Budget Japan: costs and prices of travelling three weeks through Japan!

How much does a holiday to Japan cost? Is Japan a possible destination for backpackers? The answer to these questions depends on the type of traveller you are, the activities you do and how long your trip is. But I can tell something about what we have spent in Japan. So in this blog: how expensive was our three-week trip in Japan, what is a realistic daily budget and how much does food cost in Japan?

How much money to budget for a (three week) trip to Japan?

A realistic daily backpackers budget for Japan is 80 euros per person. So if you travel through Japan for three weeks, keep in mind a budget of around € 1700 per person. This does not include flights and a budget based on average expenses during a trip through Japan. However, it does include a two-week Japan Railway Pass, which increases the budget considerably. It can always be cheaper or more expensive.

Disclaimer: we are no extreme budget backpackers. By this, I mean that we don’t often sleep in a dormitory and do not cut down on activities. On the other hand, we certainly don’t travel luxuriously: we sleep in hostels, almost never take a taxi and try not to eat out too expensive. Everyone has different priorities and budgets while travelling. That is totally fine! Just keep this in mind while you read this blog. It’s always possible to travel cheaper or more expensive than we do.

Is Japan a budget destination?

Japan is known as an expensive country. It is not the standard budget backpack destination and is certainly not comparable with South East Asia in terms of prices. Some things are even more expensive than in Europe, public transportation for example. Other things like food are cheaper than in the Netherlands.

Flight tickets are not included in the expenses below. A plane ticket to Japan does not have to be expensive! If you are flexible and not tied to a specific period, you already have flights from Europe to Japan starting at €350. Click here to view current flight deals for Japan.

Our budget facts for traveling through Japan

Number of days in Japan: 20

Total spend in Japan: ¥430.800 / €3.241 / $3.777
Avarage daily spendings in Japan: ¥21.540 /  €162,05 / $188,85

Average daily spendings per persoon in Japan: ¥10770 /  €81,03 / $94,43
Our Budget: ¥494429 / €3.720 / $4335
Did we stay within our Japan budget? Yes!

All expenses are for two people (unless stated otherwise) and calculated on the basis of exchange rates during the trip. This amount is excluding our flights.

How expensive is accommodation in Japan? – 35,4% of the total budget for Japan

Total spend:
¥152.600 / €1148 / $1338
Number of nights: 19
Average price for a two-person hotel room in Japan: ¥8032 / €60,43 / $70,43

We stayed in different types of accommodation. For example, we slept in hostels, tiny apartments that we rented through Airbnb and we also spent a few nights in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel. The latter type of hotel is a lot more expensive than hostels. I booked many of our accommodations for more than half a year in advance, so the prices were still relatively low.

Tip: book your hotels in Japan well in advance! The prices are a lot lower and you have a much more choice! Click here to go to our Japan hotel guide. With budget, mid-range and luxury hotels for different destinations in Japan.

Japanese or Western-style hotels?

Are you travelling through Japan on a smaller budget? Then choose a Japanese-style hotel. In Japan, you can sleep in Western hotels, where a hotel room is exactly as we know it. Hotels like these are pricey. You can also choose Japanese style which is not only cheaper but also a very special experience.

A Japanese-style hotel room is an empty room where the floor is covered with rice straw mats (Tatami mats). The only furniture is a low table and one or more wall cupboards. These wall cupboards contain futtons, thick mattresses that you lay on the floor when you go to sleep. You spend the night in this Japanese style in a ryokan (inn) or a minshuku (bed & breakfast). A minshuku is often a bit cheaper then a ryokan. The price of an overnight stay in a ryokan or minshuku is between € 22 and € 80 per night (per person).

Capsule hotel in Japan

The famous capsule hotels are another form of accommodation in Japan. This type of accommodation is especially popular in large cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. You sleep on a dorm, but in your own cabin, a “capsule”. This gives you much more privacy, but you do not have to spend too much money on a hotel. Be sure to try a capsule hotel, an unforgettable part of your trip through Japan!

How expensive is transportation in Japan? – 31,1% of the total budget for Japan

Total spend:
¥134.100 / €1009 / $1176
Average daily transportation expenses per person in Japan: ¥3352,50/ €25,23 / $29,40

The majority of our transportation expenses went to the Japan Railway Passes, which allowed us to travel through Japan for 14 days unlimited by train. A Japan Railway Pass (also JR Pass) for two weeks costs € 390 per person. Definitely not cheap, but for us, it was well worth the money. We travelled by train for most of our time in Japan. Besides that the trains are super fast, they are also spotless. It is a real experience and a must during a visit to Japan to take a ride on a Japanese train. Click here to buy a JR Pass online.

Do you travel on a smaller budget? Then travel by bus. Buses also run throughout Japan and are much cheaper than the train. Keep in mind that you will be on the road longer if you travel by bus.

Did you know that: you can only get a Japan Railway Pass if you have a tourist visa and you have to apply for one before you arrive in Japan? You can read more tips about the Japan Railway Pass in this blog!

Rent a car in Japan

For our time in the Japanese Alps, we rented a car for a day. Not cheap, but that was mostly because we booked it last minute.

Tip: rent a car in Japan through Sunny Cars. Then you are fully insured, and you have 24/7 assistance should something happen.

Driving a car in Japan takes some getting used to but is fun. You drive on the left side of the road and the signage is both in Japanese and in English (handy!). If you plan to drive a lot of cars in Japan, take into account costs in the form of toll roads. You have to pay toll on almost all the highways.

The ultimate Japan itinerary for three weeks in Japan!

JR Pass Japan Rail PassHow expensive are food and activities in Japan? – 33,4% of the total budget for Japan

Total spend: ¥144.100 / €1084 / $1263
Average daily expenses per person in Japan: ¥3602,50 / €27,10 / $31,58

Is food and eating out expensive in Japan?

Food in Japan can be very expensive. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and dairy products are a lot more expensive than in Europe. On the other hand, products such as fresh tuna or salmon are a lot cheaper and also of much better quality! If you do not want to completely splurge too much on food, then eat as the locals do. Breakfast and lunch with a soup or with onigiri (filled rice triangle). You can get onigiri everywhere, even in supermarkets or 7/11’s. They are of good quality and very affordable! Sometimes less than a euro.

Bakeries in Japan!

More of a sweet tooth? Then go for some pastries in one of the many French bakeries around Japan. Here you can buy bread, pastries and cake. And if your day does not start without a cup of coffee, then stop by a convenience store such as 7/11, Lawson or FamilyMart where you get a good cup of coffee for € 0.80.

Eating out in Japan!

Sorry to wake you from this dream but no, you won’t eat sushi that much in Japan. It is very pricey and more of a special occasion dish in Japan. What you will eat are ramen and miso soup! In every street, you will find small ramen shops. After ordering at the vending machine, you will receive a receipt to hand over to the kitchen. Just a few minutes later, a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup is waiting for you.

Budget tip: at the end of the day, many supermarkets have large shelves full of delicious dishes, sushi and bread, which are discounted by 50-70%. We often got sushi or rolls here at the end of the day, which we ate for breakfast the next morning. Super tasty and very cheap!

Are activities in Japan expensive?

Activities include visits to museums, a bicycle tour and, for example, a Sumo wrestling competition. Most often, activities are not very expensive in Japan. Tip: we took part in a free walking tour several times. Together with a guide and other tourists, you explore a certain neighbourhood while the guide tells you a lot about history, art or architecture. Afterwards, you can give a tip, depending on how well you liked the tour and what your budget allows. However, this tip is not mandatory.

Budget tip Japan: tourists sometimes get a special tourist discount at museums and other cultural places. The purpose of this is to promote tourism in Japan. This discount is sometimes even more than 50%, in this way museums are suddenly very affordable!

Prices of food and general travel expenses in Japan?

Below you will find a selection of foods general travel expenses with corresponding prices.

Metro ticket: ¥ 600 / € 4.50 / $ 5.30
You can travel around Tokyo for a whole day with a day pass.

Coffee at supermarket: ¥ 100 / € 0.75 / $ 0.90
Thé best tip for backpackers: at the many small supermarkets you can order a coffee for 100 yen!

Apple: ¥ 100 / € 0.75 / $ 0.90
Fruit in Japan is relatively expensive.

Beer in a cafe: ¥ 380 / € 2.85 / $ 3.35
Especially local beer is pretty well priced in Japan.

Can of Coke: ¥ 150 / € 1.15 / $ 1.30

Bottle of water (1L): ¥ 150 / € 1.15 / $ 1.30

Basic breakfast out (1 pers): ¥ 700 / € 5.25 / $ 6.15
We often took a breakfast deal: a coffee, sandwich and pastry.

Simple lunch / evening meal (1 person): ¥ 1200 / € 9.00 / $ 10.60
A simple meal often consisted of ramen or noodles, which we ordered at a vending machine.

Onigiri (filled rice triangle): ¥ 100 / € 0.75 $ 0.90 to ¥ 200 / € 1.50 / $ 1.75
Two or three of these types of rice triangles function as a budget lunch!

Is Japan an expensive destination?

Japan is certainly not cheap, but now that I look back, I find the country a lot cheaper than I expected in advance. Food is relatively cheap, hostels are fine and not too expensive. But public transport is certainly not cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive and renting a car are pricey.

We could have travelled a lot cheaper, for example by sleeping in capsule hotels or hostels in dormitories. We could also have opted for buses instead of the train. But for us, this was a perfect balance and we stayed under budget too!

What is a realistic daily budget for Japan?

A realistic daily budget for Japan is between 70 and 80 euros per person per day. For this you travel by public transport, you eat at local restaurants but you do all kinds of fun activities such as a sushi workshop or bike ride. With this travel budget, you sleep in capsule hotels, hostels and cheap guesthouses, but on private roos. However, it does include a splurge for a ryokan! This budget takes into account a JR Pass for 2/3 of your time in Japan. If you travel by bus, Japan will be much cheaper!

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  1. by Desmond Aboagye on 2 October 2018  22:09 Reply

    I want to go to Japan for the 2020 Olympics. What advise do you have for me. I will like to go in a group. Do you know of any groups forming to go to Japan for the Olympics?

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 7 October 2018  12:43 Reply

      Hi Desmond! Sorry for the late response! If I were you I would check out Facebook to see if there are any FB groups of people going there. Next to that you can think of sending an email to the Japanese tourism board in your country, they will most likely have lots of information about this.

  2. by Anil on 29 March 2023  16:24 Reply

    We came across this while doing research for a trip later this year to Japan from South Africa.
    This is amazing content & helpful. I noticed that that detailed excel itinerary is incomplete as per the description.
    May I get a complete copy please?
    Thank you

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 29 March 2023  17:49 Reply

      Hi Anil,
      Happy to be of help! But I am not sure what you mean, the Excel itinerary is complete as far I can see. You will have to click on the right tab, but then you will see the complete itinerary... Let me know what is missing!
      Kind regards,

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