Travel To Japan: What Does It Cost (Part Two)

07.November 2012

Budget, Japan, Our Budget

**Click Here to see Travel To Japan: What Does It Cost (Part One)**

There is no doubt that Japan is an expensive country to travel in. Our travel to Japan was, in fact, the most expensive trip we’ve ever done.

It was also the best trip we’ve ever had. It changed our lives; it was here, during this trip, that we finally decided to take the next GiantStep to leave Canada. It was worth every single yen.

We broke our expenses down into five basic categories:

Accommodation

This wasn’t a backpacker trip so I wasn’t necessarily looking for the cheapest option but I was cognizant of price and wanted to get the best I could for the money I was willing to spend.

We stayed in a mix of accommodation styles; apartments,  Tokyo hotels, guesthouses, traditional ryokans, local minshukus and even a temple. I placed links in the spreadsheet next to each entry – I recommend every place we stayed. Some were very reasonably priced (an apartment in Tokyo for $100/night!) and some were very expensive ($300 for a ryokan stay…but it included an amazing dinner and breakfast).

On average we spent $123.80 per night. If I factor out the meal costs of the two most expensive stays (that included meals), the average drops to $112.88; we would be hard pressed to travel in our own country for this cost!

Transportation

Shinkansen, JapanFlights and trains were the big budget items here.

Our flights from Calgary to Tokyo (return ticket) cost $3128.24 – that’s quite the chunk of change out of a budget! I’m glad we were able to spend a month in Japan because I would be hard pressed to think that paying that kind of money for a two week holiday would be worth it.

The three week JR Rail passes were the next biggest transportation expense at $749 each – $1498 for the two of us! They turned out to be worth it – although just barely.

We spend just over $400 on other non-JR train tickets, subway rides, bicycle rentals, and the occasional taxi.

Food and Drink

Ramen There really is nothing Jason and I enjoy more than spending time over a meal, or whiling away an afternoon in a pub so it’s no surprise that our food and drink costs were high.

We stayed in apartments for half our trip so were able to self cater breakfast most of the time. We love spending our mornings lounging around, catching up on the interwebs, drinking coffee, and snacking on whatever we could find at the grocery store so apartments fit the bill nicely. It turns out that going out for coffee in Japan is an expensive affair, sometimes costing as much as $5 per cup for regular coffee so making it at ‘home’ was very budget friendly!

After a day of sightseeing we usually head back to our room to enjoy an early evening cocktail before dinner. Alcohol is fairly inexpensive and widely available in shops so we could just pick something up on our way. Going out for a drink, however, can be fairly pricey; probably no more expensive than the places we frequent here in Calgary, although Japanese beer is a little lacklustre and, at home, we don’t go out every night.

We really didn’t think too much about the budget when looking for a place to eat. We tend to enjoy middle-of-the-road establishments and knew there was room in our budget to accommodate what we like so we weren’t out to find the cheapest meal at any point. A few times, when in particular areas that were known for a certain meal, we would splurge but mostly we stuck to ramen houses, kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi shops, and izakayas (pubs). A few times we picked up some sushi from the grocery store but that was more about wanting to stay home than worrying about the budget.

We almost always had a drink (or two, or three) with a meal; these are not broken out in the budget sheet but you could probably half all the costs there to determine a non drinking budget – often our booze bill the same as the food bill. Definitely would be much cheaper to travel as a tee-totaller but it’s just not our style.

On average we spent $105.58 per day on food and drink.

Attractions/Activities

Golden Temple, Kyoto

We went to Japan to be in Japan. It was a tiny expat experiment whereby I wanted to really pretend that I lived there. Sure, we visited temples and shrines, took a tour and a cooking class, and revelled in the Sumo Grand Championship, but what I really enjoyed was just riding the trains, going for dinner, cruising the grocery store aisles, and wandering around the streets imagining that this neighbourhood was my neighbourhood.

I think our attractions/activities costs are fairly low at an average of $20/day.

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous holds all the other stuff. We needed some toothpaste. We did laundry once. Luckily, we are not souvenir people so this category usually stays quite low. In fact most of this category is taken up by the pocket wifi device we rented to stay connected the whole time.

We traveled through Japan for 27 days. It cost us $11,965.52 – I had budgeted $12,000 so I’m happy to be under budget.

Here is the entire OneGiantStep Japan Budget should you care to see more of a breakdown.

Our trip to Japan was everything I wanted it to be, and more. It was worth every single penny.

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10 Responses to “Travel To Japan: What Does It Cost (Part Two)”

  1. Dirk Says:

    We’ve thought about a trip to Japan. Always been fascinated by it. Not sure the trip will work out, but yours sounds great.

  2. Carmel Says:

    You are good, Gillian. This is a great recap of your budget and from what you’ve written, it sounds like you wouldn’t change a thing.

  3. Audrey Says:

    Awesome post Gillian. I love when people break down all the nuts and bolts of their budget so others can see what was spent. Besides your airfare and the transport cost, it looks like Japan is not any more expesive than North America in many aspects! (maybe cheaper)
    Audrey recently posted..The Butchart Gardens, A Fairyland Of Flowers And A Photographer’s Dream

  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) Says:

    Thanks for being so transparent with your numbers, Gillian! It’s always really interesting to see how travel costs break down for a given country, and I know how helpful these kind of posts were for us when we were planning our big trip to make rough estimates. We will actually have our Japan wrap-up post in a few days with our complete budget as well, so it is really interesting to compare and contrast our figures, especially since we both spent exactly 27 days in the country! Our totals were much less than yours, but we saved some money by Couchsurfing a few nights (which saved us room & board in many cases!), and we really curbed our booze intake while in Japan because it was so pricey.

    In the end, though, the important thing seems to be that you came in under budget (woohoo! Money for the next adventure!) and you had a wonderful time so that money you did spend was worth every cent. At the end of the day, money is worth only what we spend it on and if you’re not having fun then you’re doing something wrong!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..What We Ate: Osaka Edition

  5. Tom - Active Backpacker Says:

    Wow Gillian, that trip looks AMAZING :)

    I love budget posts (don’t we all), where we get down and dirty and show the real cost of travelling and exploring the world.

    Japan is so high on my to-do-list right now it’s crazy, but it is a liiiiitle expensive compared to say, SE Asia :D

    That spreadsheet is great where you’ve literally listed everything – so helpful for people. I also keep scrolling up to look at the high speed train – it looks futuristic and fantastical compared to trains in Australia that’s for sure :P
    Tom – Active Backpacker recently posted..Oktoberfest: Beers, Tents, Facts & Fun – The Ultimate FAQ Guide

  6. 30Traveler Says:

    This is extremely helpful Gillian!

    I’m busting to go to Japan… but it is so expensive!

    I’m wondering if there is an option of a less pricey Japanese city I might be able to do a month long apartment rental in. That’s my preferred travel style a lot of the time.
    30Traveler recently posted..How Does Your Politics Influence Your Travel?

  7. Amy Smith Says:

    I want to go to Japan for several years. But my journey is constantly delayed, because of the events that have happened there, and so on. Thanks for the post. I will plan a trip to the next spring, even though it is expensive, but it’s so cool there!)

  8. Stephen S, Says:

    looking at peoples budgets is a minor obsession of mine, and the spreadsheet was a great bonus. Sounds like you guys had an amazing time.
    Stephen S, recently posted..Mistakes In Saving for a RTW Trip

  9. Tim Says:

    Those are some pricey plane tickets! Great review of the costs, that helps.
    Tim recently posted..Hiking Angel’s Rest in Oregon

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