A Trip To Japan Cost – 3 Weeks In Japan On A Budget
When people hear that we spent one month in Japan, one of the questions that we get asked the most is: how much does a trip to Japan cost?
It is often an area of much debate: can you travel Japan on a budget?
Well, in our experience, yes you can. We did it. We spent a whole month in Japan on a budget.
To make it easier for those of you looking to budget your Japan vacation, I have outlined all the money that we spent in the first 3 weeks of our trip, and broken it down into 6 sections: food, travel, accommodation, alcohol, attractions & activities and souvenirs.
In order of most to least expensive, this is what our 3 week trip to Japan cost.
TOTAL: £849.19 / $1154.78 USD per person
£275.78 / $375.02 USD
Our number one expense in our overall trip to Japan cost was accommodation.
Despite largely staying in hostels with shared dorm rooms (bunk beds), we spent more money on accommodation than anything else in our Japan budget.
Most nights were spent sleeping in hostels, as we found Japanese hostels to be some of the most clean and hygienic hostels we have ever experienced. Even the cheaper ones were spotless. With most guests being polite and courteous, we slept better in hostels in Japan than we have in most other countries. This made it much easier for us to find good accommodation in Japan on a budget.
When we weren’t staying in hostels, we were staying in Airbnb apartments. Because there was two of us travelling together, it was sometimes equally priced – or even cheaper – to split the cost and stay in an apartment on Airbnb or Booking.com.
Despite being slightly more expensive overall, Airbnb apartments did have the luxury of allowing us to cook our own dinner (which kept food costs lower) and enjoying our own privacy.
We spent a total of 7 nights in Airbnb apartments, with the rest of our nights being spent in hostels (except the 2 nights we spent sleeping on overnight buses – more on that later).
£258.07 / $350.94 USD
This price does not include flights into & out of Japan.
Our second biggest expense was travel.
When researching travel throughout Japan, we found that the cheapest option for domestic Japan travel was the Willer Bus Pass.
Though not quite as fancy as the Japan Rail Pass, it turned out to be a much more cost effective option, hugely reducing our overall trip to Japan cost. And, it was an enjoyable experience.
Compared to many other Asian countries, the bus in Japan is a much more comfortable experience. With huge reclining seats, dimmed lights and regular toilet breaks, getting the bus in Japan was lovely.
The bus pass works slightly differently to the Rail Pass, but is essentially the same thing (except you obviously ride the bus, instead of the train). For our one month travel in Japan, we spent around £110 / $150.
There are a few different bus pass options, but all are considerably cheaper than the Japan Rail Pass.
Compared to the Japan Rail Pass, that’s an incredibly low price, for an arguably very similar thing. The bus is obviously slower than the train, but with very comfortable overnight buses, there’s even the option of saving money on accommodation, and saving precious sightseeing time!
As of writing, the one month Japan Rail Pass is around £400+ / $550+
For getting around cities and towns, and getting to/from individual tourist attractions, we took the metro, the train and the bus.
£210.13 / $285.75 USD
Our third largest expense in our Japan budget was food.
Although most of our meals consisted of homemade dinners from our Airbnb or communal hostel kitchens, we did also eat out.
When we weren’t eating homemade food, we typically ate in ramen shops or fast food joints.
For our in depth guide to budget food in Japan: read this post.
Supermarkets in Japan are much like the supermarkets in Europe or the US. There is an abundance of fruit, vegetables, meat and staple foods like pasta, rice and canned goods.
This makes it really easy to put together a shopping list and create budget-friendly and tasty meals from your accommodation. Just make sure that you’re booking accommodation with kitchen facilities included.
We found that most hostels had some kind of communal kitchen included, and that the vast majority of them were very well stocked with utensils. We did find that they usually got very busy around dinner time though, so we did have to wait a while for our turn most nights.
Of course, if you’re staying in an apartment of your own, it goes without saying that you won’t have to wait, and that the meal option possibilities are probably more varied, as you won’t have to share utensils, pans and surface space.
If you are thinking of eating out, make sure you factor this isn’t your trip to Japan cost. Eating out in sit-down restaurants was of a similar price to what you would typically pay in Europe/ the US.
We ate in restaurants a handful of times on our trip, and found that the Western food was usually overpriced and not particularly good. Therefore, if you are going to eat out, it’s probably much wiser to stick to Japanese food restaurants.
ALCOHOL / LIQUOR
£55.56 / $75.55 USD
Although we didn’t drink a lot of alcohol in Japan, the beer and wine that we did drink was very expensive. Even buying cans of beer and bottles of wine from the supermarket, the alcohol price was very high.
Coming from London, we are both used to expensive alcohol prices. However, we found that when drinking out in restaurants/ bars, the drinks in Japan were of equal price – if not more than – the price of alcohol in London. That’s expensive! For a pint of beer in Japans’ English Pub “HUB”, we paid around £5 or $7 USD.
That said, this is definitely an expense that can be avoided altogether if you choose. However, I have written it into my overall trip to Japan cost, just for transparency.
If you are travelling Japan on a budget, consider buying beer and wine from the supermarket. However, do make sure to take it easy on the cheapest Japanese beer, as most of the cheap stuff isn’t actually beer at all. It is in fact a ‘low-malt-beer’ substitute, flavoured like beer – named Happoshu. With a lower tax than regular beer, it appears to be a cheaper beer alternative to those not in the know. However, it doesn’t taste the same and it’ll give you a really nasty hangover.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
£29.38 / $39.95 USD
One of the smaller categories in our overall trip to Japan cost, activities and attractions didn’t make a huge dent in our Japan budget.
In total, we only paid 3 entrance fees to attractions during our entire Japan trip. The rest of the money in this category was spent mostly on time in arcades and museums.
In general, most of the attractions that we visited didn’t have any kind of entrance fee. And, even the ones that did were very cheap.
The majority of our money was spent on getting to/from each attraction, and only a tiny portion of the overall Japan budget was spent on getting into the attractions.
For example, both cat island and rabbit island were free to enter, however we did have to pay for a return boat ticket over to each island. We did also pay a measly £0.66 for a bag of rabbit food before getting the boat over to rabbit island.
£20.27 / $27.56 USD
This is the smallest section of our Japan budget.
Japan souvenirs were somewhat expensive, but coming from an indefinite trip across Asia, we didn’t have any space in our backpacks for souvenirs. Therefore, we didn’t really buy any.
However, I did buy a few stickers and postcards.
This souvenir budget also includes any miscellaneous items we bought whilst in Japan, like toiletries and accessories (gloves and scarves for the cold weather).
So, whilst this isn’t a completely accurate depiction of what a typical tourist might spend on souvenirs in Japan, it is what we spent each in total.
That’s it! That is our total trip to Japan cost.
For more tips on how we travelled Japan on a budget, check out our posts on food, accommodation and travel.