Dreaming of a Japanese vacation? The best time of the year to visit is—now! Springtime in Japan is a can’t-miss on any traveler’s bucket list, thanks to the world renowned Cherry Blossom Festival. Known in Japanese as the Hanami, it’s a centuries old custom that usually goes down around the end of March and early April.
And just as it’s known for its cherry blossoms, Japan is also notorious for being a pricey destination. But, it doesn’t have to be. You can visit the Land of the Rising Sun—and see its famous cherry blossoms—all without breaking the bank. Here’s how:
Work While You’re There
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Not only will you get the full Japanese experience, but you’ll also get paid and/or score free room and board. The main gig that you’ll probably find (and which doesn’t require knowing Japanese beforehand) is teaching English. If you have a college degree, you can apply to the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme, which is organized by a variety of government agencies to bring in foreigners to help teach their languages and spread internationalism on a local level. You can find something more temporary through WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which sets you up to work on a farm in exchange for meals and a place to stay. Check out JobsInJapan.com for other ideas and options.
Plan to Get Around Economically
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A classic travel budget blunder is to land at a destination and then just pay as you go to get around. You should never land in another country without a transportation plan, especially in Japan. Visitors on a tourist visa can buy different levels of rail passes for the country’s famous train system that will save you serious bank versus purchasing tickets at the station (Remember: You need to buy them online BEFORE your trip). A cheaper alternative is to buy a bus pass (Willer Express is the most popular company). Take overnight buses to save on hotel fees! For getting around a town or city, rent a bike. It’s a great way to see the area and it’s way cheaper than subways or taxis.
Pay Nothing (or Close to It) to See the Sites
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You actually don’t need to spend any money to soak in the tourist attractions of Japan. Famous historic sites, like ancient Shinto shrines, and well-know cultural destinations like Tokyo’s uniquely fashionable Harajuku neighborhood, don’t require an admittance fee. There are even free volunteer tour guides to show you around. And if you want to see a museum that requires a fee, check with a local tourism board or information center to see if you can buy something like Tokyo’s Grutt Pass, which offers admission to a host of different galleries and museums for one low fee.
Check into Cheap, Quintessentially Japanese Digs (Maybe With This View)
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You could shell out big bucks to stay at an international chain, or even opt for the low-cost European-style hostel, but why not save money and stay somewhere that’s a singularly Japanese experience? You could spent the night at a “business hotel,” the country’s most inexpensive offerings for those traveling for work. They’re usually around city train stations and have well-kept but bareboned sleeping arrangements with communal bathrooms. You can also stay at the more infamous “capsule hotels,” which feature tightly enclosed beds for guests stacked on top of one another. And then there are “love hotels,” which are used for couples that live in the culture’s traditional multi-generational homes to have some “one-on-one” time and usually offer reduced rates for guests checking in after a certain hour and spending the night.
Eat Like a Fugal Local
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What’s the point of traveling to Japan and not partaking in its renowned cuisine? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to eat in Japan and save money. Fast food and inexpensive chain restaurants (like those offering dollar plates of sushi) in Japan are supposedly really good, as are take-out options from grocery stores. The country’s vending machines are known for their unparalleled uniqueness and quality, and nicer restaurants are known to offer reduced meals for lunch.
What are you favorite money saving tips for traveling in Japan? Let us know in the comments section!
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