Alright! So I’ve counted the tallies and made the spreadsheet for the spending of my entire month in Japan.
Here’s the break down with some advice on your options when traveling, tips for saving money, and my personal experience.
Accommodation is probably going to be where you spend the most money. Japan is not cheap, and it’s difficult to find cheap housing. Even hostels are typically higher in price then in other countries. Personally, I chose a lower to middle end accommodation budget. I spent 23 nights in hostels, 1 night in a ryokan, and 4 nights in hotels. I would stay in hostels a majority of the time, then once a week I would spend a little extra and get a private, comfortable hotel room. Usually I did this when I wanted a day to relax, edit photos, write blog posts and take a break from constant travel. That way I felt that I was getting the full worth of paying extra for a hotel. In total I spent: 129,469 yen which is roughly $1073 USD. If I had skipped the hotels I probably could have saved another $150 – $200.
Tips: For accommodation there are two phone apps that are my go-to: Hostelworld.com and Agoda.com. I used them to book throughout my trip as I was traveling, really easy and convenient. Hostelworld focuses on mostly hostels and the occasional hotel, Agoda focuses on hotels but also shows hostels as well. Also I’ve heard great things about Airbnb and Couch Surfing, which could potentially save you even more money, although I have never tried it myself.
Part of having the experience I highly recommend trying a Ryokan for at least one night. Most are over-priced in my opinion, but I found one that was a Ryokan with a dorm option that had an excellent price and was amazing. Located in Nagoya, Kyoya Ryokan was absolutely lovely and only cost 33,000 yen (about $30). This was also where I tried the traditional Japanese breakfast, which was delicious!
Total for Accommodation: 129,469 yen (which is roughly $1073 USD)
Food and Drinks
This will probably be the second most expensive part of your trip. Food is something you can spend very little on, or a lot on, depending on what you want to try while here in Japan. Street food is delicious and pretty cheap in most places so this is where you can get a taste of Japan but not break your budget.
Personally I chose to eat mostly street food, bento boxes, or cheap local restaurants while every once in a while I’d spoil myself to a nice dinner. So, like the hotels, I kept a very low to mid-range budget. If you’re not into trying new foods and can stick to udon or ramen you can save a lot more money than I did, but if you want to try new things and enjoy some really awesome sushi be prepared to dish out more cash. I do highly recommend you try a real traditional Japanese Breakfast at least once, it’s very unique and something that you won’t find elsewhere.
Lastly, for you drinkers this budget will be A LOT bigger. I only occasionally had a beer or glass of wine with a nice dinner and so it didn’t affect my budget all that much.
Total for Food and Drinks: 67,621 yen (about $560 USD)
Transportation can be really expensive, but for me I was able to save a lot.
If I could walk to a location within a reasonable time, I did. I only took a 45L backpack so I could walk anywhere with my stuff. This will save you tons of money. If it was too far to walk to only then would I take the metro system, trolleys, or trains. These are the cheapest mode of transportation besides walking or renting a bike. As a last resort I would use a taxi. In my entire one month trip I only used a taxi four times. Three of the trips were when I had no other option because I needed to access a remote area about 20 minutes away.
The other way I saved money was through two passes. The first was the JR Rail Pass. If
you want to cover a lot of ground and not break the budget, then the Rail Pass is for you. Not only does it cover all the JR local trains but it also covers the slow to mid-range Shinkasen trains which can quickly and comfortably connect you to all the major cities faster than any other option other than flying. The passes range from 5 days to 21 days and you can buy more than one if need be. If you buy your pass online you can save a lot more money than I did, but since I needed to purchase mine last minute (and in South Korea) I bought a 21 day pass from a travel agency and it cost me $500. Without this pass I would have spent $1002.29 on JR Trains. So I saved $500 by using the pass. Not only did it save me money, but it saved me time as well. You can skip the lines of people booking tickets and just go right through the gate onto the train. Easy. There is also another pass called the Sheishun pass. It can only be used on the slower trains, and at certain times of the year, but it can also save you a ton of money if you plan your trip right.
The second pass I recommend is the Kansai Thru Pass. This pass is for all trains except JR trains within the Kansai area, it covers Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, and a few others. Now do your research ahead of time with this one, because it will only save you money if you have two or three VERY busy days. It lets you use all of local trains and also gives you discounts on attractions and souvenirs at certain places. It comes with an awesome guide book as well that has different route options and descriptions of everything covered with the pass. It is pricey though and I only saved $10 using a 3-day pass so it may not be right for you.
My final total spent on transportation: $726
$550 USD on two passes which saved a total of $510,
and 21,210 yen (about $176) on mostly four taxi rides and a couple of metro lines that weren’t covered by the passes.
Japan has so much to see! Your sightseeing budget could be way less, or way more, depending on what your personal “must sees” are. For me, I mostly checked out temples, castles, zoos, art museums, and aquariums. There are tons of free things to do that could keep you entertained and save you money. Most temples, shrines, and national parks are free and will give you a wonderful taste of Japan on a budget.
There are passes for each city that could potentially save you money, but since I was bouncing from place to place and not staying in one city for 2-3 days most of them weren’t worth it to me.
In total I spent: 40,120 yen on tourist entrance fees (about $333 USD)
Souvenirs and Gifts
Souvenirs and Gifts
Again souvenirs are something you can spend a lot on, or very little. Since I only carried one backpack with me, all of my souvenirs were very small and simple. I collected mostly souvenir coins and smashed penny coins, I also bought a vintage coin from the 1800s and a bunch of small statues and collectibles for my cat collection and as gifts for friends and family. Japan has an adorable abundance of cute cat related items and I purchased quite a few for my collection. All in all, I kept things really cheap, I didn’t purchase any of the nicer, more expensive souvenirs because I didn’t have the room in my backpack and I’m trying to live with less stuff more memories. Other than cats, but hey they are my weakness. 😉
Total Spent: 11,007 yen (about $91)
Extras included in my budget
So the following are smaller things I included in my total budget spent:
Lockers: Lockers are wonderfully convenient and placed at all major train stations and metro stations, and most bus stations. They’re relatively cheap and save you from lugging all your stuff around with you when you’re in between hotels. Whenever I wanted to save time, I’d store mine in a main hub on the train line that I knew I’d have to go back through to on my way to my next destination.
Total spent on lockers: 2,500 yen (about $20 USD)
Since I only brought a backpack with seven days worth of clothes I had to do laundry. It was easy and relatively cheap and so much better for me then lugging around extra luggage.
Total Spent on Laundry: 700 yen (about $6 bucks)
I didn’t need to rent bikes more than once because I prefer walking and most of the hostels I stayed in offered bikes for free. For some people bikes might be their favorite way to get around so you may need to factor that into your budget.
Total spent on bike rentals: 310 yen (about $2.50)
Extras NOT included in my budget:
Clothes: I went a little crazy on Harijuku St. I didn’t include this in my total budget because it was completely separate spending and most people wouldn’t go crazy shopping for clothes unless they’re into fashion.
Presents: While I included any presents that were souvenirs I am not including when I went to the Anime and Gaming section of Tokyo and found some awesome presents for my geeky self and friends and family. This is again, extra things that I bought while in Japan and most people wouldn’t need to factor that into their budget unless they are into the many things found in this section of town
Cables and accessories: I had one phone cable break, and I forgot a charging cable for my go pro. While I was at BIC camera I found an amazing new tripod and bought that too. I also picked up a new phone case and a new sim card for my phone. All of these were extras I didn’t include because most travelers may not need them
Art Supplies: The artist in me was screaming for joy at some of the huge art stores and I spent over $100 on new sketchbooks and brush pens that I have never seen before or know are hard to get elsewhere. I didn’t include this because like the other things it’s a specialty thing that most people wouldn’t go for.
So the final verdict: $2,865 for 28 days.
273,127 yen (About $2,315) for everything spent in Japan.
$550 USD for passes in advance.