Accommodation can prove to be tricky when travelling overseas. Fortunately, Japan provides many places to stay that are well within your budget.
If you're keen to avoid the glitz of hotels but still wish to be comfortable, there are a number of options available across the country. From the renowned capsule hotels to internet cafes, you will surely be able to find somewhere to stay even if you haven't made prior reservations.
Everyone knows about hostels — affordable and sociable places for a few nights' stay. Catered towards more adventurous travellers, hostels are abundant in every city, and you'll never know who you'll meet. While it's usually a gamble (you might be bunking with undesirable people), chances are you'll have a great time making friends there. Many hostels start at ¥4000 per night, and depending on where you're at, a little more cheaper or expensive.
A novelty option in Japan, capsule hotels are not for the claustrophobic. Typically used by solo travellers or travelling businessmen for a quick night's stay or two, capsule hotels are rooms that you can barely fit in. It is pretty much a place just to rest for the night, although many capsule hotels now have mini-TVs inside for entertainment. With more capsule hotels providing increasing comfort, they represent good value, with many going for as low as ¥3500 per night!
Think of it as a cheaper version of a hotel and more! Airbnbs are a mix of home stays and hotels — you stay in someone's property, and the owner may or may not be living with you, it's really up to you. The good thing about Airbnb is that if you don't wish to socialise, you can opt for an entire home for yourself, if not you can choose homes where the owners reside in, giving you free access to someone who knows the neighbourhood.
These 24-hour cafes are great if you miss the last train home. Scattered around major train stations, internet cafes (sometimes called manga cafes) provide everything you need — internet, food, vending machines, manga, and a shower — at a cheap price. Usually costing ¥100 per 30 minutes, these places are bargains if you don't mind crashing somewhere a little cramped. These days, internet cafes have chairs and sometimes even mattresses that are comfortable enough to ignore the space constraints. Look out for the garish signs that point to internet cafes, or their staff lingering around the front of the shop touting the venue.
The only free option on this list, Couchsurfing presents a whole new ball game to accommodations. Unlike Airbnb where you pay to stay in someone's house, Couchsurfing allows you to stay with them for free, and perhaps give you the chance to experience life as a local. Many times, Couchsurfing hosts are there for cultural exchange, and as a Couchsurfer, it is expected that you reciprocate — after all, you're staying at someone's place for free. Of course, these come with risks, as no money is involved, therefore if things go wrong, the host isn't obliged to let you stay longer. However, this is the best way to meet a local or to escape the non-touristy side of things. If you do decide to use Couchsurfing, common courtesy dictates that you bring a gift for your host, as gratitude for them letting you stay without any cost.
Sleeping on a nine-hour long bus ride might not sound the most appealing, but it does save you a night's accommodation. Many people choose to travel long distance by bus in order to save on both transport and accommodation, which is highly effective. For those who can fall asleep anywhere, this is perfect. However, for those who are unable to fall asleep on transport, this might be a long ride, and when you arrive, the lack of sleep might affect your travelling.
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I'm Ignatius Koh, a third-year undergraduate at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. I have a keen interest in journalism - most particularly in sports and human interest stories. I do a little photography on the side and would love to combine words and pictures to create riveting content.