A vacation in Japan doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, contrary to popular opinion.
Stories of $200 taxi rides and $60 steaks have given Japan a reputation as the most expensive vacation destination in the world. But according to statistics compiled by the Japan National Tourist Organization, a stay in Japan compares favorably with a stay in London, Paris or Rome. A two-mile taxi ride in Tokyo will cost you about $5.50; a moderate hotel, $59; dinner for two, wine included, $75; a cup of coffee, $1.10.That compares with a $3.50 taxi ride, a $123 moderate hotel, a $97 dinner for two, and a $1.50 cup of coffee in London.
True, it's possible to dispense with your life savings on a trip to the Orient. But budget-minded vacationers should keep one thing in mind. There are less expensive alternatives to $30 hamburgers and $400 hotel rooms.
What follows are some dos and don'ts along those lines:
- Getting from the International Airport at Narita to downtown Tokyo: Do take an express bus. Don't take a taxi.
A limousine bus from Narita Airport to hotels deep in the heart of Tokyo will cost you approximately $18. A taxi will set you back $200 to $300. The airport is about 45 miles outside of Tokyo and the trip can take as long as two hours depending on your mode of transportation.
If you travel light take the train. A six-minute bus ride will get you to the Keisei Narita Airport Station. From there the Japanese National Railways Skyliner will whisk you to Keisei Ueno Station in downtown Tokyo in an hour. The cost is approximately $10. Take a taxi from there to your hotel.
If you're transferring from an international to a domestic flight and if all else fails, take a helicopter. A transfer by helicopter from the International Airport at Narita to the domestic airport at Haneda will cost less than a transfer by taxi and take a fraction of the time.
- Getting around Tokyo: Do use the subways and trains. Don't take a taxi.
The subway is billed as clean, safe and inexpensive. It is also crowded. According to Deseret News staffer Jerry Johnston, who ventured onto the Tokyo subway during a press tour to Japan, pushers pack you onto the cars like sardines. "It's downright scary," he says succinctly.
The price, however, is right. A one-day Freedom Pass costs about $10 and is good on the Teito Rapid Transit Authority, the Tokyo Metropolitan Transit Authority and the East Japan Railways system.
The pass is cheap and convenient, freeing you from the hassle of purchasing and stamping a ticket every time you get on the subway.
A taxi is generally the most expensive way of getting from point A to point B. The price depends on the length of the ride. "You cannot judge ahead of time how expensive a taxi will be," says Hiro Sato, director of public relations for the West Coast office of the Japan National Tourist Organization. He was in Salt Lake City recently to present a seminar to travel agents.
If you're caught in the proverbial Tokyo traffic jam the $200 taxi ride could become a reality.
"Walk" is a magic word in the vocabulary of any seasoned traveler. You become better acquainted with the city and get in a little exercise, as well. All you need is time.
- Golf: Do wait until you get back to the States to play. Don't play golf in Japan. And don't take a taxi to the golf course.
A round of golf (18 holes) will cost as much as $300 unless you manage to make friends with a member of a country club who can get you a discount.
- Getting around Japan: Do buy a Japan Rail Pass. Don't rent a car. Never take a taxi.
The Rail Pass is good for unlimited travel throughout the country on Japan Railways Group trains, and parts of the boat and bus system.
Vouchers for the pass are available at various locations around the country and can be obtained through your travel agent. You exchange the voucher for the pass once you've arrived in Japan. A seven-day pass costs about $190.
- Restaurants: Do eat in "Tourist Restaurants in Japan." Don't eat at restaurants in deluxe hotels.
The Japan National Tourist Organization and tourist offices throughout the country have introduced a designation called "Tourist Restaurants in Japan" that offer a variety of food (including western) at reasonable prices ($2 to $8). The menu has an English translation and there is at least one English-speaking employee. "Tourist Restaurants" are designated by a sign at the entrance.
- Accommodations: Do stay in standard ryokans or business hotels. Don't patronize deluxe hotels.
Deluxe western-style hotels are among the most expensive in Japan. A room will cost you $185 or more a night. A ryokan is a Japanese-style inn where Japanese traditions are strictly observed. You must take off your shoes at the door and sleep on a futon bed. You are provided with a