Cheap and Practical Tips When Traveling to Japan

A lot of people think that a trip to a first world country like Japan is expensive. The visa application, the airfare and the accommodation would take up much of your budget. Here are some things that you can do to enjoy Japan (and Mt. Fuji) for just P22,000.

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Passport

Have your passport ready. If getting one is too much of a hassle for you, then you can do that after you book your flight. It’s not really advisable but it’s really no big deal. You are going to be more motivated and obligated once you’re done booking your flight.

Before planning your trip, one should have atleast a P5,000 (already included in the P22,000 budget) starting money. You will know why later on.

Timeline

One thing that everyone should know is you have to set your timeline and timeline is essential in order to perfectly manage your finances lightly. You should always have five months in between your date of travel and your date of booking. That’s the minimum number of months. This will allow you to divide your expenses into 5 months. For a P22,000-trip, that’s about P4,400/month.

Season

Choosing the season might save you a lot of money. For Sakura-season, prices might significantly go up compared to the summer season but a bulk of this consideration should come from your planned itinerary. If you want to go to Mt. Fuji, the perfect season would be autumn and not summer. Autumn, especially early morning and late afternoon, lessens the possibility of clouds covering the mountain. If you want to see snow, try going to other prefectures outside of Tokyo during December. If going around Tokyo is part of your itinerary, then Autumn is also the perfect season. Walking in the cold weather can be really convenient. Summer is just too hot for some tourists.

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Plane Fare

Book your flight for as low as 5,000 pesos for a two-way trip. This is the trickiest part of the planning stage. You will now be needing your standby 5,000 pesos. It’s not really a requirement to have a credit card to book your flight but it’s rather convenient to have one especially if you are going to be traveling a lot. The technique is to wait for promos online. Cebu Pacific usually releases promos during holidays and special occasions. Airasia is also at par in terms of promos with Cebu Pacific and has quite a lot of choices in terms of international destinations. Philippine Airlines, on the other hand, rarely give out promos. Well, you don’t really need to be picky on airlines, getting there is more important.

It is also helpful to subscribe to online newsletter with these airlines in order to receive promo notifications in advance. During promo season, prices can go as low as 4,000/person for a two-way trip. In our case, the usual trip is Friday to Monday for four days. I usually scan rates for all Fridays and Mondays to get the best deal and I just adjust my schedule depending on the availability of affordable rates. It is also wiser to get weekend schedules because there are tourist spots in some countries that are only available on weekends like Bangkok’s Chat tu Chak and some traditional weddings in famous shrines in Tokyo.

Visa Application

Applying for a visa can be really stressful so you need to have your documents ready. When traveling to Japan, apply only to travel agencies that are accredited by the Japanese Embassy. We got ours at Reli Tours and Travel Agency in SM Megamall at the 5th floor located near Bo’s Coffee. During our application, we were able to avail their promo from P1200 to P950. There are also other accredited agencies that you can try depending on your location. Click here for more details.

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Tour Guide

This is not so popular but there are a lot of organizations in Japan that offer free tour guiding services. First, you need to find an organization that is based on the area that you will be traveling. Email the organization and they will send you a form that you will need to accomplish. It usually contains details of your trip like name, date, location, etc. Then, the organization will find you a member that can accompany you on your specified dates and location. You will be given a profile of your guide and you will need to finalize your itinerary together. Most tour guides ask you about what you love doing or what you want to experience in Japan. They will arrange the itinerary based on your likes and interests. For our trip we chose ShinagawaSGG Club. One last important thing about having a tour guide, most often than not, they can take you to places and events with free pass. We had a chance to witness a Geisha performance for free! We also went to a shop that let’s you wear a full ninja outfit for free. Aside from the perks, it also saves you time from figuring out where to go next and how to get there.

Accommodation

I have searched the internet for cheap but decent and comfortable accommodation and still ended up with Airbnb. Although couchsurfing is free, let’s admit it, it’s not really for everyone. Airbnb offers a wide array of options depending on your needs. For two people, we got our private room for P4,400, good for 4 days and 3 nights. That’s like P733/person/day. Here are some tips in looking for an Airbnb space:

  • Filter the search bar depending on your needs (Price, Location, Type of Accommodation, etc.);
  • Places near tourist spots can be pricey but your accommodation should atleast be near a subway, a train, or a bus station;
  • It is also wiser to stay near restaurants and convenience stores;
  • Make sure to read the house rules before booking;
  • Double check the provisions/specifications of your accommodation before booking. Sometimes it’s a shared space with a shared bathroom;
  • Always always always check the reviews. This is most important because the reviews will provide your experiences of previous guests and some of these information are not stated in the profile of the place;
  • When in doubt, you can always message the owner of the place; and
  • You can book your accommodation in advance so you can include it as attachment for your visa application.

Itinerary

As I have said, your itinerary should depend on your interests and you can plan this out with your tour guide but incase you are having a hard time, our itinerary might just help you. (Day 1 was Mt. Fuji Day. Click here for details)

Day 2

  • Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Asakusa
  • Sensoji Temple
  • Nakamesi Dori
  • Tokyo Skytree
  • Izakaya Resto
  • Akihabara
  • Ueno and Yanaka
  • Ameyoko Market – Candy Shop Alley
  • Ueno Park
  • Shinobazu Pond
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • University of Tokyo
  • Roppongi Illuminitation

Day 3

  • Harajuku
  • Yoyogi Park
  • Meiji Shrine
  • Takeshita Street
  • Togo Shrine
  • Shibuya
  • Shibuya Crossing
  • Center Gai
  • Don Quijote
  • Hachiko Statue
  • Imperial Palace
  • Kagurazaka
  • Shinjuku
  • Omoide Yokocho
  • Sompo Museum of Art

After you finish planning your itinerary you should always, always have a printed copy. One copy for each person. The printed copy should also contain (1) the complete address of your accommodation, (2) the contact details of your host/hotel, (3) the address and contact details of the Philippine embassy, (4) Hotlines incase of emergency such as police stations and fire department. You can also include in the printed copy some basic Japanese words, greetings and phrases, currency exchange from Yen to Peso to US Dollars.

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Evening Itinerary

We did not get the chance to do our planned evening activities as we were still in the streets of Tokyo finishing our itinerary for the day. However, what I can recommend for you to do is try their Onsen Theme Parks. Our tour guide recommended 3 Onsen sites that you can try. (1) Ooedo-onsen Monogatari, ¥2,480(P954), (2) LaQua, ¥2,634(P1,014), (3) Matsuri-yu, ¥2,365(P910). Before you visit an Onsen bathhouse, make sure to research on the things that you need to know before going to a Japanese Onsen Bath.
We allotted the entire day 4 for travel back to the Philippines but you can do some other activities like breakfast or a last stop at a pasalubong shop.

Food

The average meal in Japan is ¥1,000. That’s about P384. So the average food allocation for a day should be P1,152/¥3,000. You can look for cheaper meals and that would mean savings that you can spend for other things. An average meal can sometimes be more than enough for a single person so you don’t need to worry about that part.

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Transportation

You need to buy the PASMO card. The card works for both trains rides, subway rides and bus rides. This will help you save time buying tickets and is convenient when transferring from one station to the other. Reload your card with ¥1,500, that’s the average amount that you will be spending in a day’s tour in Tokyo. The card can also be used in purchasing food and items in stores and vending machines. You can also check for passes. A one-day pass can save you a lot of money.

Pasalubong

A trip would not be complete without the “pasalubongs” or souvenirs. As you know, a key chain in Japan can cost you about ¥400 or P153. It depends on what you want to bring to the Philippines but I recommend you buy food and treats. They’re cheaper and can be a pasalubong for a group. If you want to buy items look for Daiso Shops in Japan. We have Daiso in the Philippines but there are still items that you can only buy in a Daiso Shop in Japan. The prices usually start from ¥100(P38) to ¥300 (P115). You can buy 5 pairs of chopsticks (the usual souvenir) for ¥100. If you have decided to buy food, you can visit any Don Quijote branches. Prices are relatively cheap. Plus, you can buy the famous Green Tea Kitkat there for ¥295 (P113).

If Japanese novelty items are your thing, visit Yanaka. It’s a small town in downtown Tokyo. Most stores in Yanaka sell pre-loved items. A carved-wooden decoration can be as cheap as ¥500. They also have plates, jars, mirrors and other decorations. One thing that I learned in buying souvenirs in other countries, you need to budget in advance and buy it right then and there if necessary because you usually don’t have time to roam around and go back to previous places you’ve been to just for a single item. Plan, budget and buy immediately.

Currency Exchange

While it is easier to buy Japanese Yen in the Philippines, I personally think that it is better to buy US dollars in the Philippines and exchange them for Japanese Yen when you’re in Japan. Also, you will notice that you will have more coins as the days go. Never forget to exchange them with bills prior to coming back to the Philippines as some banks won’t accept coins when buying Pesos.

Summary of Expenses:

Category Description Allocation
Visa Promo Price P 950
Plane Ticket Promo Price (two-way) P 5,000
Travel Tax Fix amount P 1,650
Accommodation Airbnb (4 days, 3 nights) /person P 2, 200
Transportation ¥1,500/P 576 (Average Price per day in Tokyo) P 1,152 (¥3,000)
Transportation (Airport) To and from Narita Airport & Accommodation P 1,152 (¥3,000)
Transportation (Mt. Fuji) From Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko Station via Keio Highway Bus  Terminal P 1,344 (¥3,500)
Food ¥3,000/P 1,152 (Average Price per day) P 4,609 (¥12,000)
Tour Guide Expenses ¥2,500/P 960 (Food and Transportation per day allocation) P 960 (¥2,500)
Incidental ¥1,000/day (P384/day) P 1,536 (¥4,000)
Pasalubong Usually the remaining amount P 1,447 (¥3,767)
Grand Total P 22,000 (¥57,274)

*If there are many of you, you can save a lot from the tour guide expenses

*The computation is based on individual expenses. There are two of us so some of the items were split into two.

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Last Few Things You Need To Know

  • English-Japanese Translator App. Download the mobile app (both for android and iOS) called “Japanese Lite”. This app can be used even offline and has basic translations from greetings, general conversations, numbers, directions & places, transportation, eating out and emergency.
  • Eating While Walking – Japanese consider it impolite to eat while walking especially on board trains and subways. Drinking beverages while walking is slightly tolerable.
  • Faucet – Water in all faucets in Japan is safe to drink and was claimed to be cleanest in the world so it’s really ok to drink from the faucet.
  • Passport – Always always bring your passport with you. You’ll never know when you will be needing it.
  • Tax – Some stores in Japan gives you back your tax for buying goods and items but they will wrap and seal it and you cannot use or consume the items while in Japan.

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