I guess the answer to this question depends a lot on where you come from, what your living standards are and what the cost of living is where you live. I live in The Netherlands, so keep that in mind.
Before we went to Japan I had already seen a lot of YouTube videos about the country (I love watching people travel to places I’ve never been) and so I knew it was not going to be cheap. I actually thought everything would just be a little bit more expensive than what I’m used to where I live. Turns out it wasn’t really.
If you’re gonna go to Japan there are a few things that you will (most likely) spend money on before even leaving: the flights, accommodation and maybe public transportation like the railway pass that will enable you to go anywhere in the country, fast. Maybe you also need to buy a passport or a visa. It’s also a good idea to get the Japanese currency, which is the Yen, before leaving. That’s just so much easier in my opinion. They will charge you a bit for this too, depending on where you decide to go switch out your money.
Now the flight to Japan is quite expensive, but not even that bad if you go in the less busy seasons. Accommodation is actually pretty affordable, we were able to find hotels for about 30 to 50 per night per room. We’re not used to lots of luxury anyway so the basic, small rooms we got for this price were completely fine with us. If you’re okay with sharing a room with multiple people that you don’t know, you can also find even cheaper accommodation at one of the many hostels in Japan. We were not really comfortable with that, but I’m sure you’ll meet lots of fun people!
Click this link if you’d like to know how we booked our flights, accommodation and busride from Tokyo to Osaka: How I did it: Booking a holiday to Japan!
You also need to, you know, not die when you’re actually in Japan lol. Most articles I read and videos I watched suggested that in order to eat three meals a day you’d need at least 25 dollar per day per person. This means basic meals though, 7eleven breakfast and family restaurants for example, nothing fancy. This was completely fine with us so we just went with 25 euro per day per person. 25 dollar and 25 euro is not the same but 21.35 euro per day is such a weird amount. Anyways, this meant: 5 euro for breakfast and 10 for lunch as well as dinner.
If you’d like to read my food tours through Shinjuku and Asakusa, click here: Food tour through Shinjuku, food in Osaka and food in Taito (asakusa)
Let me tell you. It was so easy to stick to this budget! Okay so we’re two girls, 20 and 23 and we don’t really eat a lot. If you’re a strong, sporty guy for example it might be a little bit more difficult to stick to this budget. We however, managed to spend no more than 400 yen per breakfast for the two of us. That’s a little less than 4 euro, so two per person. My sister usually just got one basic piece of bread and I usually got a rice ball and a piece of bread or two rice balls. We tried to pick things that were about 100 yen. We saved quite a bit of food money by doing this and thus were able to treat ourselves a bit more at the end of our trip. For lunch we’d always go to a restaurant but we’d pick one that wasn’t super expensive of course. We would always pick a dish under 1000 yen, which was pretty easy to do, and usually we would not order drinks because drinks were really expensive in all restaurants and they give you free water before you even order anything so why would you even order drinks right? We would do the exact same for dinner. Also, whenever we went to a conveyor belt sushi place, we were able to feed the both of us for like 12 euro. Of course because we’d pick a cheap place but also we were sharing everything, you eat slower because you have to wait till the nice sushi comes around and there is no big, full plate that you need to finish. You can stop eating whenever you want so as soon as we were not hungry anymore we’d ask for the bill. At the beginning of our trip we also didn’t get any snacks or desserts or anything like that. After figuring out we were well below our budget we did get these things.
Everyone knows Tokyo, where we went, is a huge city. And if you plan on going to Japan, you probably plan on going to Tokyo too. We also stayed in Osaka for a bit, so what I’m about to say also applies to that city. I could not tell you the cost of transportation in any other places in Japan.
The first form of transportation we spent our money on after arriving in Tokyo was the bus that would take us to Shinjuku Station. There is multiple ways to get from the airport to where you need to be but a friend told me the bus was the best way. So that’s what we did. Super easy. And I think it cost around 1000 yen per person. I do feel like this is a little bit expensive and the metro might have been cheaper. But then again it was quite a long ride and we were too tired to try and figure out how the metro or subway system in Tokyo worked at that moment. I’d say it was worth it.
If you’re on a budget like us, you don’t want to be spending your money on cabs (or taxis) to take you to your destination. I’ve heard they can be quite expensive, but we didn’t use this form of transportation at all so I wouldn’t know for sure. We did use the metro/subway a lot though. As I said, Tokyo and Osaka are big cities and while it is really easy to just walk somewhere, which we did a lot, the metro/subway is probably the easiest form of transportation within these cities. Mostly because all of the things you want to see are usually pretty far apart and you don’t want to constantly be walking an hour or so just to get to the next location.
The metro and subway were usually quite similar to the prices I’m used to where I live. If I remember correctly at least that is, it’s been a long time since I used that kind of transportation over here. But it does depend on the line/route you take. Some routes are more expensive than others. I remember in Osaka there’s the Osaka loop line that will basically take you anywhere you need to go and only costs 160 yen per ride, no matter how long you’re on it. I also remember there were always a few other routes we could opt for but those were usually more than 200 yen. It’s the same in Tokyo, this difference in price, but of course I don’t remember all of the prices of all of the rides. Usually the ones that are more expensive will take you to the exact place you need to be whereas the cheaper ones will make you walk a little bit. Overall, I’d say this form of transportations is not expensive at all but it’s easy to think ‘oh I don’t want to walk let’s just take the subway, it’s cheap anyway’ and do this too much. In the end all of the smaller numbers will definitely add up.
When we went from Tokyo to Osaka, we chose to do this the cheapest way: by bus. Of course we could have bought the railway pass, but the cheapest one is 115 euro. It will last a couple days, but we only planned on visiting Tokyo and Osaka so we would only need this pass for just one ride. 115 euro for just one train ride? Not worth it to us. So we chose to go by bus. Night bus actually. We bought the tickets the same day we booked our flights. The bus did take a bit longer but we were sleeping (or desperitely trying to sleep lol) anyways. Cost us 40 euro per person. Nice price right!
Apart from knowing how expensive Japan really is, I wrote down 15 other helpful things that you really need to know before going to Japan for you guys!
When you’re in Japan you obviously plan on seeing a lot of places and doing lots of fun things. There is so much to do and see and experience in this country, it’s crazy! Most things will cost you money though, some things are pretty expensive too.
If you want to go for a walk in a park or garden, there’s a small entrance fee. At least there was at every park we went to. This fee is different for each park but I remember paying 200 for one for example. I think that was gyoen national garden in Shinjuku. There is a lot of beauty in those gardens so it’s definitely worth it and I mean 2 euro to make sure they keep the park pretty and clean? Perfect!
What I’m about to tell you now is actually a little bonus lol. There are a few places in Tokyo and Osaka where you have to pay in order to get to the top floor and have a nice view. Like the Tokyo tower. I personally feel like paying for that is such a waste of money. I don’t know how expensive it is, but I do know there are lots of free options. For example, we went up to the 45th floor of the Tokyo metropolitan government building. For free! We had a perfect 360 degrees view over the city and it was gorgeous. This way, you can also look at the Tokyo tower, instead of standing in it, which I think is nicer.
If you plan on going to an actual arcade for entertainment, be prepared to spend a little bit more money though. It’s not like those arcades are redicilously expensive, but this form of entertainment is just more expensive than going to a park of course. Most prices were pretty much the same as where I live. The claw machines are usually 100 yen for one try and 200 or 300 per try for the bigger prizes. I think I’ve even seen a couple that were 500 yen. The games, like Mario kart and stuff, will cost you at least 200 yen for like three minutes of game play. Some places offer even more entertainment! We went bowling one evening for example. Very expensive. Lots of fun though. We had two games, which means we probably were bowling for like 40 minutes, and had to pay around 3000 yen, so almost 30 euro. I think this is the only thing we’ve done in Japan that’s actually more expensive than where I come from. This was really quite expensive to me. We also played biljart, or pool, whatever. Half an hour was I think almost 400 yen, but to be honest this is the only thing that I can’t really remember the price of anymore so I might be wrong on this one. I apologize in advance 🙂
We also spent one day in Universal Studios Japan, which is in Osaka. I’m sure you know it’s a wonderful place. If you want to know how we spent our time here, check out this blogpost: Travel diary: day three and four in Osaka, Japan This was by far the most expensive form of entertainment we had. But we planned for it of course. Entrance fee was almost 80.000 yen including tax. So that’s basically between 75 and 80 euro. It’s a lot! I personally feel like all theme parks that exist are overpriced, but hey, what can you do. It’s the experience you’re paying for and I’d rather spend my money on experiences than on materialistic things. I can’t really compare this price to the prices in my country, because there is no Universal Studios or Disneyland in The Netherlands. The theme parks we do have cost about 30 euros to enter, but they are of course uncompareble.
The last kind of entertainment we chose that cost money, or I chose because my sister didn’t want to do this, was renting a kimono. At least I think this was the last one. It really depends on the city you are in, what area of the city you are in and what business you choose but this can get quite expensive. I’ve seen signs in Tokyo near the temples in Asakusa that said renting a kimono was 50 euro. You do probably get to wear it the entire day, but that’s still a lot of money to play dress up. So we found a place in Osaka that was only 2000 yen 🙂 way better. I believe this would give you 2 hours to wear the kimono outside. There were temples in that area as well.
Now lots of ‘entertainment’ in Japan is free too. I mean, walking around looking at all of the buildings, the temples, the shops, even shopping without buying anything… It’s all free! And this was very entertaining to us 🙂
So, it is expensive or not?
Coming from The Netherlands and being used to a, I’d say, kind of expensive cost of living, considering the food isn’t that expensive here but transportation and entertainment really is, I’d say Japan really isn’t super expensive. I feel like while I was in Japan I spent the same amount of money as I would have had I stayed in my country for this vacation. Actually, going to a restaurant with the same good quality as in Japan, for lunch or dinner, would have cost a lot more here in The Netherlands. Entertainment costs pretty much the same, apart from the fact that going for a walk here is pretty much always free. Transportation is probably around the same price.
Two things though that are redicilously expensive in Japan: fruit and chocolate. I didn’t talk about this before because it’s just two items that are not neccisary for a nice vacation. Apparently they don’t know how to make good chocolate themselves in Japan so they need to import it. Honestly, I’ve tried the cheaper chocolate made by Japan and didn’t like it! Because they have to import it and I guess there’s a lot of tax involved with that, good quality chocolate is expensive in Japan. KitKat is probably the most affordable chocolate. Fruit is so expensive as well! All of the fruit I think (correct me if I’m wrong) , apart from strawberries, is also imported. A big ass melon can cost you 50 euros! One big apple 5! Redicilous.
So that’s all about the prices in Japan and my view on them. Hope this blogpost is helpful. Let me know if your experience was any different! 🙂