I know tons of travelogues have given tips about how to enjoy traveling in Japan even when you’re short on cash. It makes sense because Japan remains an expensive destination especially for avid travelers. I had to rely on the wise advice of some bloggers and travel experts on this especially during my latest sojourn in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Just this month, I ventured into a 10-day hiatus with a work colleague. Precisely the reason why I’m out of the blogging sphere once again; savoring a vacation that’s unplanned. Seven months before this, my colleague found a cheap airfare (seat sales are the best!) with an entry to Osaka and an exit from Tokyo. Honestly, I felt a little nervous when she got that budget airfare because I kept on thinking I’m broke.
Our dilemma was how to save up enough cash in a short time. But I’ve made up my mind I’ll fix my savings to make sure I have enough funds for my Japan travel. I resisted the temptation to dine out frequently, take coffee at Starbucks and indulge in unnecessary expenditures. It paid off. Eventually, I was lucky to avail a partial loan with my credit card bank and pay it off in tranches in the next couple of months.
And so, I tagged along with my friend, Tina, this time. We had a blast exploring Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo even if our feet were aching. There is so much to explore in Japan, and 10 days isn’t enough. For my friend who’s a first time visitor in Japan, she was extremely awed by Japan’s culture, modernity and vast historical treasures. For a second time visitor like me, I was bewildered…and found myself craving for more places to visit in this rich, wonderful land. [Promise I will: I have a multiple visa anyway]. 🙂
For my friends who badgered me to reveal how much we spent, I’ll tell you instead, how much I/we saved during this trip. As with any traveler, budget would always be the main concern. But I want to tell you this: you can make your budget work or not work for you. It’s up to you. Japan has thrown open its doors wide for budget travelers and high-end adventurers. Japan ❤ a thrifty traveler like me. 😀
What really worked for us is constant online research. In our case, we looked out for less expensive accommodation, relying at Agoda.com/TripAdvisor/Airbnb. We opted for a mix–we stayed in three hotels, and a rented unit posted at Airbnb. We’re not comfortable staying at a hostel, so we opted to stay at a property behind Tokyo Midtown I saw on Airbnb. We canceled that booking at a youth hostel in Asakusa because we’re not comfortable with the idea of a shared bathroom. Good thing, the property owner at Airbnb was available during our given dates and so, I immediately booked one room.
In Osaka, we stayed at Shin-Osaka Station Hotel and we’re surprised it’as spacious; two more people can fit in. I also chose it because breakfast was free and for three consecutive days, we alternated between a Japanese breakfast and a continental breakfast. Japanese breakfast typically consists of rice, fish, eggs, tofu, miso soup. Of course, there’s coffee, juice and bread and jam on the buffet table. It’s filling and enough to help us last a day. If you’re on a budget, it’s better to choose a hotel that goes with a free breakfast ‘coz that would help you save from having to spend too much on groceries and food.
But of course, we did our part bringing our own “baon” consisting of canned goods, packs of noodles, coffee, and biscuits. It came in handy when we got to our rented room situated so near Tokyo Midtown in Ropponggi. Water, however, was our main concern. Bottled water is expensive here but we managed to buy one to two liters each day. We also make it a point to buy microwaveable cooked rice at Lawson’s before heading to our unit.
Before transferring to Ropponggi, we first spent a night at Smile Hotel in Asakusa so we can have easy access to Tokyo Skytree and explore Tokyo’s oldest district, particularly its iconic sights–the Sumida-gawa, Senso-ji Temple–on foot.
For the last leg of our trip, we booked a hotel near Narita International Airport–Narita Gateway Hotel–to avoid having to rush to the airport for our late morning flight back to Manila. However, we seemed to have ran out of luck on our way here. We were pissed off at a taxi driver who made us pay Y10,00 (that’s almost US$100) for a taxi fare from Matsudo station to the hotel. I don’t know what his excuse is, but I’m certain he gave us a run around trying to make it look he doesn’t know the exit going up the pathway to the hotel. Grrr!!!
But except for that unfortunate incident, all in all, our trip was fun, enjoyable and had less boo-boos. Japan’s railway system is really superb! It’s so easy to spot where you are and where you’re going to get off. Carrying our luggages also was no problem as Japan’s streets are so traveler-friendly. Still as any traveler, we’ve learned to pack light. Travel tip: you can use coin lockers in major subway stations if you need to deposit your luggages for the time being. Japan has thought of this because their populace spends so much time traveling to and from cities. Also, comparing it to my experience in 2010, most Japanese now seems to be more conversant in English. Some restaurants also offer English menu. It was such a relief!
I was able to save $400 out of the $1,000 pocket money I set aside for this trip. Meaning I spent a total of $600 in cash (Y70,683/P26,967). But if you include my credit card purchases and the accommodations, and airfare, I spent more or less P40,000 (that’s around $900 or Y104,842). And that already includes a one day pass at Universal Studios Japan, Tokyo Disneyland, and some simple souvenirs for me and some friends. I think that’s not bad. 🙂
The best thing about Japan is that most of the parks and tourist attractions in Japan are free or only requires a minimal entrance fee. We took advantage of this and as you know, almost every place in Japan are interesting venues for any soul stricken with wanderlust. It’s just a matter of knowing where to go, what to do, ahead of your arrival.
Work hard, but travel even harder… 😉