How much does it cost to travel in Japan? This question was on our minds a lot before our trip to the "land of the rising sun".
Honestly, we were scared to go to Japan. Not because of the culture, nor the language barrier and not even the underwear vending machines! We were nervous because we heard it wasn't cheap.
Discounts and deals can be hard to find in Japan (if you don't know where to look). And truth be told, it is one of the most expensive countries we’ve ever visited.
That said, there are many ways you can save money and travel cheaply while exploring Japan.
In this article, we break down exactly how much it costs for food, accommodation, transportation and entertainment in Japan.
Plus, we’re sharing some of our best money-saving tips for travel in Japan.
If it’s your first time to Japan, we have a helpful Japan Travel Guide to answer all your questions. If you are looking for advice on how to travel to Japan on a budget, you've come to the right place!
Money-Saving Tips in Japan
While Japan is not a cheap country to visit, there are certainly ways you can save money on your trip. Here are some of the ways we saved money while traveling in Japan:
Buy a Japan Rail Pass if you plan to venture outside of Tokyo. This article breaks down how much the Japan Rail Pass costs and how to purchase it.
Get your breakfasts and snacks at 7-Eleven or Family Mart (they are everywhere around the country!). While you might never consider eating at a convenience store in your home country, the fresh food options are surprisingly good at these stores in Japan. I'm not joking. You'll see many locals doing the same.
Have your biggest meal midday and take advantage of "lunch sets" which often consist of a large meals (sometimes with a dessert) and are typically between $5-7 USD.
Conveyor belt sushi is a good way to try all the types of sushi your little heart (and stomach!) desire without a huge price tag. Plus, it's a fun experience in itself!
Use an app to record your spending and see how well you're staying on top of your budget! We find it's much easier to overspend when you don't know how much it's all adding up to. We love Trail Wallet for recording our expenses. (We're not affiliated with them, we just love using it ourselves!)
How much does traveling to Japan actually cost?
Well, that's a great question. And truthfully, it depends a lot on your personal travel style.
We know it can be helpful to see an idea of how much certain things cost to give you an idea of how much you'll be paying. These are all average prices in Tokyo, and this is only meant to give you a baseline. You can find these items cheaper or you can pay much more. Also, prices will vary around the country.
Average Costs in Tokyo
Budget: ¥3,000 for a dorm bed (around $27 USD)
Mid-range: ¥5,000 - 10,000 for a private room in a guesthouse or cheap hotel ($45 - $90 USD)
High-end: ¥10,000 - 30,000 for a Western style hotel or more luxurious ryokan ($90 - $270 USD)
Bowl of ramen: ¥800 at a restaurant ($7 USD), ¥300 at a convenience store ($2.75 USD)
Train from Kyoto to Tokyo: ¥13,080 one-way ($120 USD) Now you see why everyone gets the Japan Rail pass.
Subway pass for the day: ¥700 per person ($6.40 USD)
Coffee: ¥300 ($2.75 USD)
We're sharing our budget breakdown of our one-week trip to Japan so you can get an idea of how much you can expect to pay.
We were careful with our spending and mostly stayed in budget accommodation, but we packed in quite a bit during our one-week trip!
Next Read: 34 Best Things to Do in Tokyo
Packing the right gear will help you save money in Japan.
Cost of Transportation in Japan
Transportation is typically the most expensive section in any travel budget. But Japan takes the cake when comes to transportation expenses. Not only are the trains and metros ridiculously confusing, they are outrageously pricey.
To avoid the confusion of planning trains given our tight time frame of only 8 days, we opted for the 7-day Japan Rail (JR) pass. It is expensive, but totally worth it. It pays for itself just by doing a round trip from Kyoto to Tokyo. As a nice little bonus, we were also able to ride on the Shinkansen — Japan's famous bullet train.
We dished out another chunk of change for the 2-day Hakone Free Pass. If you are in the Hakone region, it is a must buy. It allows you to hop on and off pretty much any bus in the region, ride the cable car to see the iconic Mt. Fuji, and ride a pirate ship (a complete tourist trap, but hey, it's included in the price). The Free Pass was basically covered just by the number of buses we rode, so it was a good purchase.
Another way to save money on transportation in Japan is to look for all-day bus or metro tickets in big cities like Kyoto and Tokyo. We certainly saved some cash there.
Note: This does not include our flights to Japan since this amount would vary drastically depending on where in the world you are flying from. We traveled to Japan while teaching English in South Korea, so our flights to and from Japan were very cheap.
Cost of Hotels in Japan
Japan can be pretty pricey when it comes to accommodation.
When trying to save money, we often stay in hostels and booked a nice one in Kyoto.
In Tokyo, we had our very first experience renting an apartment from AirBnB. Overall, it was pretty successful!
We did splurge a bit on a 1-night stay in a ryoken (a traditional Japanese hotel!), and had the chance to use the private outdoor onsen (Japanese hot spring). It was well worth the splurge!
One way to save money in Japan is if you find a great deal on a hotel, use that city as your base and travel on short trips from there. There are plenty of great day trips from Osaka if you find a hotel deal.
Hotels in Kyoto
Luxury Hotels: Hotel Granvia Kyoto - This 5-star hotel has everything, from an indoor swimming pool to a restaurant and bar to a spa. You can’t beat this location. Perfect for the business traveler or a splurging couple.
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kyoto-Hachijoguchi - Incredible location steps away from the Kyoto Rail Station. Each room has a plasma TV and free WiFi. Perfect spot to explore the city with your hunny.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Piece Hostel Kyoto - Awesome location, modern common areas, privates and dorms available, rooftop garden. Great place to meet other travelers.
Hotels in Hakone
Luxury Hotels: Hakone Kowakien TEN-YU - Peace and harmony, traditional and Japanese style rooms available with some having an open-air bath on the balcony over looking the mountains. Spa and onsen on-site. Pure luxury.
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Fuji-Hakone Guest House - Lovely staff, Japanese style ryokan rooms, close to everything in town, and an on-site private onsen you can reserve with your sweetie.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: K's House Hakone - Onsen Hostel - A little ways out of Hakone town, but close to public transport so no worries. On-site onsen and nice social areas with free WiFi.
Hotels in Tokyo
Luxury Hotels: Ascott Marunouchi Tokyo - 5-star hotel that is luxury all the way. Stay in comfort with plush spacious rooms with top end amenities. You can’t bet the location near Tokyo Station that gives you access to the entire city. Perfect for a business trip or a honeymoon splurge.
Couple Stay/Mid-range: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Ginza - Great proximity to Tokyo Station, free WiFi and plasma TV screens in all rooms, on-site restaurant and massage services.
Budget Friendly/Social Atmosphere: Bunka Hostel Tokyo - Located in the heart of the city, this award winning hostel has private and dorm rooms available, on-site restaurant, shared kitchen, and free WiFi in all rooms. Great place to meet other travelers in Tokyo.
Also check out AirBnB and you'll get $40 off your first time renting. (Fun Fact: Our first Air B&B experience was in Tokyo!)
Cost of Food in Japan
Food was an area where we were pleasantly surprised. We found that prices of food in Japan were not as high as we were expecting, and cheap food options were readily available.
We saved money by buying noodle bowls and breakfasts at corner marts (which are on just about every block and surprisingly good!), but we also splurged on fresh sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market, real ramen bowls in Tokyo and other Japanese specialties that made our mouths water.
Overall, we kept our daily meals under $14 USD per person. Not bad, huh?
Check out our list of Top Foods to Try in Japan for some wanderlust for your mouth!
Cost of Entertainment in Japan
Japan has it all — a complex history, stunning nature and unbelievably quirky entertainment!
This category of our budget included various temple admission fees, the snow monkey park entrance, a sushi making class in Kyoto, and the infamous robot restaurant.
With all those fun activites, we were pretty pleased that our entertainment costs were just under $200!
Costs of Drinks in Japan
The occasional sake and Japanese beer set us back a cool $40. We didn't party hard in Shinjuku or have alcohol with many meals. If you do plan on indulging a little more than us, you may be looking at spending quite a bit more in this category because drinks aren't all that cheap in Japan.
Tip: To save money in this category, buy drinks at 7-Eleven or Family Mart (it is legal to drink in the street), from a vending machine (yes, you read that right!), or head to a less trendy neighborhood for cheaper drinks!
Kanpai! (That's "cheers" in Japanese; a word you'll definitely want to memorize!)
Miscellaneous (Souvenir) Costs in Japan
While traveling in Japan, you'll find so many different options for souvenirs that you'd be crazy to come home empty-handed. We purchased some beautiful souvenirs in Japan, such as a ceramic sake bottle and a handmade fan.
And in addition to the typical souvenirs, you might want to try out the famous Japanese photo booths or buy something crazy from a vending machine. It's a good idea to factor in a bit of "miscellaneous" money to your budget!
One Week in Japan Grand Total Cost
Overall, our Japan trip was quite expensive, but we both agree it was well worth the money. There's just no other place in the world quite like it! And at just under $100 per person per day, we agree that we did a pretty good job keeping our trip affordable!
We want to hear from you!
What is your biggest question about costs in Japan? Do you have any money-saving tips you'd like to share? Comment below!