Money Matters: Costs to travel in Japan

Money Matters: Costs to travel in Japan

For many travelers Japan is a dream destination with its beautiful temples, fascinating culture and the Tokyo neon lights. Bruce Moerdjiman from the Netherlands visited Japan for almost 4 weeks. He noted down all his Japan expenses for Bunch of Backpackers (Thank you Bruce!). Take a look at his overview of costs to travel in Japan and our tips. 

This article is part of the Money Matters series in which we ask travelers to keep their expenses for Bunch of Backpackers. Real travelers, real expenses. 

COSTS 26-DAY JAPAN TRIP*: 2500 EURO (3350 USD)
DAILY TRAVEL EXPENSES*: 96 EURO (128 USD)

*These daily travel expenses are per one person per day.  Including all tours, domestic flights, souvenirs, lodging, food, drinks, entrance fees, tips etc. Excluding international flights.

Japan 2014
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman

EXAMPLES OF PRICES IN JAPAN

These prices are per person unless stated otherwise.

Standard Japan expenses

One night in a hostel dormitory: 16 euro (21 USD)
One night in a double room in a simple guesthouse: 40 euro (53 USD)
A bottle of water (0,5L) at the store: 1 euro (1,3 USD)
A local beer at a bar/restaurants: 6 euro (8 USD) 
A glass of coca cola in a restaurant: 3 euro (4 USD)
Lunch at a local restaurant: 10 euro (13 USD)
Dinner at a local restaurant: 20 euro (26 USD)

Notable Japan expenses 

Three week Japan Railpass: 417 euro (560 USD) 
Tokyo AirBnB 7 nights: 450 euro (604 USD) 
Kyoto Ryokan: 416 euro (560 USD) 

SOME DETAILS ON THIS TRIP

About the backpackers: Bruce Moerdjiman
Destination and travel period: Japan in April 2014 for 26 days.
Visited places:
 Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka, Hyuga, Fujikawaguchiko, Miyazu

Type of trip: Independently and solo.
Accommodation: standard (hostels, guesthouses, ryokan, airBnB)
Transportation: standard (mix of transportation)
Food: budget (local places and cheap western places)
Exchange rate at the time of travel: 1000 Y = 7 euro

Japan 2014
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Bruce
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman

Japan budget tips by Bruce

  • Scout good on AirBnB and Booking.com for budget hostels/dorms which houses expats. Because expats stay for extended periods, they maintain the dorm and make it liveable, better than capsule hotels. They can also advise you on where to eat cheap.

Additional Japan budget tips by Manouk

  • Stay the night at a computer cafe. In most of these cafe’s you have your own cubicle with a comfortable chair. I did it while traveling in Japan and it was fine. There are no showers though. Another option is to spend the night at a 24h onsen or a spa.
  • Izakaya’s have great food and are relatively inexpensive. Other cheap eat places are food vending machines and big Japanese food chains.
  • If you want to go for a night out, do as in your student days, and drink beforehand. You can buy bottles of liquor and beer from the convenience store.
  • It’s obviously cheaper (especially when staying in a ryokan) to travel together.
  • The JR pass seems expensive, but if you travel around Japan you will save money with it! If you buy a JR pass from a company, compare prices because these tend to differ.
  • Just as Bruce I also spend four weeks in Japan. To minimize the costs I did two weeks of volunteering at a bird park in Tokyo. In exchange I was given free accommodation and 3 meals a day. I also made loads of Japanese friends and learned some Japanese. Great way to start my Japan backpacking trip.
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Japan. ©Bruce Moerdjiman
Have you been to Japan? Can you relate to these expenses?
Meet 'travel mastermind' Manouk: a 29-year-old sassy girl from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. With BoB she inspires you to explore the world, meet the unexpected and follow your dreams. Happy travels!

12 COMMENTS

  1. Seems spot on to me! I was in Tokyo at the beginning of July and actually found it a little less expensive than I expected. Accommodation and transportation really eat up the budget, but beyond that, I found it to be fairly reasonable, no worse than Western Europe and probably even slightly cheaper than the Nordic countries. It really depends on your priorities I suppose. If you want to eat fresh sushi every meal, it’ll add up, but you could definitely get great street food or ramen that will totally fill you up without breaking the bank.

    • Hi Ryan! Thanks for stopping by. You’re absolutely right: it’s the transportation and accommodation that (can) make it expensive. If you can save money on that, it’s all fairly reasonable :)!

  2. I used Couchsurfing a bit while in Japan. Especially in Tokyo it is huge. Many activities to join for free, many people to hang out with and also many people offering couches or beds.

    In Osaka, I went clubbing with a group of friends via couchsurfing, great experience :)

  3. I had the same experience in Japan as Ryan, prices were lower than I expected! I’ve read a couple of times that Tokyo was the most expensive city in the world, which made me worry a little bit. I stayed in hotels which I booked prior to my trip and prices were on the same level (or even cheaper) as in western Europe. The food wasn’t that expensive either.

    The Shinkansen (bullet train) was pretty expensive though, but an experience i didn’t want to miss! Other (local) transportation was payable.

    • Hi Arthur, thanks for stopping by :)! I think it worries a lot of people! However, thanks for letting it know it’s payable (with exception maybe of the Shinkansen)!

  4. I really wanted to go to Japan this year but we chose Malaysia over it.. Japan is just more expensive unfortunately but I’m determined to make it happen one day! Thanks for the breakdown, it’ll be helpful when we do get over there!

  5. If you’re not in hurry, another way to travel between cities is to take buses or slower trains. It takes more time than Shinkansen obivously but is considerably cheaper. I have read about a Japan Bus Pass by Willer Express which costs 10.000y for 3 days or 15.000y for 5 days. I did not use this buss pass.

    Instead I choose to buy the Seishun 18. I was lucky to travel in the summer period when the Seishun 18 is available as it is sold and valid only 2 periods a year. Sales dates and validity periods differ somewhat. For example, sales date 1 december – 31 december 2014 and use it between 10 december and 10 january.

    The Seishun 18 is not valid on Shinkansens and limited express trains. This ticket package includes five days worth of travel and costs 11,850 yen. It’s basically five single daytickets for ordinary trains.

    Also, domestic flights can be quite cheap. There are quite a few lowcost carriers and even JAL an ANA tickets can be had for cheap, if booked well in advance. I flew for about €100 from Fukuoka to Okinawa and back to Tokyo.

  6. Hey Andry! Sorry for my late response :S Somehow, I missed this! Good tip about the Japan Buss Pass. never heard of it, but if you’re on a budget, it maybe worth looking into it. And you’re right, if you’re not hurry those few hours you save on the Shinkansen doesn’t matter ;)

  7. Japan, once one of the most expensive countries in the world, devalued its currency in 2003 by almost 40 % in order to stimulate its economy and compete with other Asian countries such as Korea that caused a lot of economic pain (Sony made a loss for a few years recently, mainly because Samsung products were cheaper and as good). Hence, why this country is now very affordable. I spent two weeks travelling in relevant comfort, often staying in 3-4 star hotels, so it wasn’t cheap, but neither was it expensive. One week rail pass cost me about £160. I stayed in various types of accommodation: capsule hotel (£12), budget hotels (£20 – £25), midrange (£30 – £40), luxury (£40 – £60) and ryokan (£220 per night). Ryokan even after currency devaluation is still an expensive pleasure, but it’s totally worth it, although only for one night). In Hiroshima I stayed in a beautiful 4 star hotel with stunning views of both the city and the coast for just £42.
    Food, as everywhere in Asia, is realatively cheap. Good meal in a simple restaurant cost £3 – £5, especially outside of Tokyo. Seafood dinners £8 – £15, bowl of ramen can be bought for a low as £2.
    Drinks aren’t cheap – I was paying £4 – £6 for a drink, but they strong. In Osaka, barman was pouring me triples for £6.
    The stereotype that Japan is super expensive is still very much ingrained in many travellers mindset, but people should not need to worry – Japan is very reasonable and full of bargains. I did not see many young visitors from Western countries though. Majority were older tourists with deep pockets. They must have been surprised what a bargain Japan is nowadays.

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