Like many countries, Japan can be an expensive place to visit if you don’t plan ahead, however there are a wide variety of budget accommodation options, transportation passes and sightseeing discounts, which help to make Japan an affordable destination for even the most budget conscious traveller. It is worthwhile taking the time to decide which options will best suit your stay.
Recent improvements in the foreign exchange rate have meant more favourable prices for overseas visitors to Japan. The price chart below is designed to give an idea of what you can expect to pay for a variety of everyday and travel-related items in Japan.
FOOD & DRINK
Can of drink
Cup of coffee
Can of beer
Litre of mineral water
Three course set menu dinner at a restaurant
Bowl of Japanese noodles
Breakfast service in a coffee shop
McDonalds cheese burger
TRANSPORT & TOURS
7-Day Japan Rail Pass
One-day pass on the Tokyo subway system
Airport Limousine Bus (Narita Airport to Central Tokyo)
2km bus ride
5km taxi ride
One day guided coach tour (from Tokyo) to Mt Fuji
€ 24.62 per night
Guesthouse (single room)
€32.81 per night
Mid-range Hotel (double room)
€ 90.28 per night
35mm film (24 exposures)
Postcard stamp to the UK (up to 25g)
Pack of 20 asprin
Dining out in Japan doesn’t have to be expensive. Restaurant dining in Tokyo for example is certainly no more expensive than in most other world capitals and is often better value for money. Wherever you travel, restaurants in popular tourist areas will always cost more. Follow the locals and you will generally find both lower prices and more authentic Japanese cuisine. Avoid restaurants that don’t list their prices outside the door. The people who can afford to eat in these places don’t need to know how much they will have to pay. Budget dining can usually be enjoyed at more casual establishments such as Izakaya (Japanese pubs), Shokudo (general eating places, often with set meals), and Okonomiyaki restaurants (‘Japanese pizza’ places).
The currency in Japan is the yen (¥). Coins are minted in denominations of ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100 and ¥500. Bank notes are printed in higher denominations of ¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000.
Facilities for foreign currency exchange are widespread in major cities but less common in rural areas. If you are planning to travel in more remote areas of Japan, please ensure that you have enough local currency or yen travellers’ cheques for your journey.
Currency exchange in Japan can sometimes be a lengthy process. Allow for up to 30 minutes at most banks. When changing travellers’ cheques, be sure to have your passport with you.
Foreign currency and travellers’ cheques can be exchanged at:
International Airport Exchange Centres
Exchange Centres handle most major foreign currencies. Conversion from Japanese yen into other currencies is not always possible.
Airport Exchange Centres are the best place to exchange foreign notes.
Exchange Centres at Tokyo’s Narita Airport are open from 6am-11pm.
At Kansai International Airport there are ten banks offering currency exchange, with one or more open from 6am to 11pm.
Japan is very much a cash society. Although credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, even in major cities you will still find that most transactions are settled in cash. Fortunately, Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and is generally a safe place to carry money.
On arrival it is a good idea to be carrying enough local currency to cover your immediate needs. Foreign currency will not be accepted by most Japanese businesses and, unless you are carrying US dollars, you will find it difficult to exchange foreign notes for yen. Even leading city banks are not well equipped to deal with other currencies. Airport Currency Exchange Centres are the best place to cash foreign notes.
Although Japan is a relatively safe place to carry cash, travellers’ cheques remain the safest and most practical way to carry money while you are travelling. In Japan you will also get a slightly better exchange rate with travellers’ cheques than with foreign notes.
Travellers’ cheques denominated in Japanese yen or US dollars are easily cashed at banks and major hotels. Many banks can also exchange cheques in Pound Sterling but cheques in other currencies are more difficult to exchange. Be sure to have your passport with you when exchanging travellers’ cheques.
Travellers’ cheques are not readily accepted as payment in stores or restaurants. Cash and credit card are the most common means of payment in Japan.
Personal cheques are not widely used or accepted in Japan.
Credit cards are not as widely accepted in Japan as they are in the UK and Europe. In urban centres you should be able to use your credit card at major hotels, stores and restaurants but many smaller establishments will still only accept cash.
Businesses that accept credit cards have signs posted on the door or near the cash register indicating which cards they accept. Foreign credit cards are not always accepted.
Credit cards can be used in Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) to get a cash advance, however the number of ATMs that accept foreign credit cards is limited and most have restricted operating hours.
Tipping is not generally practised in Japan. Service charges of between 10 to 20% will usually be added to your bill at hotels, ryokan and restaurants. If you wish, you may tip to indicate that you will be requiring extra services.