1 Month Japan Cost – How to travel Japan on a Budget for under $ 1,200

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Anyone who has ever been to Japan knows that traveling in Japan is anything but cheap. So often, I have heard from people that they’d love to visit Japan but just don’t think it’s affordable for them to go. Those who book a standard travel tour in an agency easily pay € 2,000 – € 3,000 for two weeks in the country.

I have often heard from traveling friends and acquaintances something along the lines of “Japan is my absolute dream, but I just can’t afford a trip to Japan“. But how much does a trip to Japan really cost?

The truth is, traveling to Japan on a Budget is actually not that difficult if you keep a few simple things in mind. In order to show you how easy it is, we want to share our 1 month Japan cost with you in this article. (Yes, we kept a precise account!)

Honestly, we really didn’t miss out on anything during our trip to Japan. We went to restaurants, had a beer in the evening, and admired all kinds of attractions. Here, I want to show you how you can do the same without breaking the bank.

Thanks for this meme to The-Raven-of-Dark-Moon-Death on imgflip

Average travel costs in Japan per day

Travel Cost Calculator for Japan

Travel Cost Calculator for Japan

*excluding flight costs

The average traveler in Japan spends about € 130 ($ 138) per day. If you are a backpacker or on a small budget, you usually spend 60 ($ 64) per day. Those traveling in more luxury will pay around € 320 ($ 340) per day.

We even managed to stay under 40 € ($ 47) per day on our trip. Later in this article, I will tell you step by step how we did it.

Our Japan Travel Cost (27 Days)

Total: 995.22 €/ $ 1.103.37 per Person

Author’s note: Of course, all listed expenses were made in the local currency (yen). The Japan prices are listed in Euros and USD only for better understanding. Any discrepancies are caused by rounding.

All costs are per person.

CategoryExpenditures
Transport€ 415.45/ $ 459.48
Breakfast€ 23.43 / $ 25.97
Lunch€ 100.25/ $ 111.14
Dinner€ 112.87 / $ 125.35
Water€ 7.25 / $ 8.03
Entrance & Activities€ 74.99 / $ 83.13
Random€ 60.06 / $ 66.58
Accommodation€ 201.72 / $ 223.64

Average Japan Cost per Day (27 Days)

CategoryExpenditures
Transport€ 15.38 / $ 17.05
Breakfast€ 0.87 / $ 0.96 (ca. € 1.80/ $ 1.99 per breakfast)
Lunch€ 3.71/ $4.11 (ca. € 3.85 / $ 4.26 per lunch)
Dinner€ 4.18/ $ 4.63 (ca. € 5.94/ $ 6.58 per dinner)
Water€ 0.27 € / $ 0.29 (ca. € 0.80 / $ 0.88 for 0.5 Liter)
Entrance & Activities€ 2.78 / $ 3.08
Random€ 2.22 / $ 2.46
Accommodation€ 7.47 / $ 8.28 (In average € 33.62 / $37.27 per night)

Our Daily Japan Budget per Day per City

CityAverage Costs per Day
Tokyoca. 28.23 € / $ 31,29 per Day (Couchsurfing)
Magome68.70 € / $ 76.16 per Day
Matsumotoca. 18.27 € / $ 20.25 per Day (Couchsurfing)
Takayamaca. 35.40 €/ $ 39.24 per Day (Hitchhiking)
Shirakawago & Kanazawaca. 37.15 € / $ 41.18 per Day (Couchsurfing)
Kyotoca. 33.49 € / $ 37.12 per Day (Couchsurfing & Hitchhiking)
Nara, Osaka & Koyasanca. 36.38 € / $ 40.33 per Day (We stayed with friends)
Hiroshimaca. 30.99 € / $ 34.35 per Day (Couchsurfing)
Takamatsuca. 40.42 € / $ 44.81 per Day (High Transport cost to Takamatsu) (Couchsurfing)
Kazurabashica. 41.55 € / $ 46.06 per Day (Day trip per Hitchhiking)

Japan Prices – What costs what

  • Budget accommodation (Private double room for 2): approx. $ 60 – 120 (50 – 100 €) per night
  • Budget accommodation bed in a hostel: from $ 19 (16 €) per night
  • Lunch cheap restaurant (menu): from $ 6 (5 €)
  • Lunch: Sushi Menu: ca. $ 12 (11 €)
  • Dinner at a cheap restaurant: approx. $ 7 – 12 (6 – 10 €)
  • Dinner for 2 in a good restaurant: about $ 45 – 60 (40 – 50 €)
  • Dinner for 2 in an upscale restaurant: approx. $ 120 – 360 (100 – 300 €)
  • 1.5 liters of water in the supermarket: approx. $ 1.20 (1 €)
  • Bottle of wine in the convenience store: approx. $ 4 – 5 (3.5 – 5 €).
  • 0.5 l bottle of local beer in the restaurant: approx. $ 4 – 4 (3.50 – 5 €)
  • 0.5 l bottle of local beer in the supermarket: approx. $ 3 (2.50 €).
  • A bowl of ramen: $ 7 – 12 (6 – 10 €)

How to Travel Japan on a Budget

miyajima island, Deer, Japan on a budget

Ugh. That was a lot of numbers. Now you surely want to know how we managed to spend so little money. Here is a small summary.

Money and Currency in Japan

In Japan, you pay with the so-called Yen (¥). One Dollar is currently equivalent to about 150 Yen. Depending on where you exchange your money, you will get a similar or worse exchange rate. It is usually advisable to exchange only a small amount at first and to change your money on-site (e.g., at the airport). Be sure to check the exchange rate.

It may be worthwhile to compare the exchange rate locally before deciding on a place to exchange. First of all, only exchange as much money as you actually spend. This way, you will avoid losing too much money by exchanging currencies.

Also, when choosing a credit card, make sure that there are no or very low withdrawal fees when you withdraw money from abroad. You may also be charged exchange fees if you pay with your credit card in a foreign currency. Before you leave, get advice on which credit card is best for your trip.

Japan Transport on a Budget

Transport costs make up about 42 % of our whole costs in Japan. Quite a lot, right? It can be very difficult to keep your transportation costs as low as possible because they are just incredibly expensive in Japan. Here are a few tips on how you can still save a few Bucks transportation costs.

Save money when flying to Japan

In general, you should expect the average cost of your Japan flight to be around $ 800 for a round-trip flight to Japan from the US and $ 700 from (Central) Europe.

For our flight to Japan, we paid just under € 250 per person (outbound only). Since travel is usually a big part of your travel costs, it is especially important to hope for a good price when booking. Although there is always a little bit of luck involved in finding a good flight, there are also some tricks that can help you save money.

Since I specialized in airline management in my studies, I know a few tricks of the airlines and can always find the best flight. In my low-cost flight guide, I pass on some of the most important tips to you. If you don’t feel like reading the whole guide, here is a short version:

  • Start comparing airfares a few weeks (preferably several months) before departure.
  • Always delete cookies or search from an incognito window
  • The more flexible you are, the better chance you have of finding good flights.
  • Compare different days, airports, and flight times
  • Direct flights are usually more expensive
  • Use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner to find the best flights
  • Set a price alert to notify you when prices change

JR Pass

Most travelers in Japan choose the JR Pass to get from A to B in Japan. With this pass, you can use all means of transportation from JR free of charge for the selected days.

Make sure to check beforehand which routes are covered by JR. In Tokyo, in particular, many routes are covered by other companies and therefore have to be paid for additionally. The best is to plan your Japan itinerary ahead of time to see whether the JR pass is worth it or not.

More information on the JR Pass can be found here.

Day Passes

Within big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, it is worth buying a day or metro pass. Especially if you want to see a lot in a short time and travel a lot by public transport, buying a Metropass usually pays off.

Examples are the Icoca Card (for Osaka and Kyoto) or the Tokyo Metro Pass.

Even if you have a JR Pass, public transportation within the cities is not always included. Especially in Tokyo, many routes are covered by other companies, and therefore you have to pay extra. Here, a Suica-Card is a good idea, with which you can pay for all train companies. Simply load money at the machine in each metro station, and off you go. This saves a lot of time because you don’t have to buy a new ticket every time. You can purchase the Suica card at Tokyo Station.

Bus

Buses in Japan are often the cheaper alternative to expensive train rides. Many routes are covered by buses, and the buses are mostly of very good quality. Almost all buses have a toilet on board, and there are stops at service stations every 2 hours.

Willer Bus Pass

In addition to the JR Pass for trains, foreigners can also buy a Willer Bus Pass before arriving. The principle is similar. You can choose a certain number of days on which you can use the Willer buses. Here the days are calculated based on the trips you take. That means days do not have to be contiguous.

Although we first decided on the Willer Bus Pass, we canceled it on-site because we had to cancel a planned day tour due to the bad weather and found that a route we wanted to take was not covered by our pass. Therefore, it was ultimately cheaper for us to book our buses separately. But it all depends on your chosen route.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking in Japan, Japan travel cost

Another option to save real money is hitchhiking. Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world, and the people of Japan are incredibly friendly. If you have enough time, you should definitely try it.

We hitchhiked almost 400 km during our trip to Japan, and it was a great experience. If we had had more time, we would definitely have hitchhiked further distances.

Walk

Meme, Japan travel walking meme
Thanks for this meme to Rosabella_Auditore_Da_Frienz on imgflip

It actually sounds quite obvious, doesn’t it? The more you walk by yourself, the fewer transport costs you have to pay. You can save a lot of money, especially in cities. During our time in Tokyo and Osaka, we walked around 20 km every day. If the next destination is only 3 metro stations away, it can be very worthwhile to simply choose to walk.

Japan Food on a Budget 

Did someone say food meme
Thanks for this meme to mememaker. net

First of all, eating in Japan is not nearly as expensive as many blogs say. We were pleasantly surprised, as we had set our budget for around € 5 per meal per person. There are many ways to save a lot of money on food while traveling in Japan.

Convenience Stores

It’s hard to walk around Japan’s cities without passing by a 7/11 and Co. (and this can be taken literally). Many affordable dishes are offered here.

For breakfast, there are different types of pastries and sandwiches. You can even find fruit (Unfortunately, fruit in Japan seems to be priceless. Only bananas fit in our budget. and watermelons for € 20 apiece are not uncommon)

For lunch and dinner, you can find all kinds of dishes here. Simply slide it into the microwave when paying, and you’re done. – Backpacker Heaven.

Affordable Restaurants

If you’ve had enough of convenience stores and microwaves, you can also eat at one of the many affordable restaurant chains. You can usually find the prices displayed outside. Many restaurants display plastic dishes in the shop windows so that you know what you are ordering. But many also have English menu cards.

You can find dishes starting at about $ 6/5 €. There are usually a lot of people in suits looking for a quick lunch during their lunch break. The quality and freshness of the dishes differ from restaurant to restaurant but generally correspond to our Western standards.

Avoid fresh fruit

I love fruits and fresh vegetables. However, I recommend you give them a wide berth in Japan. Except for a banana or an occasional apple, we did not dare to eat the fruit in Japan. Unfortunately, the prejudice that fruit is hardly affordable in Japan is true. Watermelons for 20 € are not uncommon here. And other fruits and vegetables can also tear a big hole in your budget.

Cooking

If you have booked accommodation with access to a kitchen, it may be worth making use of it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out on the delicious Japanese food. But if you already replace just one meal in a restaurant with a homemade meal, you can really save money.

Of course, you can use local ingredients and be inspired by the selection of Japanese supermarkets. If you choose Couchsurfing as we did, your host will be happy to have a delicious meal cooked by you.

Water

Staying hydrated while traveling is important. Saving money for water in Japan is very easy, though. The magic word is tap water. The tap water throughout the country is very clean and has drinking water quality. So just fill up the bottle before leaving the house, and you’re done. Since drinking water in Japan is not exactly cheap, tap water is a real alternative that saves you a lot of money.

Entrance & Activities

Matsumoto castle, Japan Price entrance fees

Saving money is probably the most difficult thing when it comes to admission costs.
Many attractions offer student or group discounts. In the Edo Museum, we even received a couple-discount.
Otherwise, you can only check blogs you trust (maybe this one? *blink blink*) to see if the attraction is really worth the entrance fee. (Because a few times it was clearly not). Another option is to check the attractions you might want to see and see what other travelers are saying.

Temple Pass

There is another way to save on entrance fees and activities in some places in Japan: tourist passes. With the purchase of such a tourist pass, you get free access to the attractions included in the pass. This way, you can save a lot of money compared to buying individual tickets.

Such passes are, therefore, especially worthwhile in places where you want to see several sights, such as the Osaka Amazing Pass.

Japan Accommodation on a Budget

Booking in advance

We Germans are known for planning everything in advance and being super organized. My way of traveling is usually completely different. I like to travel spontaneously and decide on the spot where to go, where to sleep, and how long I stay.

In Japan, it was a bit different. Already two months before departure, we set up a (worst case) budget (approx. 1,200 €) and collected information about all the places we wanted to visit during our trip to Japan. We compared prices for various types of transport, accommodation, and activities and summarized everything in an Excel table.

Before we started, we had a detailed plan with all our routes, accommodations, and prices. So we weren’t as flexible anymore, but we were able to save a lot of money. And somehow, it is nice to travel and to know exactly what to expect in the next place.

We almost exclusively use Booking.com to book accommodation. It is super easy to use, and thanks to the many reviews, you usually know what to expect. You can find accommodation for all types of Budgets.

Check accommodation in Japan on Booking.com

Capsule Hotels and Dorms

It doesn’t always have to be such “extreme” possibilities as Couchsurfing (see next point). In Japan, you can save money by choosing a classic dormitory in a hostel instead of a private (single) room. Since you share your room with other travelers, you usually pay only a fraction of what you would pay for a private room.

Such a bed in a dormitory also gives you the great opportunity to get in touch with other travelers from all over the world. Especially for solo travelers, this is usually a great advantage.

Another option – and a real experience in Japan – is the so-called capsule hotels. Maybe you’ve seen such a capsule on TV or social media. As the name suggests, instead of renting a whole room, you rent a small capsule to sleep in. The concept is similar to that of a dorm room. However, the capsule usually offers you a bit more privacy than a conventional single bed. This is because you are shielded from the other guests by walls.

Couchsurfing

Saving money in Japan, Couchsurfing
Our lovely Host Family in Kanazawa

It’s time to Couchsurf. Couchsurfing is not quite as popular here as it is at home in Europe. But you can find Couchsurfers in many cities. Whereas in Europe, there are more younger people using the platform, in Japan, there are also older Couchsurfers or even whole families.

We had a little bit of everything. We slept in student apartments on the floor or with families in our own room, lived for four days in the unique Couchsurfing house in Kyoto (an entire house just for Couchsurfers – such a fun experience), and even had an entire flat for us in Hiroshima.

So if you look at the average price of our accommodations per night and consider that we spent 21 nights with Couchsurfers and friends, you can calculate that we might have saved about € 706.02 for accommodations.

But please don’t see Couchsurfing just as a way of saving money. Every day, I get requests from people who are only just looking for free accommodation and don’t even take the time to read my profile.

Couchsurfing offers much more than the opportunity to meet new people from other cultures, exchange ideas with them, and learn from them. Couchsurfing gave us the opportunity to get a much deeper insight into Japanese culture and to get to know different areas. (Student life, family life, life as an expat living in Japan, etc.) It was an incredible experience that you cannot book in any travel agency. And I can only recommend this to everyone.

Update: Unfortunately, Couchsurfing in the post-pandemic world is not as easy to use as it used to be. In the meantime, the site has evolved into a platform that you have to pay to use. Accordingly, there are far fewer people Couchsurfing. It may still be worthwhile to see if there are still interested hosts in Japan.

Random Expenses in Japan

Alcohol

Alcohol in Japan is much more expensive than we know in Europe. So if you want to go out for a drink, expect to spend a little more.

It becomes cheaper if you buy a bottle of sake or beer in the supermarket and have a drink with your hosts or in the park. But if you follow all the tips and tricks to save money during your trip to Japan, you can treat yourself to a drink or two with a clear conscience. 😉 (Sake and Japanese plum wine (mixed with mineral water) should definitely be tried)

Sim Card

Anyone who is traveling naturally wants to stay mobile. But it is already clear at the airport that a SIM card and mobile internet are not for free. Of course, it is practically always available, no matter where you are. But is it really necessary to buy a sim card in Japan?

Our tip: In our experience, a Japanese SIM card is not necessary. Almost every convenience store offers free wifi for up to two hours a day. You can also find wifi in most accommodations, in many metro stations, and in enough restaurants and cafes. So there is always a way to google something, check WhatsApp or similar in about five minutes. The easiest way to connect to free wifi is the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi app.

If you want to have a GPS map to get your bearings, just try maps.me. This app works similarly to Google Maps but is completely offline. Super practical. And on this trip, this app saved us several times from getting lost.

We didn’t buy a SIM card and didn’t miss it. But if you don’t want to rely on public wifi, I recommend using pocket wifi during your trip to Japan (e.g., this one).

More One Month in Japan Budget tips

Your travel time

Like most tourist places, there is a high and low season in Japan. If you travel in the high season, you have to expect higher prices. Especially during the cherry blossom season (Sakura) in spring, you will pay a lot more for accommodation and activities than in other seasons.

The same is true for a visit during the Christmas season as well as the ski holiday season. Since it gets very hot in Japan in the summer, surprisingly, the months of July and August are considered more affordable.

Well-planned is half-saved

If you really want to save money, you should plan a good bit before your trip. Accommodations and flights are usually cheaper if you book them in advance. The Japan Rail Pass is also cheaper if you book it before you arrive in the country.

In addition, you have more time in advance to compare the prices of different providers and generally the different offers in the country.


about-the-author

About the AuthorVicki

Hi, we are Vicki & Eduardo, an international travel couple on a mission to help you save money for priceless travel experience. Follow us through the miracles of this world and you will be rewarded with a bunch of practical travel tips.

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17 thoughts on 1 Month Japan Cost – How to travel Japan on a Budget for under $ 1,200

  1. Oh this is super useful! Japan is a definite bucket list destination for me and if I can do it on a budget, even better!

  2. I love these kind of posts!! Budget travel is something I need to work on and this post was so helpful thanks!! 🙂 Saving it for when I go to Japan!

  3. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan but have always been put off by the cost – this had been really helpful in opening my eyes, it certainly looks achievable with a bit of planning! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love your post, I love how you have broken the expenses down, by destination as well. Really helpful for a budget traveller like me. My theory is the more you budget the longer you can travel. Thanks for sharing

  5. This is so funny that I’m reading this because I just told someone yesterday that I don’t want to visit Japan because it’s too expensive ?. These are awesome tips and I’m definitely saving this post for if/when I go. So good to know about the buses because I know trains are insanely expensive there! Thanks for all of the info!

  6. Awesome post… Definitely helpful.

    I’m looking to spend 4 days in Akihabara Tokyo this year, And I was wandering if it’s possible for me to go for $1200 counting the flight?? $1500 is the max that I can spend.

    I live in Houston Texas USA

  7. Hey Vicki!
    Did you apply for Couchsurfing in advance also?
    Im travelling Japan for 1 month, 20 days on Okinawa and 10 days from kagoshima -> Tokyo. We booked all of our stay in Okinawa, and Tokyo, but nothing else..
    Love your post, It’s very helpfull!
    Best regards,
    Sofie

    • Hi Sofie,

      thank you so much for your comment! Yes, we applied around 1 month beforehand, because Japanese are usually pretty organized and like to know whether someone is coming in advance. 🙂 We didn’t have time to see Okinawa during our stay in Japan, but I’ve heard it’s super beautiful. Enjoy!

  8. Hi! Thank you for this post, it was very useful, we are now in Cambodia and then in a few weeks going to Japan so I’m a bit afraid of the expenses since here is so cheap!
    My name is also Vicky, my husband is german and we meet also through couchsurfing in Barcelona six years ago haha what are the odds?!? 🙂

    • Hi Vicky,

      That’s truly crazy how much we have in common! Would love to meet you guys one day 😀 We did it exactly the other way around. We went to Japan first and afterwards to Cambodia, so we didn’t get used to cheap prices before going to Japan haha

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