Travel to Japan… an expensive affair?

Whenever we talk about travelling to Japan, the general comment from people will be: “It’s very expensive!” Of course expensive or not is rather… relative, and it is very much depends on your budget and financial condition. Often there are people who find every single ways to save when they travel, like staying in the cheapest possible way (such as couch-surfing), eat in cheapest possible way, or even spend little in attractions admission ticket. Well, everyone plans their trip accordingly on their budget, I’m not in the position to judge on whether you should or shouldn’t spend on something. However, I would like to share some tips on ways you can actually save some money while still enjoying a lovely experience in Japan.

Stay
Airbnb is not really that cheap in Japan, and with the new regulation kicked in, it became harder and trickier to book accommodation through Airbnb. Some may choose to stay in capsule hotel, but I personally prefer to stay in hostel/guesthouse in Japan. They are not the cheapest, but I would say they are really value for their money. Per night rate ranging from 3,000-5,000 yen per person (depending on room type and facilities), they are reasonably affordable and much more comfortable that staying in a capsule hotel. They usually have common bathroom, wifi service, coin laundry machine, friendly reception that takes care of your luggage if you choose to check out early/arrive early and so on. On top of that, you get to meet with people from other countries while using the common spaces such as kitchen and dining room. I had always enjoyed the cozy environment provided by hostel/guesthouse, and it will certainly be my go-to choice whenever I travel to Japan.

My recommendation: K’s House, Khaosan Hostel Group, Ichiensou

Food
You can expect food to cost from as cheap as 300-10,000 yen per meal! Well, that really depends on what you choose to eat. From cheap bento box to Kaiseki Ryori, there are abundance of choices in Japan for you to choose from. Usually I will balance up my meal with some cheaper options at times and some more luxury one once awhile.

For breakfast, usually I will settle at Family Mart, 7-11 or Lawson. Grab a drink with a bread/onigiri and everything should be below 500 yen or so. As for lunch and dinner, the cheaper options are those chain restaurant such as Yoshinoya and Matsuya, or some local restaurant that operate at friendly neighbourhood price. You can get a decent meal of Oyakodon, Hayashi rice, Ramen or Soba below 1,000 yen. Do go and experience ordering food via vending machine, it is perhaps Japanese’s obsession on vending machine at its best.

Some restaurants in shopping mall or food court, which have better settings and environment, may cost somewhere around 800 yen to 2,000 yen per meal. For that, you should be able to feast yourself with some set meal (Teishoku) or some local specialties. Do note that a lot of the cheaper restaurant in Japan are offering food at very good quality and taste. I tasted some very good ramen and teishoku meal and paid well below 1,000 yen for them, you just need to explore, and hopefully get lucky on your choice at times.

Recommendation: Miyamoto Munashi, Gusto

Transport
If you do not plan carefully, transportation cost will usually be quite expensive in Japan. However, for foreigners, you can always make full use of various discounted ticket or day pass which can save you quite some money. If you need to ride the shinkansen, do get the JR pass. However, for ultimate saving, I would advise you to avoid taking shinkansen altogether, unless you really need to fly into Japan and travel to places like Tokyo and Osaka in the same trip. You won’t be able to experience much this way, so the best way is to visit Osaka and Tokyo separately in different trips.

JR train and some local Metro train do offer day pass for unlimited use of their train services. Do check and plan your itinerary accordingly and see if you can maximize the usage and hence achieve saving by purchasing such ticket. In Kyoto for example, a lot of sightseeing spot can be reached via Kyoto Bus service, and you can actually purchase a day pass at 500 yen or so and get unlimited bus ride throughout the day, which is very budget friendly. If you are travelling to Osaka, consider getting Osaka Amazing Pass which covers unlimited metro train ride together with free entry to various attractions.

Recommendation: JR East, JR West, Osaka Amazing Pass

Attractions
Attractions in Japan are generally not that costly (I’m not considering Disneyland or Universal Studio Japan), however when you visit a few spots a day, cost can add up pretty fast. Typically, temples, gardens, castles or museums have admission ticket that priced somewhere from 100 yen to 1,000 yen. Some attractions offer combine ticket that provide discount when you purchase ticket for various attractions at once. Make use of that and you should be able to save some money during your visit.

Some travel pass (such as Osaka Amazing Pass) offers free entry or discount on admission ticket which you can make use of. Also, some tour agencies also offer discounted rate for attractions when you purchased them before flying into Japan. Do check them out and make the necessary comparison first prior to your trip.

Some other things to take note
Generally speaking, Japan is not wheelchair or baby stroller friendly. A lot of places are lacking of elevator or covered with stone path, which can cause some difficulties.

When you travel to outskirt places, expect majority of the locals do not speak in English. It will be handy to learn a few Japanese words or phrases, or have a translation app in hand.

Japanese are usually very friendly and helpful. However, there are some who dislike foreigners so do keep that in mind. Be respectful and mindful of the etiquettes when visiting temples and shrines. When you give them your respect, you should be returned with the same level of respect as well.

All in all, travelling to Japan is certainly not cheap, but if you travel smart, plan ahead and manage your budget well, it is certainly not that expensive either. If you are able to snatch some cheap air tickets or travel during off peak season, you should be able to manage your budget well and make it a memorable and enjoyable trip. Hope this sharing helps you to get a sense of the cost of travelling to Japan. Till then.

Travel… Japan

I had travelled to Japan for the past 4 years, covered places from further south of Hiroshima, Okayama, Himeji, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Wakayama and up to Tokyo. If you ask me, I will still revisit these areas as there are still many places within the area that I would like to explore further.

So why Japan? I don’t know, honestly. There’re something about Japan that keeps drawing me in. Perhaps is their culture, perhaps is their scenery, perhaps is their people, perhaps is their way of life. I enjoyed anime and Japanese drama when I was young, perhaps that had shaped my perspective on Japan a little.

Of course it’s not all great, they still engage in puzzling activities such as mass killing of whales, and some of the people are less open and dislike foreigners. But my point of travelling to places is to immerse yourself into their culture, look at the goods and the bads, pick up those goods and learn from it, adopt it and enrich yourself, and Japan has a lot to offer in this regards.

Rubbish management, recycling program, the politeness, the respect they gave to people, their public transportation, their professionalism are among the fews that really worth learning from. Of course there are more, and they are the things that you really need to go and experience yourself to truly understand it.

Japan also offers a wealth of nature beauty, shrines, temples, well preserved and managed cultural and historical sites and so on. My home country Malaysia do have a lot of great sceneries too, but sadly most of them are not very well managed or maintained, and a lot of times these locations are almost impossible to access unless you drive. There’s still a long way for my home country to improve in terms of public transport system.

So, will I still be heading to Japan next year? Well, hopefully. There are still a lot of places that are yet to explore, such as Kyushu, Hokkaido, Okinawa and so on. Hopefully I can visit all the amazing places in Japan while I’m able to do so. But that does not mean I will not travel to other locations other than Japan, so… what’s next? I’m looking forward for the trips to come. Till then.

Travel Solo

Come to think of it, other than business trip, I had not traveled alone before for personal vacation. Well, even for this time it was actually a business trip, but I had extended my stay for a few days to accommodate for a short solo getaway.

It was my first trip to Hanoi, my first trip for my current company, my first trip to travel solo, and my second birthday spent oversea. It’s the trip I shared about in April’s post, where all the high performer from the company gathered for meeting and discussion, and of course to have fun and celebrate our successes.

During my extended stay, I moved into a hotel in Old Quarter of Hanoi, where all the buzz and crowd are located. I only have two days to spend, and I had made full use of it exploring places and meeting new people. I explored the streets of Hanoi, stopped by at Hanoi’s first Starbucks Reserve and had a nice chat with the barista, got a taste of local dishes and of course, some Saigon Beer at night.

I had also spent a day out at Halong Bay, joining a group tour through a local travel agency. I got to meet with people from India, Korea, Japan, England and so on, and it was a memorable experience, both on the location itself and the experience of mingling with the rest of them. A couple of us were traveling alone, and when everyone got together, we started sharing our experience in Hanoi.

It was indeed a very enjoyable experience traveling alone. When you travel with friends or family, your focus will mostly be on your own group. But when you travel alone, you opened up the opportunity to forge a relation and connection with like-minded traveller or locals. These experiences were different and unique, and perhaps that’s why a lot of people prefer to travel solo.

For me, I really enjoyed my solo trip in Hanoi, and hopefully in future there will be chances to travel solo again. I’ll cherish my memory in Hanoi for the days to come. For those who have not tried traveling alone, do give it a try and don’t be afraid. Till then.

Personal Project: Photobook on my Vietnam Trip

As mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam for business purpose, and I was able to squeeze out some free time to travel  around Hanoi and it’s nearby provinces during my short stay there in April. Since then, I had compiled some of the pictures and my writings into this book. It’s more like a sharing of my thoughts, feelings and emotions while travelling to Vietnam for the very first time.

And again, I would like to apologize that this book was written in Chinese instead of English. As with my other personal projects, I’m more comfortable to write in Chinese, as I felt that I can express myself better through this language. For those who are interested to check it out, please feel free to click on the link here to download and read on your own leisure. Hope you enjoy this book of mine. Do drop me a comment if there’s any.

Thank you and have a nice day!

Unexpected trip in April

There’s this unexpected trip that popped up this month, it’s a company incentive trip for high performers all around the world to gather, share our knowledge and experience, and to unwind and reward ourselves with the hard work we had poured in to achieve the result last year. And I was unexpectedly being shortlisted in the finalist.

I was shortlisted in last year too, but due to my marriage arrangement and upcoming honeymoon schedule, I decided to give up the opportunity to join the trip to Greece last year. And for this year, the trip will be held in Hanoi. I’ll be spending a few days there, though I doubt there will be sufficient time for me to go out and explore the city itself as we have already some pre-planned schedule that we need to follow.

Nevertheless, this will be my first trip for 2018 (excluding the two trips I took to went home in Malaysia). Will see if I’ll be able to spare some time to wander around the streets and snap some photos. It’s really been awhile since the last time I just shoot and without worrying about anything else. Let’s see what Hanoi has to offer for me. Till then.