Planning for trips has always been a fun thing for me, and this time it was an even more enriching experience as M and I researched, suggested and customized our very own itinerary together. It was good teamwork and brainstorming!
I know it might be everyone’s dream to travel under a certain amount of money, the lesser the better, but sometimes there are some things that are dictated by price and it is a matter of whether or not you are willing to go without it or not. Not to mention, time is also money so saving money might result in spending more time traveling, which may not necessary always be the best. Nonetheless, that does not mean that having to spend a lot equates to quality, rather getting the best value for money is what I find is most ideal (get more for less).
You don’t need to stay in a luxury hotel or eat in a fine dining restaurant to get a better experience, but if your budget allows, experiencing the finer things in life do enhance the travel experience; especially if you can get more out of a lesser (price) or same amount paid. Value, after all, is not just monetary terms but also the perceived value (e.g. service, experience, ambiance, engagement etc…) that you receive in exchange for the amount you paid.
Ok, back to the subject at hand. Planning a trip to Japan was not as easy as planning a trip to Taiwan or South Korea. One of the reasons is the somewhat (more) complicated train lines and the lack (apprehension) of the knowledge of the native language. Still we managed and hence here is the breakdown of our Flight + Accommodation + Transport + Admission.
It cost us a total of about ¥230,000 (about S$2,700) per person for the whole trip of 9 days. Of course it would have been cheaper had we chosen not to visit attractions such as Universal Studios (Osaka) and Disneyland (Tokyo), not eaten at some nicer (and pricier food establishments), stayed in (cheaper) accommodation (e.g. hostels, motels etc...), shopped less, and walked more. A little bit of googling, and it turns out that while our budget of ¥230,000 (S$2,700) may not be low enough for the (tight) budget conscious, nor nigh enough to enjoy the finer things in life, it is relatively moderate and comfortable budget - considering the attractions we went to, the season that we went in, and the exchange rate at the time. [9 Days in Japan for less than S$1800]
Cost Per Person (9 Days)
Accommodation: S$527 (Airbnb + Tokyo Hotel)
JR Pass: S$378
Admission Fees: S$188 = S$93 (Disneysea) + S$95 (Universal Studios)
Shopping, Transport, Food, Admission Fees etc...: S$1000
Total = S$2791.60
For a detailed itinerary of our adventure, don’t forget to read our [Springtime Japan (Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo) 9D/8N Itinerary].
Singapore Airlines was having a promotion so we managed to get our flight tickets at S$698.60 each, almost the same price as going to Seoul but the flight is just a little longer (about 7 hours or so). Initially we wanted to just take a flight to Kansai Airport (nearer to Kyoto) then take a train down, but it was slightly more expensive at about S$750++ per person. Than when we went with a specific airport it was still more, so we went with arriving in Narita Airport and departing from Haneda Airport.
|Flying to and departing from Haneda Airport would have cost us S$775.40 person|
|Arriving in Narita Airport and departing from Haneda cost us S$698.60|
From Singapore to Tokyo, it is about a 7 hour flight and since we choose the night flight, we arrived in Tokyo at about 8 in the morning. From Narita Airport, we made our way straight to Kyoto via the bullet train. [Read about our flight experience here]
For our return trip, we departed from Haneda Airport in the evening and arrived in Singapore at about 11pm. The flight was slighter shorter than to/from Narita Airport by about an hour. [Read about our return flight experience here]
To maximize our budget we decided to stay in apartments via AirBnb rather than stay in a hotel or hostel. I would say that AirBnb accommodation is somewhere midway between a hotel and hostel: it is cheaper than a hotel and price competitive with a hostel and comfortable too (in my opinion… you just have to pick the right ones). Not to mention the hosts are (just as or maybe even more) helpful in suggesting where to go.
[The Experience using AirBnB: Things You Should Know before Booking]
It was on average about S$50 per night / per person, and with the accommodations being so near the subway stations and restaurants, there was no lack of food and activities to do. Throughout our 9 days and 8 nights, we stayed in 2 places – Kyoto and Tokyo. After much researching, we shortlisted (and managed to book) these two accommodations:
Kyoto: 1stop Kyoto station & Fushimiinari - Located one station away from Kyoto Station, it was a little tedious getting there (with about 3 transfers) but it was pretty straight forward. The apartment is within walking distance to the Tofukuji Station. The host, Tomoko, is nice and replies quite promptly too. [Read about our Kyoto AirBnb stay experience here]
Sign up here to get a discount of S$31(or about USD$25) off your first stay via AirBnb for your next holiday!
- Great view Shibuya High-grade APT#3 - Located in one of Tokyo’s most popular area, Shibuya, this accommodation is convenient and apparently quite popular with AirBnb guests. The hosts are a husband and wife team, who are very responsive and quick (within the day) in answering questions. The stay however, took a turn for the worse on the first night due to some cleanliness issues. So we bailed out after the first night and moved to the wonderful Shibuya Hotel En [Read about our Tokyo AirBnb stay experience here]
- Shibuya Hotel En - Thankfully the refund from the next 2 nights of our Tokyo Airbnb almost paid for the 2 nights at the hotel. We just needed to top up about S$130 (a price well worth it when you have had a run-in with bedbugs and a toilet that smells like sewage, not to mention the dust that filled the tiny apartment!) [Read about our Shibuya Hotel En experience here]
If you want to travel via train to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and anyway along the line, than the JR Pass is just the thing you need. A single trip ticket would cost about ¥14,000/++. A return trip from Osaka to Tokyo would get back the value of your JR Pass, so using it for the duration (7, 21 days etc…) is definitely worth it if you plan to travel.
So if you want the most cost effective way to travel in Japan via train, than the JR Pass would definitely help you save. A standard 7 Day Pass cost us ¥29,110 (about S$378, or depending on the exchange rate at the time). A more luxurious version of the pass, the Green 7 Day Pass, costs ¥38,880.
Since we would be in Japan for 9 days and we intended to travel to Kyoto (with day trips to Osaka) and then back to Tokyo, the 7 Day JR Pass was the most cost-effective. We bought our passes (as well as our Disneyland and Universal Studios passes) from JTB Singapore and it cost us each S$378 for the 7 Day JR pass. The process was pretty standard: we took a queue number and waited for our turn, when out number came up we approached the assigned counter and made our request. For the JR Pass, we had to fill out a form with our arrival date with our names as in our passport. After which, we were given the exchange orders that were to be exchange for the actual pass when we arrived in Japan. The staff attending to us that day was name Sato, she was very helpful and informative, and not pushy with any of the products they had to offer.
Using Hyperdia to calculate what it would have cost us if we had not gotten the pass, it would have cost us about ¥107,000 each trip, but with the (Standard) 7-Day JR Pass which costs ¥29,110 it saved us about ¥77,802 each (that’s about S$900)!
Things to note about the JR Pass [From Japan Rail Pass]:
- There are different types of passes that will suit your travel needs. You just need to find the right one.
- You cannot buy it when you are in Japan, you have to buy it before you enter the country
- After you arrive in Japan, you have to turn in your Exchange Order (with your passport) to receive your Japan Rail Pass. This can be done at a Japan Rail Pass Exchange Office in a major JR station.
- Your Exchange Order must be turned in for a Japan Rail Pass within three months of the date the Order was issued.
- At the exchange office, you will be asked to fill in a short application form and to show your passport with the Temporary Visitor stamp/sticker you received on entry into Japan. When exchanging the Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass, you must show your passport* and the Temporary Visitor stamp/sticker.
- After turning in your Exchange Order for a Japan Rail Pass, you can make seat reservations at a “Midori-no-madoguchi” Reservation Office.
[Activating the JR Pass at Narita Airport]
[Buying the JR Pass Online]
[About the JR Pass]
Admissions (Attractions / Transport / Tours)
We bought our Disneyland and Universal Studio tickets in Singapore from JTB Singapore at S$93 and S$95 respectively.
- Japan Spring 2016 Itinerary 9D/8N
- Japan Trip Day 1 Kyoto
- Japan Trip Day 2 Kyoto (Arashimaya & Gion)
- Japan Trip Day 3 Kyoto (Kyoto Imperial Palace Garden & Gion)
- Japan Trip Day 4 Osaka (Universal Studios)
- Japan Trip Day 5 Osaka
- Japan Trip Day 6 Kyoto - Tokyo
- Japan Trip Day 7 Tokyo
- Japan Trip Day 8 Tokyo (DisneySea)
- Japan Trip Day 9 Tokyo - Singapore