Japan is one of our favourite travel destinations! With its delicious food and amazing culture, its no wonder it’s one of the most popular destinations for a vacation. However, it’s no secret that Japan can be an expensive place to travel to.
M and I went on a very spontaneous trip to Japan last February. It was the first time I’m travelling to Japan and I was very excited about it!
In this article, we will teach you some of the tips and tricks that we’ve used when we planned our own trip to Japan. We hope that this information can help you in planning for your own trip.
Discounted air tickets
Air fare is one of the largest expenses in any overseas trip. By cutting down on this component, you can save a large amount of money!
Get notified for price drops
With the advancement in technology, it is actually very easy to search for cheap flights now. In a previous article, we’ve talked about using Google Flights to score cheap air tickets. You can easily get notified for price drops by setting up Price Alerts.
You can also navigate to the airline’s website and sign up for their newsletter. They occasionally send out an email newsletter that notifies you when they are having a flash sale so do take advantage of that!
This is one of the most important criteria for scoring cheap air tickets. In peak periods, flight prices are generally more expensive. This is because there’s a higher demand for them. Likewise, during the off-peak season, flight prices will fall significantly.
The day of the week of travel matters as well. Generally, flights departing Singapore during the early weekend (Friday evening or Saturday morning) are more expensive as people try to capitalise on the weekend for the start of their vacation.
Likewise, trips arriving in Singapore tend to be more expensive in the latter part of the weekend (Sunday evening) as people return from their trips.
Mid-week travel tends to be significantly cheaper.
For our trip specifically…
We bought out air tickets during Scoot’s weekly Tuesday Sale. Scoot was having ridiculous flight sales every Tuesday pre-COVID. We would check out every one of their deal and Japan often makes the list.
For our trip, we paid S$340 (US$250) per person for a round trip ticket between Singapore and Osaka, Japan. Our departure flight happened on an early Friday morning and arrival was a Wednesday afternoon.
After airfare, accommodation is usually the next biggest expenses of any trip. Accommodation in Japan is generally on the pricey side. A night at a decent hotel will run you about S$100-$150 easily.
Flexibility is the name of the game in travel! Not only does it save you money for flights, but it also goes the same for accommodations. If you’re not that particular about your accommodation, you can look into capsule hotels, hostels or even bnbs.
The cities that you choose to spend the night in matters as well. Larger cities such as Osaka tend to have more affordable options as compared to smaller tourist cities such as Kyoto. We paid comparatively more for our stay in Kyoto as compared to Osaka.
If you’re looking to save some money on your accommodations, you can consider staying in Osaka and doing day trips to Kyoto since they are so close to each other.
Strategic in the time you book your accommodation
The time you book your accommodation matters a lot too. This is also not a one-size-fits-all solution and will really depend on the situation.
If you’re trying to book accommodation for a trip that is happening during peak travel season, you should try to book your stay as early as possible. Preferably 3-4 months prior to your travel. This is because demand is very high and room supplies will run out quickly. If you try to book your stay too close to the dates, you’ll have very little options to choose from and will have to often pay a much higher price.
If you’re instead booking accommodation for a trip that is happening in non-peak seasons, then you should book your stay as close to the travel date as possible. Preferably 1-2 weeks prior to your travel. Hotel owners will be slashing their prices as they try to fill up their empty rooms.
For our trip specifically…
We booked both our accommodations with hotel booking website Agoda. We really lucked out in Kyoto as we found a BNB/Hotel called THE PLUM-Residence Kyoto which was selling at S$47 a night.
As for our accommodations in Osaka, we stayed in Hotel Shin Imamiya which was just a few stations away from the popular Namba area. It was a bunk bed style hotel and we requested for our own room. It was S$37 a night.
In total, accommodations only cost us S$103 per person for 5 nights!
Travel in shoulder seasons
This is related to our previous sections on booking your flights and accommodations. Never travel during peak season. Not only are flight tickets cheaper, accommodation and attraction costs are also cheaper.
We prefer shoulder season as compared to off-peak seasons as that’s when you get to enjoy the best of both worlds! You get the slightly good weather of peak season and the lower rates of off-peak seasons. You can also avoid the crazy amount of humans at popular tourist spots.
Always do your research online for when are the travel seasons for the locations you’re travelling to. If you’re visiting the Osaka/Kyoto region as we did, you can check out its specific travel seasons here.
For our trip specifically…
We did our trip in late-February. We escaped the cold winter that happens in January and the larger domestic travel crowd that usually happens in late March.
The weather was a cooling 5-15 degrees celsius and we could walk comfortably anywhere in the day. We visited Universal Studios Osaka and thought that the weather was perfect, unlike the scorching hot weather that we have to endure in Universal Studios Singapore.
Buy a rail pass (or not)
If you’re travelling across cities, most blogs will recommend getting buying a rail pass. However, we don’t think this is a fool-proof strategy.
Buying a rail pass only makes sense if you’re making a lot of multi-city trips in the stipulated number of days of the pass you’re buying. For shorter trips or for trips where you’ll be staying in a single city for a long period of time, paying single trip fares might be much cheaper.
You can check the prices of single trip train rides with Google Maps.
As you can see, a 1-way train journey from Kyoto to Osaka only costs 570Y. However, a 2 day Kansai Rail Pass costs 4300Y. You’d have to take 8 trips between the 2 cities to make your money worth.
Use Google Maps to find cheap and good food
M and I are huge lovers of food. When it comes to food, we do indulge in the occasional splurge. We make sure to do our research on the best foods to eat in a particular city.
However, there are times when we are just trying to find something to fill up our stomachs. At these times, we will use Google Maps to find the best bang for our buck meals!
Simply type in “Restaurants” into the search bar and you’ll be shown the best-rated restaurants near you. You can even filter by the cuisines and see the menu of the restaurant. This way, you can ensure that you’ll not get a bill shock when you physically arrive at the restaurant.
Travelling to Japan does not need to break the bank! These are just some of the tricks that we’ve used to lower our costs when we travelled to Japan. The most important of all is to be flexible. Having a fixed schedule can dramatically increase the costs of any trips.
We hope to break the misconception that travelling is expensive. We’ll be providing more tips and strategies that we use to lower our own travel costs and hope that these can help you in planning your own future trips.
When you’re travelling to the Kyoto region and looking for some inspiration of things to do, check out our blog post here! We went through the top 5 things you should do when you’re in the ancient capital of Japan.
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