Is Japan expensive?
How far does the Aussie dollar go in Japan? Further than you might think. This is a basic guide to how much things cost in Japan, how to exchange and withdraw money in Japan and how to get the most yen for your Australian buck.
- This article is based on the exchange rate of $1 AUD = 74 Yen
AUD vs Yen
Australia and Japan are both considered ‘expensive’ countries, with many expenses on par. However, depending on your budget, there are going to be some things in Japan that you’ll find costly, and other things, affordable. For example, you can expect to pay less for a bottle of water, more for a taxi and about the same for breakfast.
How much to bring?
It all depends on what type of Japan adventure you’re after. Long and luxurious? Short and saver-savvy? What you plan on doing and for how long will determine your daily budget. As a rough guide:
Budget holiday: Less than $100 AUD/day
Mid-range: $100-250 AUD/day
Luxury: More than $250 AUD/day
How much do flights cost?
The cost of flights from Australia to Japan will vary based on the time of year you fly as well as where you fly from. If you visit during winter in Japan, it’ll be considerably less on the ground, as outside of ski resorts it’s considered off-peak. The exception is over New Year holidays in Japan, which tend to be between 29 Dec and 3 Jan, as this is a peak travel season for domestic tourists. It will also be more expensive if you visit during other peak travel seasons, such as the cherry blossom season in spring, or the Golden Week public holiday which takes place late April to the 1st week of May each year.
Direct return flights on full service carriers from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and, recently, Perth will cost about $1000 AUD with special fares for around $700-$800 available on selected departure dates. Flights are usually more expensive over school holidays in Australia.
How much does food cost?
Food is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason Aussies love Japan! Thankfully, food prices are comparable to, if not cheaper than, Australia, so you can sample something new every day without breaking the bank (unless you like your meals served with a side of Michelin stars, of which Japan has many!)
Cost of common food and beverage items:*
*based on the exchange rate of $1 AUD = 74 Yen
Breakfast: $5–15 AUD
Lunch: $5–20 AUD
Dinner: $5–35 AUD
A cheap $5 meal could be something from a bakery, or two onigiri (rice balls) from a convenience store plus a drink.
Mineral water (500ml): 120-150 yen or $1.60 – $2
Bottle of Coke (500ml): 150-200 yen or $2 – $2.70
Bento box (convenience store or train station): 400-900 yen or $5.40 – $12.20
Bowl of ramen: 800 yen or $10.80
Big Mac Meal (regular size): 690 yen or $9.30
Coffee: $5 AUD
Beer: $5–10 AUD
Glass of wine: $10–25 AUD
How much does accomodation cost?
Accommodation comes in all shapes and styles in Japan.
Youth hostels: $30–75 AUD/night
Capsule hotels: $40-75 AUD/night
Mid-range (business hotels to 3-4 star hotels): $100–250 AUD/night
Luxury: More than $300 AUD/night
Minshuku and Ryokan (B&Bs and traditional Japanese Inns):
Budget: $70–100 AUD/per person, per night
Mid-range: $100–250 AUD/per person, per night
Luxury: $500~ AUD per person, per night
Shukubo (temple lodging): $110–230 AUD/night
Many minshuku, ryokan and temple lodgings include two meals, dinner and breakfast, so they are actually better value than you might think at first glance.
How much does transport cost?
If you’re exploring a city by train using local trains, metro or subway, a day pass will cost you around $10 AUD.
If you’re looking to cover more distance and are planning to make good use of the shinkansen (bullet train) network within a short period of time, the Japan Rail (JR) Pass can be good value. The JR pass gives you unlimited travel on JR transportation including JR trains (local, limited express and shinkansen), JR local buses and the JR Miyajima ferry (exceptions apply). When you consider a one-way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto costs 13,400 yen ($181 AUD), these trips can soon add up without a JR Pass.
7 day: Adult 29,650 yen ($401 AUD), Child 14,820 yen ($200 AUD)
14 day: Adult 47,250 yen ($639 AUD), Child 23,620 yen ($319 AUD)
21 day: Adult 60,450 yen ($817 AUD), Child 30,220 yen ($408 AUD)
Green (1st class)*
7 day: Adult 39,600 yen ($535 AUD), Child 19,800 yen ($268 AUD)
14 day: Adult 64,120 yen ($866 AUD), Child 32,060 yen ($433 AUD)
21 day: Adult 83,390 yen ($1,127 AUD), Child 41,690 yen ($563 AUD)
Tip: Use www.hyperdia.com to work out your sector fares, and compare them to the cost of a JR Pass.
Taxis can be expensive, especially over long distances, with a minimum fare of around $5-10 AUD. However they are a great option for shorter trips, like from train stations to your hotel, particularly if you’ve got too much luggage to walk. Ride-sharing services like Uber are not commonly used outside of Tokyo and can often be more expensive than standard taxis.
If you want to get behind the wheel yourself, rental cars are relatively easy to hire. Here is everything you need to know on rental cars in Japan.
Budget: $400 AUD/week for an entry level car for two*
Mid-range: $500-800 AUD/week for a mid-range car for four*
Luxury: $1000–1700 AUD/week for a high-end car e.g. convertible or luxury SUV*
*Prices are estimates only
Do you tip in Japan?
You do not tip in Japan! Tipping is not customary and you might even have your tip politely refused. Exceptions to the rule include tour guides, interpreters and some innkeepers.
Exchanging money in Japan
You can exchange most major currencies including Australian dollars at banks, post offices and large hotels. Money changers can also be found near popular tourist areas and at airports. (Note: Fees are high at airport money exchangers so you’re often better off withdrawing from participating ATMs.)
Withdrawing money in Japan
While there are ATM machines all over Japan, not all of them accept Australian cards, so it’s a good idea to know in advance which ones are likely to accept your card.
ATMs that accept Australian cards include:
- 7-Eleven convenience stores (Seven Bank ATMs)
- Citibank Japan
- Japan Post Bank (found at Post Offices)
- Mizuho Bank
- Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
- MUFJ (Mitsubishi UFJ Bank Group)
Using credit and debit cards in Japan
Japan used to be a predominantly cash-based society, but this has changed over the past 5-10 years. Many retailers from stores to restaurants now accept payment by credit card. However, it’s still a good idea to carry some cash for smaller purchases. There are a few things you need to know if you’ll be paying with a credit or debit card for some purchases.
- MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted
- AMEX is accepted at most places that accept credit card payments
- Be mindful of your currency conversion and withdrawal fees—they can add up!
Note: When you use your Australian card in Japan you may be given the choice of being charged in AUD or Japanese Yen. Choose to be charged in Japanese Yen. The exchange rates are far better than if you make payments in AUD