Monday, January 28, 2013

Some ¥¥¥ saving tips

Japan has a reputation for being an expensive destination, but to be honest, I didn't find it to be any worse than New York City or even some European destinations.  It is certainly more expensive than Korea but it's not unmanageable.  I'm not going to make this too detailed or too long, but below are some tips for people looking to keep their wallets a little fuller when heading over to Japan from Korea.  Some tips might apply for visitors from other lands as well.  Keep in mind this is based on our experience and not all the points may apply to you.

-  We booked two tickets on Peach Airlines and it was a steal compared to flights on other airlines heading to Osaka.  The only catch is as it's a budget airlines, plan to pay extra for just about everything else:  any checked-in luggage, for food aboard the plane and even to pay with CC on their website.  However, I found that still the ticket price was significantly cheaper. Travelers are allowed one carry-on each with an allowance of 10 kgs/115 cm size, which in our case, was more than enough.  It is a Japanese airline, which from Seoul only flies to Osaka, but once in Japan, you can use it to get to other destinations domestically and abroad if you choose.

- Do your research before hand.  This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but I know that there are different kinds of travellers, some that like to plan everything out to a T, and others who like to show up and figure things out as they go.  A good middle ground is probably the best place to be.  Especially in regards to transportation, you need to know what deals are offered in order to ask for it. For example, if you ask for a ticket from Osaka airport to Kyoto, they will give you just that, at the full fare of almost ¥3,000 (or around $33).  If you ask for JR West Rail Pass for foreigners, you will take the exact same train as that above, and pay only ¥ 2,000 (around $22), or you can get the ICOCA + Haruka Limited Express deal and pay ¥ 3,000 and get a ticket for the same train as those deals above and in addition get a T-Money type train pass (ICOCA card) with ¥1,500 credit on the card plus an additional ¥500 deposit on the card which you get back.  This is an awesome deal!  So you're basically only paying ¥1,000 for the same ticket that you would have paid ¥3,000 for, and in addition get ¥1,500 additional transportation money.  

I'm not going to lie, transportation in Japan is confusing because there are several companies and lines that offer various deals and tickets.  You need to know ahead of time what is the best deal for you.  There are lots of passes, including a JR national pass or regional passes like the Kansai-Thru Pass but all have rules and various exceptions to their usage. In addition to long distance travel, there are city passes for bus, or bus and subway that you can use to save you on transportation fare. Again, do your research before hand.  As we travelled mainly in Kyoto and in Osaka, we didn't need much more than the Icoca credit + Haruka Ltd. Express  and  2 one day bus passes (at ¥500) to get around to all our destinations.  That's a total for ¥3,500 for transporation for four days.  That's less than $10 per person per day.

- I can't give you tips on hotels in Kyoto or traditional guest houses, but as for hostels, we stayed at an exceptional one called Khaosan Kyoto Guesthouse, voted number 3 hostel in all of Asia!  It was a great deal and we had a private twin room for about $45 per night.  There are other hostels that I've heard good things about, but this is the only place we stayed and we were perfectly happy with its location, cleanliness and facilities.

-And as for food?  Well, we didn't really cut back on expenses in this area because let's face it, trying new foods is by far one of the biggest pleasures of travelling. But in case you need to save a little bit on this area, perhaps you don't want to eat all your meals at restaurants, you can certainly fill your stomachs eating streetfood, eat lots of samples at the markets or in the dept. store (the Kyoto JR Train Station has some exceptionally good (and large!) samples or go to your nearest convenience stores and pick out some cheap rice balls or bento/lunch boxes.  

There are plenty of great resources on the web for planning your trip, here are some links I found useful:

For general information about Japan & find a forum to post questions:

For a summary of rail passes:

For information about the Haruka Express + Icoca Card Deal:

Nomadic Matt's Blog has some good tips as well:

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