You should go to Japan. It’s the one destination for which I give a blanket recommendation. Whether you go for the food, the history, or the weirdness, you’ll have more fun than you can handle. I’m wrapping up a monthlong trip there now and already planning a trip back to visit my beloved whipped cream sandwich:
You should go.
The yen is weak against the dollar so you can maintain a microbudget without living like a 22 year-old backpacker (with all due respect to them). I even include a $150 “binge” line in this $1,400 budget that could be spent on a day at the spa, a Michelin-starred sushi, some fancy shoes, or whatever else you like to blow money on.
Don’t believe it’s possible? Let’s do this.
Airfare — $550
If you didn’t come here through a MyTravelNerd email, may I humbly suggest that you sign up?
So far these year I’ve found ~$500 deals to Tokyo from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, D.C., Seattle, and more. If you wait, the deals will come.
Nerd Tip: Don’t fly to Asia on the Chinese airlines. They often have the lowest prices but they suck. Think United but shittier.
Lodging — $40/day ($360 total)
This probably sounds crazy — it’s not. I just paid $39/night for a private studio in a great part of Osaka. You’d pay half that if you aren’t sad and alone like me and are traveling with someone else. Stay in a shared Airbnb to pay even less and hang out with a local. Or you can stay in a capsule hotel like I did on my last few days:
Nerd Tip: If you’ve never booked an Airbnb before you can use my coupon code to get $40 off your first stay. (And I’ll get a kickback — thanks 😉 )
Food — $20/day ($180 total)
Eating out can be extremely cheap, even in Tokyo. Check out these meals which I got in Tokyo and Osaka for about $6.50 each:
Search for counter places full of salarymen, preferably with a ticket machine out front where you order your food, and you’ll score good cheap food.
Of course, if you’re coming to Japan for the food you’re probably going to want to spend more than $20/day. Travel budgets for food are weird because you would have spent money on food even if you had stayed at home. Take whatever your daily food budget is now, add $20/day, and you’ll be able to eat damn well.
Transportation — $10/day ($90 total)
My strong advice to anyone visiting Japan for less than two weeks is to pick one place and stay there. You’re not going to run out of things to do in Tokyo in 9 days, nor Osaka, nor Kyoto. And you’ll get a better sense of the local culture if you’re able to settle in. Some people have to see everything when they visit a place, and that’s fine, but it costs more and is (IMO) less fun.
Public transportation in all the major cities is excellent so you won’t need to Uber.
Binge — $150
Go to the Robot Restaurant. Stuff your face with fish. Take a train and soak in the onsen. Get a massage. Get a “massage.” Get shitfaced on sake. It’s your binge day, you do with it what you like.
Misc — $7/day
You can get a couple beers at a counter-service restaurant for $7. Or, y’know, other stuff if you’re so inclined.
Wahoo! I came in $7 under-budget. Barkeep — two of your finest, cheapest beers, kudasai.