How Much Does It Cost To Travel In Japan?

The cost of travel in Japan puts many people off visiting. We wouldn’t have travelled there ourselves if we hadn’t had the opportunity to spend three and a half weeks housesitting in Kyoto. Yes, it is expensive, at times shockingly so, but it probably doesn’t cost much more than many places in Western Europe and it was utterly worth it. There aren’t many places in the world that have such a unique and fascinating culture, yet it’s a developed country where everything just works. The people are wonderfully polite, the trains are comfortable and always on time, accommodation is of a high standard and the food is delicious.

So how much did five and a half weeks in Japan cost us?

We’ve broken the expenses down into the housesitting period where we had no accommodation expenses and access to a kitchen, and our travelling around Japan period.

These costs are for two people.

Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Housesitting Japan£712.524£29.69
Travelling Japan£1953.514£139.54
TOTALS:£2,666.0038£70.16
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Housesitting Japan£0.00£20.63£5.58£3.44£0.04£29.69
Travelling Japan£48.57£30.00£46.36£14.21£0.39£139.54
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Housesitting Japan$1,125.7524$46.91
Travelling Japan$3,086.5314$220.47
TOTALS:$4,212.2838$110.85
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Housesitting Japan$0.00$32.59$8.82$5.43$0.07$46.91
Travelling Japan$76.74$47.40$73.24$22.46$0.62$220.47

This is the breakdown of how much this works out on an average daily basis.

Notes on Our Expenses

Housesitting

  • We found our Kyoto housesit through Mind My House. Japan housesits don’t come up very often but it was a great opportunity to get to know the city and save a lot of money. Kyoto was a great place to be based. There is so much to do there and in the surrounding areas, and it’s not as hectic as Tokyo.
  • We mostly cooked for ourselves. Supermarkets aren’t cheap, especially for fruit and cheese, but there are some bargains like fresh noodles for 50p. We ate out about five times, always at lunch when it was cheaper. We did eat at a few quite expensive restaurants though.
  • Transport included the metro and bus around Kyoto plus a few longer train journeys to Nara and Kibune.
  • Entertainment was almost all temple entrance fees which are often about 500 yen (US$6.50) although there are plenty of free ones too.
  • Other covers miscellaneous items like postcards and toiletries.
  • Spending £30 ($47) a day for two people in Kyoto is a bargain and we are so glad we found the housesit. If you had to add accommodation expenses but were able to self-cater as much as we did this budget would go up to about £95 ($149) a day for two based on staying in an 8000 yen double ensuite room in a hostel.
Japan Rail Pass

Hop on and off trains all over Japan with a Japan Rail Pass

Travelling Around Japan

  • This is when things start to get expensive and more accurately reflect the cost of travelling in Japan.
  • We bought a 7 day Japan Rail Pass for 28,300 yen each – a whopping $368 or £234. This does save you a lot of money if you want to ride the bullet trains (which you do, they are awesome). This isn’t much more than a return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto would cost.
  • The additional travel costs were local metros and trains, especially in Tokyo, and trains to and from the airport. We took a taxi once. Our trip from Osaka – Koya-san was also not included in our rail pass (it’s for Japan rail only) so this was extra.
Japan bullet train

Comfy seats, legroom, plug sockets & quiet on a bullet train

  • We spent the week with a rail pass on a whirlwind tour of the country, followed by a week in Tokyo. We stayed in double rooms in business hotels and hostels, and the more expensive traditional rooms in a temple and a ryokan (traditional inn). Our ryokan was on the budget end of the spectrum but still cost 17,430 yen ($226/£144)! It’s the most we’ve ever paid for a place to stay but it does include a gourmet, multi-dish breakfast and dinner, and it’s worth splashing out for the experience.
Japanese ryokan dinner

A 13 dish feast at our ryokan

  • We ate out for most meals except for a few we cooked in Tokyo. As vegetarians we can’t always eat at the cheap noodle places where you can eat for 500 yen ($6.50). We found a budget meal was usually around 1000 yen each ($13). Drinks can really add up, even coffee and soft drinks. A coffee break for two could cost 900 yen ($12). We tried to avoid it but in the middle of a typhoon we sometimes needed a retreat.
  • Our entertainment budget is mostly made up of two-day tickets to Disney Tokyo at 10,200 yen ($132) each. It was worth it though to see the uniquely Japanese twist on Disney and we really loved the more adult focused park Disney Sea. We spent 12 hours just there so it was good value for money!
  • Our apartment in Tokyo was subsidised, so adding the full apartment cost to our budget would take our total daily budget while travelling up to $256 (£162) a day for two people. Ouch!

Money Saving Tips for Japan

  • If you can find a way to get free accommodation by housesitting or couchsurfing you will save a lot of money.
  • For big cities use sites like booking.com to get the best rates at business hotels. It can be cheaper than a hostel.
  • See our Guide to Accommodation Options in Japan to find out which type of accommodation is cheapest and is best for you.
  • Self cater as much as you can and eat in cheap noodle places, often found near train stations. Don’t forget to splurge now and again though and enjoy the amazing Japanese cuisine.
  • Alcohol is expensive. If you do drink buy beers from a vending machine or convenience store instead of bars.
  • Stick to tap water and the free tea with meals. Soft drinks are very expensive in restaurants – again we only drank them from vending machines or convenience stores.
  • Don’t tip. It’s not expected here and can even offend.
  • Get a Japan Rail Pass. It’s expensive but worth it as the only affordable way to ride the super efficient, fast and comfortable bullet trains. The Road Forks have done a breakdown on whether a Japan rail pass saves you money.
  • Walk as much as possible to save on metro and local bus costs. Don’t even think about getting a taxi.
  • Usually I recommend travelling slowly to save money, but due to the cost of rail passes and accommodation Japan isn’t really the place to hang out if you are on a budget.

It’s undeniable, Japan is expensive, but for us it was worth every penny.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet

Leave a comment and share your money saving tips for Japan.

32 thoughts on How Much Does It Cost To Travel In Japan?

  1. If you plan to do a lot of travelling in Japan then it is worth getting the Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on almost all JR trains, including the shinkansen (excluding the Nozomi superexpress). This pass can only be purchased outside of Japan.

    To figure out if a JR Pass would be worth it or not for you, use Hyperdia’s website http://www.hyperdia.com/ to figure out how much your planned trips might cost, and compare it to the cost of a JR Pass.

    • That’s what we did – used Hyperdia to work out if we’d save and we easily did. We also loved the freedom of being able to get on trains without buying a ticket, and know that even if we got the wrong train it wouldn’t cost us anything.

  2. The travel may have been a little expensive but I know that every minute spent in historic Japan is worth every dollar and every euro. The country is very beautiful and I’ve been there before and I would love to come back! Love the country, love the people, love the food!

  3. On my last visit to Japan I only stayed for 3 weeks. The rail pass comes very handy when traversing the country; it’s quick and quiet. But what comes up as the most expensive part of our journey was food and lodging. I will have to take a look at renting an apartment next time…and try staying close to one part of the country instead north to south.

    • I think generally the longer you stay the better value the rail pass becomes. I agree that accommodation is the biggest expense though – we saved so much by house sitting.

  4. Absolutely brilliant post, guys! This is so incredibly helpful to anyone visiting. I will be saving this one. We only spent 2 weeks in Tokyo last year (our second trip – the first was a stopover) and we fell madly in love. Caught the bullet train (isn’t it amazing?!) to the airport when we left and loved the taste of the country it gave us. Dying to return.

    But Youch!! The cost of your rental apartment! Our apartment in Tokyo was only £90 and it was gorgeous: http://grantourismotravels.com/2010/06/23/our-home-away-from-home-in-tokyo/. We actually didn’t find Tokyo as expensive as we thought it might be but we consciously made a decision to avoid the Michelin-starred restaurants and focus on yakitori stands, noodle bars, really local places. We bought the basics for the apartment and cooked in just a couple of times (cause we had to stay in and write) and we found it more expensive to buy groceries and to cook a meal than to eat out, which was pretty crazy. You might find these tips helpful also: http://grantourismotravels.com/2010/07/06/tokyo-reflections-and-travel-tips/

    Thanks again for such helpful info!

    • Japan is addictive isn’t it? We’d love to go back too.

      Our apartment was about £70 a night. I did actually look at the place you stayed – it looked gorgeous but we just went for the cheapest option. As vegetarians we are a bit limited in the cheap food options we can find, so we found eating in with fresh noodles and a stir fry a cheap way to do it. We had plenty of great meals out in Kyoto though as there are loads of vegetarian restaurants.

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  7. I have been in Tokyo for about a month now and I have been spending around $500 USD per week. I have been living comfortably and eating out most meals. I also made a quick trip to the mountains on the Shinkansen.

    My accommodation is the biggest killer and consumes about $200 per week, but it is in an amazing location.

    Beers are ridiculous, I think the most I would paid for have been 1000 Yen for a stubbie. Happy Hours can be much more nicer on the wallet but generally its assumed you will buy a meal.

    For those looking to party, there are quite a few `all you can drink` bars and might set you back $40 or $50.

    • That’s pretty good going in Tokyo. Is that a long stay rate on your accommodation? I think we only bought beer in restaurants once, the rest of the time just used vending machines or shops as it is crazy expensive.

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    • Maybe they don’t have them in Tokyo but there was one around the corner from us in our residential neighbourhood in Kyoto. WE often saw them outside of off licences.

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  10. Some karaoke places do a ‘nomihodai’ (all you can drink) deal.

    When I lived in Tokyo the BLDY family restaurant had a 400 yen drinks bar. No beer but unlimited soft drinks, wine and mix your own cocktails! (Happy memories, hic!)

    Plus Thursday night in Roppongi = lots of free drinks for women.

  11. Great post. My boyfriend and I are starting a 2 year Asia- Europe trip later this year and want to start with Japan but are worried about it eating into our budget. We are also planning to blog about our travels and have already started working on a website acoupletravelers.com but I’ve been browsing through your site and finding lots of valuable and interesting info!

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  14. If you are traveling extensively, you must get the Japan Rail Pass.
    If you are just going to Kyoto from Tokyo just for the weekend, night bus is cheap.

    When I went to Osaka, I stayed in budget hotels that cost me 2000yen for a night.
    I prefer budget hotels than dorms.

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  18. Thanks for the tips. Have many more questions. Plan to visit only for a week though, with my parents who are 75 and 80. Can I connect with you over email? Thanks

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