How Do I Japan? YANMTA
November 6, 2019 3:36 PM   Subscribe

"Travel Agent". How much does 10 days of budget travel for two in Japan cost?

I am in a position to facilitate/fund budget travel for a young, broke-ish couple. Wedding present, yo. Cash. I've never travelled anywhere in Asia. Think student travel.

a) Randomly picking dates, it seems like r/t coach airfare could be done for maybe $2500, purchasing 90+ days out. Accurate?

b) Assuming hostels, cheap hotels in and around Tokyo - a few nights in the country, what's a wag for total lodging costs?

c) Taxi/metro/Uber/train for tourist travel?

d) Meals - on the cheap?

To me, it's cool if they want to use the dough some other way. I just want to be sure that if they go for the travel idea, they can have a pretty low stress, pretty good time.

Finally, is this a terrible idea?

This is a big ask, I know. I'd take links, books, advice instead of numbers if you like.

Hoping someone can help before I spend a million hours on Google. Thanks!
posted by j_curiouser to Travel & Transportation around Japan (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: wag
posted by j_curiouser at 3:40 PM on November 6, 2019

Best answer: As a grad student in 2012, I believe I changed about $1100 into yen for five or six days in Japan, which was my entire budget beyond the plane ticket. That was two nights in a hostel in Tokyo and three our four nights in a shared room in a ryokan in Nagoya (booked on Hostelworld). I had one meal in the Indian restaurant in the main train station in Nagoya (which had table cloths, for scale), one at a conveyor belt sushi place in Nagoya (note: I'm a vegetarian--my sushi is always the cheapest tier) and I think every other meal was from the supermarket or a convenience store. Breakfast was included at the hostel and there might have been breakfast at the conference I was going to, I don't remember. I bought a bargain train ticket from JR Tours from Tokyo to Nagoya. I think I paid for three museums: the Tokyo National Museum, Miraikan (the science museum in Tokyo) and Toyota museum in Nagoya (the one about the company, not the flashy car one). Otherwise, I spent money on the subway. I think I bought a book and a pen as souvenirs. That was more or less all of my money.
posted by hoyland at 4:12 PM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: a) Depends a lot on where you're flying from, but that's about right.

b) $800 for 10 days? You can do it for cheaper if you do hostel dorm rooms, but if it were my wedding present I'd insist on upgrading from hostel dorm rooms.

c) $100 for the subway. $100 for transport from the airport to downtown Tokyo. Figure maybe $500-700 for intercity trains - that'll cover a round trip to Kyoto, or a couple of shorter train trips. I wouldn't budget for taxis/Uber unless there's some out-of-the-way place they very much want to go see.

d) Breakfast at a chain train-station bakery, $6; Lunch set menu at a cheap place, $10 (Not fast food; the standard of food is normally quite high at ramen places, udon places, curry places, etc.); dinner, $12; times two people, times ten days, $560?

Total of around $4800, but add on some for shopping, museums, maybe one really nice dinner?

And you might have to round up a little more because the yen is stronger than it used to be.
posted by Jeanne at 4:41 PM on November 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I skied in Japan last winter. I was there for about 10 days. I was with 4 other guys, so we were able to split some hotel rooms, air bnbs, and car rental. I think I spent about $1200 on the ground including lift tickets. I got a ticket from SLC to Narita for 40k Sky Miles and about $600 cash.

You can eat pretty affordable when you want to. Ramen places are usually pretty cheap. Also, a lot of days when I was skiing I would just go into 7-11 get some Onigiri to throw in my pocket. It was a good, portable, and cheap lunch.
posted by trbrts at 5:28 PM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For transportation, if they might travel around to many different cities, consider budgeting for a JR pass. At current exchange rates it's like ~$275 per person for a 7-day pass, or $430 for a 14-day. It may or may not be most cost-effective depending on how many long train trips they take, but it's super convenient.
posted by introcosm at 6:15 PM on November 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Finally, is this a terrible idea?

I would personally be somewhat terrified of taking an international trip with only enough money to cover the expenses that will arise if everything goes according to plan.

I mean, odds are everything will be fine and they'll have a fantastic time. But if these folks are indeed broke(ish), I'd want to know that there is someone (you?) who would be in a position to remotely provide emergency funding if things go wrong.
posted by Not A Thing at 7:38 PM on November 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Best answer: What a gracious idea! It's not a terrible idea.

I second "not a thing" that they need to know they can handle the unexpected. Only then could they enjoy taking it on. Having a credit card with a high limit with them should do the trick.

When I travel, I say, Oh, nothing matters. I've got my credit cards.
posted by tmdonahue at 6:07 AM on November 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Good resources - Tokyo Cheapo,

Airfare is going to be the big variable - recently there have been some great seat sales to Tokyo, last week as low as 600-700 CAD from Toronto. You might see some sales around Black Friday too.

You can get a decent business-class hotel in Tokyo for under $100 USD a night, which often may include free breakfast buffet. If I'm not at a hotel with breakfast included, I'll just go to a convenience store to pick up coffee and a variety of delicious foods - under 1000 yen for two people.

For lunch you can get a good bowl of noodles for 1000 yen, or a lunch set in the 1200-1500 yen range, so say 2000-3000 yen for two people. (You can definitely eat more cheaply if you want, this is for sit-down restaurant prices. I had lunch for 300 yen a couple weeks ago at a standing soba bar, or you can get cheap food at the market and eat it streetside.)

For dinner I'm often around 4000-5000 yen for two, but that's including a few drinks. So for a lower end you could say 5000-6000 yen daily food for two people.

Transit would be around 1000 yen a day in Tokyo. (Taxis are expensive. The metro/JR lines in Tokyo will take you anywhere you need to go).

The other big question is, where are they going in Japan? You can definitely spend 10 days just in Tokyo, with a few day trips to see some more traditional areas. But the more common first-timers route is Tokyo > Kyoto, in which case you could use a 7-day JR Pass for the return trip (29,110 yen each), or to book an open-jaw into Tokyo and out of Kansai, plus a one-way shinkansen trip (14,000 yen each).

So back-of-the envelope, you could have a decent trip for around $2000 USD for two, not including airfare, maybe a bit more to include Kyoto in the trip.
posted by Gortuk at 6:29 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Y'all are the best.

Credit card for the unexpected - great plan.

The wags are great - I think I can do this not-half-assed.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:34 PM on November 7, 2019

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