How I saved $1,249 dollars traveling in Japan

Highlights of Cape Verde
July 15, 2016
Mexico Travel Highlights
July 28, 2016

How I saved $1,249 dollars traveling in Japan

Japan has a reputation for being a very expensive country. But actually, it’s on par or slightly cheaper than Western Europe and North America. I’ve learned how to navigate the country on a modest budget. During a recent 16-day trip, I averaged spending $70 a day in Japan. On the same trip, I saved over $1,249. That sounds unbelievable. Here’s how I did it.


Expenses in Japan

If you break down my $70 a day budget, about $25 was spent on transportation, $25 on accommodation, $15 on meals, and about $5 on sightseeing. This is an average over 16 days (with 7 days of JR rail pass use). Shared dorm accommodation isn’t too costly and neither is eating. I usually had at least one nice meal out per day. But at $25 per day for transportation, how does that rank?


Expenses in Japan

Transportation in Japan

Transportation in Japan can be extremely expensive. A 1,027 km round-trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on the shinkansen (bullet train) will set you back $263. That’s way above my average. My average was calculated from the average daily cost of a JR rail pass plus other days when I didn’t travel much. A 7-Day JR pass costs $291 . Divided by 7 days and you get $42 per day – very reasonable considering you can ride the bullet train all day and you nearly pay for the pass with a round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto.


How I saved $1,249

I added all the legs of my 7-day trip up and subtracted the cost of my pass which gave me the savings. Granted, my trip was a little insane. On day 4, I was on the train for more than 13 hours! The trip took me all the way up to Hokkaido in the far north down to Kyushu in the south. I rode scenic trains, slow regional trains, new bullet trains, and the last remaining sleeper train in the country. The days before and after the validity of my pass, I mostly stayed put in Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo, and around Mt. Fuji. These days I spent very little on transport. Then when my pass was valid, I had a fast -paced trip to see as much as I could.


Expenses in Japan

My Japan Rail Pass Itinerary

(ticket cost if purchased individual tickets)


Day 1:  Kyoto to Hirosaki via Yamadera                                             (34,740 yen)
Day 2:  Hirosaki to Sapporo                                                                  (14,830 yen)
Day 3:  Sapporo to Sounkyo Onsen (via Kamikawa)                        (3,670 yen)
Day 4:  Kamikawa to Nagoya                                                                 (41,570)
Day 5:  Nagoya to Takayama via Kiso Valley                                      (5,330 yen)
Day 6:  Takayama to Hiroshima (via Himeji and Miyajimaguchi)    (10,890 yen)
Day 7:  Hiroshima to Atami (via Kagoshima)                                     (39,220 yen)


Total cost without rail pass = 161,560 yen


Subtract 30,601 (cost of pass)


130,959 yen ($1,249) = total savings


* $1 US = 104.8 Japanese yen


More Information about the Japan Rail Pass is an excellent source of information on Japan. They also sell Japan Rail passes and provide more details on using a rail pass to travel around the country. For more info go here.


Expenses in Japan

Spread the love
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan Rivard says:

    Great advice for travelling to Japan!
    Thanks Stephen!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *