The GoBear guide to visiting Japan on a budget
Films set in Japan make us dream of going back and forth the Shibuya crossing, strolling along the zen gardens or merely absorbing the splendor of the Cherry blossoms. If you are still not convinced, see 5 reasons you should visit Japan. With Japan being included by websites in their list of most expensive travel destinations, we think we should first work out butt off to cross the country out of our “Places to visit before I die.”
However, a little research and planning will help you move Japan from your bucket list to your short-term goals. Below are a few tips to prepare for your trip to Japan without exhausting your funds.
1. Seek seat sale
Need we remind you to book early and buy travel insurance along with your seat? If you are just booking your flight a month before you plan to step on the plane, chances are you will be taking a big leap. Make sure you download the mobile applications of the airlines in your country. Some of these have settings that can be adjusted, so you get notified when there are seat sales. These are usually months ahead of the indicated flight date.
2. Settle for simple
If you want to splurge on a hotel, at least avail of discounts offered by online booking sites and application. Make the most out of your money by checking if the hotel is located near the destinations you are planning to visit. But if you are not too sensitive, frequent travelers to Japan recommend staying at a kanshuku. It means “simple accommodation.” These are private rooms equipped with tatami mats and futons. However, you have to share the bathroom and dining area with other occupants. Not bad unless you plan to just sleep during your entire trip.
3. Check the weather and the season
The northern island of Hokkaido gets a lot of snow from December to February. Photo credits to JM Teruel
Just like what Carol King said, “winter, spring, summer or fall … all you have to do is call.” Ask which of the four seasons in Japan you will be arriving at. Choose during which one should you visit depending on what you want to experience. For example, the cherry blossoms bloom during spring while Mount Fuji is open for climbing in summer. Also, knowing what weather condition will welcome you helps you pack the appropriate clothes. You don’t want to waste time and spend all your budget money on shopping for clothes in Japan.
4. Enjoy the commute
Because of its punctuality and satisfying service, public transportation in Japan is considered as one of the most efficient in the world. The cheapest way to get around is to buy individual tickets for each train or bus ride.
Hakata Station, Fukuoka, Japan - Photo by April Capispisan
If you want to save more money without sacrificing convenience, buying transportation passes is the way to go. The most popularly used is the Japan Rail or JR Pass. You can buy this online before your trip as this is only offered to tourist visa holders. The advantage of using JR Pass is it covers most train lines in Japan including the shinkansen or bullet trains. That alone is a reason to avail of this offer.
Willer Express also offers passes for their bus rides.
5. Choose convenience
In Japan, fast food does not necessarily mean junk food. Donburi restaurants are the Japanese equivalent of our typical silog restaurants. These are fast food chains offering rice bowls, udon, and Japanese breakfast.
The famous Ichiran Ramen for only Php420. Photo by April Capispisan
Onigiri or rice balls are sold in different flavors in convenience stalls (Konbini).
If you are in for a leg work before eating, it would not hurt to visit the market where food items have marked down prices at night. Store it in your hotel room and microwave it for breakfast the next morning.
Street foods in Japan do not disappoint. Takoyaki (fried batter filled with pieces of octopus) and Ikayaki (grilled squid on a stick) are easy to find and would not hurt your budget.
From Php50-Php200, you can enjoy Japan's sumptuous street foods. Photo by April Capispisan
Also, Japan lets you experience their technology even in presenting food. Some restaurants do not need waiters or waitresses to serve you food. Just hit the button corresponding to the photo of your chosen meal. Then, food is delivered to you by the machine itself. These machines are common in the country and are often cheaper alternatives to pricey restaurants.
If you want to try their sushi, look for sushi trains where the food is delivered to you via conveyor belt! That’s still worth posting in your Instagram stories!
6. Get a Grutt Pass
Soak up in the arts and culture of Japan by buying a Grutt pass. For just 2000 Yen, you are given a booklet of tickets in free or at reduced prices. Use these tickets to enter their 79 partner institutions such as the Tokyo National Museum where you can learn more on woodblock prints, kimonos and samurai swords.
It also includes a pass to the Miraikan or The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Odaiba District of Tokyo. Interacting with robots and seeing a hands-on model of the Internet will surely bring out the Science geek in you.
If you are overwhelmed with the museums and activities to choose from, it is best to watch travel vlogs first, so you are able to categorize which ones you want to experience first-hand versus those you are already satisfied with just watching on the internet.
Visitors aged 12 years old and above can buy USJ tickets from Php3,000. Photo credits to JM Teruel
7. Learn Japanese etiquette
A few minutes of browsing the internet and learning about the accepted traditions in Japan will save your money and yourself from embarrassment. For example, giving tips in restaurants or taxi rides are not customary in Japan. They think you are already paying for good service and you need not add more money for that. Do not be offended if they refuse your tip. Being respectful, polite, and grateful to the waitress or driver is enough for them.
Traveling to a foreign country, especially if it’s your first time, is both scary and overwhelming. Although you can have that peace of mind through travel insurance, it could help if you read guides and learn from others’ experience. You are sure to face this fear and not look back while booking that flight. The easiest way is to process your flight ticket, accommodation, and travel pass online and ahead of time. Make the most out of it by choosing a credit card that offers perks for travelers.
Want to check out a credit card for miles and cash back? Compare credit card offers with GoBear. You can also get a travel insurance package through our unbiased comparison tool.