Travel on budget in Japan

Convenience store food, photo by ksuyin on Flickr

Japan is one of the most expensive countries on the planet, so surprise seeing as it also has one of the highest standards of living – good life doesn’t come cheap! Many travelers stay away from Japan because it is infamously high-priced, and budget travelers or backpackers re definitely not the bulk of visitors to the Land of the Rising Sun. But despite all that, it is possible to visit Japan on a budget, provided it isn’t too tiny. Although eating at elegant sushi restaurants and staying at luxurious traditional inns in part of the Japanese experience, you can discover another, equally fascinating side of Japan if you travel on a shoestring. Here are some tips that will help you to travel on a budget in Japan.

Transport

photo by Azland DuPree on Flickr

Transport can be really expensive in Japan, and you basically can’t get avoid using some means of transport, especially if you are visiting big cities. Renting a bike is a good way to save money if you are in a medium or small sized city, but it can be daunting in a place like Tokyo, which is very crowded, labyrinthine and not to mention huge. The Japan Rail Pass is excellent for people who plan on doing a lot of traveling in Japan, as it offers unlimited travel on all trains except the Shinkansen for a number of consecutive days. An even cheaper option is the Seishun 18 Kippu pass, which offers unlimited travel on slow trains for five days, but is only available at certain times of the year. Hitchhiking can be a bit challenging, but it is a great way to cut down completely the costs of getting around in Japan. Try to hitch rides in service areas, parking areas or expressway toll areas.

Accommodation

If you’re not very choosy and you don’t mind staying in unusual places. Camping grounds are cheap, but sometimes you need to hitchhike or have some means of transport to reach them. Among the more unusual accommodation options you can find capsule hotels, where rooms are tiny stacked capsules that have a bed and sometimes even TV or wireless internet. Internet cafes are also an interesting place where you can stay overnight – you can sleep in the half-enclosed cubicles in a reclining chair, next to a computer. Internet cafes served food and drinks, and sometimes they even have showers! It’s not unusual for young Japanese to catch some z’s or even spend the night there. If all else fails, you can sleep outside in Japan, a practice called nojuku which is much less unusual and much more safe than it sounds. Japanese backpackers can often be seen getting some rest at train stations in summer. Since public facilities and public baths are easily found, you won’t have to sacrifice anything while sleeping on the cheap.

Food

Capsule hotel, photo by fletchy182

A lavish traditional Japanese meal is definitely a big part of the travel experience in Japan, but not something that most travelers can afford every day. Convenience stores are a great source of cheap and quick dinners and lunches – you can get a bento box like many Japanese office workers and students, and even have the store clerk heat it up for you. Instant ramen is also very popular, and it comes in countless flavors and varieties. Food stalls in department stores are also quite affordable and they sell specialties like yakitori and boxes of sushi. Noodles are also quite cheap and they allow you to sample all kinds of noodles that are seen as staples of Japanese cuisine.

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