One of the questions I get quite frequently from readers is how much to budget for a Hokkaido trip.
A budget can vary quite widely depending on your choice of airline, accommodation and food. I can wait for a flight promo for SGD600 per pax, I can also fly without promo for SGD1000 per pax. I can stay in a hotel that cost SGD100 a night, I can also stay in a ryokan for SGD500 a night. I can eat a bowl of 500JPY Yoshinoya beef bowl for dinner, I can also splurge on a 10000JPY sushi meal. So sometimes I find it is not so much of how much to budget, but more of how to keep to a budget.
This post can be seen as a follow-up from the post on ‘Money-saving tips for a self-drive Hokkaido trip‘ that I wrote many years back, where I will elaborate on how I tried to keep to a budget for our recent trip.
Budgeting for Flights
Firstly, I never book a flight with the mindset that I must go somewhere at a certain time. For almost all our travels, our mindset has been ‘if there is a good flight deal, then we will go’. So we set a budget of SGD700 per pax for our SIN – CTS airfare and waited until the price for airfare dipped below that before we booked a flight.
For this particular trip, our total expenses on flights for 4 adults + 2 children (above 2 years old) was SGD4011.60 via Thai Airways which was within our budget of SGD700 per pax.
Almost immediately after I booked the flight, Scoot announced their SIN – CTS flights and I was like banging my head. We could have saved a few hundred dollars! But oh well.. The point is, I do not always get the BEST deal. But I had a budget (SGD700 per pax) and I kept to it. i.e. if I can’t get an airfare within my budget, we simply don’t go.
Budgeting for Accommodation
In my money-saving post, I wrote that I always try to book city hotels for less than SGD100 per night. That was at a time when 100JPY was about SGD1.1. Since then, JPY has strengthened and for this particular trip, 100JPY rose to about SGD1.3. This meant that a reasonably priced city hotel that cost 8000JPY only cost me SGD88 back then, but would cost me SGD104 this time. Hence the budget of SGD100 per night has become more difficult to keep to.
Also, we were in Sapporo during the Yosakoi Soran Festival. Whenever there is a festival, accommodation prices sky rocket in Sapporo. As an example, I used to book Mercure Hotel Sapporo during lull periods for about SGD80 per night. But this time, we booked it for SGD150+ per night – which is expected because of the festival.
Since we had 4 adults and 2 children (who do not need bedding of their own), I had to book two rooms. We were there for 14 nights. In Otaru, we stayed in my friend’s hostel which I paid with a token fee plus gifts in kind. So I’m excluding it in the budget. Taking into account exchange rate and festival period, I gave myself a budget of SGD3000 to work with for booking 2 rooms for 13 nights. This was how it worked out:
* Note on Sapporo accommodation: We were in Sapporo for 3 nights, but Mercure Hotel Sapporo was fully booked for 2 of the nights. So for those 2 nights, I booked a quad room at APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino-EkiNishi which 6 of us shared in order to save money.
Eventually, I exceeded the budget a bit because we paid for some of the hotels by credit card while we were there and JPY to SGD exchange rate kept going up up up while we were there. Zzz…
But you may notice that for this particular trip, we did not stay at ryokans. I would have loved to fit in a ryokan stay at Shiretoko or Lake Akan. But I had a budget and because of crappy exchange rate and festival period, I had to forego ryokan stays in order to keep to my budget by spending 3 nights in a budget hotel, Super Hotel Kitami, instead.
Budgeting for Car Rental
Since we had 4 adults + 2 children, we rented a 7-seater (Toyota Wish). For rental of a 7 seater, I set myself a budget of SGD100 per day.
In Japan, 7-seaters and 8-seaters are in different price categories. We had 6 people and 2 large suitcases, so we managed to squeeze into a 7-seater. My friends who had 6 people and 4 large suitcases had to rent an 8-seater which was more expensive. So by cutting down on our luggage, we managed to save money by booking a 7-seater.
Rakuten has great deals on car rentals – but the website is in Japanese. Right about the time when I was looking for car rental, a reader told me that Rakuten was having a sale on car rental. I went to take a look and found a 7000yen discount coupon! So I booked the cheapest 7-seater I could find on Rakuten from World Net Rental Car and with the 7000yen Rakuten discount, our car rental for 14 days was only 62620 yen – which was a steal! Even without the 7000yen discount coupon, the price of 69620yen for a two weeks rental of a 7-seater was very cheap. However, World Net Rental Car’s staff didn’t speak English.
World Net Rental Car didn’t have any 8-seaters. So our friends ended up renting an 8-seater from Car Rental Hokkaido via Rakuten for about 90000yen iirc. Car Rental Hokkaido’s staff spoke good English and Chinese. Their biggest drawback was they charged a BOMB for child seats (540yen per seat per day)! So if you rent from them, you may want to bring your own child seats to save money. And they do not have a desk at New Chitose Airport – you need to call them when you arrive.
So If you know a bit of Japanese, or maybe even Chinese is good enough, you can try navigating Rakuten website for car rental. It was WAY cheaper than Tocoo. However, they do not offer English support and many of the cheaper car rental companies do not converse in English. It is a risk you have to take if you want to save money. If you prefer to play safe, go with the bigger companies like Toyota, Nippon Rent a Car, Nissan etc. They are more expensive but they should have staff who can speak English.
Budgeting for Food
I have to confess, I suck at keeping to a budget for food. My whole trip revolves around food. I scrimp and save on flight, accommodation and car rental so that I can spend on food. I planned my trip around where I want to have my meals – so no, I wasn’t planning on saving on food.
BUT, I can share with you the THEORY of budgeting for food. Like I mentioned at the start of the post, there are places like Matsuya and Yoshinoya where you can get a pretty filling bowl of beef rice for like 500JPY. Ramen will cost your around 1000yen a bowl. You can also buy pretty tasty buns from Lawson (convenience store) for like 100JPY for breakfast. So let’s say you set a budget of SGD200 per day for food. You just try to keep to it by having say one good meal a day, and eating Lawson bread for breakfast and beef rice or ramen for your other meal.
The other tip I have is on dining at upmarket restaurants. For the upmarket restaurants, they typically charge more for dinner than for lunch. For e.g. At Sushi Zen in Sapporo, their lunch set starts from 3564JPY per pax but their dinner set starts from 8640yen per pax. Another e.g. At Sora at Lake Kussharo, their lunch set starts from 2000yen per pax, but their dinner set starts from 10000yen per pax. So plan to visit these restaurants for lunch. And for those restaurants like ramen restaurants that charge the same regardless of the time you visit, keep those for dinner.
Another thing you need to note on visiting cafes in Japan is that there is often a minimum order of 1 drink / food item per person for dining in. So you may walk past a cafe with gorgeous looking cakes and decide to go in with your entire entourage to grab a few slices to try. If you decide to sit in and dine, everyone (kids included) may be required to order something. So if you just want to try one or two slices of cake, choose to take away.
Budgeting for Train Tickets
We did not use the rail for our trip, but since I am talking about budgeting, I will just share my two yen worth on budgeting for train tickets.
Budgeting for train tickets is pretty straightforward because you can check the exact price of train tickets on hyperdia. After planning out your itinerary and the train routes you need to take, just hop over to hyperdia to check the fares and add them up.
After adding up your train fares, you can then compare it to the price of the Hokkaido Rail Pass to see if it is worth getting the rail pass.
If you are using the shinkansen between Tokyo and Hakodate to get to Hokkaido and also using rail to get around Hokkaido, you can also compared your total rail fare to see if it is worth getting the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass or the Japan Rail Pass.
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Posts from the same trip
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