Contributed by The Diary of HNNH BNCA
Japan is a relatively expensive country, but not as expensive as Dubai. I was surprised that food is cheaper here than in the latter, so are the hotel rates. Taxi fares though are very expensive, but why take a taxi when you have a very reliable railway system to back you up (just prepare getting lost though, because that happens to everyone apparently). Taking the train alone may be daunting, I know, but it will save you tons of money.
I visited four cities during my stay — Wakayama (Mt Koya), Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. To save time and money with the itinerary that I planned, I booked my hotel in Osaka since it is ideal to reach the other three cities using Osaka’s subway and local train line. I didn’t get the JR Pass because I wanted to be with locals, not tourists.
So, how did I save money while in Japan?
1. I bought food from convenience stores
Lawson is my favourite because they have tons of food options and of course, sake and asahi. Family Mart is great too! Convenience stores food in Japan are fresh, tasty and most of all, not expensive. Onigiris and a pack of dango will only cost you ¥100 each. Drinks will cost between ¥50 and ¥150 on vending machines. By the way, Lawson sells Korean fish cake and kimbap at the counter.
2. I used unlimited train and bus passes
Depending on your itinerary and the number of days you’ll be staying, get the pass that will give you more value for your money. In my case, I got the three-day Kansai Thru Pass (KTP) for the three days I spent in Wakayama, Nara and Kyoto. For the two days I spent in Osaka, I purchased train tickets at the station using the ticket machine which did not have any English translation for the instructions. I don’t know how I did it but I somehow managed.
Also, remember that the KTP can only be used for local and subway train lines inside Kansai and can’t be used for JR lines.
3. I took advantage of hotel freebies
My hostel offered all the guests a free pass to a private onsen which you can claim from the front desk. I stayed at Hotel Toyo simply because it was near a metro station and I got to stay in a Japanese room with tatami mats, a very fluffy futon and a traditional room light like the ones you see in animes. It was so budget-friendly and so clean. They also have bikes for rent, a vending machine inside the hostel and a game station where you can mingle with other guests. Hotel Toyo is located at 1 Chome-3-5 Taishi, Nishinari-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu.
4. I rented a pocket WiFi
Travelling alone means depending on yourself. And if all else fails, you can depend on Google Maps. I cannot stress how it saved me during my trip. From getting lost and finding my way back, to asking where I can eat and what time my train will be coming and what station should I go. I highly recommend Wifi-Rental if you are looking for pocket wifi rentals. If you can’t pick up your unit at the airport because of your arrival time, they will deliver the unit to your hotel and you can return the device via post box at the airport, which is very convenient. The connection is fast too. The power bank they lent me was able to charge my phone, iPad and camera when they’re about to die. Wifi-Rental is truly a lifesaver! However, I heard that you can do this via Klook as well.
5. Ask for maps at tourist information centres
The maps are free. Tourist guide maps usually include timings of the places you want to see and are usually updated if there are changes, like if an attraction is closed for the day or if it’s under renovation. This will save you money and time.
6. Download a train map you can refer to or download Hyperdia / Japan Travel
This will come in handy when you want to check your train schedule and it will easily arrange the trains you need to take for your trip when you change stations and train lines. This is very important especially if you’re travelling alone.
7. Download Google Translate and Google Maps
Google Translate can read Japanese characters using your phone’s camera and will automatically translate the text to English. This will come in handy, trust me.
8. Use Klook for attraction tickets
This app will save you tons of money. I met a fellow Pinoy solo traveller in Dotonbori on my third day and he swore Klook is the best app to go to for tickets. I believed him simply because he travels solo a lot and uses Klook for everything. I didn’t use Klook for my trip so I might try to use it next time.
Breakdown of expenses
I hope this is somehow helpful especially if you are planning to visit Japan soon. Japan is a very beautiful country and I have fallen in love with its people. It is also very safe that’s why you can travel solo even if you are a woman. It comes to a point where you can even spend a day on a mountain, walking alone inside a huge cemetery covered by trees and come out alive, well and happy.
Enjoy your travels everyone and keep the travel bug fluttering!