For my second trip to Japan, I decided to stay for a full month! I spent 3 weeks with my partner covering Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, and Hiroshima. When he left for Sydney, I continued on solo, just in Tokyo, and Couchsurfed (free accommo, yay!)
Japan has a reputation for being one of the most expensive countries to travel in Asia. For me, Japan lived up to its reputation but I’m quite confident that I can travel Japan on a tighter budget. As I was with my partner for most of this trip and we travel a little faster when together, I spent a lot more during the 3 weeks than I would’ve otherwise.
So, here is the damage… and some tips to save money.
Apart from the usual expenses for accommodation, food, and transport, I also had to buy a new phone outright on this trip (my Samsung phone died on me!). I decided on an iPhone 6 and there went A$885… Without including the cost of my phone, I spent a total A$4666 for 4 weeks or A$145 per day. This amount includes flights, transport, accommodation, food and shopping (which I didn’t do much of).
FLIGHTS + TRANSPORT
- Busan to Osaka – Jeju Air – incl. 15kg luggage – A$88 one way – I flew to Japan from Busan as I was living in South Korea at the time.
- Tokyo to Athens – Etihad Airways – 1 stopover – A$472 one way – after Japan, I did Europe!
- Tokyo to Sapporo – Jetstar – direct – A$164 incl. return.
- Sydney to Tokyo – All Nippon Airways (ANA) – direct – A$975 incl. return. This was my partner’s flight costs and included here just FYI. We made the mistake of booking too early as a month before he was due to fly, his flight dropped to about $770!
- Japan intercity travel – National Japan Rail Pass (14 days) – A$596.19 (as @ 6 September 2017, $517) – please note that this pass cannot be used for travel on the super express Nozomi and Mizuho trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines… so if you’re travelling from Tokyo to Osaka, for example, you won’t be able to catch the fastest train.
See Flights for tips on finding good deals.
- Tokyo, Roppongi – Inno Family Managed Hostel Roppongi – 16-bed female dorm room – A$39/night.
- Tokyo, Shibuya – Airbnb Shibuya (Tomoya) – 6 min walk to Shibuya station – A$39.50/night.
- Tokyo, Shibuya – Airbnb Shibuya (Lukasz) – 8 min walk from Shibuya station – A$52/night.
- Tokyo – Couchsurfing – $0
- Sapporo – Best Western Hotel Fino Sapporo (Now, HOTEL MYSTAYS Sapporo Station) – Double Room – 2 min walk from Sapporo station – A$76/night.
- Kyoto – Piece Hostel – Double Room with Shared Bathroom – 5 min walk from JR Kyoto station – A$41.76/night.
The rates above are per person per night. I spent a total A$793 on accommodation or an average A$25.58 per night.
Kyoto, Piece Hostel Kyoto
- Consider visiting just one or two cities and leaving it at that. I’d recommend Tokyo and Kyoto. You’ll save a lot by not having to purchase the JR Pass or multiple single tickets and will still get to experience the best of Japan.
- Riding a bike around Kyoto, as opposed to taking public transport or taxis, can save you some money. While it may not save you much, it’s a more enjoyable way to explore Kyoto or any city for that matter – obviously only if you know how to ride (if you don’t, learn!). Some hostels like the one we stayed at in Kyoto, Piece Hostel, have bikes that you can rent for cheap.
- SIM CARD: Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from BIC Camera. I bought the BIC Sim powered by IIJmio. It was easy to use and had clear instructions in English. They offer 1GB for 30 days or 2GB for 3 months. I can’t remember how much it costs but it must not have been too expensive… I’d remember otherwise!
- Accommo is expensive in Japan so go for capsules, hostels or try Couchsurfing (free)! Japan has super clean and modern hostels, such as the one I stayed at in Kyoto – so if you’ve never stayed in a hostel before and want to give it a go, there’s no better place to start than in Japan.
- The Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) is really expensive. I’d recommend planning your trip ahead so you can calculate whether you should purchase a JR Pass. On my first trip to Japan, I didn’t have a JR Pass as it worked out cheaper for me to purchase single tickets. Use HyperDia to help you plan your route and get information on the railway timetable and trip fare. Check out japan-guide.com for more information on the Shinkansen and for a very handy map with the Shinkansen route.
- When taking the Shinkansen, have your passport with you and try to avoid peak hours (7:30 – 9:30 am and 5:00 – 8:00 pm).
- If you have a JR Pass, which isn’t valid on Nozomi trains, it’d be wise to check the last train that’s available to you. If you miss your last train, you’ll have to pay a single ticket for a Nozomi train which operates later than other trains. This may now mean that your JR Pass is actually not saving you any money! To get to Tokyo from Osaka, it can cost you over A$150 on top of your already costly JR Pass. My experience… I landed in Osaka at 6.20 pm, collected my luggage, proceeded to the JR Travel Service Centre to validate my ‘exchange order’ (required to get your JR Pass) which took over an hour, and left to catch the train… only to find that the last train I could catch with my JR Pass had just gone and the Nozomi was the only one operating for the rest of the night.
- Make it easier to travel buses and trains in Japan by purchasing a PASMO card, which can also be used to purchase stuff from vending machines!
You definitely can get cheap food here.
- Convenience stores in Japan such as 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart are awesome for snacks but also entire meals! Unlike the ones in Sydney, they offer a variety of delicious foods and are super cheap. Most are open 24/7.
- Plenty of small Japanese restaurants around the station have really good food for under A$10.
- Genki Sushi (sushi train) is another great option – I’m pretty sure I ate at Genki more than 10 times on this trip, with most visits costing me approx. A$7.
Hope this post helps with your budgeting!
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. By using these links I may receive a small commission but it will be at no cost to you! I only recommend products and services that I believe are of good value. All my posts are independent. Thanks for your support!