When planning a trip to Japan, most people take into consideration that travel expenses will be very high. As a first-world country in Asia, Japan is mistakingly thought of as very expensive, especially when compared to countries such as Thailand and China. However, you can find very cost-effective accommodations if you choose to stay in hostels without compromising on quality and service.
Here are 7 reasons hostels in Japan are better than hotels:
- Price — Naturally, this is a primary consideration and can affect the length of the trip since it is the largest expense besides travel. As the number of people in a room go up, the price per person goes down. If you are a young backpacker, you will probably have less of a problem staying with people you have never met. However, you may be more comfortable in a private room.
- Room Choices — Gone are the days where hostels meant group accommodations and unknown roommates. Most hostels in Japan have private rooms available for two or three people. Keep in mind that, while hostels charge per person, in practice you are required to book the entire room if you would like a private room. In most cases, especially in Tokyo, double rooms have bunk beds and not double beds. This is generally not a problem unless you are traveling with a baby or a toddler who is supposed to sleep in your bed with you. Private rooms at hostels are significantly lower than hotels, often 3/4 of the price or even less. Take into account that private rooms almost always have shared bathrooms. It can be time-consuming, though not impossible, to find a private room with a private bathroom at a hostel. An important note: Though most hostels offer Western-style beds, some are Japanese style, meaning you sleep on rolled-out tatami mats. It’s a fun experience, but it isn’t suited for everyone, so make sure you are booking the type you prefer. Japanese style is ideal if you are traveling with a small child — they can’t roll off the bed, and they don’t have to sleep between you two.
- Knowledgeable Staff — The staff at hostels all speak English very well, which can’t always be said for hotel staff, even in major metropolitans such as Tokyo! As such, they are able to advise you about the best ways to reach your destination — and will even help you plan your visit, tours, and give you information that you may not have otherwise. Planning your trip through TripAdvisor and books is great, but once you are there, always keep an open mind and be ready to change your plans.
- Other Travelers — Even if you aren’t a young backpacker, meeting other people while on vacation is always fun. You can hear about places they have already been and receive real-time updates that matter, such as closings or construction. Additionally, if you are on a longer trip, it’s always great to talk to people who aren’t your regular travel companions. It’s almost impossible to stay at a hostel without meeting other travelers, and in some cases you will build friendships and even travel with them!
- Free Internet — You may think this is small, but it is huge, especially if you are on a longer trip (and let’s face it, you should really spend at least two weeks in Japan.) All of the hostels have free wifi, some throughout the entire hostel and in others in the common areas. Additionally, the hostels always have at least two computers in the common area for anyone to use for free! You can upload photos to Instagram or Facebook, email your family, plan the next day— anything you’d like. A vacation is supposed to be fun and you should focus on your trip and not your social networks — but let’s face it: Who doesn’t want to post a picture of themselves overlooking Mount Fuji for their friends and family?
- Discounts for Multiple Nights — Many hostels in Japan offer a discount once you have stayed for a specified number of nights. In most cases, they have a “card” that you stamp and after a few days, you can either receive a discount or a gift of some sort. Many hostels in Japan are part of a chain — K’s House and J-Hoppers are two excellent examples — and their cards can be stamped all around the country. Essentially, you can spend 3 nights in Tokyo, another 3 nights in Kyoto, and then get a discount in Hiroshima — if you stay in the same hostel chain.
- Amenities — Hostels have an excellent list of amenities which can save you money, such as coin-operated laundry machines — they even provide you with detergent! They also have kitchenettes loaded with anything you would need to cook yourself a meal, including refrigerators (with markers to write on your food). They often have free coffee and tea, and some hostels also offer a small continental-type breakfast. Additionally, many offer free night tours (such as bar-hopping), origami classes, parties, and more. Hostel walls are often lined with endless travel opportunities, and they often list information that you wouldn’t necessarily find elsewhere, such as where to locate free tour guides.
Hostels in Japan are clean, friendly, and very common. As opposed to hotels, that have last-minute deals, hostels have a very small number of spots, especially in Japan, so you need to book your hostels as early as possible. The price won’t drop — if anything, it will go up — so don’t wait for the last minute.
Additionally, research your destinations beforehand and see if there are any big festivals or holidays during the time you will be traveling. If so, you should book your accommodations as soon as you have your ticket, especially if you would like to book a private room or are traveling with a group.
Finally, many hostels in Japan have a work-for-board option where you can spend a couple of hours a day cleaning the hostel and, in exchange, stay there for free.
Hostels in Japan are a low-cost and wonderful alternative to hotels. The helpfulness of the staff alone is a great reason to choose to stay at a hostel. Being such a safe country, hostels are also ideal for families, even those traveling with young children. The hostels all have strict policies at night regarding noise levels, so you can be sure that, after a long day of traveling, you will get the rest you need to be able to get up for another.