Outside a combini, Shibuya, Tokyo (Photo: Adrian Qais)

How Expensive is Japan?

Travelling around Japan on a shoe-string

Outside a combini, Shibuya, Tokyo (Photo: Adrian Qais)
Adrian Qais   - ใช้เวลาอ่าน 6 นาที

Every traveller and backpacker I’ve ever met who wants to go to Japan only asks me two questions: 1) Is Japan expensive to travel around? 2) Can you travel around Japan cheaply?

Although the first answer is ‘Yes’… luckily the second answer is also ‘Yes’!

However, I’m not going to begin by lying to you: transportation costs in Japan will make you cry tears the size of October’s cabbages (i.e. make you cry a lot). Although food is relatively cheap in Japan, where Japan really hurts the ‘piggybank’ are its transportation and accommodation costs.

Luckily there are ways to make your travel around Japan cheap/cheaper.

In my opinion, travelling around Japan is cheaper than travelling in Australia, America and many other European countries. So if you can afford to travel around these places then you can definitely afford to travel in Japan!

And here’s how to do it on the cheap!


On the cheap

This will be your biggest expense. If you want to travel around Japan quickly and see as many places as you possibly can the only way to do this on the cheap is to get a Japan Rail Pass. With this little beauty, you’re free to get on as many ‘Bullet Trains’ as you wish. This will make travelling around Japan unbelievably easy and will open up Japan to you in ways that other modes of transport can’t. The pass will cost you about US$600 for two weeks which sounds like a lot of money but it’s about $40 a day. Considering the train between Tokyo and Kyoto costs about US$140 each way, it’s really, really good value!

How to really save


Please believe me when I say, I’ve never travelled in a country where catching a lift with a stranger has been easier or safer. Some people I know have travelled from the very top of Honshu (north mainland Japan) all the way to the bottom in 2 days. It is totally achievable and is one adventure you won’t forget in a hurry.


On the cheap

After taking care of your transportation costs, whether you buy the Japanese Rail Pass or decide to hitchhike, the cost of accommodation is going to be the next most expensive thing in Japan. But it’s not as bad as you might have thought.

Most hostels around Japan will be around US$20 a night for a bed in a dorm. But as I said previously this is what you’re looking to pay in Australia, UK and most European countries.

Another great alternative to a hostel, especially if you arrive late and need to get up early, is to stay in a Love Hotel. They charge by the hour, which can actually work out cheaper than staying in a hostel.

Moreover, if you’re travelling with a group of 4+ people it may actually make economic sense to stay at Love Hotels all the time! The room’s look like posh hotel room’s and can easy sleep 4+ people. It’s definitely worth looking into when you get out here!

How to really save


Camping your way around Japan is not only a very viable option but probably one of the best ways to save money.

There are tonnes of camping sites around Japan.

Camping is also a great option if you have a JR Pass. Mainly because a train to the countryside, in order to find a perfect camping spot, will be free and take you no longer than 20/30mins!

There's also the option of 'urban camping'.


On the cheap

Here’s the great news… eating out in Japan is very, very affordable. In my experience, if you want to eat ‘well’ in Japan, it’s actually cheaper to eat out than to eat at home—especially if you’re cooking for one!

There are loads of ‘solo dining’ restaurants where you can get a bowl of rice with some fried meat and vegetables for about US$5. There’s so many of these restaurants and so many different types that you’ll be able to eat something different every day!

And more than that, if you want something a bit more filling, like noodles, ramen, soba, tempura, even sushi you’ll be hard-pressed to find a meal for more than US$15 that won’t fill you up. Which if you compare that to a meal in the UK is laughable!

How to really save

If you don’t want to eat in an actual restaurant then don’t worry, because you can find even cheaper food in Japanese convenience stores. For example, a bento box – which is a mix of rice, meat, fish and vegetables, will cost you about US$4; a rice ball with a fishy filling will cost about US$1; and a tray of sushi will cost you about US$4.

Cheap, good food all the time—perfect!

On a side note, another great thing about Japan is that it really caters for solo eaters. There’s no shame in eating on your own and there are hundreds of eateries out there that are designed specifically for solo diners.


All things considered, you won’t really spend that much money in order to have a holiday/trip of a lifetime. If you want to travel the world and see and do things you are going to have to spend money. It’s just one of those things you need to accept.

And you shouldn’t be put off by coming to Japan because other people assume it’s ‘the most expensive country in the world’. That’s absolute nonsense! I promise, you’ll spend far more money travelling around Europe, USA or Australia for a month that you will in Japan. And let’s face it… having a Japanese experience looks far better on the ‘backpacker CV’.

Happy travels and happy scrimping!

Adrian Qais

Adrian Qais @adrian.qais

Born in England and raised in Oman I have always had a love for travelling. After backpacking, living, volunteering and working in over 50 countries I don’t mean to stop my adventures now. My next escapade is Tokyo, Japan and after that who knows… My intention is not to brag but to demonstrate th...