The One about How to Eat Inexpensively in Japan

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Quite often when I speak to people about traveling, especially to Japan, I’m always asked how much one should save.  Especial for meals and how can one eat cheap.

That is not an easy question as everyone is different and depending on how many weeks you stay, would determine how much things would cost.  But let’s say that the magic number is 10 Days.

Here is a rule of thumb for costs:

Roundtrip ticket from USA to JAPAN and back:  $1200 (Typically you can get it cheaper flights to Japan but let’s just say $1200).

Hotel: Depending on how long you stay and where you stay.  Some people stay with family and friends, others do AirBNB.  There are hotels that are affordable and cost less than $100 a day.  But let’s just throw the figure of $800 for an affordable hotel room for nine nights.

IC CARD: For each week, I always budget $125 for Suica/Pasmo or any IC Card within Tokyo.

JR PASS: Most people don’t want to travel far distances if they are low in finances and most just stay in a region.  Going to Tokyo, there is so much there that you can just use a IC Card. But assuming you want to travel to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hokkaido, etc.  The price is $260 for 7 days.  JR Pass is not needed if you are staying within a prefecture.  It’s only for traveling for long distances.  I will not factor in the JR Pass but if you want to, add an extra $260.

Portable WiFi:  This is a must and I recommend saving up the $75 for 10 days.

And then you factor in spending money for food and purchases.  I recommend $1000 minimum.  But if you don’t have much, then you can still do a lot with $500-$750.

So, total:

$1200 (flight) + $800 (hotel) + $125 (IC Card) + $75 (portable WiFi) = $2,200  ($2,460 with JR Pass) + whatever you can manage for spending money ($500, $750, $1,000, etc.)

So, for the most part, once you eliminate the main $2,200+$2,500 for main expenses, it all comes down to spending money for merch. and for food.  And if you don’t have much spending money, the best way to eat inexpensively in Japan is through convenience stores.

In Japan, 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson and other stores sell food and beverages inexpensively.  You can spend less than $5.00 (Y460) on a full meal and for a drink, about Y100 per meal.  So, eating the conbini (Japanese for convenience store) route, you can budget $20 for your meals and beverage per day.  For 10 days, that’s $200 spent on food alone.

And it’s important to note, conbini food is delicious.  Do not think about how things are at convenience stores in America, Japanese convenience stores are awesome!

Cafe’s, coffee shops and sandwich shops inside the station offer sandwiches for Y290-Y320.  So, you can get a drink and meal for breakfast inexpensively as well.

But for the most part, it is easy to budget $20 for breakfast, lunch or dinner per day if you are on a budget. And you can easily budget $200 for your 10-day stay. But if you can, try to kick it up a notch by an extra $100-$200 and you can have even better lunches or dinners.

But if you are on a low budget,  it is easy to go to Tokyo and spend less on meals, so you can divert the rest of your budget for purchasing merchandise.


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Dennis A. Amith