Travel costs - Budget trip breakdown


Because travel costs seem to be a recurring question for first time travellers I wanted to post a breakdown of how much one of my trips cost me. It’s very easy to spend double and triple these amounts so if you're going to Japan please make sure you don’t show up without enough money. This is only a guide of what I personally spent and by no means a definitive answer to travel costs.
Long story short, my route was from Osaka Kansai Airport to Hiroshima (Iwakuni if we’re being exact) and back again with many stops along the way. I was there for 14 full days and left the morning of the 15th. I’ll post the prices in yen so it’s more precise, you call all exchange that to your local currency if you wish.
Traditional houses in Kurashiki

TRANSPORT: 21,820円 total (about 1450円/day)

I didn’t have a JR Pass since it didn’t pay off at all for the trip I wanted to do and some of the places I went to didn’t even have a shinkansen stop anyway. I usually used local trains to get around between cities and towns. Taxis and generally ropeways were a big no-no for me since my budget didn’t allow it, so in most cases I walked or hiked if possible. The price for transportation this trip was obviously much higher than my first where I only stayed in Tokyo for the two weeks.
As for passes, I did have a ‘Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass’ (small version 1000円, lasts three days). If you’re doing Hiroshima / Miyajima as a day trip maybe the one day-pass would be a better option, but I was there for a longer time.
I also used the discount ferry for foreigners going from Kansai Airport to Kobe Airport, from there taking the Port Liner into Kobe, which proved cheaper than if I’d taken the local train through Osaka.
Local trains take longer than shinkansen, but who can complain with a view like this?

ACCOMMODATION: 38,800円 total, 14 nights (about 2600円/night)

I mostly used hostels and guesthouses during my stay. J-Hoppers and Hana Hostel chains offer a discount of 300yen every three nights, so ask for their discount stamp sheet if you want (however, their prices do go up on weekends).
People sometimes run the other way when they hear the words ‘hostel’ or ‘dormitory’, but hostels in Japan are very clean and it’s a great way to get to know other travellers, especially if you’re going solo. Many hostels are in old houses and have tatami too, if you’re looking for something more traditional.
I asked for the dorm in all cases but I only actually ended up sharing a room in Osaka and Hiroshima, the other hostels didn’t have any other guests so I had the room to myself. In most rooms there was a separation of some kind (may it be a curtain, half a wall, a more pod-like bed, etc.) so I wouldn’t see the other people sleeping in the same room from my bed.
2700 yen a night in Asakuchi, cheap doesn’t always mean tacky!

FOOD: 17,990円 total (about 1200円/day)

If you enjoy your food or like trying new cuisine while you’re travelling, then I’m sure you’d want to spend a bit more than this on meals. This usually gave me a bento breakfast bought in the konbini (usually something small like an onigiri, some chips or a cake/bread), a lunch at a restaurant for 600-800円 and a dinner also bought at the konbini (sometimes cup noodles or some other fast food, sometimes any bento that were on sale).
 I don’t really stick to mealtimes so sometimes I’d buy two big bentos in the morning and eat a bit whenever I’m hungry during the day, buying extra snacks along the way.
Maybe not the healthiest way to eat, but for two weeks while travelling I survived just fine. Alternatively you could cook your own food but I was too lazy and didn’t want to waste time. I made a point of tasting each local speciality if it looked good enough too, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the Japanese cuisine or something (I’m obviously not much of a foodie).
 As for drinks, I don’t drink beer so that isn’t included. I usually had a vending machine drink every day at around 130円 but when it started to get hotter in July and I needed more to drink I bought a big bottle from the supermarket or konbini and carried it around with me all day. I think next time I’m just going to buy a big bottle of water on my first day and refill it every morning with water from the hostel, it’ll definitely save me quite a bit of money even if it means missing out on all the different vending machine flavours.
Lunch for under 1000 yen isn’t hard to find!

SIGHTSEEING: 11,770円 total (about 850円/day)

Well, I’m a huge museum fan. If there’s a museum I’ll probably go there, whatever the topic may be. To each their own, I guess.
 Here I’ve included of course entrance fees to museums and gardens, as well as things like renting a bike, entrance to a Kagura show in Hiroshima (1000円), a boat ride in Kurashiki (500円), etc.
Look out for combination tickets to places within cities, for example the combination ticket for Himeji Castle + Koko-en, or the one that includes Kintai-kyo + ropeway + castle in Iwakuni (plus a discount). When in Tokyo on my first trip I had the Grutt Pass which was very very useful. I think it costs 2500 yen if I remember correctly but it paid off right away thanks to my obsessive museum-visiting.
As a side note, (small) lockers at stations added up to 900円 in total after 3 uses, I’ve also included locker use in this category since they were directly related to my sightseeing. Once I used the locker of a museum (Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Folklore in Fukuyama, for 100円 and they return the coin after use) instead of using a locker at the station that would’ve cost 700円 instead —there were no small ones left. It’s the little things like this that really add up in the end.
I usually avoid shrines and temples with an entrance fee, there are plenty that are free.

SHOPPING: 10,830円 total (about 730円/day)

On my first trip I had about 7000円/day spending money and it was way more than enough for the type of things I wanted to buy; I ended up buying so much that I thought I could do with much less on this trip and still have a great time. After all, it’s the experiences you remember, most of the things will eventually be lost or thrown away (I ended up keeping most of the 20 chopstick pairs I bought in Tokyo when I realised that most of my family doesn’t know how to use them anyway).
 What took most of the money from this category were the goshuin temple stamps I got, at 300円 each one (so 1800円 in total). The stamp book cost me 1000円 at Engyo-ji of Mt.Shosha. Other examples of things I bought are a couple of books at Hiroshima Peace Museum (2550円 total), two tenugui that I used as towels and are now good souvenirs (856円 the two), packet of 8 batteries (600円), tabi socks (100円) and a rice scoop at Miyajima (360円), between others.
I bought a very expensive umbrella at Sannomiya Station in Kobe thinking that it would be raining once I left the train in Himeji but I only used it once during my whole trip and wished I’d waited until I found a cheaper one at any konbini or 100 yen store.
Worth it!

Well, there you have it.
TOTAL OF EVERYTHING: 100,610円 (plane not included, since it depends on where you’re coming from). That means about 6700円 a day including accommodation!

Sam Lesmana