Traveling to Japan on budget #2: Accommodation
If you don’t know where to look for cheap accommodation in Japan, this is a post for you. Continuing the budget travel series we started a few weeks ago, this time we are focusing on accommodation. If you haven’t yet read the post about planning your trip, you can check that here.
1. Know the difference of guesthouse, hostel and hotel – but remember to always check the details!
As a rule of thumb you could say that guesthouse is usually the cheapest and hotel the most expensive. However, it doesn’t always go like this and these words are used rather freely in Japan so you should always check the detailed description of the place you’re considering for your stay. If you think that the word “hotel” in the name of the place you’re staying means it’s definitely a luxurious place, well, you might end up in a bunk bed if you don’t be careful.
2. Dorm rooms can be very cheap!
If you are okay sleeping in a dorm with people you don’t know, you should take dorm rooms for consideration. Many guesthouses and hostels offer dorms, either mixed or sex-separated. These rooms often have bunkbeds that you share with other travelers you have never met before. Some rooms have a bathroom in the room, some share the bathroom with other dorm rooms. If you have no problem in staying with people you don’t know you might get a dorm bed for around 20 bucks a night. You might want to check if the place has lockers for your luggage though, especially if you have some valuables with you.
3. Consider staying in capsule hotel
I have no personal experience of capsule hotels as I’m tall and slightly claustrophobic but you can get a capsule for around 2000yen a night. They often don’t offer much space for luggage and it might be tough to stay in a capsule hotel for a long time but it’s an option to consider especially for a short time stay. If you are, i.e. traveling from Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto for only a few days with a little amount of luggage, you might be able to cope with capsule hotel as well. However, you should remember that not all capsule hotels are cheap AND that you can find hostels or dorms around the same price. Never book a capsule if you think you won’t be able to sleep in it – you’ll end up wasting not only your money but also one precious day for active traveling.
4. If you are staying in Japan for a long time, consider renting an apartment
You can get apartments even for just one night but I would recommend them especially if you’re traveling in a bigger group and/or you are staying in the same city for more than 2 weeks as you will often get great discounts by staying at least 2 weeks. Some apartments take money based on the number of persons but some don’t, and you can save a lot of money staying in those if you’re traveling in a group.
5. Be on a lookout for sales on different sites like hostelworld, agoda and hotels.com
Look at the prices in different times and days, checking the prices many times before actually making a reservation. When you see a nice place with a good price, you should reserve it immediately, especially if there a possibility for cancellation. This is not a good advice from hotels’ point of view but for a traveler on a budget, this is something you just have to do sometimes.
6. Consider staying a bit further from the city center
If you are traveling to Tokyo, you might be planning on visiting famous areas like Shibuya, Shinjuku or Asakusa. However, most hotels in these areas are expensive. There are countless of areas to look for hotels which are a little bit further from city center or a little bit further from a station. You should remember though that it’s not a good idea to stay way too far from the station and take taxi to the station every day – that’ll probably end up costing you more than staying in the city center pretty soon. It’s difficult to list examples of the cheaper areas as there are countless of those so you might want to take a look at them by yourself: just look at the map and search for different areas on hotel sites!
7. Check the equipment and amenities before booking
You could save a lot of money if your hotel has a place to cook or at least a microwave. It might feel like a waste to eat at the hotel when Japan has countless of amazing (and cheap) restaurants as well but you can save quite a lot by buying your dinner in a grocery store sometimes. They also sell ready-made lunch boxes for pretty cheap! You should also check if your hotel has a laundry machine and whether it costs money or not. If you are thinking that your hotel will do your laundry for you, well, you might be reading the wrong post here – it’s very unlikely you will find a hotel like that traveling with a low budget.
8. Book the place to stay early especially if you’re traveling during a high season!
As pointed out in the earlier post as well, if you’re traveling during the season of cherry blossoms for example, you should definitely make your bookings early. Hotels will really get out of rooms fast and the rates will also get more expensive.
9. Don’t put your hopes too high
Last but not least: try not to put your demands too high. As you probably know, Japan is not a cheap country. You will not get a luxurious room for cheap and even if you paid a lot, it’s still very likely your room will be smaller and less luxurious than you thought. However, what might surprise you is the politeness and kindness of the hotel staff no matter what the room rate is. Even if you are staying in the cheapest of dorm bunk beds, the staff will usually always help you with anything you might want to ask and will do their utmost in making your stay as comfortable as possible.
I never had the chance to go to Japan, but my best friend went there and had accommodation through couchsurf friends (check the website couchsurfing website). It was a very nice experience for him, more interesting than to stay in hotels.
He only stay in commercial places a couple of days, the rest was couchsurf hospitality!
Thank you for your comment, Zeca! (:
True, couchsurfing is a great way to get more out of your experience in Japan and definitely a good option if you’re traveling on a budget. However, the reputation of couchsurfing has been rather questionable in Japan which is why I left it out from this post.