The Surprising Affordability of Travel in Japan: A 2023 Budget Breakdown

It took me six years to finally make my way to Japan. The high cost of train passes, expensive hotels, and the overall reputation of being an expensive destination kept me away. However, my desire to visit grew stronger, and I decided to take the plunge despite my budget constraints. To my surprise, Japan turned out to be more affordable than I expected. In fact, it was on par with Western Europe and North America, and even cheaper than Australia. Let’s delve into the cost of travel in Japan and how you can make the most of your budget.

My 16-Day Japan Itinerary

Before we dive into the cost breakdown, let me give you a glimpse of my 16-day itinerary in Japan. It’s a perfect itinerary for first-time travelers to Japan:

  • Tokyo: 4 nights
  • Hakone: 1 night
  • Yudanaka: 1 night
  • Kanazawa: 2 nights
  • Takayama: 1 night
  • Kyoto: 3 nights
  • Hiroshima: 1 night
  • Osaka: 3 nights

Accommodation Options in Japan

Accommodation prices in Japan have increased post-pandemic, but they are still reasonable compared to many Western countries. If you’re open to alternatives, you can even find ways to stay for free. Couchsurfing allows you to connect with locals and stay on their couches for free. Another option is house-sitting, where you take care of someone’s house while they’re away. Websites like Trusted Housesitters can help you find such opportunities. Alternatively, you can try WorldPackers, where you can volunteer for locals in exchange for food and accommodation.

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For those who prefer more traditional options, hostels are a great choice. In Japan, there are hostels all over the country, offering dorm beds for around $25 per night. Private rooms in hostels are also available, with prices ranging from $50 to $90 per night, depending on the location and amenities.

Hotels are another option to consider. Prices vary depending on the location and season, but you can find comfortable rooms starting from $135 per night in Tokyo. My average daily accommodation cost over the 16 days was $97.

Transportation in Japan

Japan’s efficient and extensive train system is the preferred mode of transportation for many travelers. Previously, the Japan Rail Pass was a popular choice for unlimited train rides over a certain period. However, since October 2023, the prices for the Japan Rail Pass have significantly increased, making it less attractive for most travelers. Unless you plan to take extensive journeys across the country in a short period, it’s no longer a cost-effective option.

Instead, I recommend using the JR West website to book individual train tickets. Prices for train journeys vary, but for my 16-day itinerary, the total cost came to approximately $381. If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, buses are available. Bus tickets are generally around half the price of train tickets, totaling approximately $212 for my itinerary.

Within cities, I found walking to be a great way to explore. Public transportation, such as the metro, is affordable, with costs ranging from $2 to $7 depending on the city.

Activities and Entrance Fees in Japan

Japan offers a variety of activities and attractions at reasonable prices. Entrance fees for temples, museums, and gardens are generally less than $5. Some notable costs include:

  • Hedgehog Cafe in Tokyo: $13
  • Snow Monkey Park: $7
  • Kenroku-en Gardens in Kanazawa: $3
  • Golden Pavilion in Kyoto: $3
  • Ryoan-ji Zen Garden in Kyoto: $5
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial: $2
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On average, I spent around $2 per day on activities and entrance fees.

Food in Japan

Japanese cuisine is a delight, and you can enjoy it at various price points. From affordable bowls of ramen for around $9 to street snacks like takoyaki for $4.50, there are options to suit every budget. Splurging on a kaiseki experience (a multi-course meal) cost me around $36, while sushi in Kanazawa cost $18. On average, I spent $23.20 per day on food.

Miscellaneous Expenses in Japan

In addition to the main expenses, there are a few miscellaneous costs to consider. These include a local SIM card for $14, a guidebook for $10, luggage storage at Snow Monkey Park for $4.50, and travel insurance for 16 days for $60.

Tracking Expenses

To keep track of my expenses, I diligently recorded every receipt using Xero accounting software. This allowed me to easily calculate and summarize my total expenses.

Total Cost of Travel in Japan

Considering all the expenses, my average daily cost in Japan came to $151. Given Japan’s reputation for being expensive, I was pleasantly surprised by the affordability of my trip.

In conclusion, Japan is a destination that can be enjoyed even on a budget. With affordable accommodation options, reasonably priced transportation, and a variety of delicious and affordable food, Japan offers a unique and memorable travel experience without breaking the bank.


Q: Is Japan an expensive country to travel to?
A: While Japan has a reputation for being expensive, it is comparable to Western Europe and North America in terms of costs. By carefully planning and making budget-conscious choices, you can enjoy Japan without overspending.

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Q: Are there affordable accommodation options in Japan?
A: Yes, Japan offers a range of affordable accommodation options, including hostels and budget hotels. Additionally, alternative options such as Couchsurfing, housesitting, and volunteering through WorldPackers can provide free or low-cost accommodation.

Q: How can I save money on transportation in Japan?
A: The Japan Rail Pass, once a popular choice, may no longer be the most cost-effective option due to the recent price increase. Instead, booking individual train tickets through the JR West website or opting for buses can be more budget-friendly. Walking is also a great way to explore cities.

Q: Are activities and entrance fees expensive in Japan?
A: No, activities and entrance fees in Japan are generally reasonable, with most attractions costing less than $5. There are numerous cultural, historical, and natural attractions to explore without breaking the bank.

Q: Can I enjoy Japanese food on a budget?
A: Absolutely! Japanese cuisine offers a wide range of options at various price points. From affordable street food to budget-friendly restaurants, you can indulge in delicious meals without overspending.

Q: How much does it cost to travel in Japan?
A: Based on my 16-day Japan itinerary, the average cost per day, including accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and miscellaneous expenses, was $151.


Traveling in Japan can be surprisingly affordable, even for budget-conscious travelers. By making strategic choices in accommodation, transportation, food, and activities, you can create an enjoyable and memorable trip to Japan without straining your budget. Embrace the unique culture, explore the breathtaking landscapes, and savor the incredible cuisine while keeping your expenses in check. Japan awaits you with open arms and a wealth of experiences to discover!

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