Knowing how much to budget for your trip to Japan can be challenging if you don’t know anything about the country. Most people I run into ask if Japan is expensive, and they are always surprised by my answer.
Japan can be as expensive or as affordable as you want it to be. If you want to spend thousands of dollars a day on your vacation, Japan can definitely make that a reality for you. However if you’re anything like me, you prefer a much more reasonable budget.
This will more than likely be your biggest expense and can range from $60 per night to well over $1000. These prices depend on a wide variety of variables from star rating to the actual location of the hotel.
Room cost is also dependent on occupancy, rather than the room itself. A room for a single occupant may cost $150 per night, while the same room for two occupants may be $220. This makes solo travel to Japan a bit more expensive than most other countries.
My recommendation is to choose the amount you are most comfortable spending and then search for the nicest looking hotel close to a subway or train station. Being close to a station raises the price, but it will save you time and money in the long run.
Japan can be surprisingly affordable when it comes to eating out. Don’t get me wrong, there are some insanely expensive restaurants in major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, but you don’t have to eat at them.
If you are on a tight budget, and you booked a hotel that includes breakfast, you can easily get by with $20 to $30 per day for food. Japan is notoriously known for its deliciously cheap noodle shops, where you can eat very well for about $10 or less. If quality is not an issue, you can walk out of a convenience store with a pretty decent meal for the same price.
Dining at a nice restaurant for dinner usually runs in the range of $30 to $60 per person.
My recommendation is to budget $10 to $15 per day for lunch and $30 to $40 for dinner. On the low end, that would be $40 per day and on the high end it would be $55.
There are three means of transportation available for tourists and they are city bus, subways, trains and taxi cabs. City buses, subways and trains are the most affordable ways to get from point A to point B.
City buses are usually a flat fee of $2 to $3 no matter where you go within the city. Be aware that there are also buses operated by private transportation companies. They usually go places that city buses do not and charge by distance. They can range from $3 up to $10, depending on distance.
Most of your larger cities will have a subway system. They are great for going long distances for a pretty reasonable price. Most trips cost somewhere between $2 to $5. In most cities you can even get a day pass for less than $10 and ride the subway as many times as you like within 24 hours. Also a great way to get out of the heat and cool off.
For intercity travel, Tokyo has the best system. It’s only slightly cheaper than the subways, but if you have a JR Rail Pass it is included in the cost of the pass. Just show your pass and hop on the train. Outside of Tokyo, trains are better for traveling long distances and have a wide range of costs.
Taxis can be affordable if you are going a short distance and splitting the fare between 3 or 4 people. Other than that, they are very expensive. A taxi meter starts at around $4 to $7 for the first mile, depending on the company, and is usually about $3 to $4 a mile for each additional mile.
If you’re stuck in traffic, which in Japan is quite likely, the meter has some type of algorithm that kicks in and charges by time.
When we lived in Nagoya and took a taxi to the airport, a one-way trip cost us about $100. For intercity travel, I would estimate somewhere between $20 to $50 per ride.
So How Much Should I Budget for Japan?
If you are traveling with us on one of our Escorted Tours, breakfast is always included. We even include 3 or more dinners, depending on the length of your tour. We recommend that you budget $60 per person, per day. This is usually more than enough for all of your lunches, dinners, souvenir shopping and vending machine drinks.
If you’re not traveling with us and you have breakfast included at your hotel, then I would budget somewhere between $75 to $90 per person per day to help cover entrance fees to temples, shrines, castles and museums. If you don’t have breakfast included, then expect to spend an additional $5 to $10 per day.
NOTE: I highly recommend that you get a hotel that includes breakfast! Outside of McDonalds, breakfast foods are hard to find.