Japan Travel: Do-It-Yourself or Join A Tour?
by Armand Vaquer
The topic of G-TOUR II over at the Monster Zero forum got people thinking about going to Japan on a "do it yourself" basis. Some asked me how much should they bring, costs, etc. I gave them my recommendations on travel budgeting.
First off, depending upon the cost and itinerary details of G-TOUR II, fans may want to seriously consider joining it if they are reluctant or fearful to travel to a foreign country on their own. There is always someone on the tour to assist you and answer your questions or concerns. Plus, there's the added bonus of knowing some of the fellow travelers if one is going solo.
The last G-TOUR in 2004 was a lot of fun (basically party time every day). It was well-organized and things could not have been handled any better. Attendees got along great and had a great time.
There are some who find that an organized tour is not their cup of tea. (Green tea or not!) One usual complaint on organized tours to Japan are that they go to too many temples and shines. After a while, they all seem to blend in together. Also, there is not enough free time in which a traveler can take some days to go exploring on their own. We had one free day during G-TOUR 2004 in Tokyo. Some feel that organized tours are like being caught up in a whirlwind ("Where are we today?"). There's a classic comedy movie called If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, which illustrates this. And it's a damn funny movie! Some people aren't enamoured with the costs associated with tours.
The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan was designed to aid the Japan traveler in planning their trip. It tells them what is required to go. What to expect when arriving at the airport. What to see and do. Where to stay or how to find lodging. The JR Rail Pass. And more. For more information and ordering of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan, go here.
Before you go anywhere overseas, you will need a valid U.S. Passport.
On travel budgeting, out of the gate one has to find out how much their round-trip plane ticket is going to cost. That's just for getting to Japan and back. But there are other budgeting considerations to make.
1. Lodging. How much do you want to spend? What kind of accommodations to you want (a four-star hotel or a ryokan (Japanese Inn))? You have to think about how much per night you're willing to spend.
2. Land transportation. Japan has one of the most efficient transit systems in the world. And it's relatively cheap. Depending on how much running around (and where) you want to do, figure how much you want to spend on taxis, subways, trains, boats, Shinkansen, etc. per day. Also, you will need to get into Tokyo from Narita and back. If you plan on taking trips to other Japanese cities, you may want to consider getting a JR Rail Pass. The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan provides details on the Rail Pass.
3. Food. Like the United States, one can eat cheaply in Japan or go to a ritzy restaurant. If one isn't fond of Japanese food, there's always McDonalds, Yoshinoya, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Denny's, T.G.I. Friday's, Subway and others to go to in Tokyo and other places in Japan. There's Starbuck's all over Japan. One needs to budget on how much they want to spend on food per day.
4. Souvenirs. This depends upon what you want to buy while in Japan.
5. Miscellaneous. Sometimes unexpected things crop up. Sudden illness or an accident. Eyeglasses get broken, etc. It would be prudent to purchase travel insurance (it's not that expensive). It is generally under $200 and will cover you for the duration of your trip. Shop around for the best coverage and for the most reasonable premium.
6. What to bring. Should you bring a set of clothes for each day or just enough for a few days (if you know your hotel has a laundromat to wash them)? On my last trip to Japan, I went for 12 days but brought enough clothing for 6 days. I used the laundry room at my hotel midway into the trip and had clean clothes for the remainder of the trip. That's something for each individual to decide. If on a tour, you might not have time or the facilities available to do laundry. Bringing less will free up space in your suitcase for more souvenirs. Think about that! Then there's medications and home remedies (aspirin, etc.)
Remember, bringing more money than what you think you'll need is better than not bringing enough!
These are the things to consider and budget for before you take a trip to Japan (or anywhere, for that matter). Should you join a tour or do-it-yourself? Since you know yourself the best and what your personality will tolerate or not tolerate, that's a question best answered by the person in your mirror.