If you are still putting your Japan trip on hold due to budget, let me share my way to put you on board for a trip to Japan. I admit that Japan is not a real budget country for travelers because everything is so expensive. It actually took me many years of saving and planning before going for this trip. Therefore we keep our budget as low as RM6,000 as a benchmark for a budget trip to Japan.
We spent the most for transportation, follow by accommodation. Surprisingly, we spent almost the same amount for entrance fee with our everyday meal. The major reason for high entrance fee was due to our visit to Universal Studio Japan (USJ) where apart from the normal day pass, we also bought the express pass which double up the cost.
To be cost efficient, some booking has to be been done in advance before the price increase when your travel date is getting nearer. That is when you are still in your home country. So I classified them as pre-trip expenses. The remaining are the expenses spent throughout my trip.
The first thing to do when you have decided to travel is to purchase a flight ticket. Nowadays it’s easier to get into a foreign country in contrast to the survival expenses in there. As mentioned before, we booked with Japan Airlines which cost about RM1,500 for a return trip from Penang to Osaka. The price included baggage allowance, travel insurance and meal on board which is normal for non-budget airlines.
In Japan, we travel in all types of transportation from trains, subway, bus, taxi to walking. In Kyoto, we uses buses and trains most of the time. In Osaka, we only use subway and trains as Osaka is more widely cover by these two transportation.
For my journey planning, I refer to Hyperdia which is a very useful platform for train schedule and guide on which trains to board. There is also trains fare shown for budget estimation.
A hotel stay in Japan can be very expensive especially during peak season like cherry blossom period. Price may range from RM400 to RM1,000 per room per night. There are many types of accommodation to choose to suit your own budget and the environment that you wish to experience. For cheaper choices, there are capsule hotel, hostel, budget ryokan (Japanese guesthouse) and Airbnb. When travelling in odd number, it is harder to find a hotel that can accommodates us all in a room. We also prefer to have private space to move around. Therefore we booked apartment stay via Airbnb.
Frankly speaking, this is the first time I booked via Airbnb and does not know what to expect staying in ‘somebody’ house. But luckily, we met very good host for our stay in Kyoto and Osaka. Pros: Personal space, cheaper and get to experience staying like local people. Cons: No breakfast provided, self check-in and takes a little effort to communicate with host.
Kyoto city has higher living cost comparing to Osaka. However we chose to stay longer in Kyoto because there are so many interesting places to visit.
Our meal price range from ¥100 (RM4) to ¥2,000 (RM80). We estimated that averagely we need to spend at least ¥1,000/ RM40 per meal. This is considered very expensive if compared to Malaysia where we can easily ate a full meal with only RM10. However, eating cheap in Japan is still possible. We do not have to eat luxuriously all the time as some food maybe cheap but they are still good.
For an example, as we’re staying in Airbnb apartment, we have to prepare our own breakfast. This maybe view as additional cost to incur if compared to staying in a hotel where breakfast is included in the room rate. We bought simple food such as bread, onigiri, cup noodles, yogurt drinks and etc. for our every morning breakfast. We find it interesting as we can comfortably enjoy our breakfast in our ‘Japanese Home’ before starting each day journey.
Besides that, there are variety of chain restaurant providing budget friendly meal. Just to name few restaurants that we had tried such as Yoshinoya, Nakau and Sukiya where you can find a meal for few hundred yen. For sushi, look for 100 yen sushi chain restaurant such as Kura Sushi, Sushiro and Kappa Sushi.
We did not ate cheap all the time. We tried some authentic Kyoto style cuisine in Arashiyama and choses a higher quality restaurant for Okonomiyaki in Osaka. Just to mention actually our most expensive meal was at USJ which is not an option because nothing is cheap in a theme park.
We felt that a visit to Osaka will not be complete without a visit to Universal Studio Japan especially visiting the Hogwarts school at WWOP. Therefore we spend the most for Admission fee + Express pass for USJ. If you are not interested in theme park, this expenses can be cut out from your budget as they really take one the biggest portion in our expenses.
Most of the attraction in Japan need to pay an entrance fee. The entrance fee may range from few hundreds yen to thousand of yen. Due to our flight interruption, we skipped a few attractions and therefore we did not spend a lot for the entrance fees.
Other expenses that we spent are travel insurance, portable wifi rental, baggage storage rental, train station lockers and etc. These expenses came in handy under certain circumstances. For example, we’re lucky to had bought the travel insurance as we did not expect to have flight interruption. Portable wifi become our best travel mate as we heavily rely on the internet connection for route searching and communication with our Airbnb host. When we travelled to Osaka, our check in time is in the evening. Therefore we left our luggage at the baggage rental room in order to move around comfortably.
Overall we managed to keep our budget around RM5,600 for our 9D8Ns trip to Kansai. With this budget, we are able to visit four city; Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Uji. A trip to high living cost country is still possible with better planning or at least a rough estimate on what you will spend. Being a Malaysian, we have disadvantage when travelling oversea with our weak Ringgit Malaysia over the years. We had to spend more but we are still happy that we did it without exceeding our budget. So dear travelers, start planning now with a realistic budget and good lucks!