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.