Whether it’s experimenting with food at convenience stores or shopping at ¥100 shops, here are some budget travel hacks you’ll need on your next trip to Japan!

As someone who’s been to Japan multiple times, I can tell you that it’s not cheap. I once spent ~S$2,000 on a one-week trip there (excluding flights) 😱 So on subsequent trips, I’d usually try to budget on things like transport and activities, which didn’t let me enjoy my trip to the fullest.

Boy and Girl on Rickshaw Tour in Kyoto - Things to do in Kyoto

But now, thanks to the Internet (and TikTok), I’ve found other ways to save money without sacrificing my happiness and comfort 🥰 From getting the right train passes to convenience store tips, check out these nine travel hacks for your next trip to Japan. You’re welcome 😉

Bonus: Read till the end for travel deals, promos and cashback to help you save more on your trip with DBS/POSB Cards!

1) Leverage single ticket/regional train passes

Whole Japan JR Pass - JR Pass Alternatives

On my previous trips to Japan, I often used JR passes to save costs on travelling across multiple cities and regions. However, Whole JR Pass prices have increased by more than 30% since October 2023 😱

So if you’re only planning to visit a few places rather than hopping on and off across Japan, consider using single shinkansen tickets (point A to B) and then adding on regional passes (within a certain region).

While prices for regional passes have also increased, it’s still not too expensive. The total cost of your journey might also be more affordable than getting a Whole Japan JR Pass!

Regional Japan JR Passes - JR Pass Alternatives

One super helpful tool is the Japan Rail Pass Calculator — input your itinerary and cities you’ll be covering and it’ll help you calculate if the Whole Japan JR Pass is worth it.

*Pro-tip: DBS/POSB Cardmembers and PayLah! users get 15% off shinkansen tickets with a minimum spend of S$250 (capped at S$40) on Klook! Simply key in the promo codes below when checking out:

*Note: Valid till 30 June 2024 and limited redemptions only! T&Cs apply.

Read also: JR Pass Budget Alternatives — Is the JR Pass, Single Shinkansen Tickets or Regional Passes More Worth It?

2) Take advantage of exchange rates

DBS Multi-currency card on moblie phone - Travel budget hacks

As we all know, exchange rates fluctuate quite a bit. So here’s a hack to secure a good rate when travelling in Japan.

If you have a DBS Visa Debit Card, link it to your multi-currency accounts and you can exchange up to 11 foreign currencies (AUD, USD, EUR, JPY, etc) instantly. This means that once the exchange rate is favourable, you can convert it to yen and keep it in your digital wallet to spend when in Japan!

The best part? There’s an upsized 5% cashback on foreign currency spend this June.

3) Try convenience store food hacks

Convenience Store Hacks McGriddles - Japan Travel Hacks

Photo credit: SoraNews24

Don’t go to fancy restaurants to eat in Japan, DIY your own at the convenience store! A few viral food hack videos on TikTok show how to mix and match cheap convenience store food to upgrade your meal. For instance, slapping fried chicken between two pieces of pancakesta-da, a McDonald’s McGriddles for only ~S$3?!

Another is getting cup noodles and “zhng-ing” it up with string cheese and onigiri (rice balls) — you’ll get both ramen and rice in one meal! Or leave some leftover broth after eating your cup noodles, then mix in an egg. Microwave it for 3 to 4 minutes and poof, homemade chawanmushi (steamed eggs). Trust us, these meals cost way less than a bowl of Ichiran ramen (from ~S$10), but taste just as good or even better!

Do you have any other convenience store hacks to share with us? Let us know in the comments below 😋

4) Pay attention to travel deals

Nakamise Shopping Street at Asakusa Tokyo – Japan Travel Hacks

This may be common sense but don’t underestimate the power of travel deals! After all, more savings on flights and hotels = more money to spend on shopping #girlmath


And good news for DBS/POSB Cardmembers, here are some exclusive deals:

Agoda– 18% off hotel bookings
Trip.com– Up to S$100 off hotel and flight bookings
ASA Holidays– Up to S$98 off tour packages
– Redeem a free American Flyer luggage with a minimum spend
KKday– S$10 off sitewide bookings (min. spend S$80)
China Airlines– 6% off flight bookings
Japan Airlines– Up to 8% off flight bookings for DBS Vantage Card and DBS Altitude Cardmembers
Klook– Up to 12% off transport and car rental bookings with DBS/POSB Debit Cards
Priority Pass– Enjoy complimentary access to over 1,500 airport lounges each membership year
(Exclusively for DBS Altitude Visa Signature and DBS Vantage Cardmembers)

*Note: Terms and conditions apply, do check the website for more details.

5) Shop at ¥100 stores or places with tax refunds

100 Yen Store Can Do - Japan Travel Hacks

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Instead of shopping at popular tourist spots like Shibuya 109 or Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, get your souvenirs at ¥100 (~S$0.90) shops!

Everyone is probably familiar with Daiso, but other options include Seria, Watts, and Can Do. These local ¥100 shops sell everything from traditional Japanese items like Tenugui (traditional hand towels) and Otedama (similar to our Five Stones), to anime merch and even clothes. Seria also sells materials like liquid resin, yarn and decorative ornaments so you can DIY your own handicrafts!

Don Quijote - Budget-saving Tips

Another way to save money while shopping is to look for places with tax refunds — check out this list of shops or look out for the “free tax refund signs”. Some well-known shops include Don Quijote, BIC CAMERA and Daimaru Shinsaibashi. Just remember to bring along your passport so you can get refunded on the spot!

6) Buy food and drinks from supermarkets instead of vending machines

Snack vending machine at Nikka Whiskey - Budget-saving Tips

Vending machines are iconic in Japan — you’ll find one in almost every corner of the city! While it may be tempting to grab a drink or snack from these machines (because they’re so convenient), just chotto-a-minute. Get it from a supermarket instead.

Items in vending machines are usually a little more expensive compared to the supermarket. For example, a can of coffee might cost ¥100 – ¥150, while in the supermarket it could be ¥80 – ¥90. Yes, the difference may seem small but if you add it up every day, you can actually save quite a bit!

Sapporo outside market supermarket-Sapporo City Guide

And if you’re wondering about convenience stores… supermarkets might still be cheaper too! Most local supermarkets have discounts of up to 50% off 1 to 2 hours before closing. So while the prices for bentos are similar, you can practically get it at half price thanks to the promos.

7) Maximise earnings with the right payment method

Kyoto Sanjo-kai Shotengai Shopping Arcade LOWECO by JAM - Budget-saving Tips

Most shops in Japan accept credit card payments, unless you’re in the more remote or rural areas. So when paying for things like food, transport and shopping, use this chance to maximise as much earnings as you can!

Here are rewards exclusively for DBS/POSB Cardmembers:

DBS Altitude Card — earn up to 2.2 miles per S$1 retail spend. FYI, DBS Points earned on the DBS Altitude Card don’t expire, so you can earn miles anywhere and redeem them at any time! And if you don’t own a DBS Altitude Card yet, sign up by 15 July 2024 to unlock up to 60,000 miles* for your next trip ✈️ *T&Cs apply.

DBS Visa Debit Card — for daily spending such as food and transport. You can earn upsized 5% cashback for the month of June on all overseas spend!

8) Consider different accommodation options

Book and bed hostel

Honestly, you don’t need to stay in a five-star hotel. Japan has tons of budget-friendly accommodations that are both safe and clean: Capsule hotels, minshukus (guest houses) and homestays. Where you stay depends on your own needs and preferences so here’s a simple breakdown 👇

From a “library” full of manga (comics) to a futuristic theme, there are many quirky capsule hotels to choose from! They’re small but usually at a convenient location (near train stations) and offer free toiletries — some go for as low as ~S$40 per night.

Minshuku Guest House - Japan Travel Hacks

Photo credit: Booking.com

Alternatively, opt for a minshuku or guest house. It’s like a family-run bed-and-breakfast accommodation but in a traditional Japanese house setting. Rooms are fitted with tatami flooring and futons, and facilities like bathrooms and dining areas are usually shared with other guests. A night can cost around S$40 – S$100 depending on the location.

Another option is a homestay, where you’ll live with a Japanese host family. Some may charge a small fee or even offer you free lodging in exchange for other benefits such as helping to cook and clean, teaching their children English, and more.

*Pro-tip: Book your accommodations via various platforms with a DBS/POSB Card. Get 10% off Japan hotel and ryokan bookings via Rakuten Travel or up to 10% cashback on Booking.com (in the form of Booking.com credits)!

9) Search Tabelog for cheap & good food recommendations

Asahikawa Ramen Village Food - Japan Travel Hacks

Tripadvisor is my usual go-to for activity and food recommendations around the world, but sometimes it’s outdated or doesn’t cover the lesser-known local shops.

So for Japan, I recommend using Tabelog — it has an extensive list of restaurants to browse through according to the prefecture, type of cuisine, budget, and even the scenario (with family, a date, girls-only party, alone etc) 😂 And yes, it’s in English!

Tabelog Website - Japan Travel Hacks

Well… except for its reviews (most of them are in Japanese), but that’s easily solved with Google Translate. Having said that, it only adds to the credibility of the review, because hey the locals would know best 😉 Besides finding out how the food tastes, you can also make reservations directly on the site to skip the queues!

Here’s how to save even more on your next Japan trip

Climbing Mount Fuji - Japan Travel Hacks

I love travelling to Japan — its beautiful sceneries, rich culture and oishii food have got a hold on my heart… but sadly also a hole in my wallet. Thankfully, I’ve learnt from my previous experiences different ways to save what I can! So with this list of budget travel hacks, I hope it’ll help you save on your next trip to Japan too!

Sunset View at Fushimi Inari Shrine - Japan Itinerary

And if you’re looking for even more savings, here’s a roundup of perks just for DBS/POSB Cardmembers:

15% off shinkansen tickets with a minimum spend of S$250 on Klook
Discounts and cashback on flight, hotel and activity bookings (up to S$100 off!)
– Snagging favourable exchange rates ahead of time with DBS Visa Debit Card and Multi-Currency Accounts
– 5% cashback on foreign currency spends with DBS Visa Debit Card for the month of June
– Earning up to 2.2 miles per S$1 retail spend with the DBS Altitude Card (earn Miles for Life with DBS Points that don’t expire)

Look out for more travel deals on the “Deals” icon via the DBS PayLah! app ✨

Any other Japan travel hacks to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

This post was brought to you by DBS Singapore.

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