Disclaimer: Currency rate during our trip was 1 JPY = 0.39 PHP
Last July, ABS-CBN News reported that the Japanese embassy issued 225,676 visas to visitors from the Philippines for 2015. It was 38% higher than the number of visas issued the previous year. The increased number of Filipino tourists in Japan is a result of a more relaxed visa policy & the increased number of budget airline flights going to Japan on a daily or weekly basis. My friends (Majo & Junelle) & I were 3 of the 225,676 Filipinos who were given Japanese visas last year.
Many Filipinos think travelling to Japan is expensive. People say you need to at least have ₱100,000 to be able to enjoy 5-7 days in Japan. That is partly true; but only to people who are fond of staying in hotels, eating in fancy restaurants & taking guided tours. I say, there is always a cheaper way of doing things. In this post, I will show you how my friends and I enjoyed a 9-day Japan trip for less than ₱40,000 each. Please note that I won’t talk about the places we’ve been to because that is reserved for another post.
It was mid-October when we flew to Japan for 9 days. We spent the first 5 days in Tokyo, then headed south to Kyoto for 1.5 days & finally to Osaka for the remaining 2.5 days. It was the start of autumn so the trees & leaves were really beautiful. The temperature were just about right, not as hot as Manila & not as cold as Seoul.
I will divide the discussion into 5 parts – plane ticket, accommodation, things booked / bought before flying, daily expenses & chocolates / treats (pasalubong in Filipino).
Junelle & I were able to book a round trip ticket to Japan (with 20 kgs baggage per way) for less than ₱5,000 (₱4,912.56 to be exact) about 6 months before our trip. We took advantage of Cebu Pacific Air‘s Easter fare sale. Majo was able to book her ticket during a random fare sale 3 months before the trip for around ₱5,500.
A normal round trip ticket to Japan would cost you ₱15,000 – ₱20,000. Getting a ticket for less than ₱5,000 is definitely a great deal!
By the way, we also paid ₱1,620 for the Philippine travel tax before leaving Manila. This is mandatory to all Philippine passport holders who are leaving the country for vacation.
Japan has probably one of the most expensive hotel rates in Asia. A room for 2 in a nice hotel can cost you around ₱8,000-₱12,000. Very expensive. Even hostels have higher rates compared to the usual $10-$15 rate in Southeast Asia. For this trip, we only needed a place to take a shower, rest & sleep so we decided to stay in hostels. We also opted to stay there to save money.
In Tokyo, we stayed for 4 nights in Oak Hostel Zen. It’s a very cozy hostel located in Taito area, a few minutes walk from JR Yamanote Line’s Uguisudani Station. The girls stayed in a twin room with common bathroom while I stayed in an 8-bed dorm room also with common bathroom. I payed ¥13,100 (around ₱5,109) for all 4 nights, roughly ₱1,280 per night. Each dorm bed had its own reading light, universal plug & curtain + super fast WiFi. I had my own privacy even if I stayed in a room for 8 people.
For the 5th night, we decided to take the night bus from Tokyo to Kyoto. The bus trip takes 7-8 hours so that saved us one night hostel accommodation. We booked our tickets via the Willer Express website. We took the Relax bus where each passenger has a plug beside him/her plus luggage check-in is allowed. The bus ticket costs ¥5,900 each (around ₱2,301).
We spent our 6th night in Kyoto. We also stayed in a hostel named Backpackers Hostel K’s House. It is about 15 minutes walk from JR Kyoto Station. We got ourselves a triple room with common bathroom. The room cost ¥9,600 for 3 people; that’s ¥3,200 per person (roughly ₱1,248).
The last 2 nights were spent in a room in Taichi’s flat. We were supposed to stay in Osaka Hana Hostel but since Majo joined us last minute, we had to look for another one. Accommodations in Osaka fill up pretty fast, we were lucky we found Taichi’s place. The last 2 nights cost us €122; that’s €40.67 each (around ₱2,130 each that time).
Our Tokyo & Kyoto accommodations were booked via Hostelworld while our Osaka accommodation was arranged with Airbnb. These platforms help travellers a lot in looking for accommodation in almost all places. They also feature reviews done by previous guests which contain ratings & comments about their respective stays.
Things booked / bought before leaving for Japan
There were 2 things we purchased before leaving for Japan – pocket WiFi & DisneySea tickets. Since we were staying for 9 days & we were afraid of getting lost (which we did by the way!), we rented a 3G pocket WiFi from E-Connect Japan. We got it for ¥6,986 or ₱2,825.97 (₱942 each) for the whole duration of the trip. We had it delivered to our hostel a day before our arrival. We also purchased our Disney Sea tickets ahead of time to save us from lining up in the park ticket counters. Each ticket costs ¥6,900 (₱2,776.89 rate reflected in my credit card statement).
Daily expenses in Japan
I can’t remember exactly how much we paid for each meal or for each subway ride; but what we did was to allocate a daily budget for food, transportation & temple entrance fees. An average good meal in Japan costs around ¥400 – ¥500 while a subway ride could cost you around ¥150-¥200 depending on the distance. We didn’t want to deprive ourselves during the trip so we had a daily budget of ¥3,000 yen. That daily budget turned out to be too much for a day. You can survive with ¥2,000 a day.
Daily budget - ¥3,000 x 9 days = ¥27,000 x ₱0.39 = ₱10,530
**We weren’t able to buy Universal Studios Japan (USJ) tickets while we were still in the Philippines so we bought it on the day itself. An entrance ticket costs ¥7,400 per person (₱2,886 pesos).
Chocolates / Treats
A trip to Japan will never be complete without buying chocolates, treats or anything matcha-related. I remember I bought different kinds of chocolates & biscuits plus some random goodies in Harajuku & Daiso. I don’t exactly remember how much each item costs but I believe I spent around ¥12,000 (roughly ₱4,680).
Summary of Expenses
Let’s now sum up everything mentioned above:
There you go! We only spent ₱39,139.45 all in for a 9-day trip to Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka! Yes, that already included airfare, accommodation, food, transportation, park tickets & even pasalubong (treats & chocolates).
Travelling to Japan isn’t that expensive as many people think. There will always be ways to make it really affordable. I’m telling you, next time you see a cheap round trip ticket to any city in Japan, go ahead & book it. It’s a trip you’ll never regret!
PS. Thanks to Junelle for allowing me to use our photo in Roppongi.