Japan has always been known as an expensive Asian travel destination. I remember when a two-way ticket cost over 25,000php, so for a cheapskate traveler like me, I never had an interest in making a trip there. Gosh, I mean the ticket alone is already worth a week-long Indo-China trip! (Hey, don’t worry you’ll find it in another post!) What had me convinced to book a flight in this country famed for their local and distinct food (sushi, tempura, sashimi,rameni—name it!), cherry blossoms, high speed bullet train (‘Shinkansen’), chinchansu and what-have-you is this shockingly cheap flight for 5,500php!!! I KID YOU NOT. I thought it was a scam at first, or that there must be some sort of catch where you’d end up paying a buttload of additional miscellaneous fees. As luck would have it, my fears were unfounded. The whole 8-day Japan trip covering Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo only cost me and my friends 35,000php each all in! Of course you want to know how we did it so here are 15 very HANDY TIPS on how you can do it too:
- BOOK IN ADVANCE
We managed to book our two-way flight tickets from Cebu Pacific (via Nagoya) for 5,500php each on September 2015 which is scheduled for February 2016. Pro-tip: it’s best to travel during November to March which are considered off-peak seasons. Off-peak seasons mean cheaper hotel accommodations, less crowds, and more time to explore!
- PROCESS YOUR VISA via RELI TOURS
Just so we’re clear, this is not a paid advertisement. I searched for different Japanese accredited agencies and RELI tours turned out to have the cheapest rate offered at 950php, processed within 3 days! You can also check their rates and their offices HERE.
- TRAINS are not just your friends— they are your BESTFRIENDS.
Japan’s train system may seem a little complicated but I swear, trains there are a life-saver. It is definitely the best and most convenient way to go around Japan. If you plan to stay in Japan for a week, I advise you buy the 7-day unlimited JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) which entitles you to unlimited access in all local JR lines, limited express, rapid, and Shinkansen a.k.a. bullet trains! JR Pass costs around 12,000php. Sounds expensive right? Actually, it doesn’t once you realize that a one way Shinkansen ride is around 3,000-4,000php already. Since we went around Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo and back, we would have spent 20,000php on Shinkansen alone if had we not purchased the JR Pass. But remember, JR Pass is sold in accredited Japanese travel agencies only. In our case, we got it from Attic Tours. Click HERE to see the requirements and their office location.
- DOWNLOAD THESE USEFUL MOBILE APPLICATIONS (else you’re doomed!)
Hyperdia – this is your personal guide for train schedules, stations, available itineraries, and train prices. I know we’re all used with ‘Filipino Time,’ but ditch that cancerous mentality once you’re in Japan. You’ll miss a train ride even if you’re a second late.
iTranslate – most Japanese don’t speak English so this will come in handy. Just remember to bow your head first before approaching somebody as a sign of respect and let them read your phone.
GoogleMaps – you’ll never get lost! I used this mostly on our walking tours.
- RENT a mobile POCKET WIFI
Because INTERNET CONNECTION is life. We rented ours in the airport for only 3,400php for an eight-day use. Japan’s pocket wifi comes with a charger, a cable connector, can connect up to 5 devices. Wifi is definitely faster than the speed of life. Tipong HINDI MO KAYA. Ganeern!
- BOOK hotel ACCOMMODATIONS EARLY
And do it via Agoda.com or Airbnb.com for cheap deals! No need to book luxurious hotels because even the simple ones offer the basic but quality facilities. Go for guesthouses and hostels!
- EXCHANGE your PESO to YEN in Manila.
Exchanging your peso to yen in Japan will cost you more so better do it here. Also, ATM in Japan do not accept foreign cards so save yourself the hassle!
- AVOID EXPENSIVE TAXIS
Taxis in Japan are known to have one of the most expensive cab rates in the world so unless you want to go home broke, either walk, take the bus, or the train. Taxis are just only recommended if you are in group and for short-distance travels. I repeat, SHORT-DISTANCE TRAVELS.
- DON’T TIP ANYONE
Believe it or not but giving tips in Japan is viewed as an offensive gesture. It is considered unacceptable and disrespectful.
- KEEP CALM and use the VENDO MACHINE
Don’t worry about getting hungry or thirsty coz Vendo Machines are almost everywhere. You’ll find the cheap but delicious goods in those machines enough to save you during your long walk tours.
- HOLLER at your FRIENDS in JAPAN
Coz they are the only ones who’ll talk to you in English. We, Filipinos, are known for our hospitality and saying hello to your friends in Japan will really save you a lot.. a lot of time and I suppose, money too. Hehe. We met some of our friends in Japan who made the trip more memorable. Aside from the overwhelming food treats (oh we got to taste the best wagyu beef and freshest sushi and sashimi because of them!), they also took us around for free while giving us useful tips and sharing their experience on Japanese culture and tradition (which I found really interesting!)
- Try FREE FOOD Samples
DITO KUMOTA AKO. HAHA! And don’t just try; DO IT. I remembered during one of our trips in Kiyomizudera Temple (one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites), we walked on the streets of Higashiyama full of small souvenir shops, cafe, and restaurants. We haven’t had breakfast that day but boy, those overflowing free tastes literally filled us up until dinner. Imagine how much we benefited from that free-taste and how gutsy we were! Haha!
- DO-IT-YOURSELF TOUR (wag maging tamad!)
You don’t even need to avail of expensive package tours. Gosh you were able to read this lengthy write-up, I’m pretty sure you can endure another article of “places-you-must-visit”. Japan is Instagram worthy in any angle and most of the attractions are freely accessible! So go and enjoy unlimited sightseeing!
- STREET FOOD takes you to HEAVEN
Because JAPAN offers QUALITY even from the cheapest finds! I literally tasted the best takoyaki from the streets, the best ramen in a fast food store, and the sumptuous sashimi in conveyer belts! Street food and markets are always great opportunities for tasty and affordable eats in Japan!
- Shop at DON QUIJOTE
DONKI or Don Quijote is a big discount chain store in Japan that sells EVERYTHING for a great deal! If you think SM got it all for you, DONKI will make you think twice! The best thing about it is that they provide 8% tax exemption for tourists so go and shop for your pasalubong here!
I have now revealed the secrets to spending less in Japan! Now go out and do tip number 1! Kanpai! Ganern!!