Make your dollar soar in Japan

Make your dollar soar in Japan

With cheap eats and free attractions, Japan is the perfect place for a holiday—even on a budget.

With so much to see, eat and experience in Japan, many travellers wonder how to make the most out of their money. Knowing when to go, where to go, and how to move about can make all the difference to your holiday budget.

When to go

Autumn scenery at Daigoji Temple in Kyoto

There’s no wrong time of year to travel to Japan, but choosing a holiday in the off-season can save you some serious cash. If you’re after Japan’s beautiful natural environment, consider going in autumn (between September and November) to catch vibrant foliage in the mountains and the cities.

If you’re itching to hit the slopes but can’t afford the higher fares, try planning your holiday towards the end of the winter season around February and March. These months will still offer plenty of powder but you’ll avoid the high prices of peak season.

Transport tips

Image: Sean Pavone

For short journeys around the city, opt for a transit pass instead of taxis. After only a few trips your pass will have paid for itself and you’ll have a few extra dollars in your pocket. Transit passes can be bought online in advance—definitely the easier option for those who don’t feel comfortable navigating the machines at the stations.

Shinkansen, or bullet trains, have become a staple of Japan’s transport system. However, these trains can become expensive if you’re travelling too far. Consider taking day trips, which will save you money and still bring you to spectacular locales. For example, you might head to Enoshima for a beachside break or Kamakura to experience why this town is nicknamed ‘mini Kyoto’!

Cheap eats

Otaru Sushi

Japan is known for some of the most mouth-watering cuisines in the world—but lucky for you, it doesn’t have to cost too much. One of the best ways to fill your stomach without emptying your pockets is to hit up one of Japan’s fast food chains. Forget burgers and fries; Japanese fast food restaurants serve up everything from curry to sushi, usually costing less than 1000 yen (around $10AUD).

Try Genki Sushi for plates costing as little as AU$1, or opt for a bowl of fragrant curry at CoCo Ichiban. For truly frugal food, visitors can even find takeaway sushi, noodles, and soup at many grocery stores.

Scoring low-price lunches isn’t just about knowing where to eat, but knowing when to eat. Several restaurants offer lunch sets at certain times, which usually include a main, sides, and drink for less than AU$10.

Save on sightseeing

Tokyo senso ji buddhist temple - Asakusa Tokyo

When it comes to sightseeing in Japan, you’re spoiled for choice. Japan boasts a massive number of iconic sites like Ueno Park and the Imperial Palace East Gardens. Luckily, many of these sites are free to enter and explore. If you’re eager to discover the country’s most beautiful spots for cheap, be sure to take advantage of the many free sites like the Tsukiji Market and Senso-ji, Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temple.  

For Tokyo travellers, a Grutt Pass can save you a good chunk of money on museums. The pass costs only 2000 yen, or AU$20, and grants you access into some of the most enticing museums, galleries, and zoos. Travellers can grab a Grutt Pass at Lawson convenience stores, which are dotted all around the city.

Where to stay

Like many countries, accommodation in Japan can range from low budget hostels to luxury hotels. The most affordable types of accommodation in Japan’s larger cities are hostels and dorms, which usually include a shared dorm room and shared facilities. They may be simple but they can cost as low as AU$20 per night.

Travellers on a budget should also consider staying in a guesthouse or minshuku, a traditional Japanese inn. These types of accommodation can cost around AU$30 per night but tend to be more private than a shared dorm.

To get the best price, be sure to book your accommodation early—especially if you’re travelling during peak season.