“Don’t go to Japan” they say…”it’s expensive” they say. My husband and I recently returned from a 12-day trip to Kyoto and Tokyo in late March/early April, and I am happy to say that traveling to Japan was cheaper than what we expected it to be. Of course, there are always several ways to travel; you can stay in hostels, eat ramen every meal and take the subway everywhere, or you can stay in a love hotel, eat kaiseki, drink high-end matcha and take taxis everywhere. Those are going to look like two very different trips cost-wise.
I’ll be honest; one of the reasons I didn’t feel inclined to visit Japan sooner was because I thought it would break our travel budget. Boy, was I wrong! So how much does it cost to travel to Japan? Below I will break down average expenditures and give you an idea of what you can expect to pay for food, entertainment & leisure, transportation, and accommodation. At the very bottom of this post, I will include a table of how much money we spent during our 12 days in Japan as a couple.
So, how much money should you budget for a two-week trip to Japan?
This was the category that surprised me the most. Not once in 12 days did we spend more than $60 USD on any given meal, which is better than we do eating out back home on Oahu! It’s actually quite feasible to spend under $20 USD per person on an average dinner, because dishes such as ramen, udon and katsu are inexpensive, and even sushi can be relatively cheap! Also, you can easily turn a wander through a street food alley into a full-blown meal and not even have dipped into your cash bills yet because all you’ve spent were coins (Japanese Yen goes up to 500 ($5 USD equivalent) in a coin, which I have to admit, is a bit dangerous because it doesn’t feel like you’re spending much.)
EXAMPLE: In the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, we ate at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant and ordered ten small plates, each containing two pieces of sushi, so 20 pieces of sushi between the two of us. We couldn’t believe it when we received our bill: $28 USD for everything (this would have been well over $60 in Hawaii, California or Seattle.)
What really helps is that Japan is not a tipping culture; in fact, it’s considered rude to tip, so be sure to collect all your change and take it with you. This significantly cuts down on the cost of eating out.
For more on what kind of food to expect while visiting Japan, check out my post on
ENTERTAINMENT & LEISURE
This category will vary widely depending on what kind of traveler you are. You can easily find plenty of things to do and see for free in Japan (especially if you’re easily amused by sakura (cherry blossom) and are visiting during the season. Many parks, temples and shrines are free and open to the public, which also helps cut down on costs. Sasha and I enjoy a deeper dive into history; we enjoy museums and parks, love to treat ourselves to at least one massage each, and we also try to do as many free walking tours as possible in each city we visit.
If you’re unfamiliar with free walking tours, they’re the best way to learn about the history and culture of a city/country for cheap! The tour itself is free, and you simply tip the guide in local currency cash at the end of the tour. The amount you tip depends on how good you feel the guide was, what you felt the tour was worth, and how much you can afford. Typically $10 – $20 per person is considered a decent tip for a free walking tour. To find out if a city you are visiting offers free walking tours, just type into Google “free walking tours (name of city)”.
We visited the following that required paid admission:
- Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo)
- Tokyo Dome City (just so Sasha could ride the roller coaster!)
- Shinjuku Goyen Park (Tokyo)
- Osaka Museum of History (Osaka)
- TeamLab Borderless (Tokyo)
- Tenryu-ji Temple (Arashiyama)
- Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto)
- Nijo Castle (Kyoto)
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple (Kyoto)
- Great Buddha Hall (Nara)
- 1 Massage for each of us (Kyoto)
- 6 Free Walking Tours (1 in Kyoto and 5 in Tokyo)
If you will be traveling within Japan to areas such as Kyoto, Osaka or Tokyo, it’s probably worth it to purchase the Japan Rail (JR) pass, which includes the Shinkansen (bullet train). For more information about the JR pass, see #1 on my post on 61 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Japan.
The JR pass was $275 per person for one week, and increases significantly for two weeks. Since we wouldn’t be able to use it much in Kyoto, since they primarily use local subway lines, we decided to only get the one week pass to keep our costs down.
In addition to the JR pass (which you must purchase in your home country prior to arriving to Japan), we spent a total of $225 extra over the course of 12 days on local subway lines and one taxi (when I wasn’t feeling well in Tokyo.)
Airbnb is easy to use in Japan, and many of the hosts speak English or have an assistant who can communicate with you in English. We stayed a total of 11 nights (5 in Kyoto, 5 in Tokyo and 1 in Osaka.) We only paid for our Airbnb in Kyoto, and used points from Sasha’s Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card for the two hotels in Tokyo and Osaka. We spent 58,000 points for 6 nights, which came out to a dollar amount of around $117 per night, totaling $702. Use those points if you can!
The main reason we took this trip was because we found $250 per person round trip flights on Scoot, a budget airline. Because Sasha is so tall and it takes 9 hours to fly from Honolulu to Osaka, we paid for extra leg room (which was well worth it!) If you live in Hawaii, Scoot will no longer be doing flights to Osaka starting in May 2019 because it’s not profitable for them, but Air Asia will still offer tickets as low as $350 per person, round trip.
Without further ado, below I will share with you the table I created for how much money we spent during our 12 days in Japan, including the per diem expenditures for each category.
All prices have been converted from Yen into US Dollars and are for (2) people.
|CATEGORY||AMOUNT SPENT IN 12 DAYS||PER DIEM (12 DAYS TOTAL)|
|Entertainment & Leisure (includes Wi-Fi Router)||$368||$31|
|TOTAL EXPENSES IN 12 DAYS FOR TWO PEOPLE||$3,496||$291 PER DAY|
So, what do you think? Is Japan expensive or comparable to other great destinations you’ve visited around the world?
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