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Prices in Japan: how expensive is Tokyo & Kyoto? Japan trip budget

posted by Liza 12th December 2018 1 Comment
How expensive is Japan? Budget for a trip to Japan

Hey guys, we just returned from Japan and I was genuinely impressed by the country. It exceeded my expectations and ended up being way more affordable than I thought. Just to clear all misconceptions, I wanted to write this post about the prices in Japan, so you don’t exclude Japan from your travel plans thinking that it’s way too unaffordable. So how expensive is Japan? Keep on reading to find out. 

If you’re coming to Japan for 7 days and you like to squeeze as much as possible in your trip, check out my 7-day express itinerary for Japan (caution: it includes A LOT of places and a lack of sleep for sure, but in my opinion, it’s worth it, if you don’t have a generous vacation allowance).
If you’re into photography and looking for some creative or photogenic spots in Tokyo, here’s a guide to the most Instagrammable places in Tokyo.

Let’s get started with the guide to the prices in Japan: how much money do you need to travel around Japan?

Prices in Japan: how expensive is Tokyo & Kyoto? Japan trip budget

Prices in Japan? How expensive is Tokyo and Kyoto? Cost of a trip to Japan

I’ll break this post down in a number of categories of different spendings e.g. accommodation, food, nightlife etc, so it’s easier to calculate how much you would need for a trip to Japan. I will also tell you how much did we spend in Japan, so you can see some pretty realistic numbers.

How much money do you need to bring to Japan? 

Transport costs in Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto

The exchange rate used for this post: $1 = 112 Yen

Depending on where you fly from, the tickets could be very cheap or very expensive, but you know very well how much they are from your city. If you don’t, check them on Skyscanner. I got a return ticket to Japan from London for £550 ($700) with Asiana airlines via Seoul and I was definitely happy with the price and the airline. The ticket was for November and I bought it 4 months in advance.

Make sure to bring a comfortable travel pillow (like this one or this one) because it’s a long flight and you have to sleep (you can sleep better with this magical remedy). 

Let’s talk about transportation costs in Japan. Most travellers buy Japan rail pass when coming to Japan for 7 days or longer and plan to travel a lot between the cities. The Japan rail pass is quite pricey – for 7 days it costs £196 ($250) or $412 for 2 weeks. There is also an option for 3 weeks and that’s even more expensive ($526).

How expensive is Japan

Unfortunately, Japan rail pass doesn’t cover all the transport means in Japan: there are plenty of private railways and bus companies, where you can’t use it, e.g. Meitetsu railway, anything in Hakone and more. Normally, a ticket for a local train for a semi-short ride of 30 min would cost you 400-1000 Yen ($3.5- $9). Metros, buses and subways in the cities (unless it’s from JR) are also not covered by the rail pass. One short journey in Tokyo metro would cost you around 170 Yen and a longer one would be around 280. The prices are similar in Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya. Airport trains are usually a bit more expensive, however, the Tokyo Narita express is from JR and it’s covered by the rail pass. 

We spent around 1700 Yen each for travelling all around Tokyo for 2 days using metro.

If you’re interested, what camera do I use to take photos, I have two: Sony A7 III with Samyang 35 mm prime lens (super flat and tiny) and Sony A6000.

What to pack for Japan? Something to spend money on?

Before going to Japan, I wanted to buy some Japanese-themed clothes. There were many options on Etsy or ASOS and they are quite affordable. 

Our 7-day express itinerary for Japan: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Osaka (Rdy)

Accommodation prices in Japan

Accommodation in Japan is the most expensive category of expenses, especially if you’re travelling on the weekends or during the high season. There are not many budget-friendly hotels in Japan and even the capsule hotels could be quite pricey. If you have any travel miles with different airlines or credit cards, you can use them in Japan. I paid for some of my hotels with the Expedia Rewards points (they are worth double in the VIP hotels, so I could stay in nice hotels and save at the same time). 

Hotel prices in Tokyo

A 5* hotel in Tokyo would cost you a fortune: $250-1000 per night.
Take a look at The Prince Park Tower Tokyo, Grand Prince Takawana or Conrad Tokyo.

A great 3-4* hotel in Tokyo is around $120-280 per night.
I recommend: Park Hotel Tokyo (where we stayed – especially the artist rooms), B: Conte Asakusa, Mitsui Garden Hotel.

A budget friendly hotel in Tokyo would be: $75-120. You might consider: ICI Hotel Akasaka, Tokyo Ekimae Bay Hotel.

Capsule / hostel for 1: below $40. Some options to look at: Space Hostel Tokyo, O3 Hostel. 

Alternatively, you can stay in a love hotel, where you pay by hour – staying only 8 hours would not be as expensive as a room in a 3-star hotel.

Instagrammable spots in Tokyo
Our room in Park Hotel Tokyo

Hotel prices in Kyoto:

Hotels in Kyoto are also very pricey as Kyoto is the most touristy city in Japan. It makes sense to book your hotel in Kyoto far in advance, as they tend to sell out. 

Luxury hotels in Kyoto ($280-$1100) – GIONSHIRAKAWA NO YADO, Maana Kyoto, Four Seasons Kyoto.

3-4* hotels in Kyoto ($150-$300) – 22 Pieces, Imu Hotel Kyoto, Grand Bach Kyoto (where we stayed – it was great).

Affordable hotels in Kyoto: ($50-$120) – Hotel Kuu Kyoto, Hotel Resol Kyoto.

Cheap accommodation in Kyoto (under $30 per person) – hostels: Kyoto Morris Hostel, Hostel Kyoto KIZUNA

Prices in Japan? How expensive is Tokyo and Kyoto? Cost of a trip to Japan

Food prices in Japan: how expensive are meals in Japan?

Food is probably the cheapest category in Japan. I allocated a way bigger budget for food in Japan and ended up spending less – that visiting a Michelin star restaurant with an 8-course Kaiseki meal that wasn’t initially included in the budget. There are certain things that are expensive in Japan food-wise, e.g. Michelin star restaurants, Kaiseki meals and wagyu beef.

How much is a Michelin star meal in Japan?

If you’re wondering how much is a Michelin star meal in Japan, it varies from restaurant to restaurant. The price also depends on the type of the meal, e.g. if it’s a lunch or a dinner. Michelin star dinners are usually way more expensive than lunches. On average, the Michelin star meal (could be a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars) of 8-10 courses without drinks would cost you around 20-30,000 Yen per person. However, we found a pretty affordable 1-star Michelin restaurant with a 11,000 Yen meal and 7,000 for the Sake pairing (mandatory). In total, we paid around £280, which was honestly fine, because the meal was worth it.

It’s quite complicated to book a Michelin-star restaurant in Japan. If you’re interested in our experience, tips on how to book a restaurant and the restaurants that accept online reservations, head to this post (sorry, it’s not published yet, but once it is, I’ll update the link).

Michelin star restaurant in Japan

How much are normal meals in Japan?

Normal meals aren’t expensive in Japan. If you go to a food floor in a shopping mall or a normal restaurant you see on a street, you would probably end up paying around 700-900 Yen for a dish. If you go for a sushi meal, it all depends on what you ask. For example, we went to a popular Kaiten sushi place (with a belt) in Osaka and ordered sashimi with sea urchin, best tuna, more tuna, really loads of tuna! We also had 2 drinks and a desert and paid around 5000 Yen for this meal, which was a very good price.

Another day, we went to Shabu-Shabu – Japanese hot pot with unlimited beef and food for 1.5 hours and we asked for Japanese chuck beef shabu-shabu. That was around 3300 Yen per person.

A ramen would probably cost you around 900-1300 Yen depending on the place.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can buy food from 7-Eveven, Lawson or Family Mart (120-140 for a pork bun, around 300-500 for a meal box that you can pre-heat in the microwave. Moreover, there’s a budget-friendly restaurant chain called Yoshinoya, where you can have a dish for same 400-500 Yen.

So well, as you see, food in Japan is not very expensive and everybody can find something for their budget.

Michelin star restaurant in Japan

Sightseeing prices in Japan: tours, landmarks and activities

Sightseeing in Japan is not very expensive. Usually, the tickets to temples, shrines and palaces cost around 500-1000 per person. Tours, however, are a different story. An average walking tour would cost around $50-60 and something like a tea ceremony – $30.

Some of the best tours to take in Tokyo & Kyoto:
Tokyo:  Robot show @ Robot restaurantAkihabara Go-Kart tourTokyo tour by a local
Kyoto: Full-day UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour of Kyotoa Night walk through Gion and The Traditional Tea Ceremony.

Most Instagrammable places in Tokyo, Japan - Tokyo photo locations

Other prices in Japan: shopping and cosmetics

Japan is a great shopping destination for cosmetics and electronics. As for me, I bought my lens there and I saved £120 compared to the UK prices (that’s almost a third of the price of the lens). Most of the big shops in Japan apply tax reduction right at the counter when you pay – all you need to show is your passport (always) and the return tickets (sometimes).

Some people buy cosmetics (creams, hair masks etc) in Japan because the quality is great and the prices aren’t that high. If you’re planning to buy clothes, e.g. designer clothes – the prices are either the same or more expensive vs Europe or the USA, so unless you saw something unique, it wouldn’t make sense to buy it specifically in Japan. Moreover, if you like Asian cosmetics, you can buy pretty much everything on Yes Style (check it out here).

How much did we spend in Japan? Our budget for a trip to Japan

If you visited Tripsget before, you probably know that we like comfort and we’re mid-range travellers. The only luxury hotel we booked was in Hakone and the only one expensive dinner we had, was the 1* Michelin restaurant Fushikino. Everything else was mid-range and some meals were more than budget. 

How expensive is Tokyo and Kyoto?

We bought our flights 4 months before the trip and paid around £500 ($700) person for a flight from London to Japan via Seoul. So that’s $1400 for flights. We spent $500 on 2 Japan rail passes for 1 week for two and paid around $1800 for hotels (7 nights) – hotels are quite expensive in Japan, but that’s something you could potentially save A LOT OF money on if you choose shared flats and hostels. We also got a lot of Expedia Rewards points for the hotels, so that’s a bit of money coming back (to invest in the future trips). Expedia points are worth double in VIP hotels, so we always utilize them to the maximum. Actually, we paid for some of the hotels of this trip with Expedia points, so we ended up paying just $900 out of $1800 for the hotels.

Most Instagrammable places in Tokyo, Japan - Tokyo photo locations

We had a budget of about $750 for food and it was more than enough for having a decent lunch and dinner every day. We had most of our breakfasts included in the hotel rates, so we didn’t have to spend money on that.

Other costs: we also had budget for getting around the cities, sightseeing and shopping, that was about $300-400.  So in total, we spent about $4350 on a weeklong trip to Japan for two people. If you include the Expedia Rewards points, that would be just $3450. Not bad at all, right?

So, what do you think? Is Japan expensive now when you know all the prices? I hope this guide to the prices in Japan was useful for you!

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1 Comment

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