We’d dreamed of visiting Japan for what seemed like forever, but never thought it would be possible on our frugal backpacker budget. However, when we were in China we decided to set aside a backpacking Japan budget. We just couldn’t resist the temptation of being so close to such a fascinating country and not popping in.
To our surprise we found plenty of ways to keep our backpacking Japan cost down and ended up travelling the country for nearly 6 weeks on a budget of just over £50 GBP/$65 USD per day. And that was for both of us folks. That’s right, TWO people.
Everything we spent while backpacking Japan we noted down, so if you are searching for how much to budget for a Japan backpacking trip, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dig in.
Backpacking Japan Budget
Length of Trip: 6 weeks
Destinations: Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Osaka, Tokyo
Travel Period: June – July
Accommodation: Airbnb’s and hostels
Transportation: Overnight buses
Food: Budget ramen restaurants, fast food chains, homecooking
Total Spend: £2143 GBP / $2719 USD*
Average Spend Per Day Per Couple: £52 GBP / $66 USD
Average Spend Per Day Per Individual: £26 GBP / $33 USD
*amount is per couple
*Includes all transport, accommodation, food, drinks, entrance fees etc
*Excludes international flights
Backpacking Japan Cost Breakdown
Save Money Backpacking in Japan
Japan Budget Accommodation
There’s no getting away from the fact that accommodation will be your biggest travel expense whilst you are backpacking in Japan. The best things that you can do to keep costs down when backpacking through Japan is to shop around widely and book well in advance.
Space is at a premium in Japanese cities so when you find a good price get it booked, don’t overspend on your backpacking Japan budget simply because you’re disorganised.
Outside of backpacking Tokyo we found exclusively that the cheapest form of accommodation for us travelling as a couple was to rent apartments via Airbnb. Although relatively modest we found some really nice open plan apartments in great locations.
The apartments we rented while backpacking Japan on a budget also often included money saving extras like a washing machine, bicycles and a pocket wifi. By a pocket wifi we mean a portable device which you could take out with you and use as a hotspot.
Ooh, and many included a bath! Quite tiny baths, but still, if you’ve been backpacking for any length of time you’ll understand my excitement.
While backpacking around Japan, we paid £24 GBP / $30 USD per night in Fukuoka, £17 GBP / $22 USD per night in Hiroshima and a super saving £13 GBP / $17 USD per night in Osaka.
We found that with Airbnb, staying longer in places while backing in Japan meant that we were often entitled to very significant discounts. We got 50% off in Osaka for staying 7 nights. I mean £6.50 GBP / $8 USD per person per night? That was a serious win for our Japan backpacking budget.
Of course, if you’re not travelling as couple the savings might not be quite so big, but you can always try looking for single rooms in shared houses instead.
Tokyo budget accommodation is a whole different ball game and we ended up staying in the strangest place. Most hostels average around £30 GBP / $38 USD per person per night for a bed in a dorm room. So we hit the jackpot for our backpacking Japan budget when we found one for £14 GBP / $18 USD per person per night.
There was a catch though. The ‘hostel’ was a camping shop by day which hired its showroom tents out overnight as a kind of try before you buy thing. It was right in the centre of the popular area of Asakusa and was actually a really fun experience – just not the most comfortable. But if you’re looking to travel to Japan on a budget, here’s the details.
There are lots of other accommodation options in Tokyo from cubicle hotels to manga cafes so be flexible when you’re searching for a place to stay as you backpack Japan.
Couchsurfing in Japan is also available, which will definitely help your Japan travel budget. We were keen to give this a go, because as well as being free, we could get to know the country through someone who lived there.
But alas, we didn’t start looking early enough and because of the high demand for budget accomodation in Japan we couldn’t find anyone to take us in. Learn from our mistake.
Backpack Japan Food Costs
By far our favourite budget meal in Japan was Ramen. My mouth is watering just writing the word. This national dish is seriously delicious and when you can have your fill for as little as £2 GBP / $2.50 USD per meal you are onto a winner.
We ate Ramen everyday while we were backpacking in Japan. True story.
Another great option for saving money in Japan is eating at fast food chains. But by this I don’t mean McDonalds and KFC. Throughout the country there are budget restaurants serving gorgeous, healthy and cheap meals.
Hotto Motto, Yoshinoya and Matsuya were our favourites and meals ranged between a budget friendly £1 – £5 GBP / $1.20 – $6.50 USD per meal. The budget conveyor belt sushi places are awesome too, slightly more expensive but for £15 GBP / $19 USD total we would both be stuffed.
Bakeries are also really cheap in Japan, you can pick up a fresh pastry for breakfast or lunch, or a cheese stuffed bread for around 50p GBP / 50c USD a pop.
In order to reduced our backpacking Japan cost further we also bought food from 7 Elevens and local supermarkets and cooked ourselves. Another Japan on a budget benefit of staying in Airbnbs. Plus if you go later in the day, after around 7pm, many often have a discounted fresh food section.
Japan Transportation Costs
Most people that have travelled in Japan will tell you that you HAVE to get a JR Pass. These 7/14/21 day passes entitle you to unlimited travel across virtually every train connection in Japan, which sounds amazing right?
It is, until you get to the price. At £409 (2018/19 prices) for the maximum 21 day pass, however convenient, this method of transport was way out of our Japan backpacking budget.
So we searched around for other options and that’s when we came across the Willer Express buses. The company offers 3, 5 or 7 non-consecutive journeys to be taken within 2 months and has a great network across most of the country.
At £69 GBP / $88 USD for 3 days, £87 GBP / $110 USD for 5 days and £104 GBP / $132 USD for 7 days (2018/19 prices), travelling by bus is a great option if you are looking to travel Japan on a budget.
Plus the Willer Express buses are really spacious and comfortable so we nearly always opted to travel overnight to save on accommodation costs. Another backpacking Japan budget tip!
Because time spent physically travelling wasn’t so much of a concern for us, catching overnight buses in Japan was perfect for us and our pockets. But if you are limited on time and want to nip around to quite a few places the JR Pass might still be your best option.
Another tip for reducing your Japan backpacking budget and keep transport costs down, is to use your feet and walk.
Get your trainers on and walk everywhere. Aside from the metro in Tokyo, we didn’t take any public transport during the rest of our time budget backpacking in Japan. This vastly kept our costs down in this category.
Japan Entertainment on a Budget
We really didn’t spend a lot at all on entertainment whilst travelling in Japan, mainly because most things are free. We were amazed at the amount of things that we didn’t have to pay for in Japan. It takes a bit of research and planning but we found free walking tours, free incredible observation decks and even a free earthquake training course at a disaster prevention centre.
There are lots of gorgeous outdoor green spaces in Japan and the majority of shrines are free to enter and wander around. One of our favourite experiences was in Fukuoka where we went to see our first Japanese Baseball game. It was awesome! And at £21 GBP / £27 USD per ticket not too badly priced either.
Alcohol is Expensive in Japan
Alcoholic drinks are steep and it’s the easiest way to blow a hole in your backpacking Japan budget. So if you like a bevvie, your best option to keep costs down while backpacking through Japan is to limit the beers.
When we first arrived in Japan we were caught out by thinking beers were cheap, only to be stung by a hefty table service charge. Another of our mistakes to learn from.
If you are staying in an Airbnb apartment and fancy a tipple you can pick up a bottle of wine for around £4-6 GBP / $5-7.50 USD. We did this a few times over a home cooked dinner after a day of exploring. Another option which we enjoyed is to find a free outside viewpoint and pick up a couple of cans from a 7 Eleven.
Miscellaneous Japan Travel Costs
The miscellaneous costs we’ve included in our backpacking Japan budget is for luggage storage. Because we were staying in Airbnb’s and backpacking around Japan on overnight buses, we used lockers in bus stations rather than haul our backpacks around with us. These were pretty cheap at around £5 GBP / $6.50 USD for 12 hours.
Japan Budget Travel Itinerary
When planning a trip to a new country, it can be all too tempting to try and pack in as many places and experiences as possible. And while this may be affordable in many countries in asia, Japan isn’t one of them.
When planning to visit Japan on a budget, our advice for keeping your backpacking Japan cost to a minimum is to limit the amount of destinations you will visit. This can mean some tough decisions but ultimately by staying in places for longer we felt like we got to experience places on a deeper level.
We opted for 2 weeks in Fukuoka, extending it by a week once we arrived because we loved it so much. Then 2 weeks in Hiroshima with a side trip to Miyajima island, a week in Osaka and a week in Tokyo. If we’d have had more time/budget we’d have loved to get to Kyoto, some more of the islands and climb Mount Fuji. Next time Japan!
Cheapest Time To Backpack in Japan
As most budget backpackers will tell you, in order to save money on travel costs, it’s best to visit places out of season. Peak times in Japan are considered Cherry blossom (late March to early April) and autumn foliage times (early to mid November).
With the exception of around New Years Eve, from the end of November to early March are good times to reduce your backpacking Japan cost. We went to Japan during June and July and as we’ve hopefully shown you managed to do so on a pretty tight Japan backpacking budget. But it was rainy season.
For backpacking through Japan on a budget you should also avoid the Japanese holidays of Golden Week which is the end of April – early May and Obon which is in mid August.
Japan Backpacking Safety Tips
Japan is often referred to a one of the safest countries in the world and from our experience of backpacking Japan we can confirm it’s true. Plus the people are some of the warmest and friendliest we have meet on our travels.
The only real safety concern when backpacking Japan is that each year, the country experiences around 1500 earthquakes. There is however advanced measures in place to protect people from such natural disasters so there is no need to overly worried.
Buildings in Japan are built to withstand earthquake tremors so follow what the locals do and take shelter under a doorway or piece of furniture.
What you should have in place for travel for a trip to any country is good quality backpacker travel insurance. And this is absolutely not something that you should scrimp on when it comes to your backpacking Japan cost.
More Tips For Japan on a Budget
Essential Apps for Backpacking Japan
There are number of useful travel apps we recommend. But specifically for tracking your Japan backpacking budget and expenses you should download Trail Wallet. To help with communication you should get this offline Japanese Translator App. And so you have access to early earthquake warnings, Yurekuru Call.
Internet Access When Backpacking In Japan
If your phone is unlocked and you want to get a SIM card the easiest place to grab one is at the airport. But many airbnbs have pocket wifi included that you can take out and about to use as a hotspot so double check that first when you are looking at internet options in Japan.
Visa Requirements For Travelling Japan
Japan has visa exemption arrangements with 68 countries, with many tourists including UK and US residents getting 90 days on entry. You can check other nationality visa regulations and more specifics here.
So guys if you thought you couldn’t afford to travel in Japan, forget that mindset. Stick with the tips in this guide on how much to budget for a Japan backpacking trip and get yourself out there.
If you have any questions or want any further advice for backpacking in Japan, get in touch in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help!
This post was originally published in February 2017 but has since been completely revamped to provide you with the most up to date and accurate information.
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Yorkshire born & bred, Sarah is a professional blogger who loves to travel. Pushing her boundaries with new adventures is her jam, so you likely won’t find her in one place for too long. Also a serious Marmite addict.
Pinned! I love these tips for backpacking Japan on a budget. I worked in Japan for a month but only stayed in Tokyo so have so much more to discover. Can’t wait to go back and see more – plus use these tips! I didn’t know a bus was an option – so smart!
Yeah the bus is a great shout. They are really comfortable & spotlessly clean too. Definitely get down south when you go – we loved Hiroshima & Fukuoka. Completely different vibe down there. Thanks for reading Riana, hope you get back to Japan soon!
I cant believe you did 2 people for 6 weeks for £50 GBP/$65 USD per day in Japan! That is awesome! I definitely want to go to Japan but I always hear how expensive it is. SO this is a great guide to Traveling across Japan on a budget.
I love Hostels in general cause I just need a bed, a bathroom, and a secure place for my stuff. So what do I care if its a cheap hostel. Love the camp store Hostel…that had to be weird but fun!
SO my only problem when traveling is FOOD! I can skip on booze unless it is known for something like scotch in Scotland, Ouzo in Greece, or Wine in France. But for the most part I can skip that cost though Saki in Japan has to be a splurge. But for food, I don’t mind street food Ramen cause it looks amazing but I would definitely need Sushi in Japan! So I may have to cut back on something…may have to walk more.
Love that you went to a Japanese Baseball Game! I would have never even thought of it…for me, I would want to see Sumo Wrestling or even Japanese Luchador Style Wresting cause I have heard its crazy there. But it makes sense that Japanese Baseball would be fun too!
The camp store hostel was so weird, but I’d definitely recommend it if like you say, you just need a bed, bathroom and secure place for your stuff. They had lockers so you could secure everything away during the day.
We didn’t try Saki so I can’t give you costs for that. But yeah, to be honest the best ramen we had was at the cheaper places. And the conveyor belt sushi places are great – the food is still fresh. You order it on a screen and it just gets delivered to you on the conveyor belt instead of by a waiter.
I’ve never heard of Japanese Luchador Style Wresting! Let us know about it if you catch some while you’re there. If not the baseball is definitely a good shout – they are crazy for it in Hiroshima!
I have to admit, I looked at your brakedown on costs for a six week trip in japan. Is that total for two people or one person. it is kinda still scary but then again, it looks cheap still. I cant make up my mind on this. However, I still want to go to Japan and costs aint going to stop me. Would love to check out a game of baseball as well 😀
Nope 100% that was what we spent per day as a couple over 6 weeks. The only thing it doesn’t include is our flights in & out of the country. The baseball was so much fun – definitely have that on your itinerary when you go.
What a great guide to Japan on a budget! You always hear about the trains but I have never considered the bus before, but they look good value. I think I’ve only had ramen once but it was so tasty and cheap too. We really want to go to Japan so this has given us loads of ideas
The bus is such a good option. Especially when you’re going for a longer period of time like this. You will LOVE the ramen in Japan. I still dream about it, ha ha! Thanks for commenting Melissa 🙂
I always thought traveling in Japan must be quite expensive. It is amazing that you were able to travel for 6 weeks on a tight budget. I would stay in AirBnBs to save money. I have rarely found hostels that passed my criteria test; although I have found a few. It’s incredible that you only spent $66 USD/day. Great tips!
Hi Wendy. Glad you enjoyed reading the blog & hopefully it gave you some useful tips for Japan!
This really gives me a new appreciation for traveling through Japan. I had always written it off thinking it was way too expensive and I now know different. Six weeks, what an amazing time in the beautiful country. That’s good to know so much entertainment that is free. What a great resource. I can now plan a Japan trip in the near future.
That’s the thing right – it feels like that’s all you read sometimes, about how expense it is. Of course it can be, but that’s the same as most countries we’ve visited. Glad you found it a useful resource 🙂
What a detailed breakdown of your expenses. It always helps to have a basic idea of the cost of things when you begin to plan a trip otherwise you might get caught short.
Good to know about the apps you found useful as well. Thanks for a really informative post.
Yeah it can be hard to find specific costs for things especially in Japan. And I don’t like for people to think it’s inaccessible of cost. Thanks for reading – that trail wallet app is the best.
Haha, love that a tiny bath got you excited! 😂 Totally know what you mean though. So absolutely amazing that you saved so much money on a 6-week trip! And that it was a safe trip and looks like you guys had a fantastic time 😄💃🏼 Thanks for all the tips!
Ha ha! Highlight of the trip. You’re very welcome. Thanks for reading Lisa 🙂
6 weeks in japan, what a dream! I don’t usually even look at Airbnb for accommodation but these prices are great. So much great information, bookmarking!
Yeah we never thought airbnb would turn out to be cheapest there, but it was by miles. Glad you found the post useful. Thanks for reading!
Wow traveling in Japan in such low budgets is like hitting a jackpot! You have given very useful and helpful tips. 6 weeks! That is really great!
Glad you found them helpful Indrani – let us know if you need anymore help in planning your trip 🙂
I haven’t been to Japan yet, but I can imagine how expensive the country can be. It is amazing you could manage to go for a budget backpacking in Japan. How lucky you were you got 50% off for staying 7 nights!! that is a great way to save money, and yes, booking in advance always helps to get better and cheaper accommodation
Yeah it can get pretty expensive if you’re not careful, but it’s also definitely possible to make it work without a tonne of cash in your pocket.
Thanks for the detailed information. I will be there for around 3 weeks in august and was looking to find a rough budget for 1 person.
i would probably stay in hostels mainly due to being on my own and its a good way to meet other people. I was looking at the JR pass but it is very expensive like you say. I would consider night buses but wasnt sure on comfort as ive been recovering from a herniated disc in my lower back so could sit in a normal chair all night long.
great info though and has helped me somewhat as i was budgeting £1000 for 3 weeks but that includes hopefully doing Mt Fuji
Hey Matt, so glad you found this useful. One thing to bear in mind (which I’m sure you’ve already taken into consideration) is that our budget is for two people which we find makes it slightly cheaper than when travelling solo, but it should still give you a good idea of general prices and a rough idea of how much to budget.
Hostels are definitely a good way to keep the costs down and you’ll meet plenty of like minded people, that’s one thing we missed actually when we stayed in Airbnb’s. We found the buses really comfortable but if you think you may have issues then a JR Pass might be worth the money to save your back!
Hope you enjoy your trip, sounds like you’ve got an awesome few weeks planned.
JR pass doesnt seem to cover a lot of the places i plan to do so taking buses are an option, especially if a lot are only short distances, 2-4 hours is fine with me, just need research some bus timetables and prices.
Looking at day trip to Nikko, then Hakone, Kawaguchi (Fuji), Matsumoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa, Takayama, Kyoto, Hiroshoma and Fukuoka before i take the ferry to Busan
Hey Matt, if you’re only doing short distances like that you should be fine then, the buses are definitely comfortable enough. That is a bit of an issue with the JR Pass actually, the train system doesn’t go everywhere although it is pretty comprehensive and covers more than just trains. Willer Express who we used covers virtually the whole country so you’ll probably have more luck there.
That sounds like an awesome itinerary you’ve got lined up there, hope you have the best time.
In all the decades I’ve spent travelling in Japan, I’ve never backpacked.
But I know it’s becoming increasingly popular and can be a great way to keep costs down.
I have to say guys, this is an excellent introduction to Backpacking in Japan. So I’m gonna share it on my social media.
Hope it isn’t too long before you can return!
Hi Rob, thanks for taking the time to comment. I really hope we can get back to Japan one day soon to explore more too.