How to Travel Osaka on a Budget
Planning Your Budget for Osaka
When traveling on a budget, it helps to know what to expect to spend in the way of food, transportation, and activities. Below is the budget I used, and you are welcome to use it as a point of reference. Of course, you can adjust your own budget as needed!
- Hotel: 16,000 yen for a 10-day stay (Hostel Wasabi)
- Transportation while in Osaka: 8,000 yen for 10 days
- Transportation back to Kokura (Kitakyushu): 6,000 yen
- Food: About 1,500 yen per day, and about 15,000 for the vacation in total.
- Fun: About 800 yen per day, or 8,000 for the entire stay.
- Total budget: About 53,000 yen, or roughly 530 USD.
This budget can be tweaked for your needs. I'm also accounting for some day trips to Kyoto in my trip.
Budget in yen (per day)
Food and drink
Transportation home (to Kokura)
Hostel WasabiClick thumbnail to view full-size
Step 1: Booking Your Accommodations
As I mentioned in my previous article, I recommend checking a few websites for the best hotel prices. My personal go-to websites are Booking.com and Trivago. The images above are of the hostel I booked, Hostel Wasabi Osaka Bed with Library. The hostel was incredibly comfortable.
I selected one of their PC rooms—a small, capsule-style room with a curtain at the foot of the bed for privacy. The rooms were pristine, and the PC rooms include a TV that also doubles as a PC. Each room is bunk bed style and about the size of a capsule at a capsule hotel.
The hostel was extraordinarily clean and cleaned thoroughly every day. All toiletries were included. The common area near the rooms had a beverage dispenser and cups. Additionally, there was a communal refrigerator and coin laundry facility, which made it easy for me to pack light as I could get away with bringing just a few articles of clothing. But, the real icing on the cake was the point card they offer! Basically, for every five nights you stay, you get a free pass for a one-way shuttle bus from Osaka to Tokyo.
In the way of food options, the hostel offers breakfast for a 450-yen fee if you book ahead, or about 600 yen if you don't. They also offer the option to buy or rent things like towels, razors, and laundry detergent.
All in all, it was the best value I could find for my money, plus it was in a centralized location, Namba. The surrounding city had everything from Pachinko parlors (which are like casinos from my understanding), and every type of food shop imaginable. Hotel Wasabi is also close to the Dotonbori Riverwalk, which has G3 and Giraffe— two excellent nightclubs in the area that offer discounts for foreigners and women. Namba is also walking distance from a street that sells all things kitchen-related called Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street, as well as the Akihabara of Osaka Nipponbashi. Overall, I would highly recommend Hotel Wasabi or other accommodations located near Namba station.
Step 2: Plan Your Activities and Find Inexpensive Places to Eat
The first thing I did upon my arrival in Osaka was ask around about good places to eat and what to see. I found out that the area surrounding my hotel consisted mainly of food vendors that had excellent and inexpensive meals.
Namba consists largely of covered shopping malls that were excellent to explore on my first two days as there was constant rain. When traveling on a budget, I typically try to make the most of nature, nature parks, shrines, and museums as those are typically the least expensive activities.
My itinerary for Osaka included nightclubs as well, because for most foreign women entrance is free and includes one or two drinks.
I also went to Minoo park to see the waterfall. It was lit up at night for the summer, so I highly recommend going around August if possible.
I also visited the beach near Osaka, but it was a bit polluted so I would not recommend it.
Ramen at a Local Kushikatsu Restaurant
Step 3: Create a General Itinerary to Minimize Transportation Costs
If you don't have time to create a travel itinerary for yourself, your second best option is to use a website like Hyperdia. It can sometimes save you money by giving you the option for the local train instead of the Shinkansen or bullet train, which are both more expensive options.
Buses are a bit more difficult to plan, but some places have 100-yen loop buses that you can look for on the bus schedule. If you Google translate the Kanji at the top, just below the bus route number it will give you a general idea of where the bus is going to go.
To give an example of an itinerary, I will show you my plan and the average costs.
First Night in Namba
Day 1 and 2: Rainy Days
My first couple of days in Osaka were fairly rainy, so I decided to save my travel costs for better weather and only walked that day.
I ate breakfast at the hotel for day one and splurged at a nice cafe for the second day. The hotel breakfast was only about 450 yen, or about $4.50, and included a drink. The cost at the cafe came to about 900 yen, or about $9.00.
For entertainment in Namba, there are several covered shopping areas, so I did a lot of exploring there. I also ventured out into the rain to eat breakfast at the cafe and to see the anime central of Osaka, also known as Den Den Town near Nipponbashi station. They had an excellent retro gaming store and several arcades to peruse.
After that I moved on to Sennichimae Doguyasuji, which is prime location for any cooking goods you may want. Specifically, you can find amazing chef knives ranging from 2000 yen to upwards of 200,000 yen. No, that's not a typo.
Afterwards, I wandered around a Hello Kitty shop, some local clothing stores, and plenty of local food booths. Once the weather cleared up, I also wandered along the Riverwalk.
All in all, I mostly just looked and only spent money on local food. However, at night I did go to the local clubs mentioned above, because entrance and one to two drinks were free!
Food is always my biggest splurge, but it was still pretty reasonable. My dinners consisted of yakisoba at a local shop on the Riverwalk, and tanuki soba from a local shop near Wasabi Hostel. Of these two meals, the splurge was the yakisoba—with a drink it came out to about 1000 yen. The tanuki soba was about 250 yen.
I ended up not eating lunch both days since I carried snacks and had filling dinners. If you would like to have a midday meal in addition, it'll typically cost between 500 and 800 yen, unless you find a food booth nearby. Soba or ramen is usually fairly inexpensive. Drinks will be your main expense when eating out—a drink is usually 200 to 400 yen a piece and even more for alcoholic drinks.
- Breakfast cost for two days: 1350 yen or about $13.50
- Daily food cost: About 1250 yen or about $12.50
- Transportation costs: $0
- Total cost for two days: About 2600 yen or about $26.50
Day 1 and 2: FoodClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day 1 and 2: Sight HighlightsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day 3: Osaka Castle
On my third day, I chose to dip into my budget a bit to go see one of my favorite sights—Osaka Castle. There's so much to do, from walking around the castle grounds to seeing the events that go on outside the castle. They even have a trolley to get you to the castle if you don't want to walk there. Round trip the trolley costs 500 yen to ride. There's also a wonderful fountain near the entrance, and a gorgeous moat around the castle. Additionally, the castle is surrounded by gardens, and there are plenty of walking paths to explore. I took the subway to and from Namba, which was about 460 yen round trip. I would suggest bringing food on this day trip as the prices are much higher at the castle. I ended up eating ramen and kushikatsu (think fried foods on skewers) with a friend when I returned to Namba. This meal totaled about 1000 yen, and my breakfast was at Bagel and Bagel over by the station and cost about 600 yen.
- Transportation: 460 yen (960 yen with the trolley)
- Food: 1600 yen
- Total: 2560 yen
Osaka Castle HighlightsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day 4: Minoo Park and Umeda Sky Tower
Let's start with the travel cost. It was roughly 1000 yen round trip, because Umeda Sky Tower was on the way back to the hotel. Minoo park itself was free, but I did spend some money at the convenience store on breakfast, some snacks, and drinks—about 600 yen. I also bought one drink (160 yen) when I ran out of water and couldn't find a water fountain.
Overall, this was the most fun I had for the least amount of money. There was an amazing hike up the mountain, and on the way there's an insect museum (I don't remember the cost), several shrines, various food and souvenir shops, and a restaurant. I even saw a hotel on the way to the park just near the entrance.
The climb to the waterfall is a bit long and takes about 50-60 minutes each way. It's about 2.7 km uphill, but has amazing views. At the top was the waterfall with a picturesque red bridge just nearby. There's several benches right near the waterfall to allow for an excellent view. At night, during a small part of summer, they shine spotlights on the waterfall which gives it a slight green glow.
On the way back, I decided to get off the train at the stop just before Umeda station and walk over to Umeda Sky Tower. Since Willer Express is in the same building, I also bought my ticket to Kokura for 6000 yen.
Umeda sky building is surrounded by some amazing small gardens, a small museum, and some shops. The entrance fee for Umeda Sky Tower was about 1000 yen, and I also spent about 400 yen for dessert.
The view from the top is amazing, but the area can sometimes get a bit crowded towards the top, so be careful. There's also a glowing floor at the top of the observatory that lights up when you step on it.
Overall, it was an amazing experience. On the way back, I got dinner at a burger place called First Kitchen for about 800 yen. I actually preferred it over most burger places in the U.S.
Minoo ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Umeda Sky TowerClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day 5-6: Visiting Friends and the Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum
I will skip over day five as most of that time was primarily spent at my friend's house. My only cost was convenience store food which was about 600-700 yen, and dinner with some friends from the hostel at about 800 yen. Transportation was about 800 yen.
On day six, I went to the Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum. Entrance is free if you just want to see the museum. However, I highly recommend making your own custom ramen for about 300 yen. You get to decorate the ramen cup, pick your broth, pick your toppings, and get to see the ramen made and packaged.
At the end, you get to put the cup into a plastic package that ties around your neck like a necklace. There's also a cafe there where you can buy some ramen to eat. I bought myself a cup of ramen and a drink for a total of 260 yen.
The transportation there and back was about 1000 yen total. That day I went to sleep early so I didn't have dinner. My breakfast was at Bagel and Bagel again for about 600 yen.
- Transportation: 1800 yen
- Food: 2360 yen
- Entertainment: 300 yen
- Total: 4,460 yen or about 2,230 yen per day
Momofuku Instant Ramen MuseumClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day 7: Harvest Hills and the Fireworks Show
For my last day, I met with one of my friends and we ventured out to Harvest Hills for a fireworks show. Breakfast was from the convenience store and about 200 yen, but this day was a budget breaker. The transportation was about 1640 yen total. The cost of entrance to Harvest Hill was about 900 yen for adults, and dinner was about 800 yen for yakisoba and takoyaki. We also paid 700 yen to make some keychains from clay. Because of the time of year, there was a fireworks festival on August 13 and 15 from 7:45 p.m. until about 8:15 p.m.
This location had several things to do, including shops to browse and capybaras to pet. They even had some cows, alpacas, llamas, and horses. There's also a small kids' water park when the weather allows. I went with my friend, and we ended up spending most of our time wandering around the park.
We saw the sunflower field, pet the llamas, watched the horses, and pet and took pictures with the capybaras. Then we found a spot to watch the fireworks. Overall, I liked the park and was glad they had the event, otherwise this location may have fallen under my radar. However, I think it's a little pricey for what you get to enjoy.
- Entertainment: 1600 yen
- Food: 1000 yen
- Transportation: 1640 yen
- Total: 4240 yen