How to travel Japan on a budget
Japan is an incredible country to explore - from its fascinating culture and history, dramatic, mountainous landscape to its high tech cities and peaceful temples. But you don’t need to be a millionaire to travel here. In this guide, we share advice for travelling to Japan on a budget.
How much should I budget for a trip to Japan?
As always with travel, your budget is led by how long you stay and the level of luxury you choose. It’s also worth exploring the cheapest time to fly to Japan. But with hotels in Tokyo available from around £28 per night (as of December 2023, according to Skyscanner), you could potentially budget as little as £50-£75 a day.
A more comfortable budget, allowing for a few more luxuries, would be around £100+ a day (as of December 2023, according to Skyscanner). Typically it’s more affordable to travel as a couple sharing a room than as a single traveller.
To get a good idea of how much you will need to explore Japan on a budget, consider the places you want to go and the experiences you can’t miss. Then, start pricing accommodation and travel from there. Ordering your Yen online before you travel can help you manage your budget and save time.
Saving on travel
A large chunk of the costs in visiting another country are always in getting there and getting around. Deciding when and how to fly to Japan is the starting point, followed by deciding how to get around once you land.
Cheapest time to fly to Japan
Unless you’re already travelling in Asia, flying is the only option to reach the islands of Japan. There are a number of hub airports to explore for the best prices: Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and Nagoya. If you’re happy to take a non-direct flight you can usually find options from £550 to £700 (as of December 2023, according to Skyscanner) the UK to one of these destinations.
July and August tend to be the most expensive months for flights, while January to March can be the cheapest time to fly to Japan (as of December 2023, according to Skyscanner).
Getting around once you’re there
Japan is famous for its extremely efficient high speed trains, but these do come at higher costs. There are also inter-city bus services which are cheaper, yet slower.
Explore the Japan Rail pass - a cheaper option for getting around than walk-up fares. If you are travelling as a family or group, car hire may also be a cost effective option.
Travelling around Tokyo and other cities is easy and affordable with the bus and metro system. An unlimited day ticket on the Tokyo Metro is around 600 yen, 900 yen for unlimited rides for all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines and 1,600 for access to all nine Tokyo Metro lines, all four Toei Subway lines, the Tokyo Sakura Trams and all the Toei Buses (as of December 2023, according to Tokyometro).
Hiring a bike is a great way to explore smaller towns and villages in Japan on a budget.
Getting cheap accommodation
There are many options for accommodation in Japan to suit a budget traveller - and some, such as a capsule hotel, are all part of the experience. The three main options to explore are hotels, hostels and Airbnb.
As always, the best source of cheap hotels is online. Capsule hotels are huge in Japan and very cost effective, where you stay in a small pod just big enough for a bed.
There are many standard hotels, too, plus the Ryokan - a traditional Japanese guesthouse. With tatami mats and futons, these offer an authentic cultural experience. While these are more expensive, dinner and breakfast is usually part of the package.
You can find hostels all over Japan at low costs. These tend to offer dormitory beds and are often segregated into male and female rooms. Bathrooms are usually shared.
Airbnb can be a good option for budget travellers in a couple or group. Finding apartments with a kitchen can be a way to save money on meals, and is a fun way to ‘live like a local’ in Japan.
Find the best food for the lowest price
There are lots of great options for low budget food in Japan. Explore conveyor belt sushi bars - much cheaper than in the UK - and Ramen bars for good food at low prices.
An Izakaya is the Japanese equivalent of a pub, where you can buy drinks and snacks usually quite cheaply. And on a tight budget day, explore the many types of pot noodle and instant noodles from convenience stores.
Free and low-cost leisure
The best advice for travel to Japan is to seek out the free and low cost options as things to do. Just a few examples include:
Visit city parks
Japanese parks and gardens are always flawless and beautiful.
Japanese temples and Shinto Shrines are usually free to visit.
Walk in the Imperial Palace Gardens
There is no fee to explore the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
A short boat ride on this Tokyo canal is free.
See Mount Fuji and the Tokyo skyline
The Tokyo Metropolitan government building is free to enter and offers amazing views.
Visit Japanese hot springs
No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to an Onsen. A dip in a hot spring bath can cost around 200 yen (as of December 2023, according to Japanguide). Some are free as part of a stay in a Ryokan.
Explore more things to do here: Travelling to Japan | Travel Guides | Travelex UK
Track your expenses
The secret to successfully travelling on a budget is to keep careful track of your spending. Be aware of your daily budget and whether you are over or under each day.
By knowing how much money you have left, you can make decisions about whether to treat yourself or tighten your belt to make sure you can get the best out of your trip. For more details, see our guide to travelling on a budget.
Will I miss out on exciting things travelling Japan on a budget?
Visiting Japan is an immersive experience and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have an unforgettable trip.
Wandering around Tokyo and other cities, exploring temples, eating local delicacies and just people-watching is just as enriching on a budget. The best advice for travelling to Japan is… just go!
Looking for more tips on budget travelling?
The more you save on your trip, the sooner you can start planning your next adventure. There are lots of ways you can maximise your travel money without missing out on unique experiences. For more advice see our guide to maximising your travel money.
Travel safer with our Travelex Money Card
Experience added peace of mind with the Travelex Money Card - an optimal alternative to carrying your debit card. Unlike your debit card, our Travelex Money Card is not linked to your bank account, minimising your risk of losing all your funds in case of loss or theft. Load your card with Japanese yen and withdraw cash from ATMs or make secure, contactless payments directly at the point of sale.
While Travelex does not impose charges to ATM withdrawals, it's important to note that fees from other ATM providers may apply. Find out more on our fees here.Order your card