Not an easy answer, because Japan is so many regions, so many different types of travel are possible. I will try to summarize the general expenses and the tips that can serve more or less for all the regions; and it will allow you to know how much a trip to Japan costs.
As I explain in my Tips for Planning a trip to Japan , one of the first things to do when you want to travel to Japan is to start reading about that country, and choose the region you want to cover. Based on this, you will be able to organize the rest. There is a lot to see and I do not recommend doing many cities or more than two regions if the trip lasts less than 15 days.
1. Requirements for a trip to Japan
In normal time (outside of this Covid situation), most countries are exempt from visa.
If you want to know in detail the countries except for visa, you can check the list in this link of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Globally all the countries of Europe and the USA are exempt from visas. Some Latin American countries, such as Uruguay, are also excepted. And these countries need a visa for all of them: Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Pakistan, South Africa, China, India. So if your country is not excepted for a visa, you should consider this additional expense.
The visa cost of an entry is 3000 Yen almost 30 USD.
2. How to travel to Japan? How much cost a flight ticket to Japan and when to travel?
The answer to that question will depend on where you are. Most likely you will not have a direct flight unless you are flying from a main city and on which side of the planet you are.
The 2 main international airports that you can reach are Tokyo and Osaka. I recommend this last airport if you want to visit the Kyoto region and its surroundings.
To find out the prices of flight tickets to Japan, use Google Flights which will allow you to know the best combinations of dates and airports, and calculate the price of your flight.
When is the best season to travel to Japan? To get the best prices
Basically, you could travel all year round if the budget is not a problem for you, in Japan, each season has its charm. A trip to Japan costs more or less depending on the date, prices are very variable, even from one day to another in the same month.
If you want to save, avoid the beginning of spring, which is the cherry blossom season and everything costs more. Pay attention to the national or local holidays, japanese travel a lot inside the country.
You should also see the dates of certain festivals in some areas, which will cause your accommodation to go up in price. If you want to enjoy these festivals and balance your budget, you should perhaps choose the less known ones, which will be just as good as the more famous ones. Or divide your stay between the days of the festival and the days before or after the event. We stayed at Kanazawa at the beginning of its festival, and we enjoyed some events, but we didn’t pay a lot because we didn’t stay all the week of the festival.
3. How to travel inside Japan? How to move from one region to another?
It is not difficult to move inside Japan, and I think the best way to do it is to use the train.
The best is to buy a Japan Rail Pass, and you can do it according to the region they want to visit. Because there are national and regional passes. These passes can be purchased for a duration of 7, 14 or 21 days, and depending on these variables the price will change.
Prices start at 280 USD for one person for 7 days, for a national pass. But the prices vary between the number of days and the different types of passes. I have used the regional ones and they come out very well.
The regionals are for: Kansai region, Hokkaido region, West region, East Shikoku region, and Central region. And the price starts at 22 USD for 1 person for 1 day.
If you want to calculate the value of your pass; I recommend this page: japan-rail-pass .
The regional passes do not allow the use of all transport as the national pass does. Check on the website that I recommended, the names of the trains and transports included in the pass. Don’t panic, it sounds more complicated than it actually is.
The page Hyperdia , will allow you to organize schedules and travel times even before you arrive in Japan. If you want to save, avoid green cars (higher class wagons), because the pass will be more expensive, 374 USD instead of 280 USD in the previous example.
Attention: you have to buy the pass before traveling to Japan. You can do it on Internet in your country, and receive it by mail.
4. How much does cost accommodation in Japan?
First of all, you have to know the difference between the types of accommodation available in Japan. These will be the same throughout the entire country.
Prices will vary essentially with 3 things: the city, the date (whether it is a local holiday or not), and the size of the room (space in Japan costs a lot).
Types of Accommodation in Japan
It is a typical Japanese accommodation, in traditional houses, with bedrooms with tatami floor and futons for sleeping (so sleep on the floor).
There are Ryokan of different levels, some very luxurious, others simpler, but in general they are quite expensive. Many of them include Kaiseki cuisine.
In any case, they are a complete and unique experience on a trip to Japan. If you have the budget go for it.
Apartments or Houses
It is an option that should not be neglected if you want to save money. There are very good offers, and the apartments are super well equipped.
In general, they are found through a specialized agency, or even via booking. Verify that you can communicate correctly with the owner. Not a lot of people speak enough English.
There are many hostels in Japan, I remember that the first time I was looking for accommodation, I constantly came across these. Be careful, they are listed as hotels on many travel sites.
You will share the room with other people, and they have common bathrooms.
There are different levels of hostels, some are almost luxury hostels (with bathroom shared).
Something that characterizes Japan, and in which many people stay just for the experience.
They are practically just beds in a capsule (hence the name), which are usually rented by travel workers. The bathrooms are shared.
Claustrophobic be aware!
They are quite good and pragmatic hotels, but without great decorative gadgets, or great touristic efforts.
Their name comes from the fact that they are used by businessmen when they are traveling.
Their prices are usually quite interesting; and you can find real jewels.
Hotels in general
An advantage of Japan is that you can find very good hotels at medium prices, many times the stars do not give all the answers.
I have known hotels worthy of 5 stars with only 3.
The good thing about Japan is the cleanliness, but always check something that is a bit particular, check that your room has a window, yes! incredible, but sometimes they are very cheap just because they do not have one.
Now what matters most, let’s go to prices.
Cheap accommodation – from € 20
Hostels will be located here, some capsule hotels as well.
You don’t have to expect much from these accommodations, but you will most likely have a clean place to sleep, hey look! it’s Japan, and almost everything is very clean, although sometimes there are negative exceptions. But if you do not mind much sharing a bathroom, or not having great comforts apart from a bed, and a place to prepare food, this type of accommodation is made for you.
An example of capsule hotel: The Millenials Kyoto
An example of a hostel: Grids Hotel-Hostel
As you can see, there are beautiful things in these cheap accommodation alternatives to organize a trip to Japan with a reduced budget, by searching well you will be able to find what best suits your trip.
Budget Accomadation – From 35€
Some business hotels will be located here. During a trip to Japan, choosing this type of hotel can be a way to save on accommodation and reduce a big part of costs.
Hotel rooms will not cost the same if it is for one or more people; even if you stay in the same room type.
Among the Business Hotels, look for those of the APA Chain. You can find real gems. Here are some examples:
APA Ekihigashi in Kyoto
Medium accommodation – from € 70
Here the choice begins to get complicated. There are many; but many accommodations.
You have to search through the photos and opinions of Tripadvisor and Booking to find the best option. I recommend to contrast photos on Tripadvisor and booking, for getting the real feedback.
Don’t forget to check 3 things that influence the price: if it has windows, the number of square meters and that is for the number of people traveling (not just for one person).
I give you an example that will clarify what I say, the hotel Solaria Nishitetsu. en Kyoto. The basic rooms have windows, you could say yes, but they face a green wall and you don’t see natural light.
In a hotel where we stayed in Kanazawa, the basic rooms were very good but a bit small, fortunately, the hotel had good common areas and made up for it.
High level accommodation – from 120€
Here begins the good and very good, 3-star superior or 4-star hotels. There are magnificent things that can easily pass for a luxury hotel in any other country.
In general the service is impeccable and very high, the services of the rooms as well.
Attention, as in all the world, the more you are in the heart of a tourist area, the higher the prices. But there is so much offer that you will surely find what suits your pocket.
Hotel Vischio Osaka is a new hotel and super well located if you arrive to Osakam and then you want to visit other cities because it is very close to the train station. An area full of shops and restaurants.
Hotel Kanazawa Sainoniwa : a 3-star hotel worth much more than that. My absolute favorite in Kanazawa. Impeccable service and a breakfast included that makes you discover so many things.
Luxury accommodation – from 250€
Luxury accommodation in Japan are big words, you will have an irreproachable service and benefits.
Obviously, in this heading, I include the big international chains (IHG, Hilton, Marriott ..), which are a good option for a trip to Japan, due to a language issue. Overall in hotels, English is quite approximate, but in these chains, most of the staff speak English perfectly.
I have one of my favorites in Osaka, and it’s the Intercontinental Osaka near the station. Super comfortable to arrive when you enter the Osaka airport, and then move by train to other cities.
This section will also include Ryokan which are generally quite expensive, as much as 5 stars. Be very careful when choosing one, take a good look at the comments, the high price is not a guarantee of an excellent experience. Very good Ryokan have to be booked well in advance.
If your budget allows it, I recommend one that also serves exceptional Kaiseki cuisine; Shiraume. It is in an idyllic part of Kyoto. The prices are high but it is an experience; One night with exceptional dinner and breakfast costs 34,000 yen per person (about € 280 depending on the exchange rate).
5. How much does it cost to eat on a trip to Japan?
During a trip to Japan, food will be a central point, it is part of the discovery and a way to know the culture. You will be surprised to know that eating in Japan can be quite cheap. There is something for all tastes and pockets, but if you have a limited budget, don’t worry, you can enjoy and discover without going out of your limits.
There is a type of food in Japan that is quite expensive and in which you will definitely not be able to save money, it is Kaiseki cuisine. But it is worth all its weight in gold, it is a type of dinner that expresses all the Japanese culture and that is commonly prepared in Ryokan. The experience (I consider it an experience, more than a meal) includes several dishes with small portions, which are served following traditional rites. If you want to invest in a single expensive meal, invest in this one. Prices for a dinner of this type start at € 80 per person.
Take the opportunity to eat the exquisite Japanese Wagyu meat; There are several restaurants that allow you to taste the best cuts. But if you search well you can find those that offer dinners from € 35 per person; like the Yakiniku Hiro chain in Kyoto. Yakiniku means grilled meat. In fact, in this restaurant, each table has a small built-in grill; in which you will cook the cuts you request yourself.
Explore the fast food fairs on the last levels and in the underground levels (identified with B in the directories) of the large shopping centers. There are infinities of places to eat and at cheaper prices, starting at € 10 per person. You really will find all kinds of food in these places; and there are very good things, others less interesting; but the variety is great and you will find excellent food. You will also see the famous food modeled in plastic.
Eating in specialized places. In Japan, it is very common to find very small restaurants that are specialized in just one type of dish. This will be a guarantee of eating well and often at a good price. We ate at one specialized in Ramén, which did not disappoint and we spent only € 10 per person. There are for only Yakitori; Sushi and Sashimi, or Tempura. Anyway, a lot to choose from.
Opt for supermarkets. They have a lot of prepared food and you can try so many great quality things at very low prices, including sashimi. Prices start at € 2 or € 3 per plate. One tip is that supermarkets lower the prices of many dishes prepared fresh about an hour before closing. There are many people who recommend the Seven Eleven, I am not a fan, and many other supermarkets have better things.