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Traveling to Japan – Manage Your Budget

This post was last updated on June 9th, 2020 at 07:36 pm


Japan is more expensive than other Asian countries. It is a modern country that can be compared to Europe and the United States. Until a few years ago, Japan was only suitable for people with a larger budget. However, this is not always the case anymore. A plane ticket to Japan will be the largest investment; the other prices can be compared to traveling in a European or American city. As a result, your budget for Japan will have to be larger than for other Asian countries.

 

Setting a Budget for Japan

Despite its reputation as an expensive country, prices in Japan have fallen in recent years. If you do some preparation before your trip, your budget doesn’t have to be that high. You can do many things for about ¥8,000 to ¥10,000 (about $70 – $90) a day.

 

TIP – If you are traveling on a low budget you have to think about $65 per day per person. That does not include flights and the Japanese Rail Pass!

 

Those amounts are for the real budget travelers. Taking into account transportation costs, a few admission tickets, meals in expensive restaurants and one or two nights in a Ryokan hotel and you spend at least ¥15,000 a day. That is around $135.

 

What did we Spend in Japan?

We spent around $1,950 p.p. in 4 weeks. That is $487,50 per week or $70 per day. This is excluding airline tickets and a Japan Rail Pass for 3 weeks. We slept in cheaper hotels and hostels where possible and always in private rooms. Below you can find a table with averages for different types of budgets.

 

Budget Calculation Japan

Cost per person per day

 

What Does it Cost to Travel in Japan?

What your budget for Japan will be depends on your own wishes. One settles for a hostel and free sightseeing, but the other prefers to travel with a bit more luxury and wants to see everything there is to see.

 

The largest cost item is transportation in Japan. We have a small overview of the costs that you incur for transport, accommodation and food and drinks.

 

Transport Costs in Japan

By far the largest expense in your budget for Japan. Whether you travel by bus or purchase a Japan Rail Pass. Traveling from A to B is not cheap, but very efficient. Most notably, going by train. The infrastructure is good. The Shinkansen train always runs on time and in the city, the metro is the best option!

 

For our 4-week trip through Japan, we purchased a 3-week Japan Rail Pass. Check out our guide on prices and applying for a JR Pass. You can NOT apply for the Japan Rail Pass (JRP) in Japan.

 

A JRP is therefore quite pricey. But it is certainly worth the investment. Single train tickets are very expensive (easily $60 per person). Are you going to Japan for more than a week? Then a JRP is more than worth it.

 

What did we spend in addition to the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail Pass, unfortunately, does not cover all routes in Japan. For example, you cannot get to Magome and the subways are also not covered with the Japan Rail Pass. This means that you will occasionally have to buy a train, metro or bus ticket to get somewhere. Some examples;

  • 10x ticket for the metro in Tokyo or Kyoto ➜ 170 to 210 yen ($1.55 to $1.91) p.p.
  • 3x day ticket for the metro (cheaper!) ➜ 500 to 600 yen ($4.55 to $5.47) p.p.
  • Return bus Matsumoto to Kamikochi ➜ 4,550 yen ($41.50) p.p.
  • 3-day Fuji Hakone Pass ➜ 5,650 yen ($51.50) p.p.
  • 1x bike rental at Amami-Oshima ➜ 2,000 yen ($18) p.p.

 

Average transport costs per person

If you assume a number of separate metro tickets and a number of day tickets per 4 weeks (28 days) that is $ 4.46 per day per person in extra transport costs. That is a bit distorted because not everyone follows the same route or gets on the metro just as often.

 

This is excluding the Japan Rail Pass!

 

Cost for Accommodations in Japan

The other majority of your budget for Japan will be spent on accommodation. If you expect prices like those in Indonesia or Thailand, you will be disappointed. We always slept in a private double room. And these quickly cost more than $65 per night.

 

You won’t find it much cheaper. A bed/mattress on a dorm in a hostel in Tokyo quickly costs $35 per person per night. And then it is often the case that men and women sleep separately. Not really cozy if you are traveling with your boyfriend/girlfriend.

 

So count on around $45 to $80 per night, depending on how luxurious you want the room to be. Do you want to sleep on the beach? Or in a more luxurious resort? In that case, you will pay a minimum of $110 per night. Save yourself the endless search for accommodations of $10 per night in the tourist areas. They are not there. Here’s an overview of our costs (all doubles).

 

  • Tokyo (Shinjuku) $90 p. night
  • Nikko $65 p. night (this was in Kinugawa-Onsen, Nikko is even more expensive)
  • Matsumoto $50 p. night
  • Hakone (Mount Fuji) $100 p. night
  • Kyoto $55 p. night (apartment with own kitchen)
  • First overnight stay in Amami-Oshima $150 p. night
  • Second overnight stay in Amami-Oshima $210 p. night

 

TIP – Instead of a hostel room we often booked a studio/apartment in larger cities. This is often just as expensive (if not cheaper), you have more space and more facilities (kitchen, washing machine, etc.) and it saves on your budget.

 

The average accommodation cost per person

In Amami, we chose a more expensive accommodation. If you leave this accommodation out of the equation, you will be charged about $70 per night. That is $35 per person per night if you want to share the costs.

 

Simple Japanese room

Simple, cheap and pretty decent in quality

 

Costs for Food and Drinks

In terms of price, food in Japan is comparable to most western countries, depending on where you eat. There are cheap places where you can get great dishes, but there are also places where you pay $20 for a pizza plus $4 in “seat fees”.

 

Street food, which is so famous in Asia, is less available here. In addition, they do not have very many small terraces so you are quickly drawn to a restaurant.

 

We will not write down all our food costs, but make a selection of things that everyone will eat or drink once. Some examples of food;

  • Noodle soup in Tokyo 800 yen ($7.30)
  • Sushi 149 yen for 1 plate / 2 pieces ($1.36)
  • Pizza 1,500 yen ($13.70)
  • Okonomiyaki (kind of pancake, very tasty!) 750 yen ($6.85)
  • Breakfast 700 yen ($6.40)
  • Grocery shopping for 2 days 700 to 1,000 yen ($6.40 – $9.10)

 

A number of examples of drinking;

  • Fresh smoothie 450 yen ($4.10)
  • Beer in large cities 500-600 yen ($4.55 – $5.50)
  • Coca-cola in restaurant 380 yen ($3.45)
  • Coffee at a tourist spot 480 yen ($4.40)
  • Coffee in the supermarket 100 yen ($0.90)
  • Water in the supermarket 100 yen ($0.90)

 

Average costs per person for food and drink

Food and drink costs vary per person. Some travelers have free breakfast at their accommodation. Others eat cheap snacks all day. If we have to calculate an average, we arrive at about $22 per person. This means enough water, dinner, breakfast, a beer, and a small snack/fruit.

 

Costs for Activities in Japan

Strangely enough, activities don’t take up a lot of space in your budget because you don’t have to do a lot of paid activities. You can do a lot yourself. We did not do paid tours or activities during our trip. Costs for activities mainly amount to entrance tickets for temples, national parks or bus tickets.

 

An overview of a number of costs for sightseeing spots;

  • Gyoen park Tokyo 200 yen ($1.80)
  • Toshogu Shrine in Nikko 1,300 yen ($11.85)
  • Futarasan Shrine in Nikko 200 yen ($1.80)
  • Kinkakuji in Kyoto 400 yen ($3.65)
  • Kiyomizudera in Kyoto 400 yen ($3.65)
  • Ginkakuji in Kyoto 500 yen ($4.55)
  • Todaiji in Nara 500 yen ($4.55)
  • Renting a bike on Amami-Oshima $15 per day

 

Average costs per activity

If we add up all admission prices for temples, parks and other places of interest, we have issued 5,600 yen ($51) per person in four weeks. That is about $1.80 per person per day.

 

View of Kamikochi

Thankfully the nature at Kamikochi is completely free!

 

Our Total Travel Costs in Japan (4 Weeks)

Our budget amounted to a total of around $69.87 per person per day. We were in Japan for 4 weeks. In those 4 weeks (28 days) we, therefore, spent $1,956.36 p.p. We have left out the plane ticket and the Japan Rail Pass. These costs;

  • Flight ticket – $617
  • Japan Rail Pass for 3 weeks – $504

 

Currency of Japan

The currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (¥ or JPY). You can get the Yen in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 Yen coins and 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 yen in bills. You can check the current rate here.

 

Some things are a bit more expensive, but you always get value for money here. Therefore you should not expect hundreds of cheap, illegal markets like they do in many other Asian countries. The Japanese place great value on quality and this is reflected in the prices.

 

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