. Here are my top 10 tips:

1 – Get a free guide

There are a huge number of volunteer networks all over Japan with people who want to practice their English by guiding tourists around famous sites, explaining the historical and cultural meanings behind the sites. Ask at any tourist information center in a big city for help on how to set up these free tours.

2 – Stay in capsule hotels

When in a big city such as Osaka or Tokyo, you are never too far away from a capsule hotel. These offer little pods in which you can sometimes sleep for as low as 2500 yen (about 25 dollars). It’s very cramped, but capsule hotels often have free spa facilities, so you will be too sleepy to care!


3 – Get a bento, rather than going to a restaurant
There are so many cheap bento shops around Japan, selling bento boxes from as cheap as 399 yen (about 4 dollars). Look out for chains such as Origin Bento (オリジン弁当) and Hotto Motto (ほっともっと). There are also many independent bento shops, particularly in business areas.


4 – Go for a Gyudon

Gyudons are to Japan what the hamburger is to America. It’s a basic rice bowl with meat on top. They are very cheap and come to your table in under 30 seconds. Matsuya (松屋), Yoshinoya and Sukiya have gyudons starting at 300 yen. Be sure to fill up your water bottle for free when you go to these places as well!


5 – Use buses and budget airlines rather than Shinkansen trains
They may be super cool and fast, but Shinkansen (bullet) trains are also super expensive. Instead use a bus company such as Willer Bus for journeys within one of the islands. For journeys between islands, LCCs such as Jetstar and Vanilla Air will save you a bunch of money.


6 – Get a take-out at lunch
Many rather expensive restaurants are battling for customers at lunchtime, and have therefore started to sell cheap ‘1 coin’ (500 yen) lunches. Walk around any shopping area and you will soon find one of these.

500 yen (1 coin) pizza!

7 – Stay in a mountain hut
Buy any hiking map for Japan and you will surely see lots of mountain hut and camp site signs. These are certainly not 5-star accommodations, but they provide a great way to save money over often crazily expensive Ryokans. Many mountain huts are also free, so you just turn up with a sleeping bag and sleep up in the quiet mountains!


8 – Don’t pay for a rental phone or internet
Free Wifi access is available at all 7-Eleven and Family Mart convenience stores, as well as subway stations, bus stops and JR stations. Rather than paying for a rental mobile phone, you can just use Skype or such from one of these numerous Wifi spots.


9 – Eat like a king
Lots of traditional Japanese restaurant chains, such as Yayoiken (やよい軒) or Ootoya (大戸屋ごはん処) offer reasonably priced set meals, with free rice bowl refills and drinks. Look out for these signs outside a restaurant: 食べ放題 (all you can eat) orご飯のおかわりが無料 (free rice).


10 – Shop in 100 yen shops
You can buy almost anything in a 100 yen shop, from envelopes to hot drinks. There are also an increasing number of ‘300 shops’, which have a larger range and are great places to buy cheap souvenirs.

Daiso es one of the most popular 100 yen shops in Japan

For more tips and advice for travelling in Japan on a budget, visit Cheapo Japan.

Do you have any other tips that you would like to share?