The land of the rising sun is the home of the most exorbitant cities in the world and I took on the challenge of traveling for 8 days from Tokyo to Osaka. Prior the travel, I was anxious that I would overspend in Japan but as my excursion started, I was proven wrong day by day. After eight full days in Japan, I only spent under Y50,000 (P25,000) and I have broken my general tips in four categories on how to travel Japan on a budget because you don’t have to break your bank to hit that road to the land of anime, technology, and rich culture. (I will have a separate post for the itinerary)
A. Across Japan
The prominent way to commute around Japan is thru JR Railways. There are different options available for travelers: 7, 14 or 21 days. This includes the unlimited use of Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and all JR lines. However, this comes with a hefty price. The 7 days ordinary pass costs Y29,110 (P14,555), while 14 days pass is Y46,390 (P23,195). I find JR line convenient as it is spread strategically across the country but simply put, I don’t have the budget for it. Instead, I used the less prominent lines.
B. Tokyo to Hakone (2.5 hours)
For Hakone area, there is Odakyu which allows you to travel unlimitedly between Shinjuku Station and Hakone proper. This ticket also allows you to hop on and off on all buses, trains, cable car, cruise and ropeway in Hakone for either two or three days which costs Y5,140 (P2,570) and 5,640(P2,820) respectively. Therefore, it is best to stay at least 2 days in this area and make most the most of your ticket. The ticket can be purchased on the day or ahead of time in Odakyu Shinjuku Station.
C. Tokyo to Nagoya (6 hours)
While the alternative transportation I used from Tokyo to Nagoya is Willer Express Bus. Buses run day and night and I chose to ride at midnight arriving at 6:00 am to also save a night of accommodation. Tickets costs from Y2,500 (P1,250) up to Y10,000 (P5,000) depending on the kind of seat and entertainment together with the ticket. Tickets may only be bought online at willerexpress.com.
D. Nagoya Area
Nagoya can be done in a day or two. It is a small city packed with museums and castles. In Nagoya Station, City Sightseeing Bus Loop is available in Bus Stop 11. The ticket costs Y500 (P250) for 1 full day. Again, it is a hop-on-and-off bus so it means unlimited ride in case you missed your stop.
E. Nagoya to Kyoto to Nara to Osaka (4 hours, 1 hour and 2 hours respectively)
From Nagoya, I traveled to Kyoto and neighboring cities using Kintetsu Railway. Kintetsu Railway Pass Plus is by far the most worthy of all commuter ticket I got. For only Y4,800 (P2,400), you can travel between the 4 key cities in an unlimited number of times for 5 consecutive days. Also, the ticket already includes the Nara City Loop Bus which means you can save Y500(Y250) a day. You may check here for more details and where you can buy this ticket.
Kyoto is my favorite place in Kansai area and because it is such a big city with tons of picturesque temples, shrines, and mountains, you must spend at least 2 full days here and start early. To get to places, you can buy an unlimited ride for a day ticket for Y500(P250) from your hostel or at Kyoto Station Bus Station.
A place to sleep at is one of the biggest factors in your travel budget. If you are uncomfortable sleeping with strangers in a room, then hostels and dorms are not for you. You may now skip this item and extend your budget 30% higher because Japan’s accommodation is really pricey than in most places in the world. But if it is fine with you and you find it enthralling to meet and hear tales from fellow travelers, there are a lot of options to choose from. It is not really scary; in fact, most travelers are open-minded and fun to talk with. And they might tell you tips and hidden secrets of places *winks*.
A bed in a hostel dorm costs at least Y1,500(P750). I know, It’s expensive than its Southeast Asia counterparts but what I can vouch is that Japan hostels (based on where I stayed at) are meticulously clean, comfortable and includes toiletries (except toothbrush though).
In Hakone area, I stayed at Hakone Tent near the Gora Station. I chose this place because of three reasons. First, it is just a 2-minute walk from the train station. Second, the rooms are traditional which uses tatami floorings and futons. Now that’s an authentic Japanese experience. Lastly, the private use of onsen is included. Like wow! Who would not want to soak in a warm mineralized bath after thousands of steps from visiting awesome places in Hakone? And it is all yours! A bed in a female dorm costs Y3,500(1,750) which can be booked through Hostelworld or Booking.com.
While in Kyoto, I stayed at Renjishi Kabuki for 4 nights at Y1,500(P750) a night. The neighborhood was quiet as it is not along the main road but still near the bus stop and just a few minutes away from Kyoto Station. It is just your another typical dorm except it has spacious double decks. The use of a locker is free and you may store your groceries in the kitchen and cook a warm meal.
It is exceptionally sarcastic to tell you not to try food in Japan. I am no foodie lady so I was quite amazed I just kept munching in Japan. My Instagram @juiensoi is full of food flat-layered photos. But I have to say that proper meals in Japan usually costs Y1,000 (P500) and street foods are at least Y300 (P150).
What I did to save was to only feast once in a day or two. For breakfasts, I bought a loaf bread, raw egg or cooked ham to cook at the hostel and a pack of 4 probiotic milk. Now, this set would only damage you under Y1,000 (P500) and would last up to 4 days. For lunches, because I was always on the go, I just bought Onigiri (Japanese Rice Ball) from a convenience store which varies between Y100 (P50) to Y150 (P75). It comes with different fillings so you won’t easily get tired eating it everyday. And dinner is my favorite part of the day. As a nocturnal person, I am most hungry in this time of the day so usually, I eat large portions at Sukiya or Yoshinoya. Both stores are open 24 hours and a Gyuudon (Beef Rice Top Bowl) costs Y450 (P225).
But the most important part of food trip is the snacks in between meals. After saving from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can now splurge on food stalls. Takoyaki, ramen, okonomiyaki, red bean sandwich, soft ice cream, and more. You name it and all of it is yummy. Osaka’s Takoyaki is really amazing and filling and when you’re in Dotombori, don’t forget to drop by at Uncle Rikuro’s jiggliest cheesecake. It costs Y600 (P300) for a whole cake.
Before coming to Japan, I have thought to avail a pocket wifi but it is costly to fit in my budget so I end up not subscribing to any wifi connectivity. But the plot twist here is that all major train stations and bus stops in Japan have a free wifi you can connect to. Just enter your email address and voila! you are connected. The Internet is something you would really need in Japan especially in navigation and train schedules and platforms. Japan’s train system is the most complex one I have experienced.
Japan is truly a wonderful country to visit and most tourist spots are free to enter so that would be additional savings for you. Visa and hefty prices were always the intimidating factors for any traveler but take chance and you will definitely know that it will be all worth it. May you be inspired by my experiences and have fun in your coming adventure.