Japan

3 weeks in Japan: Budget Breakdown

If you recall our travel bucket list for 2024, you might remember that Japan was at the top of our list. Well, let us tell you, our trip to Japan was everything we hoped for and more! It truly surpassed our expectations. We experienced amazing food, breathtaking sights, and met some incredibly friendly locals during our 3-week adventure. Now, the big question: was Japan as expensive as people say? Dive into our budget breakdown from our 3 weeks in Japan to find out, along with some handy tips on how to travel Japan on a budget.

How much did our trip to Japan in May 2024 cost? Here’s our budget breakdown for 3 weeks in Japan:

Flights

We booked our flight tickets with AirAsia about 4 months ahead. Our direct flight from Manila to Tokyo took a bit over 4 hours. It cost us € 316,47 for both of us, including checked baggage, seat selection, and a meal. It wasn’t the cheapest flight we’ve taken in Asia, but it was still more affordable than flying from Belgium to Japan.

Total for 2 people: € 316,47

Accommodation

Since Japan can be pricey, we booked our accommodations ahead of time. We mostly stayed in hostels with private rooms but shared bathrooms. We spent one night at Kanazawa Capsule Hotel Musashimachi, where we slept in a capsule. It was actually the first night (and hopefully the last) we didn’t sleep together during our world trip! 🥺 Not our cup of tea, but now we know at least!

Our most expensive stay was at Onyado Nono Sendai Natural Hot Spring, which had an onsen and all the amenities you could wish for. We think it’s a must to try an onsen at least once when visiting Japan! We also loved that they served a free bowl of ramen every night after 9:30 PM. And it was delicious too! We paid € 170,84 for two nights.

In total, we spent € 936,47 for 19 nights, averaging € 49,29 per night for both of us. We still find this quite high, especially considering that we mostly stayed at hostels!

Total for 2 people for 19 nights: € 936,47 

Transportation

We spent 3 weeks in Japan and managed to visit 7 destinations. To see if the Japan Rail Pass was worth it, we used the Japan Rail Pass Calculator. It turned out to be a good deal for us to buy it for 2 weeks, since we could also use it for our day trip to Nara and to get to Tokyo DisneySea. The Japan Rail Pass cost us € 982,32 for both of us (160 000 yen). In total, we spent € 1 122,51 on transportation, leaving € 140,19 for getting to and from the airport and getting around cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. We only used public transportation during our trip, as taxis are really expensive in Japan!

If you want to see if the JR Pass is worth it, you can check out this calculator. Also, Google Maps gives a pretty good idea of how much a trip will cost you, too. We recommend using both of these tools to decide whether the JR Pass is worth it for you. That being said, the 7 day pass is almost never worth it in our opinion.

Total for 2 people: € 1 122,51

Food

Food in Japan

Japanese cuisine is one of our favorites, so we were excited to try the real deal in Japan! From sushi and ramen to okonomiyaki, we tried everything and spent € 955,65 on food, averaging € 47,78 per day for both of us (€ 23,89 per person). You can decide for yourself if that’s a lot or not, but we wouldn’t do it any other way. 😉

We found some great spots where we paid only around € 15 for lunch, but we also had some splurges. Our dinner at Seafood&OysterBar Salt in Kanazawa cost us € 56, including some drinks. At Kuromon Market in Osaka, we spent € 43 on various dishes, including delicious king crab. And our lunch at SAIDO in Universal Studios Japan was € 51. Worth every penny!

Total for 2 people: € 955,65

Drinks

We treated ourselves to cocktails twice in Japan, and funnily enough only when we were in Kyoto. The first time was quite affordable at around € 8 for 2 cocktails. However, the second time didn’t go as planned. We went to a cocktail bar without a menu, where the mixologist creates drinks based on your preferences. We’ve gone to similar establishments in Thailand and Vietnam, where we had amazing cocktails at very reasonable prices. However, this time we ended up spending around € 55 for 4 cocktails, which was unexpected to say the least. The worst part is that the drinks weren’t even that good! That experience led us to not have cocktails again in Japan. 😂

Total for 2 people: € 62,71

Side note
The few beers Kelvin had during dinner and the one time we had sake with our meal are not included in this calculation as they were part of the total restaurant bill. But, we promise that Kelvin did not order that many beers so the total food cost is still very indicative of “regular” costs. 😉

Sightseeing

3 weeks of sightseeing in Japan

We spent € 644,11 on sightseeing, with more than half of the total cost going to theme parks. Our Tokyo DisneySea tickets were € 97,88, and we spent a whopping € 367,25 on Universal Studios Japan tickets. Regular USJ tickets start at around € 50, but we bought a Universal Express Pass to skip the lines at seven attractions. This meant we paid around € 180 per person for a stress-free USJ experience. We also bought teamLab Planets tickets for € 52,81. Other tickets for temples and gardens ranged from € 2 to € 5 per person.

Total for 2 people: € 644,11

Other

We didn’t need to buy a visa for Japan, so that saved us some money. However, we did pay around € 25 (!) for an e-sim, which we found pretty expensive considering the fact the e-sim didn’t even come with unlimited data. We also spent about € 60 on souvenirs, including personalized chopsticks for our family, a stuffed animal for a friend’s new baby, and some Disney shirts for ourselves from Uniqlo. 

One pleasant surprise was the cost of laundry. We only spent € 7 on two laundry sessions because most of our accommodations had washing and drying machines, so we did our laundry ourselves. Our accommodation in Kyoto even had a washing machine that came with a dryer and detergent included, for just 500 yen (€ 3)!

Finally, if you remember our Thailand budget breakdown, you know we have a bit of a 7-Eleven addiction. Japanese convenience stores, or conbini, are even better for 24/7 snacking! We spent € 97,08 at 7-Eleven, € 45,80 at FamilyMart, and € 4,46 at Lawson. Can you tell which conbini we preferred? 😉 We also bought some drinks from the many vending machines we found in Japan.

Total for 2 people: € 302,51

Total of our 3 weeks in Japan

Here is our budget breakdown for 3 weeks in Japan in May 2024:

Total per category for the two of us

✈️ Flights: € 316,47
🛏️ Accommodation: € 936,47 (€ 49,29 per night)
🚌 Transportation: € 1 122,51 (€ 56,13 per day)
🍣 Food: € 955,65 (€ 47,78 per day)
🍹 Drinks: € 62,71 (€ 3,14 per day)
🏯 Sightseeing: € 644,11 (€ 32,21 per day)
🛒 Other: € 302,51 (€ 15,13 per day)

💰 Total excluding flights: € 4 023,96 | € 201,20 per day for 2 | € 100,60 per day per person
💰 Total including flights: € 4 340,43

Excluding our flight costs, we spent an average of € 201,20 per day for both of us, or € 100,60 each. This didn’t surprise us since we knew Japan is more expensive than other Asian countries. We even planned for a daily budget of € 120 per person, which means we ended up almost € 800 under budget. Yay us!

Transportation was our most significant expense, mainly because of the Japan Rail Pass at almost € 1000. There are cheaper ways to travel around Japan, but we really wanted to experience the bullet train. On top of that, it’s the fastest way to get around, too, so it made sense for us. We also spent quite a bit on food, but we don’t regret it at all because Japanese cuisine is so delicious! Last but not least, we spent almost € 500 on theme parks, which is quite a lot for just two days of fun. Still worth it though! However, if theme parks aren’t your thing you already know that you can experience Japan for much less than we spent. 😉

For budget travelers in Japan, a daily budget of € 50 to € 70 per person is reasonable. This covers accommodation, transportation, food, and other expenses. The range is broad because your spending depends on how many destinations you visit. We found transportation to be quite expensive, so the more places you go, the more you’ll spend. This budget assumes you’ll be staying in hostels, eating at local spots, and maybe visiting one theme park, but not multiple parks (and definitely not buying express passes).

Our trip to Japan was hands down our favorite ever. Yes, it even topped our US road trip and our time in the Philippines! We explored both popular spots and hidden gems, enjoyed the best food, and met so many wonderful people. We loved how structured, peaceful, and organized Japan is. While places like India and Vietnam can be chaotic, Japan is calm and respectful. No loud noises, no yelling, no eating in public – just people respecting each other’s space. We’d never experienced anything like it before, and we’re hooked! Here’s a little secret: there’s a big chance we’ll return to Japan during our world trip (you heard it here first!).

Tips and tricks for saving money in Japan

We spent € 100 per person per day in Japan, which was less than we expected but still quite a bit. After three weeks there, we feel we have a good grasp on how to visit Japan on a budget. Here are some practical tips for exploring Japan without breaking the bank.

1. Accommodation

During our world trip, we had some rough experiences in hostels – dirty rooms, loud snorers, and issues like no hot water. So, we were quite wary when we mainly booked hostels in Japan. After spending three weeks there, we can confidently say there’s nothing to worry about! Accommodations in Japan are top-notch. While the spaces may be small, they are incredibly clean. Every place we stayed was spotless!

We slept in a variety of setups, from double beds in dorms to capsules and private rooms with bathrooms, and we had no complaints whatsoever. They’ve got everything you need: hair dryers, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, even ear swabs – you name it, they’ve got it! Knowing how great everything turned out, we would’ve opted for dorms more often instead of private rooms to save money. So, here’s our first tip for you: trust hostels for your Japan trip, and don’t buy extra amenities since all will be provided to you at no extra cost.

2. Transportation

Here’s our next tip: unless you’re frequently changing destinations every couple of days, the Japan Rail Pass might not be the most cost-effective option. Consider using regular trains or buses, even if they take longer, as they can save you more than half the price! Also, if you’re only planning on visiting major cities (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, …), get a Suica, ICOCA, or Pasmo card. You don’t get any discounts by doing this, but at least you don’t have to struggle at ticket vending machines every time!

3. Food

Another great way to save money on food in Japan is by not eating out for every meal. Convenience stores are perfect for grabbing a budget-friendly lunch or dinner. We suggest choosing a restaurant for one meal and relying on convenience stores for the other. We found so many tasty snacks at 7-Eleven and FamilyMart! From egg sandwiches and onigiri to pizza buns and fried chicken, there’s something for everyone. Everything is delicious and affordable, making it an ideal way to save money.

More helpful budget breakdowns

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