Thursday, May 6, 2010
Travel Blog: Budget Travel!!
Out of the 11 months I spent living in Japan, I had a lot of time to travel. In particular, domestic travel in Japan is quite expensive. People are more likely to travel abroad rather than domestically, just because it's cheaper. Anyway, I wanted to see as much of Japan as I could in the time I spent there, but I didn't have a whole lot of money. I was living off my scholarship allowance, about $800 a month. Although it seems like a lot I was paying rent, utilities, phone bill, insurance/pension and other stuff so I was on a limited budget. I actually did get to see most of what I wanted to, but I did it on a limited budget. I'm just going to share a few things I learned about how to budget my time and money while traveling.
Sadly, this is probably going to be the bulk of your travel expenses. In Japan, public transportation is expensive, but it's also extremely convenient. I mostly had time to travel while we were on vacation at school, during winter/spring/summer vacations. During this time JR offers the 青春18切符 (seishun 18 kippu) tickets. This ticket is excellent for budget travel, but not if you need to get somewhere quickly.
These are valid for several months at a time, but only during winter (Dec.10-Jan.20) /spring (March 1-April10) /summer (July 20-Sept.10) vacations, or basically 4 months out of the year.
One ticket costs 11500-yen (about $115USD), and is valid for 5 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) days of unlimited travel on JR local and rapid trains. That's 2300-yen per day or $23USD (a bargain if you know the cost of train tickets -_-)! Shinkansen, Limited Express and Express are not valid for this offer, so the down side is, it takes a long time to get anywhere (you can only use local and rapid trains). You can also use it for more than one person. 5 people can share 1 ticket for 1 day, or 1 person can use it for 5 different days.
This is the only ticket I used when I traveled in Japan. I only had to take a bus once, but that was when I traveled during Golden Week and the ticket was not avaliable.
Hyperdia is an excellent site for looking up train timetables. You can enter a start and end station and it will tell you which train, what time, where to transfer, how much etc. It's very convenient if you're planning to travel anywhere by train.
Hostels are a great budget accommodation! I admit, I was a little skeptical at first because I've never stayed at a hostel before, but as long as you do research and plan ahead you'll be fine. Hostelworld is an awesome site! They have reviews and you can book your stay through the site. I've relied on this site for it's reviews and to book my accommodations, and I've always had really good experiences at the places I've chosen. Hostels are a great way to meet people from all over the world, and usually the people here are very helpful and friendly. Average rates are from about $20-25 a night for a dorm room (4-6 people) and can be up to $30 or $40 for a private (double or single) room. Dorms are usually divided by gender so it's not that uncomfortable. I did stay in a mixed dorm for 1 night, and it was a little awkward, but bearable. I probably wouldn't do it again unless I really had to. Capsule hotels are also a really cheap option, and something fun to try while you're in Japan. Whenever I went to Osaka I always stayed at a capsule hotel. It was about $25 a night. The actual capsule is much bigger than I thought it would be, so I was pleasantly surprised. The only thing I hate is there's not much privacy. Bathrooms, sinks, showers and your locker are all in a separate rooms and can get inconvenient. But it's a good option if you really have nowhere else to stay. It might be harder to find a place that accepts women (most only accept men), but hostel world has several listings, which is where I found the place I stayed at.
Business hotels are your next best option if there are no hostels avaliable. There are tons of business hotel chains all over Japan. I would recommend Toyoko Inn. They have locations everywhere, and they are usually located right outside the train stations so it's very convenient. Prices range from $45-60 a night, sometimes more. It's a decent price and the rooms are a good size for 1 or 2 people. Plus they serve free breakfast every morning!
Well this post is actually a lot longer than I expected it to be, so I'll probably add a second blog later. Hope this helps some of you. I'm thinking about taking a post-graduation trip at the end of the year, so I hope that will work out!