Japan is one of the most amazing, beautiful and friendly countries in the world. From bustling Tokyo and zen-like Kyoto to laid-back Okinawa and wintry Hokkaido, Japan is a high-tech world mixed with the politeness and respect of their past. It was a lifelong dream to go there and when I finally did it lived up to all my expectations. Selecting and arranging this wonderful trip took a long time because it was difficult to gather all the information together. That is why I have put together this complete Japan Travel Guide for you. On this page everything about traveling in Japan. The different ways to transport or move, travel tips, sights, budget examples and much more!
Also read: Japan tour | A bit weird but nice
Table of contents
Japan has great food, amazing temples, zen gardens, beautiful national parks and a rich historical culture. It is a unique place and although it is a relatively expensive country to visit, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this country while still keeping it affordable. Looking back, Japan on a budget is a lot easier than I thought beforehand. It is possible to travel through Japan on a budget!
Backpacking or traveling through Japan is not as expensive or difficult as you think. Everyone here is super friendly and helpful and if you are smart with your money and activities, you can also visit Japan on a budget. Let this Japan travel guide help you plan an affordable trip to the country so you can see more, eat more and spend less – whether you're traveling around the country or just on a short break and want to save money !
Top 5 things to do in Japan
1. Explore Tokyo
Tokyo is a city that never misses in any travel guide about Japan. Tokyo is one of the most strange and unique places in the world. A gigantic city full of shrines, palaces, temples, cherries, hip clubs, bars, people and fashion stores – Tokyo is a futuristic city. Take your time to explore this city, you need at least three days and preferably even 5 to 7 days!
2. Climb Mount Fuji
This 3776 meter high mountain is located near Tokyo and makes for a worthy climb. During the day it is often covered with fog and clouds, so trekkings start early in the morning or even at night. The lack of sleep is worth the overwhelming sunrise. Please note that the climbing season is short, from early July to mid-September.
3. A day trip to Kyoto
Kyoto, the city of beautiful temples and Japanese gardens, is one of the top destinations in Japan. It retains much of the traditional Japanese lifestyle and is a good addition to the fast-paced and high-tech Tokyo. By far my favorite place in the country, check out as many temples as possible and don't skip the epic bamboo forest!
4. Visit Hiroshima and the Bomb Monument
A Japan Travel Guide tip: Visit it bomb monument and learn about one of the most controversial events in human history: the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It's a tragic past, but seeing the city flourish gives you hope for the future.
5. Explore Sapporo and Surroundings
This city is the gateway to the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan and is known for its surrounding mountains, thermal baths and ski resorts. Hugely popular in the winter for its winter games, be sure to check out our nearby Otaru for uni, squid and famous seafood!
More must-sees in Japan
1. Pamper yourself in Maika
For the ladies, the Gion District also offers apprentice geisha treatments. You can have full makeup done and a formal kimono on. Post photos make a great keepsake – and you can even have stickers made. This is probably the most fun way to learn about the ancient geisha tradition. Click here for location on Google Maps.
2. Visit the Heian Shrine
De Heian Shrine is a popular tourist attraction, so get there early if at all possible. The garden is filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees, also known as sakura. It is a beautiful place to take some pictures. The shrine is free, but the garden nearby costs 600 JPY (5 euros) to enter. If you want to see the trees in bloom, be there in mid-April.
3. Hike around Nikko
A little off the beaten track and therefore extra fun – there are great temples and shrines in the woods, and the woods themselves make for excellent walking and meditation. Nikko is worth a day or two of your time!
4. Visit the Tsukiji / Toyosu Fish Market
Tokyo Fish Market. this market starts early at 4am and you can watch the frenzied buying and selling of the world's largest tuna market. Eat freshly caught sushi for breakfast and marvel at the crazy atmosphere. There is nothing like this in the world, so this is a must-see on your visit to Japan! In 2018, the inner fish market moved to Toyosu and is now known as the Toyosu Fish Market, but the outer market (where you can find food and shops) is still there.
5. Spend a day in the Gion District
Also known as the Geisha District† You can just spend a day here. The area is filled with fascinating architecture and if you're lucky you might spot a geisha (a traditional professional entertainer). It is wonderful to just walk around here.
6. Explore Osaka
Go explore Osaka. Walk around, taste the culture and enjoy everything you see around you. Use the travel guide video below from Expedia to inspire you!
this ride (a giant Ferris wheel called Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel) takes 17 minutes, is located in Osaka and offers great views of Osaka Bay and the surrounding area. Between 1997 and 1999 it was the world's tallest Ferris wheel. It also happens to be next to one of the largest aquariums in the world, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
7. Relax in Ueno Park
Ueno Park is a great place to spend the day and free. Bring your camera as it's a perfect spot to capture the many cherry blossom trees, and include lunch to save some extra cash.
8. Stop at the Kokyo . Imperial Palace
Visit it Imperial Palace Kokyo, home to the Emperor of Japan and a perfect opportunity to learn about Japan's history and culture. Although you can't go inside, the surrounding grounds with accompanying park are beautiful and you can see the changing of the guard.
9. Visit Miyajima eiland Island
Make sure you this “sanctuary island” visit for all its natural beauty. It can easily be made a day trip with the many hiking trails nearby. A one-way ticket (including the ferry) to get there costs about JPY 180 (2 euros). Make sure you climb Mount Misen – it's a great workout and the views are breathtaking!
10. Visit Bitchu Matsuyama's Castle
The entrance fee for this old castle is 300 JPY (3 euros) and it is well worth it. See for yourself the only original surviving castle in Japan. It is also the highest castle in the country, located 430 meters above sea level.
11. Go on a pilgrimage
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage is an ancient pilgrimage route that island of Shikoku circles. The route is more than 1.200 kilometers and can take between 30 and 60 days. Of course you can just visit some temples and not walk the whole path!
12. Learn to meditate
There are plenty of temples and monasteries in Japan that host daily meditations, some of which even provide accommodation and allow tourists to experience monastic life. It is truly an eye-opening experience. Are you stressed or do you just want to relax? Give it a try!
13. Stay in a ryokan
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast, usually found in the more scenic regions of the country. With their tatami floors and cozy interiors, ryokans provide an intimate and uniquely Japanese experience. Meals are usually included, as are the traditional Japanese bathrobes and slippers you'll wear during your stay.
14. Book the Beppu “Jigoku Meguri” Hells Tour
Also known as jigoku – it is a collection of natural geothermal hot springs in Beppu. Each pool is a quasi-amusement park, with a unique theme. The purchase of a coupon gives access to almost all pools. You can't go in the water, but this is a great one great place to walk around and take pictures.
15. Enjoy an onsen
Natural hot springs are widespread across the country and can be found both indoors and outdoors. Each has different mineral compositions and is a great way to enjoy some traditional Japanese culture.
16. Explore Daisetsuzan National Park
If you come all the way to Hokkaido, be sure to spend some time exploring Daisetsuzan National Park† The park offers numerous hiking trails and some of the most rugged and beautiful scenery in the entire country. It is well off the beaten track, so you will enjoy a rare peace and quiet.
17. Relax in Okinawa
If you want to get away from the fast paced life of Japan, go to Okinawa† Considered the “Hawaii of Japan”, life here moves at a much slower pace. The climate is subtropical and there are plenty of nearby islands to explore. Great to relax after a hectic week of traveling.
18. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
If you are looking for a great walk in Kyoto then dit a hill that offers a bit of a challenge and an interesting attraction at the top. Besides the panoramic view of Kyoto, this is a great place to see wild monkeys and take fun souvenir photos. Adult admission is 550 JPY (5 euros).
Cost of tour Japan
Most hostels charge between 2.500-4.000 JPY (20-35 euros) per night for a dorm. Capsule hotels cost between 3.000-5.500 JPY (25-50 euros) for a tiny room (that's really a pod, a tiny space you can sleep in). If you're looking for privacy, expect to pay about 8.500 JPY (75 euros) for a double room in a budget hotel. The price of accommodation in the major cities is significantly higher than traveling off the beaten track (Okinawa is half the price of Tokyo, for example).
A private apartment/house usually costs 8.800 JPY (75 euros) or more. If you're looking for a more unique experience, consider staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast. Although they will be more expensive than a standard hotel, it will be a unique and unforgettable experience because you will sleep on tatami mats and have a traditional breakfast.
There are many inexpensive places to eat out in Japan, from the ramen noodle shops to miso and soba noodles. These food options range from 250-1.250 JPY (2-11 euros). Buying groceries will cost you 3.700-5.000 JPY (35-45 euros) per week. Most meals in restaurants cost about 2.000 JPY (20 euros). Mid-range restaurants can cost around JPY 4.350 (EUR 40). Sushi trains cost between 125-620 JPY (1-6 euros) each. Fast food costs about 800 JPY (7 euros).
You can also find plenty of cheap meals and prepackaged items at 7-Eleven (which the locals actually eat!). Noodles, rice balls, tofu, and prepackaged sushi are all available for just a few hundred yen. If you're on a budget, 7-Eleven is your favorite restaurant.
Transport in Japan is incredibly expensive. Trains are the most convenient, but also the most expensive way to travel. A train ticket from Osaka to Tokyo costs about 20.000 JPY (165 euros)! Most metro tickets for the city cost 125-250 JPY (1-2 euros) one way. In most major cities you can buy a day pass that gives you unlimited travel for 24 hours for about 600-800 JPY (5-7 euros) on certain trains and buses. Tickets for the intercity bus cost about 2.500 JPY (20 euros).
Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass if you will be running a lot of trains. JR passes come as 1, 2, or 3 week passes and give you unlimited travel on JR lines. If you are planning a tour, this is the best way to save some money.
If you are adventurous, you can also hitchhike. Although there are hardly any Japanese hitchhikers, many are happy to pick up foreigners. It's a chance for them to practice their English and get to know a new culture, so don't be afraid to give them a thumbs up!
A nice extra tip for this Japan Travel Guide: Most temples and museums are free to enter, although some popular attractions cost about 1.250 JPY (10 euros). The temples in Kyoto can cost up to 620 JPY (5 euros). Many of the city's parks are free, so take advantage whenever possible and spend the day there. You can also buy city or temple passes that are valid for one day.
Determine daily budget for Japan
Low budget | 75 euros per day
Japan can be an expensive place to visit. When traveling through Japan, you should calculate a minimum budget of 8.000-9.000 JPY (65-75 euros) per day. This is a suggested budget, assuming you mostly stay in a dorm (or through couchsurfing), cook some of your meals, eat cheap street food, or shop donburi stores. You visit free museums and temples and use local transport. Keep in mind that if you take the high-speed train, your budget is probably closer to 75-85 euros per day.
Average budget | 100 euros per day
On a more mid-range budget of JPY 12.000 per day, you can stay in nicer accommodations and private rooms, dine out more generously, enjoy more drinks, visit more attractions and, in general, just have a little more breathing room during your stay. to travel.
High budget | 200 euros per day
For 22.568 JPY (200 euros) per day you can stay in traditional Japanese lodging or hotels, eat in a very nice restaurant every day, spend in some really luxurious places, enjoy drinks as often as you want, take tours, fly and generally you can afford whatever you want when you visit japan! If you are staying in international hotels I would add another 50-100 euros per day to your budget.
Budget tips for Japan
While the above prices may seem like a lot, there are many ways to cut your costs and save money in Japan. You can save a lot on virtually every category. If you can't find cheap accommodation, eat the delicious cheap food that the workers of Japan eat. If you've bought a rail pass, make up for it by staying in cheaper accommodation or eating cheaply. Do what works for you! However, our Japan travel guide is not complete without these handy saving tips, so be sure to read them through and apply them where possible.
- Visit attractions for free – With countless museums, shrines, temples, historic districts and parks, Japan is filled with opportunities to get immersed in its culture. Many of the country's parks and museums are free.
- Buy a JR Rail Pass – Japan's high-speed trains are ridiculously expensive, with one-way fares costing hundreds of dollars. If you plan on traveling around the country a lot, buy the JR Rail Pass with which you can travel unlimited by train and with which you can save a lot of money. It comes in 7, 14 and 21 day tickets. Keep in mind that it can only be bought outside the country, so make sure you plan ahead and buy from the JR Pass before you go!
- take the bus – Buses are a much cheaper option than trains. They cost a fraction of the price, but last much longer. For example, the two-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka becomes a 10-hour bus ride. You can get an unlimited Japan Rail Pass for 29.100 JPY (255 euros) for 7 consecutive days of travel, but this is much more expensive than using the bus. In short, if you have the time, take the bus.
- Shopping in the 100 Yen (1 euro) stores – There are many 100 Yen stores in Japan with set meals, groceries, water bottles, toiletries and household items. Store names vary by region, so ask at your hotel/hostel reception for the closest one.
- Eat at 7-Eleven – 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and other convenience stores have many preset meals (including sandwiches, soups, fruits, and more traditional Japanese options) for JPY 125-370 (1-3 euros) that make for an inexpensive lunch option. In addition, supermarkets also have many set meals at comparable prices.
- cook your food – Hostels have kitchens where you can cook. If you combine this with shopping in the 100 Yen stores, your food costs in Japan will be drastically reduced.
- Eat curry, ramen and donburi – I essentially lived off these three foods during my three weeks in Japan. Curry bowls were as cheap as 370 JPY (3 Euros) per plate. Donburi, bowls of meat and rice, are about 500-620 JPY (5-6 euros). Ramen is never more than 870 JPY (8 euros). Here are the best ways to eat cheap, filling meals while in Japan.
- Work for your room – In hostels in Japan you can often work for your room. You will be cleaning for a few hours in the morning and you will get free accommodation as long as they let you stay. This is a great way to save money if you want to stay in the same area for a while.
- Couchsurfing – By using hospitality sites like Couchsurfing that allow you to stay with the locals, you not only get a free place to stay, but you can also interact and learn about local life.
- Buy food in the evening – After 20.00 pm supermarkets give a discount on their fresh food because they have to (legally) get rid of it. If you buy your food after 20.00pm, you can save up to 50% on almost anything fresh.
- Elevators – Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and many locals are curious enough to pick up foreign visitors. Hitchhiking isn't really done by the locals, so you'll quickly stand out as a tourist, increasing your chances of finding a lift.
Moving yourself in Japan
Getting around in Japan is of course part of the Japan Travel Guide. Getting around in Japan is incredibly easy, although usually not cheap. But there are ways to save money.
Most metro tickets in the city cost 100-200 JPY (1-2 euros) one way. (The price varies by distance and can often be higher.) Fares were usually around 220 JPY (2 euros) for getting around Tokyo, but less for shorter distances. In most major cities you can buy a day pass that gives you unlimited travel for 24 hours for about 800 JPY (7 euros).
The high speed train is great, comfortable and super fast, but not cheap. Individual tickets can cost hundreds of euros. To reduce your train costs, it is best to use a Japan Rail (JR) pass purchase. The pass is indispensable for traveling in Japan.
These passes cost JPY 29.110 (EUR 236) for 7 days, JPY 46.390 (EUR 375) for 14 days and JPY 59.350 (EUR 480) for 21 days. In addition, these JR trains also serve local city areas and thus can be used within the city. I also used my pass to travel around Kyoto and Tokyo instead of buying subway tickets.
So even if you won't be traveling around Japan much, buying a pass is better than buying individual tickets. Although the high price of the pass is a deterrent, it is often a good idea to buy it because it still saves money at the bottom.
Buses are a cheaper alternative to the bullet train system in Japan, but they take more time. For example, the two-hour high-speed train ride from Tokyo to Osaka becomes a ten-hour bus ride. The price for that chair is 4.500 JPY (40 euros), but at some point you have to think about how much your time is worth. There are also bus passes available that offer unlimited travel and start at 10.000 JPY (90 euros) for three non-consecutive travel days. You can use these two websites to book your bus trips:
In general, prices are comparable to bullet train tickets. I only recommend plane tickets if you travel between the islands and have to cover large distances. On any other journey, the high-speed train is actually a favorite.
Best time to visit Japan
Temperature and weather vary drastically in Japan, meaning it is always a good time to visit different parts of the country, just at different times. Although most of Japan has four seasons (including snowy, frigid winters in northern Japan), Okinawa and the islands to the south are warm year-round. It gets cold in Tokyo, but it generally doesn't snow.
Japan also gets a lot of rain and humidity, especially in the summer months from mid-June to mid-July. It gets a little drier in August before picking up again in September. Then, of course, there is the threat of typhoons. The typhoon season runs from May to October. Japan is well equipped to handle all types of typhoons, but make sure you get travel insurance in advance!
The driest months in Japan are from December to February, but you should prepare for rain all year round. Packing an umbrella or raincoat is essential. There's no bad time to visit – winter is great for skiers or snowboarders, spring is known for its cherry blossoms, summer is packed with festivals and autumn has brilliant fall colors and pleasant temperatures. High season is definitely when the cherry blossoms are at their best (from mid-March to mid-April). Be prepared for huge crowds during this time.
Security in Japan
A subject that we include in every travel guide, including the Japan Travel Guide. However, Japan is a notoriously safe country. If there is a safe country in the world to visit, it is Japan. In Japan, you never really have to worry about safety, even late at night in the big cities.
As a solo female traveler, you do have to watch out for lewd behavior. Some female travelers have reported inappropriate behavior, such as men asking or yelling at personal questions, and exceptionally groping on trains. Most train companies now have 'women only' trains during rush hour – you will see pink signs indicating where women should get on. The emergency number for Japan is 110, or you can call the Japanese helpline at 0570-000-911.
Always trust your instincts. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the taxi and get out. If your hotel is dirtier than you thought, get out of there. You have every right to remove yourself from the situation. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary to your loved ones so they know where you are at what time.
The most important advice I can give is to get good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. It's comprehensive protection in case something goes wrong. I never travel without it as I have had to use it many times in the past.
Packing List for Japan
Of course, a Japan Travel Guide also includes a packing list. Experienced travelers will recognize this packing list, for beginners it seems little! But trust us, after years of backpacking and world travel, this is what you need. The rest you will not wear or use!
- 1 long pants (no jeans, heavy, stiff and absolutely not rainproof)
- 1 shorts
- 1 bathing suit or swimming trunks
- 1 sarong (for women)
- 1 legging (for women)
- 6 shirts
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 8 pairs of socks (I always lose half)
- 7 boxer shorts or panties
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 small bottle of shampoo (Travel bottles here available)
- 1 Showerblock fixed shower gel ( here available)
- 1 microfiber towel ( here available)
- Small medical kit (safety is important!!!)
- Antibacterial Gel
- Earphones ( here available)
- A key or combination lock ( here available)
- Zip-lock bags (prevents things from leaking or exploding)
- Packing Cubes ( here available)
- Universal charger / adapter
- water bottle ( here available)