Visiting Japan Can Be Cheaper Than Thailand If You Do It Right, Per A Traveling YouTuber

Thailand and other Southeast Asian destinations are often known for being inexpensive spots to visit. However, Japan can be just as cheap, according to some experts. A 2024 report by the U.K. Post Office found that Tokyo, Japan, is the world's fourth-best destination in terms of offering value to travelers. Notably, Phuket, Thailand, came in only twelfth place on the list.

Travel YouTuber Suitcase Monkey posted a video sharing what they paid during a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and how the prices often rival those found in other Southeast Asian countries. For example, the content creator spent $45 per night for an accommodation in Osaka. For food, they paid only around $5 for restaurant meals and even less for packaged bentos and take-out foods. Transportation was also relatively affordable, with one 40-minute train ride costing $2.70.

Suitcase Monkey also said they spent little on attractions in Japan. A visit to Kyoto's Kiyomizu-dera temple ran him back only $3.30, while a day ticket to Tokyo Disneyland was costlier but still reasonable at only $55.

The weakening yen is one reason for the affordable prices

Historically, Japan would have rarely been grouped with Thailand, Vietnam, or Indonesia in terms of affordability. These days, however, it's easy to maximize your budget while traveling around the bucket-list destination thanks to its favorable exchange rates.

As of 2024, the Japanese yen has tumbled in value, at times reaching its lowest rate since the early 1990s. For example, some travelers using U.S. dollars have been treated to an exchange rate of 160 yen per dollar, whereas that rate hovered closer to 100 yen for each dollar just a few years ago. To put it simply, your money goes a lot further in Japan now than it would have previously if you're relying on foreign currency.

Suitcase Monkey also adds in their video that it's easy to find high-quality food, products, and services in Japan, even if you're on a tight budget. A casual, low-cost eatery will likely still serve top-notch food, and a cheap hotel will still usually be clean and comfortable despite its affordable rates.

Tips for vacationing in Japan on a budget

Given the current economic state in Japan, you don't have to cut many corners to save money. However, if you really want to stretch your yen and spend as little as you might during a vacation to Thailand or another budget-friendly destination, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

First, look beyond the conventional hotels when booking your accommodations. A stay at a minshuku (similar to a bed-and-breakfast guesthouse) offers an authentic glimpse of life in Japan and is typically cheaper than staying at a ryokan or other inn. If a unique experience is what you're after, consider booking a room in an internet café or manga café. You won't be given a traditional hotel room, but you'll still have a private space to sleep and access to showers and other facilities.

For food and other daily expenses, take a page from Suitcase Monkey and look for cheap bento meals and to-go boxes. You'll find plenty of affordable options in convenience stores and supermarkets. When planning your activities, skip the expensive attractions and go for free visits to shrines and temples (note that it's polite to make a small donation in the prayer box), walks through the stunning local gardens, and window shopping at the local shotengai, or commercial strips. When you're ready to stock up on souvenirs, head to a 100-yen shop such as Daiso for chopsticks, lucky cat statues, and other charming knickknacks.