If you have ever been to Japan before you probably know: Traveling in Japan on a budget is not a piece of cake. If you go there with a booked group tour you might end up paying more than $2000 for two weeks.
But does it really have to be that expensive?
So many times I’ve heard from traveling friends things like “Visiting Japan is one of my big dreams but I just don’t have the money to go”.
But if you consider some things during and before your trip it doesn’t have to be that expensive, actually. At least, your Budget for 1 month in Japan doesn’t have to be more expensive than traveling 1 month around Europe.
To show you how we survived Japan with spending less than 1000€ /$1200, we collected all of our expenditures for you up to every cent we spent. (Gotta stick with the prejudices about Germans and Catalans, you know 😉 ) So, here you have an overview of our one month in Japan Budget.
But to be clear, we didn’t feel like we missed anything during our trip. We went out to restaurants and bars (not every evening obviously, but we did) and we did a lot of sightseeing. We even went up to the Tokyo Sky Tree for around $23. (It wasn’t even really worth it, but that’s another story. By the way, all the information about the Tokyo Sky Tree and other sightseeing hotspots in Tokyo you can find here)
So, let’s go on with our budget for 1 month in Japan.
What to find out in this post
- 0.1 One Month in Japan Costs (27 days)
- 0.2 Average Trip to Japan Costs per day (27 days)
- 0.3 Average daily Japan Travel Cost per city
- 1 How to save money while traveling Japan – Japan on a budget
One Month in Japan Costs (27 days)
Total: 995,22€ ($1.185,81) per person
All the given prices below have been paid in the main currency of the given country (Yen). The prices only have been converted into Euro and US-Dollar for better understanding. Any discrepancies may result from rounding and converting. State of the exchange rate Yen to Euro: May/ June 2017and Euro to US-Dollar: September 2017.
Every given expenditure is per person.
Transport: 415,45€ ($495,01)
Breakfast: 23,43€ ($27,92)
Lunch: 100,25€ ($119,45)
Dinner: 112,87€ ($134,13)
Water: 7,25€ ($8,64)
Entries & Activity: 74,99€ ($89,35)
Random: 60,06€ ($71,56)
Accommodation: 201,72€ ($240,35)
Average Trip to Japan Costs per day (27 days)
Transport: 15,38€/ $18,33
Breakfast: 0,87€/ $1,04 per day (ca. 1,80€/ $2,14 per breakfast)
Lunch: 3,71€/ $4,42 per day (ca. 3,85€ / $4,59 per lunch)
Dinner: 4,18€ / $4,98 per day (ca. 5,94€/ $7,08 per dinner)
Water: 0,27€ / $0,32 (ca. 0,80€ / $0,95 for 0,5 Liter)
Entries & Activity: 2,78€/ $ 3,31
Random: 2,22€/ $2,64
Accommodation: 7,47€ / $8,90 per day (per night in average 33,62€/ $40,06)
Average daily Japan Travel Cost per city
Tokyo: ca. 28,23€ / $33,64 per day (Couchsurfing)
Magome: 68,70€ / $81,86 per day
Matsumoto: ca. 18,27€ / $21,77 per day (Couchsurfing)
Takayama: ca. 35,40€ / $42,18 per day (Hitchhiking)
Kyoto: ca. 33,49€ / $39,90 per day (Couchsurfing & Hitchhiking)
Hiroshima: ca. 30,99€ / $36,92 per day (Couchsurfing)
Takamatsu: ca. 40,42€ / $48,16 per day (high transport costs from and to Takamatsu) (Couchsurfing)
Kazurabashi: ca. 41,55€ / $49,51 per day (day trip by Couchsurfing)
How to save money while traveling Japan – Japan on a budget
That has been a lot of numbers, huh? But let’s check now how you can travel with the same Japan Travel Budget as we did and save a lot of money during your trip.
The transport costs make up about 42% of our total expenditures. A whole lot, don’t you think? It can be really tricky to reduce this kind of expenditures during your trip. But I can show you some ways nevertheless.
Many foreigners traveling Japan get the JR Pass before they arrive to ensure their transportation. With this pass, you can use the public transport of JR for your chosen days.
Sounds good so far. But this pass is not cheap. So before clicking on booking, you might wanna check whether there is a JR Line for every place you wanna go to. And whether the JR Pass is actually worth it. Especially in Tokyo, there are many routes covered by other companies than JR and have to be paid even if you own a JR Pass. (If you wanna use the Tokyo Metro really comfortably you run well by getting a Suica-Card. You can get one in the Tokyo Station and charge them in the automates in any metro station. With this card, you can save so much time as you don’t have to buy a new ticket every time you have to change lines. You can read more about that in my One-week-Tokyo-guide)
For us, the JR Pass wasn’t worth it in the end as we figured out that busses would be so much cheaper.
Find all the information you need about the JR Pass here.
The busses in Japan are often the cheaper alternative to the overpriced train rides. Different bus companies already run many different routes and you can almost get everywhere. Most of the busses have a toilet on board and they stop about every two hours at one of the highway stops for a little break.
Willer Bus Pass
Besides the JR Pass for trains, there is also an equivalent for busses. The Willer Bus Pass. The procedure is similar. You can choose your days (e.g. five days) that you can use your bus pass for. The days don’t have to be consecutive. So you can have some days in between to explore. And that means no stress for you.
Those busses are usually the cheapest around but still in really good quality.
We booked the Willer Bus Pass. In the end, we had to cancel one of our trips though due to bad weather but we could also easily cancel the Willer Bus Pass, as without this trip it was cheaper to buy our bus tickets separately. But anyway we chose the Willer Busses to buy our tickets from and we haven’t been disappointed. Even once when Eduardo forgot his phone on the bus they helped us to get it back super kindly.
For more information about the Willer Bus Pass and their routes check their homepage here.
Why paying for the transport when you can also get it for free, right? The option to save the most money on transportation is to go by hitchhiking.
It is easier than we thought and Japan is known to be one of the safest countries in the world. So what is stopping you? If you have enough time just try it and your piggy bank will be thankful. But not only that, you will also get in touch with super friendly locals and experience the Japanese kindness first hand. We traveled around 400 km by hitchhiking and all the people we met were super nice. If we had more time, we would have definitely used hitchhiking for more of our routes. (Here you can find the story of our crazy unexpected day trip through Iya Valley we only had thanks to hitchhiking)
Sounds obvious, right? Every time you can walk, you should walk. Is it absolutely necessary to take the metro for like two stations? Can you walk? During our time in Tokyo and Osaka, we actually walked around 20km a day and that saved us a lot of money, as the metro is not cheap. So use your feet as often as possible.
First of all: Food in Japan is not as expensive as everyone makes you think. We’ve been positively surprised, to be honest. We calculated about 5€ /$6 per meal per Person in our budget. So, in the end, we saved a lot of money.
7/11 and Co. you can literally find at every corner. Here you can find some cheap meals. For breakfast, you can find yogurts and different kinds of sandwiches for example. Even some fruits. But to be honest, the only fruits that fit into our budget were bananas. (Watermelons for $25 are nothing uncommon around there)
Even for lunch and dinner, you can find some options. Just chose your meal from the fridge and ask the staff the microwave it for you. – Backpacker’s heaven 😀
If you don’t feel like convenience Stores anymore there is another cheap option for you. Many restaurants especially aim for people’s cheap lunch breaks and offer good deals when it comes to nice lunches. Usually, those restaurants are part of chains, so you’ll get to know them quickly. Most of the time, you can find the prices outside on a sign. Many restaurants even have their meals in a plastic statue, so you can see what you want to eat, as many people don’t speak English. Anyway, usually, they have English menus as well. You can find dishes for about 5€.
The quality and freshness depends on the restaurant but is in general comparable to Western Standards.
Staying hydrated while traveling is important. But what to do if the water is far from being cheap in the country that you are visiting? If this country is Japan tap water is the key. The tap water in the whole country is totally clean and drinkable. That means just refill your bottle in your accommodation or at one of many fountains and save lots of money.
Entries & Activity
To save money for entry fees is not easy because prices are usually fixed. You might get a discount if you are a student, retired or part of a group. In the Edo-Museum in Tokyo, we even got a couple-discount.
The only advice I can give you is to check your favorite blog (maybe this one? *blink blink*;) ) Or TripAdvisor for advice on whether it is worth it to go inside particular places. Sometimes we were actually kinda disappointed as the entrance fees were not worth the experience.
And here my top tip: Couchsurfing. Although Couchsurfing is not as popular there as in Europe you can already find Couchsurfers all over Japan. In Europe, most Couchsurfers are quite young, but you can find Couchsurfers of every age in Japan. And that makes it even more interesting.
We had a little bit of everything during our trip. We slept on the ground of a student’s room, stayed with a family, lived in Kyoto’s Couchsurfing house (a whole house just for couchsurfers. Crazy, isn’t it?!) and even had a whole apartment for ourselves in Hiroshima.
If you just look at the average price we paid for accommodation per night, you can tell that we probably saved around 706,21€ / $841,23 for accommodation for the 21 nights we spent with couchsurfers.
But please, don’t use Couchsurfing just to get a free place to sleep. Couchsurfing is so much more. You have the incredible chance to get to know the locals and the culture of a country on a much deeper level.
We had the chance to get a first-hand inside of the student life, the life of a Japanese family, the life of an expat in Japan and much more. This is an amazing experience that you cannot book in any travel agency. I can just recommend to open your doors to strangers and get hosted somewhere in this world.
Book in advance
What I usually like about traveling is the flexibility I get. I can spontaneously buy a ticket and go somewhere else tomorrow. Or stay longer if I like to. For Japan, this was not really an option for us.
Already two months before leaving we started collecting information on places we want to go to and things we want to do. We compared different transport options and prices and collected everything in an excel sheet. Considering those options and information we formed a worst-case budget (1200€ /$1430)
Before we left we had a detailed plan already and our accommodations were booked. On the one hand, we lost most of our flexibility like that but on the other hand, it was also a nice feeling knowing already where are you gonna sleep the next day. And above all, it saved us a lot of money.
We almost only used booking for finding our accommodations. It’s super easy and reliably. And due to the big amount of references for each place you already know what to expect. The best about booking is that they have accommodations of every kind, from cheap basic dorms to luxury private rooms. Just check it out here and find the best deals.
Try booking.com here or search directly from the box in the right sidebar.
Through my University studies (tourism management) and personal experience in booking flights, I was able to collect some super useful tricks to save a lot of money when booking flights. For our flight from Barcelona to Tokyo, we just spent 288,92€/ $346. (Including luggage and taxes) we could have gotten an even cheaper flight but we really wanted to have that 13-hour stopover in Moscow. (Read about our experiences in Moscow here)
Soon, I’m gonna publish another post in which I will describe all details of how to save money when booking a flight. You can find my ultimate guide on finding cheap flights everywhere here.
However, here are the main things you should keep in mind when booking a flight.
In general, the flights are cheapest around 6 weeks before departure. (Excluding early booking deals obviously) Best is to check prices around that time (not too often, as it could push the price higher) on a Saturday/ Sunday evening/ Monday morning (For US Citizens probably Saturday/ Sunday is better). Open your Browser in Incognito-mode and delete your cookies before checking your flights.
Please keep in mind that this is general information. In the end, it depends on the airline’s algorithms which can differ. Especially Low-Cost Carriers usually use other algorithms.
To find the cheapest flight I usually use Momondo. It is a great tool and never let me down so far. But feel free to check yourself. You can check other sources as well to be make sure Momondo usually shows the cheapest price.
Alcohol in Japan is in general much more expensive than in Western countries. That means you got to pay more if you feel like going out for a drink.
One way to save money on alcohol is getting your beer or Sake in the supermarket or 7-eleven and drink at home or e.g. in the park.
If you are using all of the money-saving tips above you can go out for a drink without feeling bad though. You deserve it! 😉
You should definitely try the Japanese famous Sake (we liked the dry one most) and the plum wine (it’s pretty sweet, so you might wanna mix it with some water before drinking) as well as Awamori.
If you are so far away from home you probably wanna stay in touch. But already at the airport, you will realize that the SIM cards with 3G access are not as cheap as you might have hoped for. Of course, it is absolutely practical having internet access from everywhere.
Anyway, you can as well save that money. Because a SIM card in Japan is not totally necessary.
Almost every convenience store offers free wifi unlimited or at least one hour a day. (There are many different brands so it adds up, don’t worry)
Moreover, you can find wifi access almost everywhere: in accommodations, in restaurants, and even in many metro stations. There is almost always a way to get internet access within five minutes of walking, in case you need to google something or you want to check your WhatsApp. The easiest way to connect to the free wifi in Japan is the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi App.
We didn’t buy a SIM card and we didn’t feel like we should have at any point.
Extra Tipp: Download maps.me! which is an offline map. It works with GPS and you always find the way with it, the same way you’d do with an online map. It’s super practical and it helped us so many times during our trip.
Do you have more tricks on how to save money while traveling in Japan? Let me know in the comments below.