Japan has earned a reputation for being an expensive holiday destination. I always figured that it was specifically because the Indonesian currency can be iffy, and most of my friends are at similar points in their lives, you know – long hours, sh*tty pay at work. But it turns out, a lot of people I meet on holiday seem to agree, no matter their country of origin. For my Japan trip I saved up for 2 years because I really was afraid it was going to be that expensive.
Turns out, my fears were unfounded. While there are some parts of it that was expensive, I managed to balance it out by playing it smart on other parts! And cheap doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on things – I managed to still have a decently comfortable holiday even in the midst of all my cost-cutting ways.
TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL!
Download NAVITIME, the app claims it can help you travel around like a local, allowing you to navigate Japan by “… covering every mode of transportation available with real-time timetables and itineraries”, so yes. Having NAVITIME on my phone was actually super helpful, as it also had an AR mode to help you navigate locations. And the icing on the cake? This app tells you if a free WiFi spot is available around you!
Okay so this is going to be quite extensive because transportation is where the bulk of my worries were. It can be quite costly to navigate Japan if you’re planning on travelling between cities a lot, so here goes;
JAPAN RAILWAY (JR) PASS
You need to research if the areas you’re going through are covered by a JR Pass or not, usually the more popular tourist destinations are covered by this pass. There’s actually other passes you can use, but I preferred the JR because;
- If you’re going outside of Tokyo, you can save time and money with one of these babies. You don’t have to buy another ticket to change cities, and you can use these passes for the Shinkansen.
- You can use it while travelling in certain cities; Tokyo and Osaka has the most JR lines covered in comparison to other companies.
- There are no set times for these passes, so if you happen to miss your train, you can wait for the next one to come along; they can be used for any JR line, anytime, anywhere, as long as your pass is valid.
SUICA and/or Pasmo [IC Card]
If you’re planning on just staying in Tokyo, the JR Pass would be overkill, just get a SUICA or Pasmo card. These transportation cards allows you to use the JR Line as well as other lines, to get around Tokyo. Download NAVITIME to figure out the cost of travelling around beforehand, and see which mode of transportation will suit you best. There aren’t any actual really significant differences between the SUICA or Pasmo card, I picked SUICA because it had a cute design on the card. Ha! The price is the same, and there’s a deposit on the cards that you can reclaim once you return them.
You can buy and return a SUICA card at the JR Station, while you can buy and return a Pasmo card at the subway or metro. It’s slightly cheaper to use these cards to move around than buying one time passes, but it’s infinitely more convenient. Oh, and you can use these cards as payment for vending machines, taxis, coin lockers, restaurants, and you can use them in all the convenience stores likes Lawson, Family Mart, 7-Elevens – just in case you find yourself without cash!
It’s of no surprise to anyone who frequently travel that buses are cheaper than trains, and of course it does take longer but overnight busses can help you save a few bucks. The buses are usually comfortable enough that you grab a goodnight sleep if you need to travel for any significant amounts of time, for instance; Tokyo to Kyoto which will take roughly 6 hours. There are also bus passes available, and you can find out more info on that here.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
We’ve already covered all the clever ways you can cut costs with food hacks on a previous article, which you can find here.
But additionally, bring a water bottle with you. Tap water in Japan is okay for drinking, and fresh as hell. I used to refill my bottle as I went on my travels. Because the numbers can add up to quite a significant amount if you keep buying bottles of water.
It’s not that I dislike cheap hostels, but honestly, the hotels in Japan are so clean, why go to a hostel when you can crash at a hotel? A two or three star hotel will only set you back around ¥2500 – ¥4500 and it offers you all the standard facilities, extremely polite staff and great room service.
Prices for airbnb can rival the hotels mentioned above, but airbnb does have its advantages; namely your hosts. Open communications with your host prior to your visit. I found that my Japanese airbnb hosts have gone above and beyond expectations in terms of helping me get comfortable. But before you book your stay on airbnb, keep an eye out for the news! Last year, home sharing services were met with legal questions, and several hosts asked to cancel bookings. But, the government is looking to accommodate the continuous increase of tourists by clearing up the legalities of home sharing services, so you shouldn’t encounter any troubles this year.
When you need to buy cute souvenirs in bulk to placate people you’ve left behind while you skip off on holiday, Japan has plenty of options! We talked about Don Quijote previously on our post here. You can find practically everything at Don Quijote – from toys to snacks, to weird little contraptions you’re not really sure the function of but looks fun anyway. Even if you’re not on the lookout for souvenirs, you might end up getting little amusing things for yourself!
Alternatively, you can visit Daiso. I know, I know – we have those in Indonesia, but there are a lot more variety in terms of item choices in Japan and it’s cheaper too!
ALL HAIL TEH INTERWEBS
If like me, you think that internet is lyfe – this is an important thing to know. Check if your provider has any roaming packages available for use, some providers give sky high prices, and others have surprisingly good packages. You can always get a throwaway SIM card to use for your holiday if all else fails! Or you can always rent a portable WiFi, which by the way is a godsend, although sometimes the reception can be iffy if you’re in the middle of nowhere (well d’uh). If you’re in Indonesia, check here to rent a portable WiFi that you can pick up and return in Jakarta, or grab one here at the airport or around the Shinjuku area. Oh! And make sure you book well ahead of time as these babies are always on high demand.
We’re all about sharing here at tworunaways, so we wanted to ask you guys if you hve any tips of your own? Any additional info is welcome!