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  1. How to save money in Japan

    posted by Guest Blogger - Matt Kepnes | 0 Comments

    Sep122013

    In his latest guest post, Matt Kepnes aka Nomadic Matt tells us how to save money in Japan and not to let the perceived cost of the country put you off visiting. Keep up to date with Matt on Twitter and Facebook.

    For years, I put off visiting Japan because I was afraid of how expensive it was going to be due to the rumors I’d heard about the country's high prices. While I have always loved Japanese culture, I put it off for awhile since it didn’t seem like the most budget-friendly destination.

    When I finally decided to visit, I was shocked to discover that, while not cheap, Japan wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be! In fact, I actually found Japan very affordable and on par with (and sometimes cheaper than) countries in Western Europe. (And, ironically, way cheaper than Australia. Who would have thought!?)

    Here are some tips on how I made Japan affordable and how you can too:

    Transportation

    Transportation is one of the most expensive aspects of travel in Japan. The bullet train, while awesome, comfortable, and fast, is not cheap. Individual tickets can cost hundreds of dollars. Yet I think train travel is the best way to see the country so in order to reduce your train costs get a Japan Rail pass.

    These passes cost 28,300 Yen for 7 days, 45,100 Yen for 14 days, and 57,700 Yen for 21 days. (All pass times are for consecutive travel.) While the high price of the pass can cause a lot of sticker shock, the alternative is even worse. Even if you just get the 7 day pass, it's the same price as a round trip train ticket from Osaka to Tokyo (14,250 Yen each way!). Moreover, these JR trains also serve local city areas and so can be used intra-city; I used my pass to get around a Kyoto and Tokyo instead of buying metro tickets.

    Buses are a less expensive alternative to the bullet train system in Japan but what you save in cost you will spend in time. For example, the 2 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka becomes a 10 hour bus ride. The price for that bus seat is 4,500 Yen, but for me, saving 10,000 Yen was not worth the extra 7 hours of travel. However, if you are tight on money and long on time, take the bus. There are also bus passes available that offer unlimited travel and begin at 10,000 Yen for 3 non-consecutive days of travel.


    Food

    Thanks to an array of cheap food options in the country, you don’t really need to spend much money on food. You can save money on food by exploring these options:

    - 100 Yen Shops – There are many 100 Yen shops in Japan where set meals, groceries, water, toiletries, household items and more are simply 100 Yen ($1). I did all my shopping here. Store names vary by region so ask your hotel/hostel reception where the nearest one is located.
    - Sushi trains – Sushi in Japan is delicious at all price points. While I did splurge on a few fancy sit-down meals, I found the sushi trains to be the best value. At 100 – 170 Yen per plate, I could often stuff my face for less than 1,500 Yen.
    - Eat at 7-11 – 7-11, Family Mart, and other corner stores offer a lot of pre-set meals for 100-300 Yen. Additionally, supermarkets also have many set meals at similar prices. I noticed this was a popular eating method for many Japanese people.
    - Cook Your Food – Hostels have kitchens where you can cook and cut your food expenses to less than 800 Yen per day, especially by shopping at the 100 Yen stores.
    - Curry, Ramen, and Donburi– The best ways to eat cheap and filling meals while in Japan, I essentially lived off these three foods during my visit. Curry bowls were as cheap as 280 Yen per plate. Donburi, bowls of meat and rice, are around 400-500, and ramen is never more than 700.

    Accommodation

    Limited space and lots of people lead to incredibly high housing prices in Japan. And that high cost transfers over into the tourism industry, making trying to find cheap accommodation a pain -- but not impossible! Here are two great ways to cut your accommodation expenses:

    - Work for your room – Hostels in Japan let you stay for free if you are willing to clean up for a few hours a day.
    - Capsule Hotels – A step up from hostels and a step down from hotels, capsule hotels (pictured) are tiny capsules for sleep containing a light, an outlet, and sometimes a small television, while you share bathrooms and common areas with other travelers. They are often frequented by businessmen who work late and just want a place to rest their head. These capsules begin around 2,700 Yen per night.

    Japan will never be as inexpensive a destination as Cambodia, Ukraine, or Peru, but just like every other place in the world, Japan offers numerous ways to save money while traveling there. The country will never cost $20 USD per day, but it also doesn't need to cost you hundreds.

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