I love Japan because each time i visit in a different season, it’s like visiting a brand new country! To plan an efficient and cost-saving trip to Japan, you have to familiarize yourself with the different prefectures and its proximity so that you can visit multiple places in a prefecture instead of spending time travelling.
Tip 1: Book your air tickets WAY in advance, preferably 9 months ahead.
Especially if you are going during a festival, you can save up to $400 (based on my own research). Even though i was planning a trip in February, i bought my tickets in May the previous year, 9 months ahead. And i even booked with ANA instead of other budget airlines because of personal preference. If you’re not picky about your airline, you could potentially save more (Philippine Airlines or Thai Airways were really cheap the last i checked).
Tip 2: Book your hotels on Japanese Websites.
In more secluded areas, Japanese websites feature a wider hotel selection compared to English websites (Eg. Sounkyo in Hokkaido). They are often cheaper by about 15% and comes with free meals. I right click and select “translate to English” to navigate so it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand Japanese. I use Rakuten and Japanican in the Japanese option, and i compare the prices with agoda & airbnb. I also cross-check Google Maps to see if there are any nearby hotels that i have missed out. If there is, i will check out the hotel’s webpage as well. I do not stay at hostels with shared rooms, but if you are able to accept that, then your savings would again be potentially higher. Also, i booked my hotel way in advance (6 months ahead) to enjoy greater cost savings.
Tip 3: Change hotels if needed to stay near a train station that you would visit often.
For example, if i were to plan a 7 day trip in Tokyo, i wouldn’t stay at the same hotel throughout. Train tickets are very expensive in Japan, and i would shift my hotels throughout according to where i will be going – which leads me to my next point.
Tip 4: Fully plan your itinerary before deciding on your hotel.
This will save you money on train tickets. Read how to plan your Japan Itinerary in my upcoming post!
Above were just my views on saving before your trip. Of course, you can take advantage of airfare promotions etc. How then, do you save up during your trip, and especially in Japan, when the cost of living is so high, yet fully enjoy your trip. The most important thing to note is to have a mixture of meals – it is one of the most expensive things other than train tickets.
Cheap meals occasionally
In a 10 day trip, you don’t have to have kaisen don, or kaiseki every meal. There are many “working-class” meals in Japan that serves Gyudon or rice bowls at S$5-6 and they are perfectly delicious. Their convenience stores (combi) also sells delicious bento, so you may consider eating there occasionally too. Want something more luxurious without breaking your bank? Deparmental store’s basements sells bento too! Maybe a Kani Ikura Bento will only set you back S$10 as compared to S$20+ eating at a restaurant. Ramen can be quite cheap in Japan too ranging from S$9-14.
My meals in Japan ranged from S$3 to S$100 per pax. I think only 5 out of my 20 meals (excluding breakfast) were economical meals.
Non-reserved seats in trains
In Japan JR trains, there are 2 fees to consider. The ticket fee and seat fee. Always select the non-reserved seats, and you can save on the seat fee. Example: From Nagoya to Takayama, the train ticket cost 3350yen, but the seat fee cost 2880yen. Combined, it would cost you close to S$80 for a train ticket when the original train ticket may also cost you half the price.
I selected reserved seats and paid for the seat fees only on several occasions – when the journey is very long, or when the seats in the non-reserved cabin are taken up. Before purchasing your ticket at the counter, do ask if there are still remaining seats in the non-reserved cabin or you will have to stand throughout your entire trip.
How much i spent for 10 days in Japan (Per Pax)
For a fair gauge, these are the locations that i travelled to.
Tokyo: Asakusa – Akihabara – Ninja Akasaka – Tsujiku
Nagoya: Nabana No Sato
Flight to Hokkaido, Abashiri: Drift ice-breaker cruise – Abashiri Prison Museum – Abashiri Birukan
Sounkyo: Ice Waterfall Festival
Sapporo: Snow Festival Odori/Tsudome/Susukino – Nijo Market – Sapporo Beer Museum – Shiroi Koibito Park
Air Ticket – $1059.50
Hotels – $467.50
Transport – S$591
Attractions – S$97
Food and Omiyage (Souvenirs) – $694.50
Wi-fi Device – $44
Total – $2,953.50
Click here to download my Japan Winter Itinerary (10 Days)
Click here to read about my Japan Winter Trip