All the breakdown below are for two people. I am only listing the expenses we have spent as a couple, not including the discretionary items we have bought individually. That would be up to you how much more you are willing to spend for fun stuff.
So to start, we flew during the off season from April 10 to 19th; when the cherry blossoms are dying and all we caught were the petals falling down (at least in the cities we have visited). Therefore, the flights were cheaper. Round trip flight with JAL (Japan Airlines) from SFO to Japan then to Taiwan and fly back to SFO was $1844. Once we arrived at the airport in Tokyo, we immediately rented a wifi router for one week, it's called NinjaWifi ($65.54). I highly recommend getting one since we would not have been able to go around Japan without Google maps and Google translator. We arrived Tokyo on the 11th and stayed there for 3 nights ($261.50) then stayed at a Ryokan in Kyoto since we wanted to experience what's it like to sleep Japanese style. We stayed there for 5 nights ($786.35). We only charged 4 times for lunch / dinner on our credit card that totaled $127. The rest were all in cash. We withdrew about 80000 yen (about $750), 10k yen each withdrawal - the currency exchange we got through ATM at that time was around 106.61 to 107.18. I recommend opening a debit card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee like Schwab. There is no need to bring USD since you will get a really bad exchange rate. It was a bad idea for us to bring USD, we walked around Japan trying to find the best rate but all we found were between 100 to 106.2 (this last one was very hard to find). Just bring enough cash for when you get back to the US. Trust me 7/11 ATMs are everywhere so you will not have a problem getting cash. ATMs or credit cards that do not charge any foreign transaction fee is your best bet for getting the best currency exchange. We also spent for two tickets to take the one way Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto ($254.54). We flew out from Osaka airport to Taiwan so our ticket for an express train from Kyoto to the airport was $29.86. I will not go through the details as to what we spent our cash on but they were mostly for food and some fun items and souvenirs.
If you add all of the above, we spent about $4100. Probably isn't the most frugal but we were comfortable and enjoyed our stay without consistently worrying about money. You might get away with spending less if you can get better deals with flights, hotels and not spending a lot but I think budgeting at least $2000 each person for a one week stay that includes everything from flight, hotel, food and transportation should be about enough. Also, we are not frequent travelers so we are still learning as we go. If you have any suggestions, please free to make a comment below or email me at Christine@TehFinancialCoaching.com. I'd love to hear from my readers!
As far as Japan; below are some of my observations:
- They're very clean, you will hardly find a garbage can anywhere. If you eat, eat at the restaurant or it's encouraged to finish your food at the vendor you bought it from so you can use their garbage can. They frown at you for eating on the street.
- They don't talk while using public transportation, people find that rude.
- They have vending machines everywhere (mostly for drinks) so you hardly find boba or smoothie places. It's not as prevalent as here.
- They are 'mostly' courteous and considerate of others. People try to follow the rules (ex: in hallways and stairs, people stick to 1 side. For Japan, it’s mostly keep left. But there are usually signs on wall/floor that provide guidance). They always bow at you and it feels very humbling. They don't have that air of entitlement. They always have a smile on their face when you ask for help.
- Their toilets are great. I love how one don't have to use a toilet paper if the bowl is equipped with washer and a dryer. Comes with a sound too if you want to muffle the noise of you pooping. 😉
- They're not wasteful - at restaurants they only give you one napkin but usually it's just one moist towelette. I don't get why some people here take tons of napkins when they're eating. Does one need that much to wipe the mouth? 😜
- They have food vendors everywhere! So you will for sure not get hungry.
- You will walk A LOT!!! Before you go, you might as well practice walking for a long period of time. I usually pass out as soon as I get back to the hotel but it was a great exercise. Probably why I see very few big people there.
- Use Google Maps to travel around, It's usually pretty reliable for their public transportation.
- Most Japanese cannot speak English so download the Google Translator. You can get by trying to communicate using short words and translating it. But try to use visuals and body language when possible. Remember, picture speaks a thousand words. 🙂Also, do try to learn some basic phrases in Japanese. People will appreciate your effort. Make sure you know thank you (arigato gozaima) and sorry / excuse me (sumimasen). I used a lot of excuse me while getting off the bus. 😄
- Lastly, one week was too short to explore even everything we wanted to do in one city. We only visited Tokyo (3 days), Kyoto (2 days), Osaka (1 day) and Nara (1 day). We will certainly be back but there's a lot more other countries we have to visit.
I hope you enjoy this blog and got something out of it. 😊
Below are some pictures. First 2 is the ryokan we stayed at in Kyoto. Pic 3 is the Japanese cheesecake in Dotonbori, Osaka (it was the BEST cheesecake I have ever tasted! It's not like the American hard cheesecake but this one almost melts in your mouth, almost like a blend between very moist cake and cheese). The rest of the pictures are some cool sights and food that I have enjoyed throughout Japan.