It took me six years to get to Japan.
I didn’t think I could afford it.
Every time I seriously looked into visiting, I would wince at the high cost of the train passes, read about how the hotels were super-expensive, and then fly to Vietnam instead. Or Taiwan. Or even Australia. Japan was simply too expensive for a budget traveller, so I decided to save it for when I was rich.
With that not happening any time soon, I decided to blow my money anyway, because I wanted to go and the gushing blog posts from travel writer friends had convinced me it would be worth the splurge.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that it really wasn’t that expensive.
I arrived in Japan fully expecting it to be the priciest country I’ve ever been to, but I discovered it’s more on a par with Western Europe or North America, and cheaper than Australia. It was way more affordable than Namibia, where my daily expenses came to $132, and way, way, way more affordable than the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I averaged, um, $550 a day.
Anyway! This is about the cost of travel in Japan rather than my poor financial decisions, so let’s get started!
My 16-Day Japan Itinerary
Here’s a brief rundown of where I visited over my 16 days in the country — I think I managed to put together the perfect itinerary for first-time travellers to Japan.
Tokyo: 4 nights
Hakone: 1 night
Yudanaka: 1 night
Kanazawa: 2 nights
Takayama: 1 night
Kyoto: 3 nights
Hiroshima: 1 night
Osaka: 3 nights
What’s Included in this Post
This budget breakdown covers how much I spent on accommodation, transportation, activities, food, and whichever miscellaneous items popped up while I was in country.
I’ve not included my flights into and out of Japan because this is going to vary significantly based on where you’ll be arriving from. In case you’re interested, though, I paid $320 for a return flight from Rome to Tokyo, which I scored through browsing my favourite site for flight bargains, Secret Flying.
The amounts in this guide are listed in Japanese Yen and U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of my readers are from the U.S. And, as always, I do not accept comps or press trips, so everything listed in this post is something I personally paid for with my own money.
And finally, these are the expenses I paid while travelling with my boyfriend. That means that accommodation prices (with the exception of the dorm bed in Hiroshima) have been halved to indicate my share.
Okay — let’s get started with my expenses.
The Cost of Accommodation in Japan
There are so many different types of accommodation in Japan! I attempted to experience as many as possible while I was in the country.
I stayed in a capsule hotel, spent a night in a ryokan, slept on a tatami mat floor, stayed in family-run guesthouses, and checked out some pretty cool hostels. The cost of accommodation in Japan was on a par with Western European prices, so not incredibly expensive. While I did attempt to save money by staying in some cheaper places, I was also happy to splurge on extremely well-rated rooms, too.
If you’re on a tight budget, beds in a hostel dorm room will be around $15-25 a night, private double rooms in hostels and guesthouses are around $60-$10 a night, and staying in a ryokan will typically be over $120 a night, with most coming in at around $250 a night.
Tokyo: $33 per night/4,500 Yen per night
The Airbnb apartment I stayed at in Tokyo has since stopped accepting guests. I would recommend looking at hotels in the Shibuya or Shinjuku districts.
Hakone: $73 per night/9,950 Yen per night
In Hakone, we opted for a private room in a lovely guesthouse, with a tatami mat floor to sleep on and a private onsen on-site. It ended up being one of our favourite stays in Japan! The staff were lovely and there was a restaurant/bar that served up fantastic pizzas. It had a cosy and chilled-out atmosphere, with great food and wine, and lots of blankets to snuggle up with as we ate. It was worth staying here just to experience the private onsen! I love this spot.
Yudanaka: $103 per night/14,000 Yen per night
In Yudanaka, we splurged on a stay in a cosy ryokan, which is something you have to experience at least once in Japan. With prices often reaching as high as $300 a night for the experience, I was thrilled when I stumbled across a more budget option in Yudanaka. It was run by an adorable Japanese couple, and their house came with a private onsen, return transport to see the snow monkeys, and one of the most extravagant meals of my life. A kaiseki is a multi-course (like, 18 courses) meal that will see you eating roughly a week’s worth of food in a single night, sampling fresh, local Japanese cuisine. It was delicious, and I adored having no idea what anything was. It even included homemade cherry wine, which was delicious! I highly recommend the experience, although being presented with a seven course meal for breakfast had me on the verge of tears the morning after.
Kanazawa: $72 per night/¥9,800 per night
In Kanazawa, we stayed at one of the coolest hostels ever. It was clean and modern, and warm in winter, which was greatly appreciated. As a bonus, we were a 50-metre walk from some of the best ramen I had in Japan, so it’s worth staying there for that alone! I could have spent a week just in that private room. I highly recommend staying here. Despite being a hostel, the private rooms are particularly great for couples and it felt more like a modern hotel than a place for backpackers.
Takayama: $35 per night/¥3,800 per night
In Takayama, we stayed in a small, locally-run guesthouse in the centre of town. It was fine, although nothing stood out as being amazing, aside from the price, which was low for Japan. The staff were helpful, the shared bathroom situation was annoying, and the bed was a tatami mat set-up. No major complaints and I’d stay there again! There just wasn’t anything to fall head-over-heels in love with.
Kyoto: $61 per night/¥8,300 per night
In Kyoto, we stayed in a cosy hotel, that provided us with a tatami mat room for an excellent price. This hotel was in a great location for exploring Kyoto and the bathrooms were nicer than anywhere else we stayed. It’s one of the top-rated guesthouses in the city, so when you take that into consideration, along with the price, I’m convinced you won’t find anywhere better to stay.
Hiroshima: $22 per night/¥3,00 per night
In Hiroshima, we opted for a capsule-style hostel because I didn’t want to leave the country without trying one. Fortunately, we found ourselves in a room with only two other people staying there, so our capsule room with 20-odd beds was light on snorers. The owner of this place was ridiculously lovely, and it was within walking distance of all of the attractions. Really great bathrooms, a fun common area, and a cheap price. I would have stayed another night!
Osaka: $33 per night/¥4,500 per night
The Airbnb room I stayed at in Osaka has since stopped accepting guests. I would suggest looking for hotels in the Namba and Umeda neighbourhoods.
My total cost of accommodation in Japan came to an average of $37 per day.
The Cost of Transportation in Japan
When it comes to travel in Japan, your biggest expense is most likely to be a JR pass. The best way to explore this country is by train, and by buying this pass, you’ll be saving a significant amount of money on your trip.
I’ll confess I was skeptical it would be as much of a necessity like every travel blogger claims, so picked one up then made a note of the cost of every train we took in the country. It turned out that my 14-day JR pass saved me ¥24,000 — or $175! That’s a huge amount of money, so I’m now firmly of the belief that this is an investment you’ll want to make. You can also buy a Japanese SIM card in advance through the Japanese rail pass site, which I did. It was such a relief to touchdown in Tokyo with a Japanese SIM card already in my phone and ready to go.
Other than the rail pass, we spent a little bit of money here and there on transportation, mostly on the metro in Tokyo and Osaka (tickets are around ¥100-¥200 for a single ride), a few local trains our pass didn’t cover, and a bus in a more rural part of the country.
A reasonably big expense was our Hakone Free Pass (spoiler: not free), although this was more of a combined transportation and activity cost. It provides you with unlimited transport around Hakone (where you’ll find Mount Fuji), and discounted entrance to the attractions in town. If you’re going to Hakone, this will save you money because it covers everything you’ll want to do there.
Here’s how my transportation costs broke down:
14-day JR Pass: $420/¥46,000
Use of the metro in Tokyo: $6/¥680
Freedom transport pass in Hakone: $36/¥4,000
Train from Nagano to Yudanaka: $11/¥1260
Bus from the snow monkeys to Nagano: $13/¥1,400
Metro in Kyoto: $2/¥210
Metro in Osaka: $7/¥780
My total cost of transportation in Japan came to a total of $495 for a two-week trip. That’s an average of $31 a day.
The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in Japan
Activities and entrance fees in Japan were very reasonably priced, and I never found myself outraged over the cost of anything. You’ll typically pay less than $5 to enter most temples, museums, and gardens.
Here’s how I spread my cash around:
Entrance fee for the hedgehog cafe in Tokyo: $13/1400¥
Entrance to the Snow Monkey Park: $7/800¥
Entrance to Kenroku-en gardens in Kanazawa: $3/310¥
Entry to the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto: $3/300¥
Entry to Ryoan-ji zen garden in Kyoto: $5/500¥
Ticket for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial: $2/200¥
My total cost of activities in Japan averaged out to $2 a day.
The Cost of Food in Japan
Oh, Japanese food — I love you so freaking much. And in Japan, I ate.
The good news is that as long as you’re not going out to fancy restaurants, meals in this country can be great value. I rarely paid more than ¥1000 ($9) for a bowl of ramen, and street snacks like takoyaki were ¥500 ($4.50). We splurged on our kaiseki experience at our guesthouse in Yudanaka and paid ¥4000 ($36) for our food extravaganza. It’s a budget option compared to many other kaisekis, which can easily come to $100 for the experience, but still our most expensive meal. Another splurge was on sushi in Kanazawa, which I paid ¥2000 ($18) for.
Whether you’re on a budget or ready to splurge, it’s essentially impossible to eat badly in Japan. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can even get surprisingly decent food from 7-Eleven!
My total cost of food in Japan averaged out to $23.20 per day.
Miscellaneous Expenses in Japan
A local SIM card: $14
I mentioned above that I was able to buy a local SIM card when I purchased my rail pass. If you aren’t going to be using a rail pass in Japan, I recommend taking a look at Airalo instead. Airalo is a company that sells local e-SIM cards for travellers. What that means is that you can buy a virtual SIM card online before you arrive in Japan, and then as soon as you land in the country, can switch on your data and start using it.
It’s worked flawlessly for me and I’ll never go back to physical SIM cards. It’s just so easy! You’ll pay $6 for 1 GB of data or $14 for 3 GB for Japan and can also top-up through the Airalo app.
If you’re going down the Airalo route, just make sure your phone is e-SIM compatible first (all recent iPhones and many Androids are).
Insight Guides guidebook to Japan: $25
My sister bought me this guidebook as a gift before I left for Japan and at first I was like, Insight Guides? Meh. I wish she’d got me the Lonely Planet instead. Then when I opened it up and started reading, I decided Insight Guides are my new favourite guidebook company. It was so freaking useful!
What I love about Insight is that their books focus heavily on the history and culture of Japan, with big, beautiful pictures, tons of information about local customs, food, and how to travel responsibly and respectfully. I recommend picking up a copy before your trip to Japan, but not taking it to the country with you — they’re big and heavy, so this is one for inspiration, planning, and education.
Luggage storage at Snow Monkey Park near Yudanaka: ¥500 ($4.50)
We had our backpacks with us when we visited the snow monkeys, so utilised the on-site storage facility while we hiked up the mountain in the snow. You can also hire snow shoes and winter gear if you’re unprepared for the climb, but I was fine in my totally impractical sneakers.
Travel insurance for 16 days in Japan: $60
If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance. I’ve seen far too many Go Fund Me campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. These costs can quickly land you with a six-figure bill to pay at the end of it.
In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
Travel insurance will cover you if your flight is cancelled and you need to book a new one, if your luggage gets lost and you need to replace your belongings, if you suddenly get struck down by appendicitis and have to be hospitalised, or discover a family member has died and you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment.
I use SafetyWing as my travel insurance provider, and recommend them for trips to the Japan. Firstly, they’re one of the few companies out there who will actually cover you if you contract COVID-19. On top of that, they provide worldwide coverage, don’t require you to have a return ticket, and even allow you to buy coverage after you’ve left home. If you’re on a long-term trip, you can pay monthly instead of up-front, and can cancel at any time. Finally, they’re more affordable than the competition, and have a clear, easy-to-understand pricing structure, which is always appreciated.
With SafetyWing, you’ll pay $1.50 a day for travel insurance.
How I Track My Expenses While I Travel
Every time I share my expenses, you guys always want to know how on earth I manage to keep track of so many details from my travels!
Because Never Ending Footsteps is my company, the vast majority of my travel expenses are business expenses. I therefore studiously record everything I spend everywhere I go. I take photos of every receipt I receive and use Xero accounting software to record these expenses. In cases where I can’t get a receipt, I’ll take a photo of the price list and my ticket or food, or something as evidence.
Once a week, I then sit down and spend an hour or so uploading my receipts to Xero and making note of every penny I spent in each country I visit. It makes writing these posts super easy!
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Japan?
It’s time to tally up all of my expenses to see my total travel costs!
Accommodation: $37 per day
Transportation: $31 per day
Food: $23 per day
Activities/Entrance Fees: $2 per day
Miscellaneous: $2 per day
Average amount spent in Japan: $95 a day!
I don’t know about you, but given Japan’s pricey reputation, I’m fairly impressed with the amount I spent in the country, especially as I included quite a few splurges in there.
How about you? How expensive were you expecting a trip to Japan to be?
Related Articles on Japan
🇯🇵 What’s it Like to Travel in Japan?
🏯 How to Spend Two Weeks in Japan: An Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
🍣 15 Weird and Wonderful Things to Eat in Japan
🎌 23 Incredible Things to Do in Osaka, Japan (2023)
😎 Hipster Harajuku: The Coolest Neighbourhood in Tokyo
🦔 Should You Go to a Hedgehog Cafe? My Experience in Japan
🐒 Why Seeing the Snow Monkeys in Japan Sucked
Wow! that’s amazing. I especially got fascinated seeing the capsule hotel…must have been a unique experience.
It was surprisingly cosy! I would totally stay in one again.
This is great! Do you think it would be much more expensive in summer or any of the peak holiday seasons? I’m going over July this year and wondering if the prices change much with the seasons.
Wow! That’s quite an eye-opener! I’ve wanted to visit Japan for years, and this has certainly nudged me a little closer, as I assumed it was expensive too. The costs seem much better than I found in Amsterdam this spring! (my boyfriend still gets a thousand-yard stare when I mention how much we paid for drinks in one bar.)
Yay! Yeah, it really did feel about the same price as Western Europe, if not cheaper. The transportation is more expensive, but the food was cheaper in Japan.
This is super awesome! I, too, was under the impression that Japan was a super expensive place to visit! Good to know that you can save so much on accommodation and activities! Are you going to be posting about food in Japan? My knowledge of what to eat there is very minimal…
Yes! I published a guide to my favourite things to eat in the country last week: https://www.neverendingfootsteps.com/best-food-japan/
Ditto for here in New Zealand Lauren. All said it would be expensive. But we house sat – rent-free – and saw that food and travel are on par or cheaper than New Jersey. We also saw that virtually all things are cheaper than folks said. Methinks many labeling Japan and NZ as expensive as can be are used to paying $1 for lunch in Chiang Mai LOL. Budget folks see all Western lands as expensive. Granted I am from NJ; living by NYC makes for a high cost of living. But not bad at all, living in these lands.
Yeah, definitely true. I know that when I wrote off Japan as being too expensive, it was in the early days of my travels, when I could only afford to live in Southeast Asia!
Loving the posts about Japan so far. Do you have many more articles planned? I’ve a trip booked in November and this has been the most useful of the blogs so far for help in planning – thank you. Although I’ve had to cut the hedgehog cafe off my plans after reading your article as I hadn’t quite considered the ethics enough!
Yes! So many. I’ll probably post another half a dozen or more over the next few weeks :-)
I always assumed Japan to be very expensive. Thanks to your blog I don’t anymore. Cheers!
This is all very useful info! I’m impressed with your budgeting skills. Awesome, Thanks for sharing this!
Ha! Thank you :-) It comes naturally (finally) after seven years of doing this.
Fantastic article. Love your budget posts because you never leave anything out.
I try not to! Thanks so much :-)
Beautiful photos, Japan look amazing and thank you for sharing your budget tips as well. :)
No problem! :-)
Thank you so much for this! I’m going to Japan in September and I’ve been worrying about my budget. This has definitely put my mind at rest!
Yay! Happy to hear that :-)
I’m so happy that you have posted so much lately, you’re my favourite travel blog and I check this page a lot more often now that the pace of the posts has increased :)
Thank you! :-) I’m aiming to stick to a three-times-a-week posting schedule now that I have a base and more time to dedicate to writing.
This is so much cheaper than I expected. Do you have any idea about prices for solo travellers though? Would I have to pay for a double room most of the time (apart from dorm beds of course)?
No, lots of hotels and guesthouses have single rooms, so you wouldn’t need to pay out for two people very often, if at all.
Thanks, that’s good to know!
Very useful breakdown that would be very helpful for first-timers to Japan.
Just to share, one of my own major expenditure in JP is … vending machine contribution! I simply can’t resist them and can end up buying seven times a day. “P
Yes! I couldn’t believe how many vending machines there were in the country, as well as the variety of things you could buy from them.
Hello! This is a very timely article for me to read as I’m actually going to visit Japan for a week on September. I really love Japan’s culture and their people. There are a lot of places that I want to visit and a lot of things I want to do but I am on a strict budget. Hopefully, your article would be able to help me fix my budgeting for my trip to Japan.
I hope so! I really didn’t find it horrendously expensive, so I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can do there for free.
I love your budget posts because they give me such a good idea of how much I can expect to spend in places around the world. Are you thinking of doing them for everywhere you visit?
That’s my plan! I’m slowly working my way through my records and adding more and more to the site.
This is all very useful info! I’m impressed with your budgeting skills. Awesome, Thanks for sharing this!
Hey, thanks so much! :-)
I’ve planed to visit Japan next year, Thank you for sharing your budget, I’ll try to not exceed 100$/day, following your information on this post.
Have a fantastic trip, Ingrid! :-)
Which month you visited Japan? I am thinking for Cherry blossom (April 2019) and everything is coming up too expensive. Are those above for cherry blossom season you visited?
Ah yeah, unfortunately, the cherry blossom season is the most expensive time of year to visit Japan. I was there in December, so prices will be higher than the ones mentioned in this post. I’ll add that detail to my post now!
I was under the impression that Japan was a super expensive place to visit! Good to know that you can save so much on accommodation and activities! This article includes all the places you can visit in Japan and their expenses. It is very educative and it can be improved by providing expenses in INR. Thank you for posting this useful information.
Thank you! I usually just price these articles in the local currency and USD, which is where the vast majority of my readers are located. If I started including currencies for everyone, the post would quickly get ridiculous :-)
Seems a dumb question, but I’m assuming all the values are in USD, is it correct?
Yep! I write at the start of the post: “The amounts in this guide are listed in Japanese Yen and U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of my readers are from the U.S.”
That is a very good breakdown cost analysis there. i am planning to go to japan as well with my wife. and planning to stay for 10 days only. 4 in tokyo 3 in kyoto and 3 in osaka. i like to idea of 100 aud / day it’s a good target to keep but i guess the expense on buying cloths and souvenir would be uncontrollable though i heard things in japanese is not that dear if you know where to shop and avoid tourist trap. i didn’t see you mention buying internet data in advance ? or i missed it somewhere. i guess the expense for a couple will be double up. but i guess 3000 aud for 2 people is unavoidable.
amazing detailed guide
I’m so glad I found your website! I love the detail and photos. I just booked a trip to Japan with my boyfriend for this upcoming October, and your site will be very helpful.
Question: do most hostels and accommodations that you experienced have you sleeping solo? I’m wondering if I should expect to sleep in a separate area than my partner for most of the trip…
Thanks for such a detailed description of your time in Japan! I’m going to Japan October this year with my wife and my major concern is how you managed to book sleeping pods for you and your boyfriend as almost all accommodations are either “male only” or “female only” from the options I’ve seen so far. Did you have to get separate beds for those nights?
Yeah, the capsule hotel-style accommodation is all single beds. You can see in my photo in this post that there’s not much room for anybody else!
My wife and I are heading to Japan in mid May and I plan to use your itinerary.
Would it be possible for you to write something about the travel logistics if you can remember them – ie to get from Tokyo to Mt Fuji we booked the following train, leaving at…from the following platform which took X hours and arrived at Mt Fuji at. We then bought our day pass from….and ……..
This would be really helpful to me and other independent travellers – from where did you buy your JR pass and how did you book your individual train rides?
Oh, man. No. That would take me hours and hours to put together and I don’t have the time. Plus, I’m sure times and platforms change so it would be impossible for me to keep the information up-to-date and accurate.
I recommend downloading the mobile app Hyperdia — you can plan your train travel out using that. Just enter in your destinations and it will tell you which train to take and from which platform. Super easy to use! :-)
The site I used to buy the JR Pass is this one. I booked the other train tickets in person at the stations when I arrived — there weren’t many that weren’t covered by the rail pass. Just the small regional ones to get to and from Yudanaka, I think.
I love the details in your blog.
Your expenses were for 1 or 2 people?
I cover that at the start of the blog post: “And finally, these are the expenses I paid while travelling with my boyfriend. That means that accommodation prices (with the exception of the dorm bed in Hiroshima) have been halved to indicate my share.”
Great super helpful article. THANK YOU!
Thanks so much for this article, it is so helpful!!!
on which dates did you fly to japan? what dates are you recommending on?
I spent the first two weeks of December in Japan. I’d recommend looking at May or September as the best months to travel there.
I’d love your advice. I’m traveling with my 22yr old daughter to celebrate her graduation and my birthday. I booked the first two nights a hotel in Tokyo and then figured we would VRBO or Airbnb but after reading your post it looks like things have changed. I love the idea of the capsule hotels and the standard tatami mat rooms look enchanting. So how do I search for either? We’d like to experience both for the trip. oh by the way, I’m a traveler too, let me know where in the world are you now. Perhaps we can meet up and collaborate, I do video production, just got back from Colorado and am going to Cancun in June.looking forward to hearing back from you, Peace and Love always, “L” oh let’s connect on IG
Just book them through Booking.com — no need to go to any specific site. I’m in Bristol, in the UK. I actually don’t have an Instagram account — it wasn’t doing good things for my mental health, so I deleted it :-)
Loved your detailed description of your travels through Japan. However; I’m not so brave as you travelling around on my own, especially with the language problem. I am a single traveler from Bangalore, India and would love to spend 7-8 days in Japan, with my journey starting and ending in Tokyo, reasonably priced hotels or local hostels, but preferably single accommodation, if possible. (willing to pay extra).
I love train travel and Japan is one of the best places to do that..your take on that would be appreciated. If you feel, I meet your requirements, would love to get an itinerary and costing for my 7-8 day stay in Japan.
Hello! I am really curious on how you got a 14 days pass JR for only 420$, from where I am from (Canada) it is 567!
If you click the link in the post, you can buy it through there. It’s currently listed for 414 USD.
$95/day seems cheaper than what I had expected – is that a tight budget? What can you do more with $150/day? I’d prefer to spend that extra on living in nice hotels + do more activities. Does that seem possible with $150/day?
No, not really. It was a mid-range budget and all of the hotels we stayed in were nice — I made zero effort to stick to a tight budget.
Hope you’re well. I’m wondering if you still advise from not booking Airbnb for Tokyo? Thanks.
Until moments ago, I had always assumed Japan to be too expensive to even consider. Never thought the cost of activities and entrance fees would be so cheap. This is an encouraging article, thanks, Lauren!
Really remarkable post, Lauren. Extremely thorough and helpful. I’m looking to plan a trip to Japan soon and stumbled across your blog. As you clearly hoped from city-to-city, (this may be a silly question) what did you do with your luggage on a day-to-day basis?
Thanks for any insight.
Oh, just left it in my hotels. If I spent less than a full day somewhere, it was visited as a day trip, so I didn’t take my luggage with me. And then whenever I arrived somewhere, I’d time my arrival with the check-in time of the hotel, drop my bags first, then head out exploring.
great article! As I have said in the past you always put out great stuff that’s very valuable information.
I just came across your website when searching for trips for Japan for my son.
I have to say I am really so happy and want to thank you so much for the information.
My eldest son has been taking Japan as a language course for the last 3 years and was looking forward to trying to get into the high school Japan trip in end of july beginning of August 2020. He also wanted to go to TUJ(Temple University Japan).
However, because of the olympics the high school Japan trip has been canceled for 2020.
Unfortunately, he will be a senior next year so the 2021 high school program will not be available for him. Plus going to olympics are so expensive.
If you can give me any advice, I would greatly appreciate.
Thank you so much in advance for your time!!!
What advice do you need? About what?
I really liked you post and I think is really helpful.
When exactly did you go in Japan?
We have to change our plans for next February (previous planned for Philippines but to risky for my wife pregnancy) and we consider to go in Japan instead.
So, do you think it is good idea travelling in Japan in February?
Thank you and advance.
I went during the first half of December. As long as you keep in mind that it’ll be pretty cold (5-10 celsius), I think it’s a great time of year, as it won’t be as crowded as peak season.
is it favorable to use credit card or cash is much preferred? thanks
Hi. Thank you for the information! I am so inspired to go to Japan now. My mom who was from Japan, always told me it’s too expensive to go back and visit. I am now 56 and it has been my lifelong dream to go. My husband and I will go with backpacks like we did when we were younger and before having kids. Is October a good time to go? I read September can be humid. I want to follow your itinerary for the most part. My mom lived in Kanazawa. My heart is full right now and my eyes are misty. Thank you for making my dream a little bit closer.
Thank you so much for the information. I actually got invited on a delegation to go to Japan this evening and am trying to get the average cost to travel in the country. Obviously, your trip was on a very impressive budget. I have two questions,
1. Based on the $95/day over the course of your 16-day trip, would it be right to say that (flight included) you only paid ~$1,600 for your entire trip?
2. Would you say for a trip including cultural experiences, transportation and stays in nice hotels for a week, a grand total of $3,700 is reasonable?
In advance, I appreciate your advice on this!
Are you able to name all the accomodations you stayed with? I would like to visit Japan next year on a very tight budget. Thanks.
Yes, they’re already linked in the post along with the reviews of them under the accommodation section.
Hi Lauren. I’m debating spending 5 nights in Osaka and doing day trips to kyoto, nara and himeji castle. (I have hotel points where i can stay at osaka). Based on your experience – is that ok? or is better to stay 2 nights in Osaka and 3 nights in kyoto. There is a lot of different opinions online, thought id ask you if you think i’d be missing out on anything if staying in osaka. The one plus is i can save some money if using points and also staying in 1 location for 5 nights vs packing and moving to another location. Thanks so much for your posts!
Hey i found this really helpful but I’ve been planning to visit japan for a while and have hopes of going after i graduate high school. With some research i found that the JR pass isn’t needed if you’re just staying in one city. How much do you think i would spend on transportation for 2 weeks in Tokyo? Will it come out to more than what you spent or less?
Definitely less! You can walk to a lot of places, but otherwise the metro won’t cost much at all — a dollar or two per trip.
Would you be able to give recommendations for food places in Kyoto that are affordable.
Hi Lauren. Came across your site on a Google search for budget travel. It convinced e that a trip to Japan is affordable. Never have done international travel and would like your advice on a couple of things.
1. What is the best way to pack? Do I have to just use a back pack?
2. Can I use a credit card or should cash be used?
3. Can I get cell phone coverage in Japan.
Thanks, you site is great!
1) I prefer to travel with a backpack, but you’ll do okay with a suitcase, too. I personally find backpacks easier for navigating train stations, as you don’t have to drag it up and down stairs, etc. It doesn’t really matter either way, though. Depending on how long you’ll be staying there, I usually pack for a week no matter how long my trip is, then do laundry once a week.
2) Japan is mostly cash-based, so plan for lots of trips to the ATM. I didn’t find many places that accepted cards, although I also wasn’t looking very hard either.
3) Yep, you can pick up a local SIM card at the airport when you arrive. I bought mine through the rail pass company I link to in this blog post, but you can also just buy one when you arrive. Super easy to do and they’ll get it set up for you in the shop, too.
Love your posts! have been browsing but when I stumbled upon your page found it really helpful! Planning for Japan and Singapore so finding both blogs is perfect timing :)
We are still not sure if the JRpass will help us- when we did calculation for the main routes we are going it resulted not worth it, however then not sure if we will require any additional rails/trains in between these. Tokyo>Hakone>Kyoto> Osaka without returning back… your input will be appreciated :)
P.S. Feel free to visit the island of Malta, my home country
Wooow !! This is amazing , My wife and I have been planning to visit japan and we always had a misconception that Japan is expensive to visit .. This is a great blog .. So the overall cost including your flight tickets and local travel in japan would cost around 2500 $ per person ?
This was so incredibly helpful! Normally I don’t find myself reading entire articles but yours was so informational and in depth. Thank you so much for helping me get an idea of how much I would roughly spend!
Ah, no problem! Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you found it useful :-)
I super love this article Lauren! I thoroughly enjoyed it. When all is well and my country allows us to travel again, this is going to be on my top 3 places to visit (the 1st 2 will be diving spots as I’m a freediver). I made sure to bookmark this page for reference.
Again, thank you for writing this. One question though, when you say $ do you mean USD?
Yep, USD! “The amounts in this guide are listed in Japanese Yen and U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of my readers are from the U.S.”
How much did you spend on transportation in Tokyo? I mean if you hadn’t had the JR Pass? How much did you save in Tokyo by having the pass?
Oh, I didn’t activate the pass when I was in Tokyo — I activated it on the day I left — so that was my total expenses without using it.
Hi Lauren! I just read your post. My boyfriend and I are backpackers and we are planning our next trip to Japan. I wanted to ask you when did you go there? (what time of the year). Because we can only take time off during winter time (dec-jan) and I don’t know if that’s a good time of year to go. We are from Denver and snow doesn’t bother us but we also want to enjoy it.
Thanks in advance!
Love your blog
I was there in December! There’s fewer crowds then, which makes it a great time to go! As an added bonus you get to enjoy all of the cosy onsens in the snow :-)
Even in these unprecedented times, I feel as if I have already traveled to Japan! I loved every minute of the information you gave me. This place is definitely next on my list, of course! It can be months or a year from now.
It appears you’re still getting traffic in the comments here (excellent) so I thought I would ask a broad question. Wife and I are thinking to take our 6 and 9 year old to Japan for about 11 days. Any destinations you might leave off your itinerary given a bit less time and traveling with kids?
Fantastic! I’ve never seen any article about travelling to japan so specific and detailed before!! It sure will help me prepare for my own first&solo trip! thank you so much
Great post, but the prices are wildly outdated now. Your $30/night hotels in 2018 are going for around $220/night in 2023. Insane!
Hi CS, what time of year are you looking to visit? I’ve had a quick check and every hotel I link to still displays roughly the correct prices (a couple were out by about $10-20 a night, but nothing like $190!). If you’re looking at going in May, for example, Hakone Tent prices their rooms at $176 a night, but then offers rooms at a price of $73 a night a month later in June, so the time of year can affect the pricing. I’ll make a note to mention this in a future update to the post.
I visited in the low season, in December, so the prices I paid were lower than they might be at a more popular time of year.
This is amazing on every level. Thank you! only issue is prices for accomodations double during sakura season so what can I do