I have always been intrigued by the idea of going to Japan—mainly because the country has managed to create the perfect blend of technological innovation and cultural wealth. On one hand, you have Japan’s gadgets—from unparalleled video games to supercomputers and robots to decked-out electronic toilets, there’s no denying the Japanese’s prowess in finding ways to improve ordinary things. Then on the other hand, you have the nation’s rich history preserved in its countless temples, Zen gardens, and amazing people—all of which have contributed to making Japan a true wonder to behold.
As I was planning my trip to Osaka and Kyoto, I heard the same thing from many different people: “Japan is expensive!” But I wouldn’t let that stop me from visiting such an awesome country. I realized that with any destination, there is an affordable way to get there, enjoy your stay, and come back home to a bank account that isn’t empty—as long as you know the ropes. To illustrate my point, here are a few tipid tips I picked up in preparation for (as well as during) my trip:
First things first: find a cheap plane ticket. Keep tabs on super affordable airfare promo deals like I did—these are available seasonally with most major airlines. If you’re patient enough, you might just get a roundtrip ticket to Japan for the same price as a flight to Boracay!
When on a budget, it’s best to stick to the bare essentials—look for a hotel that is clean and well-located, as opposed to chi-chi and extravagant. I strongly recommend the places I stayed in: Chisun Hotel in Osaka and Capsule Ryokan in Kyoto. The rooms in both hotels were very small, but they were clean and had comfortable beds—plus, the hotel service was good. Before deciding on any hotel, check out its reviews on helpful websites like TripAdvisor.com, which is filled unbiased comments, ratings, and even advice from other travelers.
FOOD AND SHOPPING
This may sound strange, but I found that the easiest way to get good deals on food and shopping when you’re in Japan is to check out places with little to no English signage. Stores and restaurants that use a lot of English signs, banners, menus, and so on tend to cater to clueless tourists, meaning they’re quite expensive. Japanese street food is also very reliable if you’re looking for something cheap and tasty to eat. Don’t worry about hygiene or sanitation—even street food vendors wear proper cooking attire (no sando and shorts for these guys).
I didn’t take a cab the entire time I was in Japan—instead, I opted for the bus and subway, which are way more affordable. Take your time to learn these systems—it’ll be worth it! Also, make sure to get multi-trip tickets (which you can use repeatedly for public transportation) rather than one-way tickets (which you will have line up for every single time and are cumulatively more expensive). If all else fails, find a friendly Japanese person willing to give you some directions. I was fortunate enough to have a great innkeeper in Kyoto who not only gave me transportation tips but also showed me all the different ways to save money in his city (in fact, he had an entire binder dedicated to the subject). At the end of the day, no one knows Japan more than the Japanese themselves, so strike up a conversation with a local and shoot the breeze. Who knows what you’ll learn!
Once you’ve got these quick tips down, the adventure begins! Get ready for a trip full of incredible bargains, amazing experiences, and unforgettable memories. Check out the slide show below for more tips and pictures of some of the memorable sights from my trip!
(Photos by Ryan Puno and Bea Sambalido)