How to travel to Japan for less

By Caitlin Chander

It is possible to travel to Japan and still hold on to some yen. Photo / 123RF
It is possible to travel to Japan and still hold on to some yen. Photo / 123RF

The drop in the New Zealand dollar may be making travel a little more painful for Kiwis, but it's not deterring our passion for international holidaying.

According to Flight Centre NZ, Japan is a "hot" destination for 2016 - with cheap flights to Tokyo often showing up on Air New Zealand's Grabaseat.

However, Japan is known to be pricey - so here are some ways to enjoy your Japanese holiday on a budget.

Travel mid-season

You can save money and enjoy the cherry blossom season by travelling to Japan in April. Photo / 123RF
You can save money and enjoy the cherry blossom season by travelling to Japan in April. Photo / 123RF

April is considered the best time to visit Japan as it is spring and not only will you arrive in peak cherry blossom season, you'll also be there at a time when everyone is back at school and work. September and October are also good times to go for this reason.

Buy a rail pass

This is an essential if you plan to travel around the country on the shinkansen (bullet trains).

Most people will avoid spending their money on a Japan Rail Pass as the cost (up to $500 for 14 days) can be intimidating.

But if you weigh up the costs of travelling in individual journeys as opposed to using a pass, you can actually save a fair bit of cash. If you're looking to travel from city to city, investing in a rail pass is definitely a cost-effective option. You must purchase your pass before you enter Japan.

A rail pass can be purchased outside of Japan. Photo / 123RF
A rail pass can be purchased outside of Japan. Photo / 123RF

Alternatively, if you're already in the country the buses are cheaper than the shinkansen, or if you're feeling really adventurous, try exploring the streets of Japan by bicycle. In the smaller cities, you can rent a bike for a day for as little as 200 Yen.

Buy alcohol from the supermarket

Buying alcohol at Japanese supermarkets is not only significantly cheaper than liquor stores, there's always a variety much broader than in your Western-friendly restaurants. The plus with shopping at the supermarkets is that they're always located near train stations or bus stops, so they'll be easy to get to.

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Search for the hidden gems

A trip to Disneyland Japan is attractive, but why battle the crowds and eat expensive food? Of course it's a location central to a Japanese experience, but there are many sites much more worth of your time. Instead of following the trend, try embarking on an immersion of Japanese culture. Get your walking shoes on and explore the streets by foot - you'll be amazed at the things you see.

Tokyo's famous Senso-ji temple at Asakusa is a free attraction. Photo / Supplied
Tokyo's famous Senso-ji temple at Asakusa is a free attraction. Photo / Supplied

Here's a list of free tourist attractions in Japan:

• Imperial Palace, Kyoto
• Sensoji Temple Asakusa
• Harajuku
• Shibuya Street, Tokyo
• Meiji Jingu Shrine
• Seno-ji
• Odaiba
• Shinto shrines
• Observation decks, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Dine at an izakaya

Enjoy traditional Okonomiyaki at an izakaya. Photo / 123RF
Enjoy traditional Okonomiyaki at an izakaya. Photo / 123RF

This is the Japanese answer to the Irish pub. You'll find izakayas dotted all over Japan and they are often extremely packed. With all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink deals, they're great value and you'll get to taste traditional (and tasty) Japanese food like Okonomiyaki (commonly known as 'Japanese pizza') or ramen in a traditional Japanese setting.

Stay at a capsule hotel

Capsule hotels offer a uniquely Japanese accommodation experience - and it's cheap. Photo / 123RF
Capsule hotels offer a uniquely Japanese accommodation experience - and it's cheap. Photo / 123RF

OK, so these are probably out of the question if you're claustrophobic. The capsule hotels are an iconic form of Japanese architecture and include all the amenities of a fancy dorm. The capsules themselves contain a mattress and pillow, air conditioning/fan, TV and Wi-Fi - all you really need for a decent night's rest. Capsule hotels are generally cheaper than normal accommodation and are also an amazing example of urban Japanese life. Keep in mind that these were created for Japanese businessmen, so not all establishments will accommodate for women.

- news.com.au

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