Japan has a reputation as an expensive country, but savvy travelers know it can be quite affordable with the right approach. Compared to other developed nations, prices in Japan can be relatively low, especially with the currently weak yen.
By choosing budget-friendly options for accommodations, dining, transportation and sightseeing, you can experience Japan’s incredible culture and natural beauty on almost any budget.
|City||Hotel Star||Expected Price Range (USD)|
|Kyoto||3-star||$62 – $120|
|Kyoto||4-star||$89 – $175|
|Kyoto||5-star||$573 – $1,766|
|Tokyo||3-star||$49 – $88|
|Tokyo||4-star||$87 – $133|
|Tokyo||5-star||$240 – $1,083|
Japan offers a wide variety of lodging to fit different budgets. In addition to luxurious ryokans and hotels, you’ll find reasonably priced business hotels, hostels, capsule hotels and guesthouses across the country. Even in expensive cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, good deals exist – you just need to look a bit harder. Booking early usually results in the best rates.
Big Mac Index
A quick indicator of cheaper meal prices in Japan is the Big Mac Index.
The Big Mac Index is a tongue-in-cheek economic index that was created by The Economist magazine in 1986.
It is based on the theory of purchasing power parity (PPP), which states that exchange rates should adjust so that a basket of goods and services costs the same in all countries. In the case of the Big Mac Index, the basket of goods and services is a single Big Mac hamburger.
A Big Mac meal in Japan costs ~750 yen, which is about $5 USD. In most places in the United States, this meal is close to $10, which makes the Japanese Big Mac a great deal.
Cheap, Delicious Food
While Japan has hundreds of Michelin-starred restaurants, you can eat incredibly well on a budget too. Convenience stores offer tasty premade meals for a few dollars. At ramen shops, large steaming bowls of noodles start around $6-8.
For an authentic and inexpensive kaiseki (multi-course) dining experience, try a traditional ryokan meal showcasing seasonal ingredients.
Japan’s extensive rail system connects nearly everywhere you’ll want to visit. Regional rail passes offer unlimited travel for a fixed period. Within cities, subway and bus fares are quite reasonable compared to taxis. Suica and Pasmo rechargeable IC cards make transit even more convenient and save money too.
Free and Discounted Attractions
Thousands of temples and shrines can be visited free of charge across Japan. While admission fees exist for some castles, gardens and museums, many offer free entry a few days per month. Take advantage of discounted combination tickets when visiting multiple sites too.
Cheap Things to Do
Japan isn’t just historical sites – it offers plenty of modern and uniquely Japanese fun too! Wandering the neon cityscape of Tokyo’s Akihabara district is free, along with people watching in the fashion and youth culture hubs of Harajuku and Shibuya. Relaxing in hot spring baths starts around $5. Hiking and viewing Mt. Fuji can be extremely affordable as well.
Budget Travel Tips for Japan
Here are some additional ways to save money on your trip:
- Book flights and rooms far in advance for low rates
- Visit during shoulder seasons like spring and fall
- Eat locally and avoid expensive tourist restaurants
- Use public transportation instead of taxis/rideshares
- Take advantage of free temple and shrine entry
- Pack light to avoid luggage fees
With some planning, budgeting and cultural immersion, Japan can be an extremely affordable place to visit. You’ll come home with unique experiences and fascinating stories, without draining your bank account. So don’t let the cost deter you – visit Japan soon and discover its many charms for yourself!