If you’ve ever thought about heading to the Land of the Rising Sun, you’ve probably looked up how much does it cost to go to Japan? You’ll quickly learn that it’s not as expensive as you may have heard, but what happens if you don’t have time to visit the entire country? How much does it go to Tokyo?
In my experience, Tokyo is not an expensive city at all to visit. If you exclude airfare, Tokyo is cheaper than other major cities including London, Amsterdam and New York City. Best of all, Tokyo has so much to see and do that you won’t be bored regardless of how much time you have there. Keep reading to find out what the cost of a Tokyo trip will look like.
Tokyo trip cost
Local transportation $130
Food & drink $280
Random spending $150
Total $2,110 USD
The above estimates are in US dollars. Use XE.com to see the exchange of your home currency. Since these are just estimates, there are actually a few ways to save which I’ll detail below.
For the purpose of this how much does it cost to go to Tokyo guide, I’m recommending 6 nights and 7 days. Many people do 4-5 days in Tokyo as a stopover, but I’m adding the additional days since there are so many things to do in the city. Doing Tokyo on a budget is easy, so the above estimate is just to give you an idea of average costs.
I’ve estimated $800 for airfare to Tokyo, but that will obviously vary depending on where you’re flying from. As mentioned, most people who visit Tokyo for just a few days are stopping there for part of a bigger trip, so the high cost of airfare may not matter that much. That said, I personally think visiting Tokyo for a week is totally worth it even if you’re flying from North America. The city is so much fun.
It’s important to note that Tokyo has two major airports: Haneda and Narita. If given the choice, fly to Haneda as it’s within Tokyo. Narita is further out, but there’s still direct train access which will take about 60-75 minutes to get to the city. Generally speaking, airlines flying from outside of Japan only land at one of the airports, but it’s still worth checking both.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gives you a signup bonus of 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $600 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
Here’s why I love Tokyo and Japan in general. There are so many cheap hotels in Tokyo. You should have no real problem finding a hotel for about $125 a day ($750 for six nights). There are cheaper and more expensive options, but my estimate is for something average.
The trick to cheap accommodations in Tokyo is to look for Japanese chains and to not stay in the most popular parts of the city. Although I love Marriott Hotels, the APA chain is way cheaper. Shinjuku and Shibuya have the most action, but you could stay two or three metro stops away and the price of your hotels would drop considerably.
There are also many different types of accommodations in Tokyo available such as capsule hotels, hostels, apartments, Airbnb and more. If you’re looking for some hotel recommendations in Tokyo, these are some of my favourites.
Low to mid-range hotels
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and $200 back at U.S. restaurants as a welcome bonus (must apply by May 15, 2021).
Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 65,000 Marriott Bonvoy when using a referral link. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $700.
If you’ve done any research on Japan, you’ve probably heard of the JR Pass which is available to tourists only. It gives you unlimited access to JR trains including the shinkansen (bullet trains) for 7, 14 or 21 days. It can pay for itself, but only if your one week in Japan includes a trip to Kyoto and back. In other words, if you’re staying just in Tokyo and doing a day trip to say Kamakura or Hakone, you won’t need a JR Pass.
All you really need to get around is an IC (Pas Cardsmo or Suica). These cards are used to tap on and off whenever you enter a train station. They can be purchased and reloaded at just about every station including the airport. They can also be used to pay for items at many convenience stores.
The good thing about IC cards is that they can be used on any train line, buses and the monorail. Every time you change lines that are owned by a different company, you pay again. So if you take the JR Yamanote line and then you switch to the subway, you pay twice. There is no discount compared to paying with “cash,” the IC card is just more convenient.
Your IC card will also work in many parts of Japan, but sometimes it’s cheaper (and/or mandatory) to buy a local ticket/pass. For example, if you plan on going to Hakone, the Hakone Free Pass would be better for local transit.
The cost of a ride depends on distance Generally speaking, it’s about ¥250 – 350 a ride, but you’ll want to budget about $10 a day for the metro. If you’re flying in and out of Narita, you also need to factor in about $30 each way for the Tokyo Skyliner express train. For those planning a day trip Kamakura, or Hakone, budget another $25. A round trip ticket to Nikko is roughly $35.
For reference, a roundtrip ticket to Kyoto is about $245. I don’t recommend going unless you’re trying your hardest to cram as much of Japan as possible in one week.
There are a lot of things to do in Tokyo. Many of them are free, but you’ll probably want to budget about $100 as this will cover 2-3 attractions. Some of the most popular things to do in Tokyo that have a cost include:
- Tokyo Disneyland
- Tokyo Skytree
- Go Karting in Akihabara (formerly known as Mario Kart)
- Robot Restaurant
- Hakone day trip
- Studio Ghibli Museum
- Kamakura day trip
- Sumo match
- Animal cafes
For those planning to go to Disneyland Tokyo, you’ll need to budget more as a 1-day ticket costs ¥8,200 or ¥14,800 for 2-days. There are two Tokyo Disneyland theme parks so spending two days is not unreasonable. Here’s a more detailed Tokyo Disneyland costs guide.
A trip to Hakone is a top pick for many people, but you need to pay for transportation to get there and then get a local transit pass. I’d only go there if you really want to see Mt. Fuji. It might make more sense for you to take a trip to Kamakura where there are quite a few traditional temples and shrines.
I personally love the Robot Restaurant. I’ve listed it as an attraction because it’s a show, not a restaurant. They serve a few snacks, but I wouldn’t recommend eating there. It is indeed touristy, but I love it nonetheless. Definitely go to an animal cafe.
Remember, there are a lot of free attractions. The Tokyo metropolitan government building has an observation deck. Wandering around Harajuku and Omotesando Hills to people watch can be quite fun. Exploring Yanaka Ginza and Yanaka cemetery is an interesting look at old Tokyo. Sensō-ji Temple should not be missed and the nearby Culture Tourist Information Center is also interesting. Toyosu Market is also good for those who are fighting jet lag and want to see something for free early in the morning.
Here’s the thing about Tokyo, if you see something you want to do, just do it. It’s a city like no other in the world so many of the things you come across might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Your Tokyo trip cost will vary depending on what attractions you do, but it’ll probably be worth the cost.
Food & drink
For whatever reason, a lot of people think food in Japan is expensive, but I don’t think that’s the case. I find the prices to be quite reasonable and Japan is a no tipping culture, so you could easily spend less on eating out than at home. That said, here’s how much you should budget for meals.
- Breakfast – $7
- Lunch – $12
- Dinner – $21
That’s a total of $40 a day you should expect to spend on food. That estimate may seem high because it is. You can easily spend just $5-10 a meal on ramen, bento boxes, beef on rice and fast food, but why go all the way to Tokyo and not enjoy the food? It would be a mistake to not have authentic Japanese food such as sushi, okonomiyaki, yakitori, taiyaki and tempura.
If you want to save money on food, get a pastry for breakfast and some noodles for lunch. Don’t cheap out on dinner. Food really isn’t that expensive so $40 a day will likely cover your three meals, snacks and even drinks. If you really want to get a feel for Japanese cuisine, I recommend taking a food tour.
There are a lot of things to buy in Japan. Depending on the type of person you are or the types of things you like to collect, you can spend a little or a lot. The first time I went to Japan, I spent about $300 on shopping, but on my recent trip, I only spent $50.
If you plan on renting a pocket Wi-Fi which will give you data on multiple devices, budget another $45ish. It may be cheaper to rent a portable WiFi as opposed to paying for a data plan from your cellular provider.
The typical things you’d buy include toys, anime, clothes and souvenirs. Some of you reading may say to yourself that you won’t shop much, but once you get to Japan, you can’t help but spend money. Japan is a very unique culture so quite often you’ll see things you can’t get at home so don’t hesitate to buy it.
You’ll also come across shops everywhere you go. There are mini-malls on top of most metro stations and you can’t walk more than five minutes without finding something interesting. Even if you go to the supermarket, you’ll see plenty of things that will make great souvenirs. Budget $150 for random spending, but be prepared to spend more.
So how much does it cost to go to Tokyo? If you budget $2,110, you should be able to have a great week in Japan. Mind you, my estimate is a bit conservative so you could still enjoy the city while spending less. For more inspiration, check out my guides on Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Southeast Asia and Dubai.