Most people think Japan is expensive, but with the various options in transportation and travel-related stuff, it has become less prohibitive to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
I first visited Japan three years ago and I loved the experience so much that I have been going back every year since. Along the way, we’ve learned how to make the most of our travel experience without breaking the bank. Below are 4 tips we picked up.
1. Prepare for the trip. Unlike our neighboring Southeast Asian countries, Japan requires tourists to apply for a visa. But don’t worry, the process is simple — and fast. Google 'Embassy of Japan in the Philippines' to see the short list of requirements and the list accredited agencies where you can lodge your application. Not all offer the same rate so make sure to ask around or let your fingers do the walking by calling each one on the list.
2. Be your own travel agent. Search for available flights and accommodations yourself.
Since flights from Manila to Tokyo average four hours only, I find it’s not necessary to splurge on airfare. Fly budget — the last one my husband and I took was with a local budget carrier that has a lifestyle rewards program. We were able to get free flights using our miles and only had to pay for taxes and fees that were minimal.
Another major expenditure is accommodation. During our first trip to Tokyo, we stayed at a fine hotel that cost around US$200 a night for a decent-sized room with a queen bed.
This time, we tried Airbnb and got a one-bedroom apartment with its own kitchen, separate toilet and bath, laundry area, television, high-speed Internet, and other amenities you would usually find at a hotel.
It was pretty spacious, with a small balcony to boot, and came at less than 50 percent of the previous hotel we stayed in.
Despite the absence of a concierge, we were able to communicate with our host online (through the app), any time of day. Our host even threw in free use of his pocket Wi-Fi so we saved on additional rental for that during our whole stay.
3. Save on transportation while going around town
Upon landing at the airport, check the train ticket counters. Consider grabbing a package ticket that would allow you to access the different subway systems: Tokyo Metro, Toei Transportation, and JR Pass.
Get unli-ride tickets depending on where you want to go. Because my hubby and I just planned to see the city’s sights, we chose a 72-hour Tokyo subway ticket that allowed us to take all the train rides that we want without worrying about getting lost and paying for an extra ticket. It also gave us the liberty to explore places that were along the way.
Having this unlimited train pass allowed us to explore the city on foot, which led us to places such as the Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji Market, Shinjuku area with the Godzilla head, Roppongi Hills, and other nearby destinations.
Just make sure not to schedule out-of-town trips within the validity period so you can make the most out of it.
4. Taste the full scale of Tokyo, from konbini to Tsukiji
How could you not love the country that invented ramen?! Some of the popular ones there are not far from the cost of the ones you’ll find in our local market. You can splurge on ramen once or twice, or you can snack throughout the day with other more affordable food finds.
In the narrow alleys of Tsukiji Market, you’ll find different kinds seafood on skewers that are relatively affordable considering the quality and freshness — from scallops to eel and everything in between.
Throughout the city, you’ll see takoyaki (round shape flour-based snack with octopus and veggies) and gyoza (potstickers) eateries where you can have your fill along with a glass of whiskey highball.
Since our accommodations didn’t include breakfast, we had to fend for ourselves. There were nearby convenience stores where sandwiches were available, but we preferred places the 24-hour beef bowl places where you can get cheap but tasty rice toppings.
Check out supermarkets before closing time — you might chance upon some of its packed meals on sale—from sushi to noodles, and fried foods as well. You can also grab packs of instant ramen or cans of beer that you can bring back to your place—in case you want a nightcap or get a snack attack. Should you wish to drink at a bar, be mindful that some places have cover or table charges that will be added to your final bill.
We were in Tokyo for six nights and seven full days, but we made sure that our budget trip was comfortable enough for the both of us and it didn't cramp our style nor hinder our full travel experience. It looks like we’re going back again next year since we had sufficient savings during this trip.
Sayonara for now Japan, see you soon! — LA, GMA News