Before we visited Japan, we always heard about how expensive Japan was. We weren’t sure how much to budget for two weeks in Japan and we were afraid we would come home broke! We lucked out and found an AWESOME flight deal for $400 roundtrip from Los Angeles (thank you Black Friday deals)! Before we arrived, we had a feeling that we would be spending a lot while we were there, because we wanted to see so much. It wasn’t until we arrived in Tokyo, that we realized it would be fairly easy to travel Japan on a budget.
The amount of money that you spend while in Japan depends a lot on how you like to travel. We aren’t the most extravagant when we travel, but we also like to enjoy ourselves (see our food and drink category) . We did spend a lot of time traveling around, so that can add to the expenses. But, what we found in our travels to Japan is it IS possible to visit Japan on a budget! It’s important to know what kind of traveler you are. If you like to see and do a lot, keep in mind that things will add up. Traveling around to many different cities, gets expensive. After we go over our total Japan travel costs, we’ll give you some tips on how to stick to a budget when in Japan!
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, hopefully our total spending budget helps you as a guide for planning your budget trip to Japan.
What You'll Find in This Post
- 1 Is traveling to Japan on a budget possible?
- 2 Tips for visiting Japan on a budget
Is traveling to Japan on a budget possible?
Japan can be both expensive and done on a budget. We broke our cost into 4 different categories so you can easily see where we spent most of our money. Keep in mind, the main cities will be a little bit more expensive.
Accommodation Prices in Japan
**At the time of writing, the exchange rate ¥100=$.91
Hotels in the main cities seem to be pretty expensive. But once you start looking a little more into, there are lots of budget options. Book early for better options and better prices. Also airbnb and hostels are great alternatives. The two hostels that we stayed at were also top-notch very clean! Prices of accommodation in Japan will depend a lot on time of year. A hostel or capsule room costs $50-100 and rates just go up from there. There are plenty of options to find something in your budget.
Average costs of accommodation in Japan:
- Budget (capsule or hostel): ¥1500-3000 ($14-28)
- Mid-range (guesthouse or cheap hotel): ¥4000-10000 ($35-90)
- Luxury (Traditional ryokan or Western style hotel): ¥10000-30000 ($90-275)
If you have the budget, we recommend staying at a ryokan for a night or two. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese style inn, with tatami mats, futon beds, and Japanese style baths, or onsens. Although expensive, it is quite an experience.
If you cant find anything in your price point that suits you, we recommend checking Airbnb. We found some great deals in both Tokyo and Kyoto.
*We recommend budgeting $35-$75/night/person
Transportation Prices in Japan
Getting around Japan is super easy! Once you arrive and try to navigate the train station, it can be a little overwhelming. However, it gets easier, we promise! We found by the end, we were professionals. Public transportation is so clean and efficient, its super easy to get around.
- Subway in Tokyo ¥200 ($1.8)
- Bus ride in Kyoto ¥220 ($2)
- One day pass Tokyo metro and subway lines ¥900 ($8.26)
- Narita express train from Narita to Tokyo ¥1317 ($13 USD)
- Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto ¥13080 ($130)
- Kyoto bus pass for one day ¥600 ($5.50
We spent a good chunk of our transportation budget on the Japan rail pass (JR pass). While the JR passes can be very beneficial and great deal, it is not always necessary to purchase. Only if you plan to do lots of traveling on the JR lines. you would need to buy the JR pass before you get to Japan, as they will send you the exchange coupon, and then you will activate the JR pass when you arrive in Japan. We recommend booking your tickets for the Japan rail pass here.
*If you have questions on if your itinerary would be better with the JR pass or not, leave us a comment-we’d love to help you out!
There are also regional passes and bus passes available in most main cities, that can save you money. If you know you’re itinerary, you can decide if its worth it to buy the passes. A one-day metro and subway pass in Tokyo is $8, so if you know you’ll be taking it 4 times or so, you should purchase that.
*We recommend saving $25-70/day/person
Food Prices in Japan
We found that no matter where we ate, we weren’t disappointed. This includes the convenience stores! One of the best “chicken on a stick” that we ate while there was about $1.20 USD at the 7-eleven! The quality of food in Japan is definitely high. So whether you’re paying $5 or $50, you probably won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking to save money on food in Japan, there are usually great priced ramen and sushi places around the corner.
Here are some general food prices for you to get an idea
- Ramen ¥750-1100 ($7-$10)
- Wagyu, Teppanyaki, Izakaya ¥2200-6500 ($20-60)
- Inexpensive sushi ¥1000-2000 ($9-18)
Alternatively you can find some great deals at 7-eleven. We ate a bunch of our breakfasts from 7-eleven. Here are some examples of prices at 7-eleven:
- Onigri (rice with salmon, egg, chicken…) ¥110 ($1-1.50)
- Bento box ¥435 ($4)
- Box of sushi ¥435 ($4)
- Chicken on a stick ¥110-220 ($1-2)
Drink Prices in Japan
We found the drinks to be fairly expensive. At most restaurants, you’ll be paying around $6-8 for a draft beer. Sake is about the same. We tried not to get drinks while we were out too often. Instead we bought them at the convince store. You can see that we did enjoy some drinks out while we were in Japan. We went to a cool new brewery in Kanazawa, that happened to be doing a collaboration with Portland beer, and had some drinks at a rooftop bar in Tokyo. So if you take some of those expensive drinking nights out, the budget is obviously way less.
Typical drink prices (not at a convenience store):
- Coffee ¥440 ($4)
- Beer ¥600-800 ($5.50-7.50)
- glass of Sake ¥500-700 ($5-7)
- Bottled water ¥120 ($1)
*We recommend budgeting $25-50/day/person for food and drink
How much does a trip to Japan cost?
For 12 days in Japan, we thought we did a great job on spending. Yes, we could have been a little more frugal, but we also saw and did A LOT! But, in 12 days, we spent less than $100/day per person while in Japan! The crazy thing is, we did this without really trying to budget. I mean, we were aware of our spending, but we still enjoyed our time. You can definitely do it for way less. We definitely splurged here and there. We had a luxury hotel stay with a private onsen in Takayama, enjoyed a nice hida beef meal, drank some craft beers, but we counter-balanced those with a few nights in some hostels. Traveling is all about balance. Overall, we think a reasonable budget for Japan is between $50-100/day.
Tips for visiting Japan on a budget
Shop at 7-eleven or convenience stores
7-eleven is one of the greatest things you’ll ever find in Japan. It’s not like it is in the states. Well it is, but 10x better! You can find everything you need at 7-eleven for cheap! For most of our breakfasts, we would just grab some onigri (Japanese rice balls) and coffee and were on our way! We saved a lot of money by buying our drinks at 7-eleven as opposed to buying at restaurants or coffee shops. 7-eleven is open 24/7 too, so it’s super easy to pop in late at night or in the morning. This is also where we used the ATMs to get our Japanese Yen.
Use the JR pass and Suica card
We did a lot of traveling around, and therefore our transportation spending was a bit higher. While the JR pass can be a great deal, if you’re not traveling around a lot it might not be worth it for you! Before you go, you can map out where you plan on traveling to and see the price of everything. That way, you can see if its worth it or not to buy the JR pass. We ended up buying a 7 day JR pass for the last 7 days, because we knew we’d have a lot of travel in and around Kyoto, plus the Shinkansen back to Tokyo (which can be a hefty $135 for a one way trip). The JR pass can also be used on the Narita Express to and from the airport.
Once you activate the JR pass, its super easy to use. You don’t need to get any other train tickets, you just show your pass on entry and exit at each train station. Because we already had the JR pass, it definitely made it easier to do more day trips from Kyoto, as we didn’t have to pay more.
The Suica or Pasmo card is just a prepaid card that you can add money too. It makes it super easy when traveling around a lot to just swipe the card, instead of having to have exact change. You can get a card in any JR station, and add more to it whenever you see a station.
Book hotel away from main train stations
Being close to a train station is convenient, but it’s also expensive. If you can find somewhere to stay a little bit away from the train station, you’ll be able to save some money. Its super easy to catch the bus to the train station, rent bike, or even walk!
Rent a Pocket Wifi
Having a pocket wifi will save you a lot of time and money! The pocket wifi we used was super easy to pick up from Narita International Airport. We had unlimited data and connection to 10 devices. If you are someone who needs to be on wifi a lot, of if you have a couple other people traveling with you, the pocket wifi will pay off. We especially liked using it for google maps and google translate.
Beware of Entry Fees
There are a lot of temples and shrines and other exciting things to see in Japan, but the entry fee to everything can really add up! Some temples won’t have an entry fee. Research before you go and make sure that it’s actually worth paying and entering. For us, we only went inside a few places because we didn’t want to pay the entrance fees.
We found alcohol to be expensive most places we ate at. Even for a local beer, it was close to $6-8. Every once in a while, we would have some sake or beer while we were out, but most of the time we would just buy our alcohol at the convenience stores. It is also totally acceptable to drink while you are walking around!
Japan is a beautiful country, with lots to see and do! Don’t put off visiting Japan because you think its too expensive! It is possible to still experience all that Japan has to offer on budget! Keep in mind when you are planning your trip to Japan, that lots of moving around will add up. Traveling to Japan on a budget is totally doable!
What are some of your budget travel tips? If you have been to Japan, we’d love to know what you did to keep your costs low?
Want to learn how to travel more?