HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL JAPAN(as a backpacker)?

During my travels I’ve met a lot of backpackers that “would love” to travel Japan.
But they all say “it’s too expensive.”
Then each night they’d spend $20 at bars on Pub Street in Cambodia.

I traveled through Japan for 43 days and I wrote down all my expenses.
And that $20 on beers can really help you out for traveling to Japan.

HOW EXPENSIVE IS JAPAN?

The cost to travel Japan is not nearly as expensive as everyone thinks it is.
Sure, you won’t find $5 hostels and $2 street food like parts of Southeast Asia.
But if backpacking Japan is something you want to do it’s not much more expensive.
Accommodation and Transportation will be your biggest expenses.
While Food and Attractions are actually quite cheap.

Will you be able to travel Japan for less than $45 a day?
Probably not.
But you can do it for less than $60?
Definitely.

Japanese Yen.

I know everyone travels differently.
So if you’re staying in Hotels or Resorts and eating out every night, you’ve already spent that $60.
But if you’re staying in Hostels and occasionally buying groceries, you can manage $50 per day.
Since I don’t know how you travel I can’t tell you what your Japan travel budget should be.
But as a backpacker I can show you what I spent.

MY JAPAN TRAVEL COSTS.

Below is a price breakdown of all expenses.
Then I’ll break them down even further and give more details in each one.

NOTE: The price in Yen is all correct. The Price in USD was correct at the time I converted it. The price may be different now due to currency fluctuations.

43 DAYS IN JAPAN.

ACCOMMODATION: 136,188Y ($1273.63) – $29.62 per day.

FOOD: 59,738Y ($558.68) – $13 per day.

TRANSPORTATION: 26,220Y ($245.20) – $5.70 per day.
This is a bit of a lie and I’ll elaborate on it in its own section.

ATTRACTIONS/SIGHTS: 19,560($182.92) – $4.26 per day.

PARTYING/DRINKING: 5,030($47.04) – $1.10 per day.

MISC: 12,819($119.88) – $2.79 per day.

Total = 259,555($2,427.35) – $56.47 per day.

As I said earlier, Transportation is one of the higher expenses in Japan.
But it doesn’t look too bad from what I posted.
I expand on that further in its own section below.

ACCOMMODATION:

During my time in Japan I couchsurfed once.
The rest of the time I stayed in Hostels or Guesthouses.
For a country that doesn’t have much of a backpacking community I was surprised by the price of hostels.
Most places I stayed at ranged between $25 – $35 per night.
Usually I only pay that much if I’m in the U.S. or at an expensive European hostel.

Exterior or a hostel in Tokyo. Accommodation is the highest cost to travel Japan.

The Japanese hostels don’t offer anything too special.
Many of them don’t have a “party vibe”.
I stayed at 15 different places and maybe 5 of them had a fun traveler atmosphere.
I was there in March/April and a lot of the hostels didn’t have many people staying in them either.

FOOD:

Japan has some of the most high-end restaurants in the world.
If you want to have a $300 dinner you can easily find that.
But if you want to have cheap delicious local dishes you can find them around every corner.
There were many nights when a $7 dinner completely filled me up.

Japanese food.

But the best tip I can give for cheap delicious food is to visit the grocery stores.
I talk about it more in THIS Post, but I’ll summarize it here.
Grocery stores make a lot of fresh food daily.
You can usually find it in the bakery and sushi section of the stores.
If you go to the stores after 7 pm they dramatically discount whatever is left over, so it doesn’t go to waste.
If you go shopping around that time you can buy yourself breakfast and lunch for a few days.

TRANSPORTATION:

If you look at my breakdown from above I only spent about $245 on transportation.
That’s only what I spent once I was already IN Japan.
Stuff like subways, local buses, and ferries.
But I bought 3 JR Rail Passes BEFORE going to Japan.
And those totaled out to $896.

Train travel in Japan is really expensive.
And I knew I was going to be using the trains a lot.
So the best option for me was the JR Rail Passes.
I bought two 7 Day Passes and one 14 Day Pass.
The Rail Passes have to be used for consecutive days, otherwise the days go to waste.
So what I did was:

  1. Stay in Tokyo for a week.
  2. Use 7 Day Pass to visit cities around the Mt. Fuji area and back to Tokyo.
  3. Stay in Tokyo for another week.
  4. Use 7 Day Pass to visit places between Tokyo and Kyoto.
  5. Stay in Kyoto/Osaka area for a week.
  6. Use 14 Day Pass as much as possible to visit places between Osaka and Fukuoka.

During my 43 days in Japan I visited around 18 different cities.
I also used the train for day trips from some of the larger cities.
So I was on the train A LOT.

Local Train in Japan. Transportation can be the highest cost to travel Japan.

If you’re only visiting a few different cities a JR Rail Pass won’t be worth the money.
You should either buy individual train tickets to each city or take a bus.
A bus is usually half the price of a train ticket, but has a much longer travel time.
If you’re not rushed for time the bus is the cheapest option.

The JR Rail Passes can only be purchased BEFORE arriving in Japan.
That’s why I didn’t include them in the breakdown.
Same reason I didn’t include my plane ticket there.

ATTRACTIONS/SIGHTS:

I was surprised how cheap Japan was for sightseeing and visiting “typical tourist spots”.
Every attraction from Castles and Temples to Monkey Parks and Museums were all under $10.
Japan is a great country for visiting attractions.

Matsumoto Castle at Sunset.

PARTYING/DRINKING:

From the look of my breakdown it looks like partying and drinking in Japan is extremely cheap.
Well, guess what?
It’s not.
I just don’t party or drink that much.
I’ll go weeks without spending money on drinks and then maybe one night I’ll spend $5 – $15.
That’s why my cost was so low.

Empty bottles of Saki.

Drinking is the number one “Fund Killer” for many backpackers.
So I made sure to pay attention to my spending when it came to a night of partying.

Side Note: Japan is really into whisky.
So if that’s your drink of choice Japan will be a fun place for you.
I’ve never seen so many different brands of whisky.

MISCELLANEOUS SPENDING:

Miscellaneous is stuff like Souvenirs, Massages, Haircuts, Laundry, Toiletries, etc.
Out of the $120 I spent on miscellaneous stuff $43 of it was spent on a mini-tripod and SD Card.
Another $20 was spent on renting a photo studio for a photo shoot I did.
The rest of it was most likely spent on laundry, toiletries, and souvenirs.

JAPAN TRAVEL BUDGET.

As a backpacker who is staying in 2 or 3 cities you can definitely manage $50 per day in Japan.
If you’re in Tokyo you can save yourself money by avoiding the themed restaurants.
Your cost to travel Japan mostly depends on your accommodation and how often you’ll use trains.

Japan is a crazy and interesting place.
It’s worth saving the extra money to visit.

Have you been to Japan?
Do you have any tips for backpacking Japan?
Leave them in comments below.

Jeremiah Cooper

Welcome to Live Life Extreme, a travel blog about thrill-seeking travel through some of the largest cities to off the beaten path getaways.

My name is Jeremiah and I'm a photographer from Arizona.
I'm always in search of picturesque landscapes and adrenaline pumping adventure.
Follow me as I show you What and What Not to do when visiting new places in search of Cheap Travel and Cheap Thrills.
Jeremiah Cooper

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