Going Solo in Japan: 13 days & 7 cities for less than ₱50,000

Last October 2015, my friends & I went for a 9-day x ₱40,000 (each) journey around 3 key Japan cities. We enjoyed our first 5 days in the very busy Tokyo, literally walked around the ancient capital Kyoto & sort-of relaxed in the hippie city of Osaka. Towards the end of the trip, I kept on telling my friends that I will go back to the country really soon.

It didn’t take long until the next Japan trip happened. 3 months ago, I went on a 13-day solo Japan trip around 7 cities. I met 2 friends along the way, but I was on my own most of the time. It was a life-changing experience! I want to do it again.

Deer selfie at Nara Park

In 2015, I only spent ₱40,000 for the whole 9 days in Japan. For the 2016 trip, I challenged myself to try to fit in ₱50,000 (all in!) for the whole 13 days in. That’s additional 5 days & 4 nights, but only an additional ₱10,000 from the last budget. I may not have someone to share the cost of getting a pocket Wi-Fi, but not buying tickets for theme parks like DisneySea & Universal Studios Japan helped stretch the budget for a few more days.

The Japanese Yen (¥) to Philippine Peso (₱) exchanged rate changed from ₱0.39 in 2015 to ₱0.45 last year. This change in the currency rate affected the budgeting a lot; but it was all good. I was able to fit in ₱50,000 for the whole 13 days (including tickets); I even managed to hoard some chocolates & treats for my family & friends back home.

Hiroshima’s Shukkeien Garden

Let me elaborate below how I conquered the challenge. The discussion will be divided into 6 parts – Plane ticket, Bus pass, Route / itinerary, Accommodation, Pocket Wi-Fi & Everyday expenses.

Plane Ticket

It was late January 2016 when I came across a Cebu Pacific Air seat sale to all their destinations. I randomly checked possible dates of a Japan trip; I found a round-trip ticket for November for less than ₱5,000 (fare only). With no hesitations, I booked the said Manila-Nagoya-Fukuoka-Manila ticket. The trip was 13 days long; it includes 2 weekends & 1 Philippine holiday. What made me more excited is that my trip coincides with the peak of autumn in most places in Japan.

Round-trip Japan ticket for less than ₱6,000 was definitely a bargain!

I added baggage to my ticket a few days before my departure to & from Japan. Overall, I paid ₱5,907.87 for my round-trip ticket. A normal ticket Japan would cost around ₱15,000; so getting a ticket at this price is such a bargain.

Note that a Philippine passport holder is required to pay a travel tax worth ₱1,620 before leaving the country.


The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines does not accept personal visa applications. All applications should go through their accredited travel agencies. I submitted my requirements to Reli Tours & Travel Agency in Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City. Visa handling fee costs ₱950.

It only took 3 working days before I got my passport back. The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines granted me a 5-year multiple entry visa valid until October 2021. Good stuff.

Willer Express Japan Buss Pass

Given I fly in to Nagoya & fly out from Fukuoka, I had to plan out my route from one city to the other. I was checking the bus routes of Willer Express when I saw their Bus Pass promotion.

The bus pass allows you to book up to 3 rides per day for 3, 5 or 7 days days at a certain amount. I took advantage of this promotion & got myself the ¥10,000 3-day bus pass which can be redeemed Mondays to Thursdays. I took 3 overnight rides & 1 night ride using the bus pass. It saved me around ¥8,000 & 3 nights of hostel accommodation.

Kobe’s iconic tower


If you think about it, 13 days is quite a long trip; so I told myself I must visit as many cities / places as I can.

Note: I will not talk about where I went in these cities; watch out for the 4 separate entries about these 7 cities.

I flew in to Nagoya & stayed there for 3 days & 2 nights. People normally skip this city because they believe there isn’t much to see. To be fair, they actually have scenic temples, parks & gardens. On the 3rd night, I took a 3-hour bus to Osaka, then another 6-hour overnight bus to Hiroshima.

European vibe in the middle of Nagoya – inside Noritake Garden

Genbaku Dōmu / Atomic Bomb Dome – UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hiroshima

The following morning, I met with my friend Michiko at the Hiroshima JR Station. We spent 2 days & 1 night in Hiroshima Prefecture; we visited Miyajima Island, then walked around the historical city & ate the best okonomiyaki in the area. On the 5th night, I took a 7-hour overnight bus to Kyoto.

With my friend Michiko before in Hiroshima

Upon arrival in Kyoto, I went to the hostel & waited for my friend Rona. We went around Kyoto for 1.5 days; we’ve been to the bamboo forest, plus temples & shrines. We also went to Gion to hunt for some geisha. We also met some cool people (Japanese, Dutch & some Filipinos based in Australia) at the hostel bar & enjoyed a night of drinking & sharing stories.

With Rona in a local ramen restaurant before she left for Tokyo

After another morning of temples & gardens, Rona & I boarded the 30-minute local train to Osaka. Rona stayed for a night (before she left for Tokyo) while I stayed for 3 nights. I went to some new places in the city – those I missed when I was there in 2015. I also met some amazing locals in Osaka plus a few tourists from Malaysia, South Korea & Germany. I also took day trips to Nara (with Rona) & Kobe (all by myself) which were both 1-hour local train rides from Osaka.

A beautiful sunny day in Nara Park

Dōtonbori – Osaka’s busiest place at night

On the 10th night, I took a 9-hour overnight bus all the way to the port city of Fukuoka. My final 3 days & 2 nights were spent here. Some parks & temples basically made up my last days in Japan. There were also awesome nights of drinking & walking around with some new friends from Singapore, Argentina, France & the US.

Ōhori Park – a place of scenic beauty in Fukuoka

I made a good choice of staying 2-3 days per city; I was able to visit most of what each city has to offer.


I’ve mentioned in my How I enjoyed a 9-day Japan trip for less than ₱40,000 all in blog post that Japan has one of the most expensive accommodation rates in Asia. To save some money, I decided to stay in hostels. Daily rate per bed in a dormitory room costs around ¥2,700 – ¥3,200. Each bed includes free Wi-Fi, a bed sheet, a pillow, a universal plug & a reading light. Also, these beds have curtains around so you still have your own privacy.

My dormitory bed in Osaka Hana Hostel

Hostels in Japan are generally clean & quiet. Dormitory rooms have common & clean shower areas & toilet. Hostels also provide free shampoo & soap. All properties have common lounge areas & kitchen facilities where you can meet fellow travelers.

Backpacker K’s House Kyoto Communal Lounge & Dining Area

I’ve stayed in 5 different hostels for 9 nights (3 nights were spent in overnight bus rides). The Hana Hostels / J Hoppers Group gives a ¥300 yen discount for every 3rd night stay in their hostels. I was able to get 2 x ¥300 yen discounts. I’ve provided a table for a summary of my accommodation costs:

The average daily rate would cost around ₱1,320 per hostel bed. It is a bit expensive if you compare it to the hostel rates in other Asian cities, but they are pretty affordable & reasonable in Japan. Also, all the hostels I stayed there are near subway stations & have excellent reviews online.

Pocket Wi-Fi

Given I will be on my own most of the time, I got myself a pocket Wi-Fi to help me navigate around each city / place. It also helped me check on the train schedules to different places.

I got my 3G pocket Wi-Fi from Japan Wireless for ₱3,268.15 for 12 full days. The package was delivered directly to my 1st hostel in Nagoya. The package included an extra battery bank, a pouch, charger & an envelope (to be used when sending the package back). I returned on my last day by dropping it in the nearest post box (can be dropped anywhere in Japan). I recommend getting a pocket Wi-Fi every time you go to Japan to prevent from getting lost.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – a must-see place in Kyoto

Daily Expenses

Just like the 2015 Japan trip, I gave myself a daily budget to cover all meals, transportation costs, entrance fees & beers (lol). I raised the daily budget to ¥3,500 per day (higher by ¥500 from the last year’s daily budget) because I was on my own & I don’t have anyone to share my meals & expenses with. There were also times where I splurged on food, like when I ate at Ichiran Ramen twice! Their ramen was soooo good I had to go back. I also had a kobe beef lunch set in Kobe which was also gooood!

Ichiran ramen was sooooo good! Too bad we don’t have one here in Manila

Kobe Beef’s melts-in-your-mouth goodness!

Instead of getting daily breakfast from 7-Eleven or Family Mart, I drop by the supermarket before going home at night to buy my own bento meal. Most supermarkets offer discounted food at night because they need to sell all cooked food before the stores close. I store these packed meals at the hostel fridge & just reheat them the following morning.

One of the many bento breakfasts I had

I also had some spare money from the daily budget which I used to buy some chocolates & treats for family & friends back home.


All expenses are in. Let’s have a look how much I spent all in for this 13-day trip. Note: Exchange rate during my trip: ¥1 = ₱0.45 (doesn’t include items paid via credit card -> pocket wi-fi & bus pass)

See? I made it! I survived a 13-day Japan trip around 7 cities for less than ₱50,000. It may not be as super affordable as travelling in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or Kuala Lumpur; but Japan offers a different kind of experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

I know I’ve said it in my previous Japan blog, but I will say it again here. 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!

Watch out for the specific blog posts about the experiences I had in the 7 cities mentioned above. It will be posted here in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Autumn colors in Meijō Park, Nagoya 😍

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re.

Friday Thoughts: How To Travel While Working Full-time

One of the many questions people ask me now is “How do you manage to travel a lot given by Monday-Friday work schedule?” I won’t have a clear answer if you asked me the same question 5 years ago. As the months & years of travel went by, I realized there is a pattern in almost every trip I take.

Looking back at the past years, 2013 was by far the busiest. I’ve been to Davao, Zambales, Boracay (twice), Kuala Lumpur, Cebu, Bohol, Singapore, Camiguin, Cagayan de Oro, Hongkong & Macau in a span of 10 months. 2015 & 2016 came next where I’ve been to Siem Reap, Bali, Taipei, Krabi, South Korea, Yangon, Boracay & El Nido. I’ve also been to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur (again!), Singapore & Japan twice in the past 2 years. Quite a long list, eh?

View from the shores of Padang Padang Beach in Bali – the place where the Eat Pray Love beach scene was taken

Imagine the number of days I had to take leave from work, the amount of money I spent for every plane ticket, accommodation, food, drinks, activities, etc. However, I don’t regret spending a lot on travels for the past years. Every trip was just worth it. The exposure I had & experiences I gained in the different places & cultures were far more valuable than the amount of money I spent.

Now let’s get back to business. Let me give you some thoughts on how you can travel a lot given your full-time job. Please note that all these pointers are based on personal experiences; one or two may or may not be true for you.

Plan where & when to go

You need to decide where you want to go. The world has so much to offer – relaxing beaches & islands, antique or modern temples & churches, busy city streets, laid-back cultural villages, stunning landscapes, etc. You may want to visit the beautiful islands of Coron & El Nido, the world famous sunset of Boracay, the untouched beauty of Batanes or the majestic cone-shaped Mayon Volcano of Albay. You may also want to consider the delicious street food & fun street parties of Bangkok, the amazing Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur, the famous Merlion statue of Singapore or the busy Shibuya intersection in Tokyo. It all depends on you on what you want to see or experience.

Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers

You also need to consider when you are planning to go. Note that prices tend to double during peak summer months & during holiday breaks. You also need to consider the weather or season of the place you’re going to. Generally, it’s expensive to go everywhere during summer & Christmas / New Year.

Manage work leave credits

After deciding on where & when to go, the next question is what dates should you take. For the past years, I mostly had trips during long weekends (+1 or 2 regular days) here in the Philippines. It saved me quite a few vacation leaves, plus I get to extend for another day or two in my destination. The Philippine government releases the list of  regular & special non-working holidays pretty early so you have a lot of time to plan on which long weekends to take.

Been a year since I went to Yangon, Myanmar; it was during the Chinese New Year long weekend here in the Philippines; photo taken inside Shwedagon Pagoda

Make sure to always include Saturdays & Sundays in your trips. Your leave credits will perish fast if you always leave on a Monday & go back on a Thursday. Take advantage of the other leave privileges offered by your company. In my case, I always use my anniversary & birthday leaves for travel; additional 2 paid day offs won’t hurt.

Book tickets as early as possible

Now that you know where & when to go & you already planned your vacation leaves, you should book tickets as early as possible. I don’t consider a trip ‘official’ if I haven’t booked plane tickets.

₱1-fare ticket I booked to Bangkok last year (photo from my previous post)

You might ask me why you should book as early as you can? Simple, you get cheaper round-trip fares. 2 weeks ago, Cebu Pacific Air had a surprise ₱1.00 sale for both domestic & international routes. Domestic round-trip tickets were at less than ₱600 while international round-trip tickets were as low as ₱1,400. Super affordable, right? Booking plane tickets early will save you some money which you can already add to your trip budget.

If you need some help in booking low-fare tickets, I got you covered. I blogged about it last month; click here to know more.

Set up a travel fund

Aside from conflicting work schedules & leaves, money is probably the other reason why most people don’t travel. They think travelling is too expensive. Yes, it may be for some; but it’s affordable for most young people.

So the travel dates, leaves & tickets are all set. The question is, where will you get the money you’ll spend for the trip? My only tip for you is to open another bank account for your travel fund. This account will be different from your payroll & savings accounts. Allot a certain amount of your monthly salary to your travel fund. You must also promise yourself that you will not withdraw any money from that account up until before your trip.

Tip: To avoid withdrawing money from your travel fund account, make sure to open a passbook savings account instead of an ATM savings account. You will feel lazy lining up in the bank just to get some cash.

Some of my previous travels (L-R: El Nido, Japan, Myanmar & Taiwan)

This tips worked for me; probably the reason why I was able to travel a lot while working full time for the last 5 years. I hope this entry will inspire you to travel more! ✈️

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Throwback Thursday Treat: Yay Hey Taipei

Hey, it’s Thursday! It only means one thing.. It’s time for another Throwback Thursday Trip! Last time, I took you to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. Today, we will go somewhere north of the Philippines. No, no.. Not Japan or South Korea; but Taiwan! My high school friends & I went to Taipei for a short weekend trip last May 2015. I will elaborate below on how the trip was made, how we prepared for it, where we went & what we did in our 3 days in Taipei. 🇹🇼

Taipei crew goofing around Taipei’s Liberty Square

How the trip was made

Junelle & I planned this trip in order to sort of back up our future Japan visa application. Taiwan requires a visa for Filipino tourists; so we thought having another tourist visa in our passports would boost our chances of getting our Japan visas sooner that expected. (Fast forward, it actually helped! Our Japanese visa applications were submitted by the agency & on that same day, our visas were issued. We got it a few days after the agency claimed it.)

Before the trip

Plane Tickets – Junelle & I booked our tickets 3 months before our May trip. We came across Cebu Pacific Air‘s 50% off seat sale last 2 February 2015 & decided to book the tickets that very same day. We got our round-trip tickets at ₱5,415.60 for 2; that’s ₱2,702.80 pesos each. Good deal, right?

MNL-TPE-MNL tickets for 2 pax | Our MNL-TPE flight was moved from 6:20 pm to 10:00 pm a few weeks before the trip.

Accommodation – We decided to stay in an Airbnb flat instead of booking a room in a hotel / hostel. We booked Michael’s cozy apartment located in the middle of Wanhua District (where Ximending is located). The apartment has complete amenities – 2 spacious beds, hot & cold shower, clean toilet with toiletries, air conditioning, cable television, fast Wi-Fi & a decent storage area. It also has bonus laundry facilities & umbrellas. We arrived in Taipei past midnight & our host Michael waited for us & showed us the way to the apartment.

Our Airbnb accommodation in Ximending

Visa – Junelle & I were both busy with work so we asked Uni-Orient Travel to apply our visas on our behalf. We submitted our documents – accomplished application form, passport, photo, bank certificate, certificate of employment, income tax return & other supporting documents such as plane ticket & accommodation – to them. We got our single entry visas a week after.

Note: As of October 2016, Philippine passport holders who wish to travel to Taiwan can now apply online for an e-visa. Moreover, Taiwan has eased it’s visa-free requirements for Filipinos with valid documents, entry visas or resident cards issued by selected countries. Click here for more information.

UPDATE (23 April 2017) – Starting 1 June 2017, Filipinos can enter Taiwan for 30 days visa free. The ROC (Taiwan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they will have a 1 year visa-free trial program for Philippine passport holders. Read the full announcement here

UPDATE (16 May 2017) – The ROC (Taiwan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs has moved the start of the visa-free entry trial program for Filipino passport holders to 1 September 2017.

Trip Surprise – 3 weeks after Junelle & I booked our tickets, Majo decided to join the trip. We were in Siem Reap when we booked her ticket; we didn’t tell Junelle she’ll join. Days after Junelle & I applied for our visa, I accompanied Majo to the agency also to submit her papers. I secretly advised her about the trip plans – accommodation, possible itineraries, etc. On the day of the trip, I met with Junelle in SM Makati & told her that I need to get something from a friend who is on her way. After a few minutes, Majo arrived with her backpack! Junelle was surprised that Majo will join us! Well, the surprise worked. 😉

Where did we go in Taipei?


Ximending is Wanhua District’s famous shopping center (also the tourist’s number 1 shopping destination in Taipei). There are department stores, specialty stores, bars & restaurants in the area. You can compare this area to Tokyo’s Shibuya District & Seoul’s Hongdae – where the young people go. The historic Red House Theater built during the Japanese rule is also located here.

Tip: It’s best to buy either a TaipeiPass or a reloadable EasyCard when going around the city. These are ‘touch & go’ IC cards used in the subway & city buses. Personally, I prefer using the EasyCard because it can also be used in some shops & convenience stores.

Pingxi -Jiufen – Keelung Day Tour

Shifen Waterfalls

We went on a day tour to check out Pingxi & Riufang Districts in the east of Xinbei (New Taipei City). We took bus #795 to Pingxi from the bus stop near Muzha Station. Upon arrival, we walked straight up to see the Shifen Waterfall. After a few minutes, we went back to Pingxi & went around the old town & street. This place is also famous for the Sky Lantern Festival. There were a number of people who released sky lanterns when we were walking around the area. This place is also good for street food & the never-ending milk tea.

The not-so-busy Pingxi Old Street

Local train to Riufang passing by the old street

After hours of walking around Pingxi, we decided to go to Jiufen. We took the local train to Riufang Station; then boarded bus #788 to Jiufen. The weather wasn’t that good, but we still walked around the old street & village. We stopped by a local cafe for snacks. There were a lot of local cafes, restaurants & fancy souvenir shops in the area.  Outside the village, you will see a stunning view of the countryside.

Jiufen Old Street tend to be very busy during weekends

Countryside view outside Jiufen Old Street

We boarded bus #788 again in front of 7 Eleven & headed to Keelung, a port city in Northern Taiwan. The trip took about an hour because the rain was pouring hard & the roads were slippery. The plan was to go & have dinner at the famous Keelung Miaokou Night Market but our trip was cut short by the unfavorable weather. We directly went to the main train station & bought tickets back to Taipei Main Station.

Taipei Main Station

Taipei Main Station is the main transportation hub at the center of Taipei. It is where train lines (Taiwan High Speed Rail, Taipei Metro Subway & Taiwan Railways) & local bus lines meet. The station also features a lot of shopping malls, department stores, cafes & restaurants, making it one of the busiest places in Taipei. We walked around the station complex & also decided to have dinner here.

Holy Family Church

We started our second day in Taipei with an English Sunday mass at Holy Family Church along 50 Xin Sheng South Rd. The church can be reached by a short walk from Daan Park Station Exit 2. The only Sunday English Mass is at 9:45 am. Church seats fill up fast so best to go there early. There was a fundraising event & a festival during our visit. It was nice to see fellow Filipinos there.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall & Liberty Square

After the mass, we went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This memorial hall was built in memory of former President Chiang Kai-Shek. The hall has different display rooms & galleries where you will know more about the former president. The memorial hall can be accessed from MRT Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Station Exit 5 (both green & red lines). Outside the memorial hall is Liberty Square, Taiwan’s biggest public plaza. The National Theater & Concert Halls are located at each side of the square; these 2 places are also worth visiting.

Outside the National Theater in Taipei

Raohe Street Night Market

My friends & I preferred to go to the less busy Raohe Street Night Market on our last night in Taipei. The 600 m street market was full of interesting cheap eats, fancy souvenirs & awesome shopping choices. Some items were relatively cheaper by a few NT$ compared to those found in Ximending. (Tip: Nearest station & exit – Songshan Station Exit 5)

Street food! 😋😋😋

More street food! Yay for some angus beef cuts! 😋😋😋

Hello Kity Cafe

Inside the Hello Kitty Cafe; my friends loved it there!

We had our afternoon snack in Hello Kitty Cafe just before going to Taipei 101 & the airport. We had our own dessert sets – includes a slice of cake, a macaroon, a jelly snack & a drink. Everything in the cafe has the touch of Hello Kitty (food, interiors, everything!). Each set costs around NT$400. It’s expensive, I know! (Tip: Nearest station & exit – Zhongxiao Fuxing Exit 3)

The expensive afternoon tea set

Taipei 101

A visit to Taipei will never be complete without going to the city’s iconic Taipei 101. Also known as Taipei World Financial Center, this building is the city’s tallest mixed use skyscraper. It also houses the world’s fastest elevator ride; it will only take you 49 – 53 seconds to go up from the 5th to the 87th floor. The building can be accessed by getting of Taipei 101 / World Trade Center Station Exit 4.

The tuned mass wind damper (728 tons) suspended from levels 87 to 92 😮

We spent our last few hours in Taipei walking around the 88th & 89th floor of this 101-storey building. The observatory gives amazing views of the city! Too bad the 91st open air observatory was closed due to unfavorable weather. Entrance fee during our time was NT$500 each; however the website says the entrance fee has increased to NT$600 each. It may be a bit pricey but the experience is all worth it.

View from Level 89 observatory 😍

3 full days in Taipei is really short. We missed quite a few notable spots like Yehliu Geopark, Shilin Night Market, Longshan Temple, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall & Beitou Hot Springs. Oh well.. I just found a reason to fly back to Taipei. Who knows, I might go back really soon. 😉

Hope you enjoyed today’s Throwback Thursday post. Thank you for reading. 😃

PS. Many thanks to Junelle for allowing me to use some of her photos.