Korea and Japan, two of the most popular countries amongst Singaporean travellers. What happens when you’re on a budget and can only afford one out of these two popular holiday destinations? If you’re wondering whether Korea or Japan is cheaper, or which country offers a better selection of budget activities, KKday’s travel guide on Korea VS Japan on a budget holiday is here to help.
Coined as the land of cheap loots, you don’t have to dig deep into the streets of Ewha or Myeongdong to find where the cheap loots are. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself lugging back an overweight luggage filled with clothes, shoes and makeup — whatever happened to being thrifty?
Japan has famous shopping streets like Harajuku, Shinjuku and Shibuya, where you can get second-hand clothes in extremely good condition. (Vintage shopping is a Japanese thing.) Japan is also known for their 100yen and 300yen shops — similar to our value dollar shop, but unlike our value dollar shop which is stocked with snacks and boring household appliances, Japan‘s 100yen and 300yen shops actually sell chio but useful items. Think MUJI, but at 300yen.
The force of Korean wave is too strong for us to deny. Etude House, Laneige and Innisfree are all way cheaper in Korea. Besides, Korean fashion is more appealing to typical Singaporeans; unless you’re into cosplaying, which is prevalent in Japan.
If you’re not a foodie and don’t mind saving on food for more shopping, go ahead and order a tteokbukki for SGD3 at a food truck that’s usually parked by Korea‘s streets. However, don’t bother looking for variety when pigging out at a food truck; by the time you’re done ordering the different variety of food available, you might as well head to a local eatery for some proper food at SGD10.
Get comfy and have a sit-down meal at any Japanese eatery for SGD10, where you’ll be served a simple ramen or donburi set meal, usually completed with miso soup and green tea. If you’re satisfied with filling your stomach with just street food, Japan has countless selections for you to choose from.
Japan is definitely winning this. Have you seen the types of street food they have? Definitely a huge bang for your buck.
3. Free Attractions
Fancy a trip to the world’s longest bridge fountain? Make your way down to Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain and see the bridge come to life with 200 lights illuminating the entire bridge with spurts of water dancing in sync with music! Alternatively, saunter around Bukchon Hanok Village to see traditional houses with a modern twist.
See the once majestic Tokyo Imperial Palace as you pedal around the moats and paths of the large park, ride your day away with one of the 150 bikes available outside Tokyo Imperial Palace. There’s also Tsukiji Market, a must-go for all tourists. Watch how Japanese enter a bidding war over the freshest catch of the day, and you might score a slice of sashimi for yourself.
Verdict: It’s a tie!
Oh come on, we can’t possibly take sides when both countries are offering free attractions, right?
Depending on how comfortable you wish to be and the location you wish to settle in at, we’d say accommodation prices in Korea are pretty affordable with starting prices for as low as SGD40 a night. There are inexpensive hostels at almost any corner of Myeongdong, Dongdaemun and Hongdae, and we assure you, they’re not at all dodgy-looking.
If you haven’t already heard, capsule hotels are gaining popularity among budget tourists in Japan. At only SGD65 a night, you can get comfy in a capsule with a well-laid futon. The downside? Claustrophobic or tall travellers might suffer a little.
It’s difficult for Japan to shake off the image of being expensive in everything. SGD40 a night for a room in Korea VS SGD65 for a tight space in a Japanese capsule hotel? There isn’t much of a fight.
Basic transportation, e.g. trains and buses within Seoul, are priced close to Singapore’s. Bus fares start from around SGD1.60, and train fares around SGD 1.70. Base fare for taxis starts at SGD3.60, with a 20% bump from midnight to 4am.
If there’s one thing Japan is famous for, it’s their high cost in everything — transportation fares are no exception. A seven day rail pass costs SGD378 and the cab fare starts at SGD8. Say what?
Pretty sure it’s obvious that Korea is taking the cake for this round.
6. Air Tickets
A direct roundtrip flight from Changi Airport to Incheon Airport costs about SGD700.
A direct roundtrip from Changi Airport to Narita Airport costs about SGD1100.
How about we take the price difference and go for a round of crazy shopping in Korea?
Final Verdict: Korea
While it’s clear that Korea is the final winner for budget travellers, Japan and Korea are both beautiful countries to visit, regardless of season. If you’re still having troubles on picking which country to visit, take a look at some of the travel activities available in Japan and Korea.