I won’t lie – Japan is not the cheapest place to visit.
While it wasn’t the most expensive trip I’ve ever taken, it was definitely high up on the list!
One of the reasons I had put off this trip for so long is because of the cost. I’d wanted to visit Japan for years, but there were so many cheaper destinations where my money would go further. Also, the Australian Dollar has not being doing great over the past few years, so the exchange rate was not in our favour.
Still, there was no reason to put off the trip any longer. Japan is only getting more popular with tourists, and there’s no guarantee that our exchange rate will get any better. I eventually bit the bullet and planned a 2 week trip to Japan for Rob and I during my uni break.
I tried my best to reduce costs by using our cheap travel tricks including travelling just outside of peak season, getting a special deal on our international flights, using public transport to get around, and seeking out local restaurants for our meals. I’ll admit that we could have done it a little cheaper by staying in budget hotels further out of the city (or holing up in Tokyo’s famous capsule hotels!), but generally we kept it fairly budget-friendly.
Here’s what we spent on our Japan trip, per person, in Japanese Yen (JPY) or Australian Dollars (AUD). For other currencies, use Google’s currency converter.
The biggest cost of any long-distance trip is usually international flights. Our return flights from Sydney to Osaka Kansai Airport and Tokyo Haneda Airport to Sydney (both direct) were $1024 each with Qantas. This was a special deal that I managed to grab by setting up flight alerts for multiple weekends, then booking immediately when something came on sale. We saved about $200 each by doing this!
Most hotels in Japan were priced similarly to hotels here in Australia, with the exception of Tokyo which was ridiculously expensive! It’s no wonder most backpackers choose to stay in a capsule hotel in Tokyo.
For two people in a double room, we paid an average of $144 per night for hotels in Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kyoto. In Tokyo we forked over a massive $285 per night! I may have left our hotel booking slightly too late to get a good deal in Tokyo – next time, I’ll look at hotels a few months in advance to get cheaper accommodation.
The most convenient way to get between cities is by using Japan trains. The Shinkansen bullet train is by far the fastest but gee whiz it’s expensive! We paid an average of $145 per person for each Shinkansen trip, of which we took three. That’s $435 each for the trip! Ouch!
PS. I decided not to get a JR Rail Pass, as the cost for a 14-day pass ($607) would not have been worth it for my itinerary. Whether you get a rail pass for your trip is up to you – the value will really depend on your itinerary.
Public transport cost around 180-500 yen depending on the distance. I’d say we paid an average of around 250 yen ($3.30) per single trip. This was pretty consistent all around Japan.
There were a handful of trips that were more expensive, including a few limited express trains. The most expensive (aside from the Shinkansen) was the express airport train in Osaka. This cost about $35 per person, which is fairly pricey for the 45-minute trip from Osaka Kansai Airport (KIX) to the city. I believe that this trip might be included in the JR Rail Pass.
We also paid for two long-distance buses when travelling to Mt Fuji. One was a 1.5 hour bus from Mishima Shinkansen Station to Kawaguchiko Station, and the other was a Highway Express bus of the same distance from Kawaguchiko Station to Shinjuku in Tokyo. Both of these buses cost about $30 each.
Our biggest attraction ticket was a 1-day pass for Disneyland Tokyo, which cost us 7,400 yen ($99) each. This is actually pretty cheap if you compare it to Disneyland in Los Angeles which costs $129-$149.
Other attractions we paid for were TeamLab Borderless in Tokyo which was 3,200 yen ($42) each, the Miyajima Ropeway near Hiroshima which was 1,800 ($24) each, and an additional 300-600 yen ($3.95-$7.90) to enter various shrines and temples.
Food in Japan is great quality, and is generally not expensive if you stay away from the tourist hotspots. We paid around $10-$15 each for a decent vegetarian meal at most Japanese restaurants.
To save money, we also went nuts on 7-eleven snacks and food. It felt odd to be eating from 7-eleven as the stores in Australia stock only candy and soft drinks, but the Japanese stores are almost like mini-supermarkets. The selection of pre-made meals and weird Japanese snacks is great and cheap!
Coffee in Japan was surprisingly expensive – the first one we had at a fancy little coffee shop in Osaka was 550 yen each! That’s $7.20 for a coffee. From then on, we sought out our daily coffees strictly from diners and cafe chains, as they averaged around 250-350 yen ($3.30-$4.60) for a basic Americano.
I might also add that coffee in Japan was generally served strong with a single-serve creamer, and that lattes are uncommon. I also struggled to find places that offered soy milk for my coffees, which is weird considering Japan is totally soy-obsessed.
One of our favourite activities when travelling is to seek out some local craft beer, but boy – craft beer is expensive in Japan! We found two beer bars in Hiroshima, but quickly realised that our wallets were being emptied of around 1000 yen per drink. From then on, we stuck to a simple Asahi or Sapporo (the most popular basic beers in Japan) which are generally much cheaper at around half the price. You can also buy cans of these beers in 7-eleven stores for only 300-400 yen.
An alternative to beer is sake (Japanese rice wine). I had plenty of sake throughout Japan as it was fairly cheap at around 500 yen per drink. Just be careful of the alcohol content – sake is quite strong and a few glasses is likely to result in a hangover if you’re not careful!