If you’re standing at the crossroad between a backpacking adventure in Japan and a budget getaway in Korea, you’re not alone. Exploring these high-priced travel destinations on a low budget can take a bit of work, but leave the homework to us. With Japan and Korea placed side by side, we cover everything from the array of free attractions to budget shopping to ease your selections. By the end of the article, you will discover one destination that is friendlier to your travel budget.
P.S. Regardless of which country, check out our website here to find more halal food, top attractions and prayer spaces to ensure a smooth sailing trip to Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka) or Korea (Seoul)🙆
1. Free Attractions
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but free attractions – yes! In Japan, you can catch a real-life sumo training session, explore the Imperial Palace East Garden with a guided tour, walk amidst the bamboo forest of Arashiyama, discover the old world charm of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and more without costing any yen – and the list doesn’t stop there! Check out our handy guides to free attractions in Tokyo here.
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With over 120 halal eateries, must-see attractions and prayer spaces in Tokyo on the HHWT website, you're all ready to conquer the city. Don't forget to try halal ramen and sushi!
Brimming with cultural and historical sites, Seoul has a good amount of free attractions to keep your travel itinerary packed too. Our favourite is the free hanbok experience at Seoul Global Cultural Center. Followed by a chance to explore a traditional Hanok village, listen to Seoul-ful stories from the free walking tours, visit the bustling Dongdaemun after sun down, and catch the Seoul Lantern Festival and other festivities. And that is just a summary of our full compilation here.
Verdict: Korea may have the upper hand in cultural experiences, but Japan wins this round for the huge amount of free attractions in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Whenever we have the four seasons experience in mind, it’s difficult to shake off Japan from our daydreams. Spring and autumn seasons are the best times to visit Japan, but this advice comes with an entourage of tourist crowds and high priced accommodations. If you’re fine with skipping out on the widely popular cherry blossom and koyo (changing of foliage) season, pay a visit within a week or two after the viewing weeks and public holidays.
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With manageable flight tickets and accommodation rates, experiencing spring in Korea will be lighter on your pocket compared to Japan. Remember to research and reserve early because the cherry blossom months also remain as everyone’s favourite time to visit Korea. Other affordable months to consider include autumn and winter, where hotel rates and airfare are generally lower. Due to the array of local festivals in the summer, expect to fork out high travel expenses during that season that is subsequently a huge no-no for your tight budget.
Verdict: Japan may be the ideal destination for spring and autumn, but if you have a budget to care about, the equally beautiful Korea is your best bet.
Want To Visit Seoul?
If you're planning a vacay in Seoul, find the best halal local food, exciting attractions, nearby prayer spaces and more on the HHWT website! 🇰🇷
3. Accommodation costs
Major cities in Japan are generally known for their expensive hotel rates. If you’re in Tokyo, go for areas such as Ikebukuro and Asakusa for hostels (starting from USD27 per night) and budget hotels (starting from USD45 per night). Spending the night in Kyoto won’t cause a dent in your wallet, especially in areas like Central Kyoto and around Kyoto Station where convenient public transportation is also guaranteed. Hostels are normally priced from USD25 per night and budget hotels starting from USD55 per night.
Staying the night in a backpackers’ hostel is a true way to keep your accommodation budget to a minimum. When in Seoul, focus on areas such as Dongdaemun, Myeong-dong, Hongdae, and Itaewon for hostels with rates starting from USD29 to USD36 per night. If you’re planning to call it a night in Busan, popular areas such as Jung-gu (starting from USD19 per night) is filled to the brim with affordable hostels, and same goes to Seo-myeong and Sasang-gu for budget hotels (starting from USD34 per night). Check this link out for 10 affordable accommodations in Seoul for the perfect stay!
Verdict: It’s a challenge for Japan to shake off their reputation for costly accommodation stays, so it’s pretty easy for Korea to take this category in the bag, in terms of larger network of budget-friendly stays.
Never let your tight budget stop you from doing a little shopping on the side. One of the best places to shop cheaply in Japan is the famous Don Quijote (for snacks, electronics, household products, and make-up), Tokyu Hands (for leather goods, packaged food, and cookware), and lastly, Loft (for quirky homewares, stationeries, and accessories). If you have more time in your hands, saunter casually around Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa for a hot cuppa in an indie cafe, as well as window shop in vintage and secondhand shops.
If you want to sift through your shopping options in Japan, this article will come in handy!
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Korea definitely has the upper hand when it comes to value-for-money shopping experience, and more so when you’re shopping on a budget. Hit up the flea markets in Seoul such as Seocho Saturday Flea Market (for clothing, books, and household products), Bling & Platoon Night Flea Market (for trendy shoes, clothing, and accessories), Gwangjang Vintage Market (for vintage goods), and more covered in this article. If you want to see what else is in store, check out our complete shopping guide here!
Similar to most travel destinations in Asia, bargaining is the ultimate rule to stretching your shopping money. Since we have a couple of secrets up our sleeves, read our complete tell-all in this article!
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Verdict: This is a tricky round to decide! If you’re a bargain shopper just like us, you will definitely find the utmost pleasure when shopping in both Japan and Korea.
Ah, the thought of Japanese food is enough to stir some cravings. Dining shortcuts like Family Mart and Lawson’s Station may offer very little Muslim-friendly meals, but there’s a lot of halal ramen (starting from USD11), yakiniku (starting from USD43 per set), sushi set (starting from USD23 per set) and udon noodles (starting from USD4 per bowl) waiting out there. Just throw your diet out of the window and pull yourself chair at these Muslim-friendly restaurants in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hokkaido.
Rule of thumb: Lunch sets are typically priced lower than the average dinner menu. For instance, some sushi sets can go as low as USD12. Feel free to indulge on your mid-day meals and save up during dinner!
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Find the yummiest halal local food, top attractions and nearby prayer spaces in Tokyo all on the HHWT website!
If you’re feeling famished in Korea, always remember that there’s a halal yeoipbap (lotus leaf rice), tteobbokki (soft rice cakes), and patbingsu (shaved ice dessert) lurking around the corner. The Muslim-friendly meal options may not be as many as Japan’s, but you can always discover a newfound favourite in various parts of Seoul and Jeju Island.
Verdict: Considering the variety of Muslim-friendly meal and its affordability, Japan definitely takes the lead on this one.
Want To Try Halal Korean Food In Seoul?
With over 100 halal eateries, must-see attractions and prayer spaces in Seoul on the HHWT website, you're all set to conquer the city. Don't forget to try halal Korean BBQ!
Scoring an affordable flight ticket to Japan and Korea can be tricky because they aren’t generally cheap. However, with the right tools and a bit of luck, you can maximise your chances of snagging a good deal. Look out for mobile apps like Google Flights and Kayak for trusty flight promotions. Of course, we have more secret hacks to uncover right here.
If you have Tokyo in mind for your Japan trip, April (starting from USD195/one way) has averagely lower airfare rates and followed by January and February (winter) and May and June (late spring – early summer). Avoid travelling in October (autumn) when airfare jumps to USD339/one way.
Planning to go Osaka instead? The flight fares are typical priced around USD217/one way throughout the year, but try to avoid the months of July and August (summer) where the rates are slightly higher.
If you’re travelling from Singapore to Seoul, anytime between January to June promises steady flight deals (starting from USD225/one-way). It’s definitely good news for budget travellers because you will get to experience a mix of spring and summer during those months. Remember to skip peak periods such as July, October and December as airfares to Seoul are noticeably higher.
When your getaway has Busan as a starting point, flight tickets are generally lower in March and May when rates begin from USD222/one way. Just steer clear from October to January when travelling to Busan because prices can spike as high as USD287/one way.
Verdict: If you would like to maximise your chances of experiencing spring and autumn, the steady flight rates to Korea will keep your holiday affordable.
Japan and Korea may have a reputation for being one of the most expensive travel destinations, but vacationing on a budget is certainly doable with helpful research. It’s a tight comparison and judging from the verdicts alone, Korea leads only by a slight margin with affordable seasonal rates, accommodation costs, budget shopping, and yearly flight fares on their side. However, if you’re a traveller who can’t resist the temptation of local cuisine and free sightseeing tours, Japan may be the one for you.