Let me share with you the 5 tips which I use to book cheap hotel in Tokyo and other part of Japan. For hotel booking outside Tokyo, especially in towns away from major city, you may not need Tip #3 and #5.
Tip #1: Book Directly with the Hotel
Booking your Tokyo hotel accommodation using online hotel booking sites may not always get you the best hotel rates. In fact, for hotel booking in Tokyo or other part of Japan, you may get a better deal when you book directly with the hotel.
Tip #2: Book Your Hotel Room Early
Take advantage of the internet hotel booking rates which is often cheaper than walk-in rates. If you could confirm your Japan trip early, start booking your Tokyo hotel room at least 30 days in advance so that you can enjoy a 15%-30% discount for early-bird rates.
A word of caution though, when you make booking months ahead, do send an email to the hotel a week before you depart to confirm your hotel reservation. If you did not receive any confirmation from the hotel, ryokan or guesthouse, call the hotel between 9am to 5pm Japan time and you are more likely to talk to someone who can speak English.
Tip #3: Stay for 2 Nights or more with the same Hotel
In Japan, many top hotels entice travelers to stay longer with deep discount of 50% or more off the normal rate. I always try to stay for 2 or more nights at the same hotel in Tokyo so as to pay lesser for a bigger room.
I visited Japan in 2009 and stayed at the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka near Akasaka-mitsuke Station for three nights in a huge room(36.8 sq m) with a king-size bed, lounge sofa, writing desk, a separate dressing table, wardrobe and a spacious bathroom with full-length bathtub for only JPY11,000(about SGD175) per night – a hefty 60% savings on my hotel bill! But I understand it has closed down in March 2011 recently.
Because of the bigger room and longer stay discount, I find myself going back to Prince hotels every time I visit Tokyo. Not too long ago, I stayed at Shinagawa Prince Hotel near Shinagawa station for two nights and paid only JPY13,000 per night for a spacious 25.7 sq m double room with free internet access.
Tip #4: Avoid Paying for Your Hotel Room in Advance
I always find ways to minimize currency exchange risk when booking hotel in advance. Last year, when I was planning my Japan trip, the JPY was already very high against SGD.
I reckoned that if I were to commit any hotel booking with any of the online hotel booking sites, my credit card would be charged immediately at the prevailing exchange rate that might not be favorable to me. The better way is to plan early and confirm a hotel reservation in advance and yet do not have to make payment first.
I discovered that when I book directly with the hotel, no payment is required. I only pay at the end of my stay at the hotel.
Tip #5: Stay at Hotels near Train Station
Transportation cost in Japan can take up the lion’s share of your holiday budget even if you are taking the public transport such as the subway, rail and bus.
To save on transportation expense, it may be worthwhile to spend a little more for a hotel that is located to where you are going to spend most of your time shopping and sightseeing.
However, do take note that hotels near Shinjuku station are a lot more expensive than stations further from central Tokyo. The cheaper hotel rooms in Shinjuku area are very compact and may not be suitable for travelers with big luggage.