How to Travel Solo to Japan on a Budget | Solo Female Travel
Japan is a beautiful country, and it is no secret. It is a country of contrasts. A country where old palaces, shrines, and temples exist in perfect harmony. A country that is filled with unique qualities at every nook and corner. And it is where whose delectable dishes make people coming back for more.
But we always hear that a trip to Japan is very expensive. And as solo women travellers, we try to travel on a budget so that we can travel more. We all want to travel to Japan and take in the experience, but the high price of everything stops us every time. We start planning that Japan trip but end up going somewhere else when the costs overrun our budgets.
How true is that? Well, it’s true in part. Japan is indeed expensive if you want it to be so. It has high-end places as accommodation and as a country. With the greatest number of Michelin star restaurants, eating out reaches a whole new level in this country.
Japan is the finest at its basic stage too!
But the best part is you don’t need any of these things to actually enjoy Japan. The beauty of Japan is boundless and not one that can be bought for a price. So, even if you let go of the high-end fine dining and the expensive hotels, you can still enjoy Japan to the fullest. Yes, you heard me right. You can travel and explore Japan in its entirety, even on a budget. Travelling or backpacking in Japan isn’t as expensive as we think, and it is one of the great myths of travel that I will bust for you. And that is because the beauty of Japan and its culture lies in exploring the country at its very basic stage.
So, let’s see how we add Japan to our list of places visited without burning a hole in the pocket now, shall we?
1. How to save on transportation in Japan
While bullet trains are expensive it is the easiest and fastest way to travel between different cities in Japan. The individual ticket can cost hundreds of dollars. But if you buy the Japan Rail Pass or the JR Pass as it is called, it will save you a lot of money and help you remain on budget while travelling solo.
This is something that you purchase online even before you set foot in Japan because this is a necessity. It is extremely cost-effective for long-distance travel and can also be used to ride metros. There are also other perks you can avail of if you have the JR pass with you.
The best thing is this pass is available only to visitors at a price the residents of Japan can only dream of. As a female solo traveller, the JR Pass not only helps you save money but also reduces your hassle of cross-country travel. Passes are available for 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day. It costs you 29,650 yen for 7-day, 47,250 yen for 2-week, and for 21-day you have to pay 60,450 yen.
If you compare that to a single ticket, a ride from Osaka to Tokyo costs you around 11,000 to 15,000 yen, which is almost the price of a week on JR Pass. That’s not all. You can also avail of this pass when taking a metro or any intra-city JR line trains. Note down other tips that you must know if travelling on a train in Japan.
If time is not a constraint for you, opt for the bus as an alternative to train for cross country travel. It is cheaper than trains but will take you a lot more time to reach your destination. Let me give you an example. For travelling from Tokyo to Osaka, you will need to be 3 hours on the train. In comparison, the same journey takes nine-hours on a bus. But you need just 4000 yen if you are taking the bus. There are also bus passes that you can avail which allow you unlimited rides and begin at around 10,500 yen for three days of travel.
But it is up to you to decide if you have the option to spend the extra 6 hours on the road. Remember, Japan has a lot to offer. So, don’t miss out on anything.
For travelling inside cities, especially in places like Tokyo, metros are the best option. Though price varies according to the distance and also the city, it is best to buy a day pass to cut down on your budget.
This is another place where Japan has both ends of the spectrum for you. While you can stay in ryokans with an onsen or a volcanic hot spring at your disposal, you can also spend the time at a capsule hotel. And the best thing about this is that both experiences are equally unique to the country.
Choosing to stay in a hostel or a capsule in Japan rather than a hotel can help you travel within a budget in the country. Dormitories and hostels in most cities in Japan charge you around 3500 yen per night. But I would recommend that you opt for mid-level accommodation in Japan because, as a female solo traveller, your safety is also a major concern. Though Japan is deemed to be extremely safe for women, why take a chance?
For around 6000 yen-6500 yen a night, you will be able to stay at a no-frill ryokan. Yes, there won’t be an onsen ready at your disposal or the massive traditional Japanese spread. But the warm hospitality is still very much there. With this budget, you can also stay at a capsule hotel, which, anyway, deals with the bare minimum.
Apparently, love hotels are not just for hookups…
The best thing about Japan is that, like evolving technology, something new always keeps coming up. And most of it is carved out exactly for the traveller who is on a budget. The country makes sure that you don’t miss out on a unique experience just because you are not splurging. The best example of that is experiences like spending a night at a bookstore or a family-run guest house. Another unique place you can spend your night in Japan without burning a hole in your pocket is a love hotel. We have all heard about love hotels in Japan. It has always been the place where people met for hookups! And there is a provision to pay by the hour here. But today, more and more travellers on a budget seek out these love hotels for their affordable prices.
Don’t miss the IC card!
If you plan a day trip to any city, you can also save on hotel fare by just keeping your luggage at the station at coin lockers. The rate per hour is extremely affordable. You save up on accommodation costs, and you don’t have to think about lunging your heavy suitcase everywhere. You can pay here with either coin but preferably with your IC card.
On that note, get your IC card when you reach Japan. It is another great way to save on a lot of extra expenses. It is a rechargeable card that can be used to pay at various places. You pay a token deposit when you are given the card, which can be redeemed when you return the card. You can avail discounts at small restaurants and convenience stores with this card.
3. Seeing the beauty of Japan on a budget
While there are certain palaces and shrines which is quite expensive, it is not necessary to blow off a bomb of money to enjoy the beauty of Japan. For example, if you want to go inside Osaka castle and explore it, the ticket will cost you a lot. But if you visit the castle and just walk around the beautiful garden while admiring the castle, you don’t have to pay a penny.
Many museums have free admission days or even discounts. So, watch out for those offers.
Here is a list of places you can visit in different cities of Japan without worrying about spending a lot of money.
Japan is almost synonymous with geishas. We have seen them as a representation of Japan in pop culture for many years. While geishas are quite rare to find in the present days, you might still catch a glimpse of them in the Gion district of Kyoto. Though it is quite expensive to book a Geisha performance, you can take a walk along the Ponchoto Alley, and you might see geishas or maikos as they are called in Kyoto in their silk kimonos and their face painted. But even if you don’t spot a geisha, a visit to Gion is always worth it.
Most shrines have an absolute free entry in Kyoto so explore the city as much as you can without worrying about money. Walk under the many torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine or take in the beauty of the Imperial palace without paying a penny. And walking down the lovely Philosopher’s Path is a priceless experience. There is so much more to experience in Kyoto, why don’t you read more.
While there is no doubt that Tokyo is an expensive city to be, there are still plenty of things to do which will not hamper your solo travel on a budget in Japan. You can spend the day taking in history at the Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace. See the beautiful city from the observation deck of the Tokyo government office. Spend time at the bustling Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, and definitely don’t miss out on Akihabara.
If you are travelling during the cherry blossom season, spend some time in Ueno park to be a part of the magical experience.
Another beautiful city which is also the foodie’s paradise. Like I said before, the entry to the castle is expensive, but hey, do not miss out on walking around the gardens and taking in the beauty.
Ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, which offers you a panoramic view of the entire city, and visit glitzy and glamorous Dotonbori. Avail of the Osaka Amazing pass that is available for visitors, and you can enjoy the city without having to worry too much about your budget.
But the one thing you should absolutely not miss when in Osaka is the array of delicacies the city has to offer. Let me provide you with a list of 15 restaurants you must try when in Osaka. Trust me, you will leave the city with a full heart and tummy and well within your solo travel budget.
This is a day trip that you cannot miss out on it in Japan. The deer park, which boasts of over 1000 deer, can be experienced without any admission fee. Imagine being swarmed by the beautiful creatures, which you can even feed. During the sakura season, this place turns a shade prettier.
The beautiful, historically important city is another budget-friendly option. Many of the places like the Peace Park and Mazda Museum require no admission fees.
Be sure to visit the ‘shrine island’ for all its scenic beauty. One way ticket, including a ferry to get you to Miyajima, is just 180 yen. Also, be sure to hike up Mount Misen for its majestic views.
The easiest way to save money on shopping is not shopping at all! But hey, how do you leave a country without taking back souvenirs with you? How else will you, years after your travel, suddenly stumble upon something and reminisce about your trip?
While you will find shopping an expensive affair in Japan, there are still nooks and crevices where you get little things for a much lower cost. Do try out the 100-yen shops that you will find all over Japan. You can buy a lot of little souvenirs here like chopsticks, bowls, sake sets. And don’t worry about the quality. Even if the price is less, there is no compromise on the quality of the product.
You can also check out different sales in shops. The deals in most shops will be advertised outside the shop, so keep an eye.
I was quite surprised to find that food is actually extremely inexpensive in Japan. Small roadside restaurants in Japan provide food at a very reasonable rate and trust me, you don’t have to visit a Michelin star restaurant to enjoy delicious food. Instead, the true taste of Japan is in the little shops that have a history in every bite.
Also, try out the famous vending machines and convenience stores that are available all over Japan. The bento boxes are a must-try while in Japan, and you can get the lower end ones for as cheap as 500-1000 yen. Visit markets like the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, where you get delectable Tamagoyaki or the famous Nishiki Ichiba market for its Tako Tamago.
So, if you think that you will have to save up for a few more years before you can finally check off Japan from your bucket list, you cannot be further from the truth. I promise after you come back from Japan, you will say to yourself, “this wasn’t as expensive as I thought,” and you will long to go back again.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.