Top 10 ways to save money when booking your Japan holiday

Worried about the cost of your holiday to Japan? No need to be in a panic, here are some sure ways to keep your posts down:

1) Get those plane tickets as early as possible

Use websites such as Skyscanner to check prices, be flexible and book as quickly as you can. Substantial savings can be made if you really book ahead. One of our readers managed to get a return from London to Tokyo for only £300 ($400) by booking more than 8 months ahead! Remember that travel agents specialising in Japan also often have special deals. For example, Japan Travel Centre in London has massive savings for under 25s.

2) Get yourself a Japan Rail Pass

Or one of the many, many other transportation passes available. The number of these is growing fast, and it can seem a little daunting, so first just decide where you want to go, then have a look at the passes applicable to the areas you want to go. But if you want to go all over, just settle for the always awesome Japan Rail Pass. My Tokyo and Japan guidebooks also have itineraries based on the passes, which should help to make planning less stressful.

3) Book your accommodation ASAP

Ok, so maybe you don’t need to rush that much to book your hostel or hotel, as there are so many choices these days. Having said that, usually allows people to cancel for free, so for peace of mind and to secure a good price it never hurts to reserve on early.

4) Download local maps so you’ll never need an expensive taxi

Get yourself a copy of or a similar map app that allows you to download offline maps of Tokyo or wherever you are going in Japan. At present, Google Maps doesn’t allow you to download offline maps for Japan due to copyright reasons, so best to get one such as in case you are not near Wifi when you need a map on your travels.

5) Learn a bit of Japanese

Japanese is a fun language to learn. I love the English loan words and how imaginative they can be, such as ‘pasokon’ (Personal Computer) and Uniqlo (Unique Glow), but learning a bit of Japanese can be very practical! It will help you to get around a little easier, especially in the countryside where people don’t often speak any English.

6) Get your money exchanged!

Always have a look at the current exchange rates and get some yen when the rate is good. Japan is still very much a cash-based society, so you’ll need to bring lots of it with you. There is also not much point in trying to save with travel debit cards, as most restaurants and some hotels won’t accept them. These may only be useful if you want to do lots of tax-free shopping or are staying in more modern hotels, which will accepts cards.

7) Book buses for long journeys

If not using a train pass for a particular day, it can be very expensive to travel on the Shinkansen between cities if they are far apart. Use a highway bus to really cut journey costs down. The buses are often less than half the price of a train!

8) Arrange your free tours

Japan has a large number of organisations offering free tours. They are run by locals who want to show their local area to foreign travelers and maybe practice their English a little. They can be much better than paid-for tours, as the guides have a real passion, and that is why they volunteer their time.

Bunkyo tour group in action
Bunkyo tour group in action

9) Avoid the mega busy Japanese holidays

In Japan most people travel on the same days of the year, as they tend not to use their paid holidays at work and only take vacations on national holidays. It’s therefore best to avoid these, as hotels will get booked out and prices will dramatically rise. Here are the dates to stay away from:

  • Golden Week (April 29th to May 5th)
  • Obon holidays (around August 13th to 16th)
  • Around New Years. Many shops and attractions are also closed, so check these beforehand.

10) Buy a Super Cheap Japan book

I’ve written some awesome books dedicated to budget travel in Japan. Super Cheap Japan is great if you want to see the highlights of Japan on the cheap, and my new book, Super Cheap Tokyo, is for those heading to the capital and there Kanto region. They have been written from the ground up to show you exactly where, when and how to save. I’ve lived and travelled in this country for years, so I know all the best tips! They will surely save you lots of money.

Published by Matthew Baxter

Japan travel writer and onsen addict