How Much Does It Cost To Travel To Japan – One of the things that most travellers don’t take into account immediately when planning a trip is just how costly everything will end up being. From transport to eating to sightseeing and tour groups, it’s all fun and games when planning until it comes to crunch time and the numbers increase much more exponentially that you’d think.
Well, we’re here to alleviate some of that uncertainty for you. Japan has been visited by numerous people from all around the world, and is definitely affordable if you plan for your kind of budget. From luxe-travellers to discount-seekers, anyone and everyone can have a fun and enjoyable time in Japan. We’ll breakdown some of the more common costs that you should know about whilst visiting this wonderful country, and how various travels may go about certain things in different ways.
How Much Does It Cost To Travel To Japan – Accommodation
Accommodation might be what you end up spending majority of your budget on. However, with the Japanese population as condensed as it is, and the increasing number of visitors dropping into Japan every year, you definitely be spoilt for choice. Whether you’re used to the five-star service of 1000-thread count linen, private bathrooms with luxury spas, ocean views and in-house massage services, or you’re the type to happily drop down your backpack in an 8-person dormitory and make friends in the shared bathrooms, there are accommodation choices to suit all.
In saying that, if you’re more of a private person and don’t want to be sharing a room with a group of strangers, but definitely don’t have the budget for a fancy hotel, there are plenty of options at the fraction of the cost of high-end hotel where you will still be able to live comfortably, and likewise, if money is not necessarily an issue, but you want to experience a the lively atmosphere of a share-house or a unique hostel environment, there are many which accommodate for comfort over cost.
For example, in Tokyo, O3 Hostel is great for budget travellers who want just a bit of privacy, convenience, and are not fussed about small space (from $55USD for 2 people/night), whereas Japanize Guest House is the absolute no-frills accommodation for people who literally just want a place to sleep in a shared accommodation (from $17USD for 1 person/night). For something a bit more unique, Book And Bed Tokyo in Ikebukuro or Asakusa lets you sleep amongst bookshelves (if you’d like), or capsule-style bunks starting from only $27USD per person/night.
Similarly, for those who are used to the luxuries of a hotel, the ever popular Hotel The Celestine Tokyo Shiba is a great option; whilst it’s not too friendly on the wallet, all the amenities and in-house services provided is more than enough to make up for it, and the convenience of its location is second to none (from $170USD for 2 people/night). Want something that’s scaled down a tad? Hamacho Hotel Tokyo is still located in a great location, with stunning modern features and amenities at almost half the price (from $93USD for 2 people/night).
- Where to stay in Tokyo
- Best hostels in Tokyo
- Best capsule hotels in Tokyo
- Where to stay in Kyoto
- Best hostels in Kyoto
- Best capsule hotels in Kyoto
And if you are looking for more traditional places, you can stay at a Ryokan during your trip to Japan. More info in these articles:
How Much Does It Cost To Travel To Japan – Transportation
The transport system in Japan is probably one of the best (if not the best) in the world. Trains and busses are both frequent and punctual, commuters are respectful and clean, and they travel at a speed not yet reached by many other first-world countries. You’d think that with transport technology this advanced, costs would be astronomical, but that’s hardly the case.
In Tokyo, for example, the cost of using the metro train system is extremely affordable, with certain short-distance rides costing only 200yen (approx. $1.85USD). That all depends on the destination, of course, as some rides within the city can go up to 700-800yen (approx. $7.50USD). We recommend planning your itinerary so that you visit areas that are close to each other on the same day to save the cost of transport. Hyperdia is a very useful website when it comes to planning a train trip in Japan.
Also, a lot of cities in Japan are walkable, so you can choose to explore it on foot rather than utilise the trains. Most city buses charge 210yen (approx. $2USD) for adults for a ride. To get an approximation of cost, we recommend using Google Maps, punching in your origin and destination, and it’ll provide you information on the timetable, which type of transport to catch, where to transfer, and a rough cost.
We also highly recommend purchasing a prepaid card (e.g. a Suica or Pasmo), loading money onto it, and using it to tap on and off at the stations and most buses. It’s convenient, lightweight, and you won’t have to worry about having the right change.
In terms of long distance travel, if time is not an issue, then you can get from prefecture to prefecture for less than $20USD (if you travel off-peak and are comfortable on highway buses). Companies such as Willer Express provide bus transportation all around Honshu for incredibly cheap prices during their sale periods, and decent prices even during peak periods. However, they’re not as comfortable nor as quick as flights. If you’re planning on traveling from one side to the other, have a look at budget airlines such as Peach Airlines, Vanilla Air, and Tiger Airways.
If you are planning to do a round-trip around Japan and end up back at your original destination (normally Osaka or Tokyo), then we highly recommend considering the JR Pass. This pass is designed specifically for foreign tourists visiting different major cities around Japan. A trip between Osaka to Tokyo and back again, for example, will already cover the cost of the pass, and so all trips in between will essentially be free (as opposed to purchasing individual tickets whilst you’re there). Read more about the Japan Rail Pass here.
How Much Is The Food In Japan?
Food is a major, major factor to consider whilst traveling. Some people might say that the only reason why they travel is just so that they can trying different food from around the world. We understand just how important planning for food can be, so we made sure that we’ve researched thoroughly enough to say that you can definitely, positively, absolutely, travel Japan on any budget and still taste the best of what it has to offer. From thousands of budget restaurants to nation-wide chain stores to budget food hacks in convenience stores, you’ll actually never run out of things to eat. And for the gourmet food travellers? Well, let’s just say that Tokyo is one of the biggest food meccas of Asia, and you’ll be hard-pressed to define a single list of restaurants to try without making a promise to yourself that you’ll be back in the future to try more.
If we were to break down a rough budget for food, we’d say you’ll probably need around $8-$10USD for a breakfast and lunch meal here, at a regular restaurant. Dinner would probably be around the $20USD mark. When you also add in the fact (and we say fact because it not a mere observation but a complete 100% truth), that you will be buying snacks and drinks to try throughout the day, then you’re looking at a budget of around $60USD a day on food. THAT IS FOR THE AVERAGE TRAVELER. If you’re on a budget, you can honestly halve that amount and still get three square meals a day plus snacks, and if you’re all about the high-life, well, you can double, triple, quadruple that if your wallet extends that far and literally dine on wagyu or Kobe beef and fresh sashimi all day long.
Regular Japanese dishes such as ramen, set menus, conveyor belt sushi, curry, udon, etc, are available almost everywhere, and varying prices. You can even try Michelin-starred restaurants offering these dishes and you won’t come close to breaking the bank (e.g. less than 1000yen for a meal!).
If you’re after a full budget experience, try to look for chain restaurants such as Yoshinoya, Sukiya, Matsuya, and Nakau, who make to-die-for gyudon bowls starting from only $3-4USD! There’s also Kura Sushi, who does conveyor belt sushi at 100yen per plate, and Hanamura Udon which is a chain that originated from Shikoku, specialising in sanuki udon. These are a few of the more popular chain budget restaurants, however, there are so amny more literally sprinkled all over Japan if you look hard enough.
For those who are after a full gourmet experience, an epic dining experience could set you back up to $70-$100USD if you’re after top quality Japanese beef with a side of all-you-can-drink beers (referred to as nomi-ho-dai!). We’d like to think ‘you only live once!’ and incorporate at least one of these dining experiences into the trip.
- Grab a quick breakfast at the konbinis (convenience stores) – their fresh range of sushi, sandwiches, bakery food, and cakes can absolutely match specialty restaurants, and they’ll only cost a fraction of the price! Plus, they have such a wide variety so everyone will be able to enjoy something there.
- If you want to try something at a restaurant but its price is too high, try heading there for lunch – most restaurants in Japan offer a lunch set at a fraction of it’s dinner price.
- Popular places such as Michelin-starred restaurants that offer decent prices are usually packed from the moment they open until the moment they close, so it’s best to either get in early or later in the day, and if not, then be prepared to wait a while (bring a scarf and beanie if it’s winter, and carry a bottle of water in summer to stay hydrated, the lines can get exceptionally long!).
If you are really into Japanese food, you can also book these really cool food tours and cooking classes in Tokyo:
- Tokyo walking food tour at night
- Kobe beef restaurant Hakushu in Shibuya
- Learn to cook Japanese vegetarian food like a pro
- Ramen experience with a local foodie
- Musashi Sky Grill at Asakusa View Hotel
- Sake all you can drink
- Hinasushi Self-Service Sushi Restaurant
How Much Does It Cost To Travel To Japan – Night Out
Going out for a night of drinking, dancing, bar hopping, whatever it may be, will be highly different in Japan than most countries. The culture is so unique, so expect to follow some less than conventional rules. For example, no one drinks or eats on the streets in Japan, it is considered impolite, so you definitely wont see any drunkards stumbling along in the dead of the night whilst chugging down a wine bottle. Also, kebabs after a big night are highly encouraged, but make sure you smash it at the stand before walking anyway.
The average price for a bottle of beer at a restaurant in Tokyo is roughly 600yen, which is just under $6USD. That’s pretty standard and on the cheap side. However, if you know you can get your money’s worth, we highly recommend getting the ‘no-mi-ho-dai’ (all-you-can-drink) option that most restaurants (especially Japanese BBQs) offer. For a set price, you can order as many alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as you like (please check if the restaurant has a set menu of drinks to order from, or if they let you order from the entire list of drinks that they have). We have found that this option has helped many people create the best memories. At most places, you’re looking at approximately $15-$20USD for the all-you-can-drink option, on top of your food cost.
Another option to have a great night out (and this one’s not just for the budget seekers), is to have a hotel party and slug down the Strong Zero (9%) cans from the convenience stores. These absolutely potent cans of drinks go down well, there are a plethora of flavours to choose from, and they’re so cheap, starting from only $2-$3 a can, depending on the mls and flavours. You can also bulk-buy them if you’re planning on having a big night out at stores such as Don Quijote.
A night out in Japan will likely consist of karaoke, which is a long-time favourite pastime for many of the locals, and a new favourite pastime for many foreigners who fall in love with the fun and exciting yet inexpensive activity that anyone can enjoy. Similar to restaurants, most karaoke bars will offer the all-you-can-drink option, so you can have a free flow of alcohol to fuel your inner Whitney Houston all night. This can typically start at around $14USD for 2 hours per person on top of the charge for the karaoke bar, which might start at around $6-$10 per person, per hour.
If you’re after a classier affair, for example, whiskey bars, there are plenty to check out in Japan – they pride themselves in housing some of the world’s best whiskey after all. Generally, you can try various bars that sell them for roughly $30USD a glass. Some might having a lower starting price at roughly $20USD a glass, and some might go into the hundreds. It’s best to search type of bar and drinks you’re after, and look up the menu price to avoid getting a shock when the bill comes around!
If drinking is not your thing, there are plenty of activities to enjoy without bingeing on the alcohol. In most cities you can go and see a movie (only certain ones have translation though, so check before you buy a ticket!), you can go to a batting centre to test your batting skills, you can go play at the arcades, you can go to a VR centre and experience things you’ve never even heard of before. These are not too expensive (movie tickets can go from $12USD, batting centres will charge a measly $4USD for a number of balls, arcade games normally cost around $1-$2 for one round, and VR stadiums usually charge around $40-$50 for a few different experiences) and no one’s ever come home from experiencing zombies in VR mode and called it boring.
How about Shopping?
Whilst some travellers absolutely deter from shopping whilst traveling, there’s something therapeutic about purchasing items in Japan. They will sell ornaments the size of your fingernails, so intricately designed that you can’t help but purchase them as gifts; alongside the same shop might be an anime store selling thousands of such cool mangas and merchandise that even foreigners who have no idea what they are about will be intrigued to purchase one just to display back at home; alongside that shop might be a jewellery and accessory store that sells only handcrafted items that will make great presents for mums and sisters back home. Japan’s shopping culture and scene is one in a million, and even if you try to avoid it, it will be hard to go home without exploring at least one shopping district centre.
Depending on what you’re after and who you’re buying it for, purchasing gifts from Japan can be as easy as 1-2-3 and as cheap as chips. Literally. One of the most popular souvenir gifts that foreigners take home these days (and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down), is Japanese snacks. Over the past few years, the spotlight on Japanese snacks has really taken off, and people from all over the world visit this country with the thought of trying as many unique flavours and items as they can, intrigued that a simple thing such as a snack can hold so much potential in Japan.
People flock to bargain stores such as Don Quijote and Canstar to bulk buy food items to bring back to their home to share amongst their family and friends, and we’re totally behind this movement. Japan’s snack game is strong, and we support the idea of bringing joy to your family and friends and giving them a slice of this wonderful country without breaking the bank. A packet of chips here can cost as little as $0.80USD, candy might set you back $0.50USD, and their wonder senbei crackers might dig a deeper hole in your wallet at $1USD for a serving. There are literally thousands of other snack products you can filter through and choose from. Just organise your time properly and get it before heading to the airport to go home – we all know how expensive that shopping trip will cost you if you end up down that route.
If you’re after a bit of Japanese fashion, then everywhere from major city shopping malls to boutique shops in smaller towns and villages are worth your time. One of the most famous neighbourhoods for fashion in Tokyo are probably Harajuku with its Kawaii fashion culture and Shibuya.
The fashion is fast in Japan, and it stops for no one. They’re an incredibly aesthetic people (in terms of fashion), and often pride themselves in being able to choose comfort and style all in the same outfit. You’ll see this is prevalent in some of their global brands such as Uniqlo, and in the unique styles of their boutique stores. Prices are generally quite reasonable – you’d pay what you’d expect to pay back at your home country. However, areas like Ginza in Tokyo house some of the biggest luxury brands in the world, and here, you’ll be able to drop thousands of dollars within minutes if that’s what you’re after.
We hope this guide has given you some insight as to how much you need to save to have a good time in Japan. We’re firm believers than people on all types of budgets can visit Japan and have an amazing time, regardless of how much they spend on food or where their accommodation is. It’s an extremely forgiving, wholesome, inclusive country, and whilst our estimates of prices are fairly accurate, you are the person who knows your budget best – just make sure you don’t splurge on unnecessary things, but also treat yourself when the time is right.
If you are looking for more tips on have to reduce your travel budget when you visit Japan, feel free to read this blog post too: Travel to Japan on a budget.
PS: You can find all our travel tips about Japan here: Japan Travel Blog.