How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

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If you’ve ever gone on a spontaneous trip without budgeting, you know how painful that next credit card statement can be.

Smart travelers always make budgets before going on trips. To do so, you need to know what the common expenses are in Japan and how much they’ll be. With this information, you can take a financially responsible trip within your means and with no surprises.

This guide also includes several sample budgets. While these are just examples, you can use them to construct your own based on your plans and interests.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Common Expenses in Japan

Most people who travel take into account the big three: transportation, lodging and food. However, these are just the basics of your budget. When you go to Japan, you should expect to spend money on a lot more. While these are usually smaller purchases, they do add up. They include things like:

  • Cell phone SIM card
  • Souvenirs
  • Insurance
  • Entrance fees

First, let’s tackle the big three expenses.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Transportation

Of course, your flight will be the lion’s share of your transportation costs. Flight prices vary based on so many factors including time of year, time of purchase and airport of origin as well as unpredictable factors like this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, a round trip from a major US city like LA or New York to Tokyo at a normal time of year is around $500 per person. If you’re coming from a smaller regional airport and have to make connections, the flights may get costlier.

Once you have your flight figured out, you can budget for transportation within Japan itself. This includes everything from train tickets to taxi rides. Here are some of the most common:

Train Passes

Trains are by far the best way to get around Japan. For traveling between cities, take the shinkansen bullet trains. These are fast, comfortable and, for tourists, a lot of fun. You can usually get between two cities in around half the time it would take to go by car and makes the entire country accessible. 

Those visiting Japan on a tourist visa have the option of getting an all-inclusive Japan Rail Pass that covers all trains operated by Japan Rail, which means most of the shinkansen trains. The passes let you ride JR trains as many times as you want, and you can buy them for periods of one, two or three weeks. The best way is to buy a pass beforehand through an approved travel agency. If you do so, these are the prices:

Standard CarAdultChild (Age 6-11)Green CarAdultChild (Age 6-11)
7 Days¥29,650¥14,8207 Days¥39,600¥19,800
14 Days¥47,250¥23,62014 Days¥64,120¥32,060
21 Days¥60,450¥30,22021 Days¥83,390¥41,690
JR Pass (purchased before arriving in Japan)

Many cities also have private metro or rail lines that aren’t covered by the JR Pass. Don’t worry, it’s easy to get tickets. In fact, you can get what’s called a Suica card and put a prepaid amount of money on it. Then when you go through the metro turnstiles, it’ll just debit what you need.

Metro fares depend on how far you’re going but generally range between ¥150 and ¥350. Of course, you can budget exactly based on your itinerary and how many trips you’ll need to take. In my experience, you’ll usually want at least an out and return trip each day. This allows you to visit different parts of the city each day. Therefore, count on ¥700 per person per day.

Taxis, Rickshaws, Go-karts

Really, you should try to stick to the trains. Sometimes, though, you might want to take a taxi for the comfort of it or maybe a rickshaw just for the novelty. Taxi prices are very similar to the US, so consider setting aside around ¥10,000 per week in case you want to take one.

When it comes to novelties like rickshaws, go-kart tours or ferry rides, it’s best to look up prices before you go to Japan and then plan accordingly.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Lodging

Hotel prices in Japan are often comparable to the US, and you can usually find nice accommodation for around ¥10,000 per night, but of course, this all depends on how luxurious you want to get and whether you go during a peak season.

If you want a nice hotel in a central location in a major city like Tokyo or Kyoto, budget ¥15,000-¥25,000 per night to be safe.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Food

Frugal travelers save a lot of money on food. They find hotels with free breakfast and buy groceries instead of going out to eat. Of course, going to local restaurants and getting a taste of Japanese cuisine is one of the best parts of traveling. 

For this budget, let’s assume you’re going to eat out for every meal. Let’s also say that two of your three meals will be typical street food or casual restaurants while the third will be at a nicer, more expensive place. We’ll include some snacks as well.

Casual meals in Japan include things like ramen and kaitenzushi conveyor belt sushi. The prices in these restaurants are similar to casual dining in the US, around ¥1,000 per dish, not including drinks or appetizers. Nice dinners can get much more expensive. For example, you can get high-quality sushi for over ¥30,000 per person with set menus.

To get an idea, take a look at this food budget designed for the average traveler:

MealPrice Per Person Per Day
Casual dining 1¥2,500
Casual dining 2¥2,500
Fine dining¥10,000
Snacks, bottled water, etc.¥1,500
TOTAL¥16,500

Cell Phone SIM Card

On top of transportation, lodging, and food, there are some main one-time fees you should count into your budget. One of the biggest of these will be a cell phone SIM card, something that’s become essential for modern-day travel.

In Japan, there are tons of providers to choose from, all of which offer different combinations of plans. The most convenient, of course, is one with unlimited data. The best option is to order before you go and have the card delivered to the airport or hotel. To give you an idea, Mobal offers a plan like this which costs ¥4,500 per month for voice and text plus unlimited data. There is also a one-time fee of ¥3,000 for the SIM card.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Entrance Fees

For the most part, fees you pay to see museums or temples won’t be too high, and you can calculate that into your “spending money,” which we’ll get to in a minute. However, for those things you’re just dying to see, you’d better check online ahead of time to see how much it costs to get in. Sometimes it can be expensive. 

For example, a fast ticket to the both observation decks of the Tokyo Skytree, which lets you cut the hours-long line, is ¥4,200 for adults.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Spending Money Per Day

For anyone traveling to Japan, you will need a flexible amount of spending money each day. This is the money you’ll spend on souvenirs, the entrance fee for the boutique museum you come across, hotel extras, etc.

Of course, it’s hard to know exactly how many spontaneous expenses you’re going to have. One of the most important factors will be how much shopping you want to do. If you’re just going to buy a fridge magnet for your sister, that’s one thing. If you’re going to buy a different Japanese gadget every day, that’s quite another.

To give you a better idea, let’s look at some specific examples of certain miscellaneous costs:

  • Admission to the Tokyo Samurai Museum: ¥1,900
  • Buying a fortune at Sensoji Temple in Tokyo: ¥100
  • Three-hour ticket to an onsen hot spring: ¥300
  • Woodblock printing class in Asakusa: ¥2,000
  • A book from your favorite manga series: ¥500
  • One round at an arcade claw game: ¥100
  • A pack of crackers to feed the deer in Nara: ¥300 
  • A basic second-hand kimono: ¥5,000
  • Getting tricked into buying a dancing toy from a street performer: ¥1,000
  • The bottle of shampoo you thought was lotion because your Japanese is still bad: ¥500
  • The actual bottle of lotion you have to go back and get: ¥500

So you can see that a lot of these costs are hard to predict, but they’re also not that expensive. I would consider myself an average traveler, not excessively frugal but not lavish either. I usually count on ¥3,000 per day for spending money. Because you might have a bigger expense like the kimono on a given day, it’s a good idea to round that up to ¥25,000 per week.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

How to Build a Travel Budget

Now that we’ve gone over all the costs, we can start to construct a budget. It will, of course, depend heavily on how long you’re going to be in Japan. Start with your most basic expenses like transportation, lodging, and food, add on any specific costs you’re expecting like shows or sights, then calculate your spending money.

Let’s take a look at general budgets based on week-by-week periods in Japan.

Japan Trip Budget: 1 Week

This budget is an example of one you could make for a couple traveling to Japan for a week. It includes some specifically booked events and well as flexible spending money.

ExpenseCost
Round-trip flight (NYC-Tokyo) (⨉2)¥110,000 (around $1,000)
Japan Rail Pass (⨉2)¥59,300
Preloaded Sueca card for subway lines (⨉2)¥10,000
Modal SIM Card¥7,500
2-3 taxi rides¥10,000
7 nights at the Park Hotel Tokyo¥130,000
Dining and snacks for 7 days (⨉2)¥160,000
Tickets to a kabuki show (⨉2)¥15,000
Tokyo Skytree fast tickets (⨉2)¥8,400
Spending money for one week¥25,000
TOTAL¥535,200 (around $5,000)
How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Japan Trip Budget: 2 Weeks

For the two-week budget, we haven’t changed much except to add a couple of more specific expenses. You’ll have more time, and you’ll probably want to do more things. One thing to note is that you’ll likely spend two weeks at several different hotels, especially if you have the Japan Rail Pass. However, we have simply counted 14 nights at the Park Hotel Tokyo to simplify things.

ExpenseCost
Round-trip flight (NYC-Tokyo) (⨉2)¥110,000 (around $1,000)
Japan Rail Pass (⨉2)¥120,900
Preloaded Sueca card for subway lines (⨉2)¥30,000
Modal SIM Card¥7,500
4-5 taxi rides¥15,000
14 nights at the Park Hotel Tokyo¥260,000
Dining and snacks for 14 days (⨉2)¥320,000
Tickets to a kabuki show (⨉2)¥15,000
Tokyo Skytree fast tickets (⨉2)¥8,400
Snow monkey park passes (⨉2)¥7,000
Arena seats for a sumo tournament (⨉2)¥8,000
Spending money for two weeks¥50,000
TOTAL¥915,400 (around $8,500)
How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Japan Trip Budget: 3 Weeks

Again, our sample three-week budget adds some more events and excursions. Note the “shopping spree in Ginza.” Obviously things like these don’t have an exact cost, but since it can get expensive, try to estimate how much you’re willing to spend beforehand.

ExpenseCost
Round-trip flight (NYC-Tokyo) (⨉2)¥110,000 (around $1,000)
Japan Rail Pass (⨉2)¥94,500
Preloaded Sueca card for subway lines (⨉2)¥20,000
Modal SIM Card¥7,500
6-7 taxi rides¥20,000
21 nights at the Park Hotel Tokyo¥400,000
Dining and snacks for 21 days (⨉2)¥480,000
Tickets to a kabuki show (⨉2)¥15,000
Tokyo Skytree fast tickets (⨉2)¥8,400
Snow monkey park passes (⨉2)¥7,000
Arena seats for a sumo tournament (⨉2)¥8,000
Shopping spree in Ginza¥50,000
High-quality silk kimono (⨉2)¥50,000
Spending money for three weeks¥75,000
TOTAL¥1,345,400 (around $12,500)
How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Japan? — A Guide to Planning a Prudent Trip

Traveling With a Family

If you’re traveling with kids or an even larger extended family, this will change how you budget. Most things, of course, will be more expensive since you’re paying for more people. Of course, children eat less, receive discounts, etc. You’re also going to do a different range of activities with them, but hopefully, you can fit them all in the same hotel room.

Let’s see what a one-week budget for a family of five might look like.

ExpenseCost
Round-trip flight (NYC-Tokyo) (⨉5)¥275,000 (around $2,600)
Japan Rail Pass (⨉2 adults, ⨉3 children)¥103,760
Preloaded Sueca card for subway lines (⨉5)¥25,000
Modal SIM Card¥7,500
2-3 taxi rides¥10,000
7 nights at the Park Hotel Tokyo¥130,000
Dining and snacks for 7 days (⨉2 adults, ⨉3 children)¥200,000
Admission and arm bands to Hanayashiki theme park (⨉2 adults, ⨉3 children)¥15,000
Tokyo Skytree fast tickets (⨉2 adults, ⨉3 children)¥14,700
Spending money for one week¥50,000
TOTAL¥830,960 (around $8,000)

In Japan, pricing for adult tickets usually starts at age 12, so this budget assumes the three children are 11 or younger. You’ll also see that dining and spending costs have been increased proportionally for three added children, though you probably won’t go to the same fancy restaurants as you would as a couple.

Of course, flexibility is even more important when you’re traveling with a family. Make sure to put plenty of cushion into your budget. You never know when the kids will want to take a go-kart tour or spend way too much in an Akihabara arcade. 

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