More and more Filipinos are being granted tourist visas by the Japanese government these days. And for those who have been to Japan before, the visas are not just good for one year but five years, on multiple entry. Pinoys are smitten enough with Japanese food and culture as it is, so you can just imagine how we are flocking to Japan like it was Hong Kong.
This article deals with saving your moolah in Tokyo which is often perceived as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Except for the super cold weather at this time of year, there’s so much to love about Tokyo and I have to say you can save big if you know how to do it right. So let’s begin.
1. It all begins with your airfare to Tokyo. You can use your rewards, airline miles or fly budget. There’s Cebu Pacific, Jetstar and Vanilla Air which offer as low as US$100 one way… not bad eh? It is also best to use comparison sites like Skyscanner or cheapflights.com just to make sure.
2. Data connection. Be warned: public connectivity in Tokyo is not as fast or as widespread as its neighbor-countries like Korea. If you’re a road warrior who has to be online all the time, it is best to rent a pocket wifi or get a data package in the airport and make sure it’s unlimited. I paid mine for 7,000JPY good for 30 days. It is good so far. But if you’re looking to save further, download free apps like Travel Japan Wi-Fi which will automatically connect you to wifi hotspots at no cost.
3. The food! There’s yumminess everywhere. As someone who’s familiar to the expensive cost of dining out in Manila, it’s quite surprising to know that food is cheaper in Japan. What more, even the cheapest food is good. Just remember to eat local, there’s really no point eating familiar Western food, right? Most people say chow in the konbinis or convenience stores are cheap and good. But if you’re a couple or group and holed up in an Airbnb unit with a kitchen, it’s wise to buy in the supermarket and cook at home because this is what the locals do. Besides, those big, crisp and fresh vegetables in the Japanese markets or grocery are to die for.
4. Use technology to the fullest. This is after all the prime advantage of the modern-day traveller, especially in places like Japan where the language barrier is very pronounced. Save on cost by knowing and comparing destinations before heading out to explore places. Japan residents use the downloadable Hyperdia app to determine routes and train/plane arrival times. Google Maps was friendly enough for me. Of course, you can save if you just walk or bike instead of take the train. Taxi in Tokyo is at 410JPY for every kilometer so it’s probably out of the question.
5. Accommodations will eat up a huge chunk of your money, unless you have relatives in Japan.Airbnb is popular among tourists while millennials opt for hostels. It affords them cheap beds while meeting other travellers. If you’re solo and out shopping all day, a less known option is to sleep in an Internet cafe. They can give you a futon and an 8 hour stay is something like 1250JPY (rate varies).
6. Better yet, stay for free by housesitting. Scour the internet for such gigs or check websites like Workaway. This is what am doing in Tokyo right now , or cat sitting to be more specific, lol. The owner just required me to work two hours a day in exchange for my own room in a lovely little place in central Tokyo. Am here longer because she required a stay of at least one month, but overall it’s not a bad deal!
7.Shopping, or pasalubong shopping. If you’re shopping for at least 5000 yen, look for the Tax Free sign. It is also worth it to look for noodles, chocolates and other discounted stuff selling for less than 100 yen displayed in racks outside the retail shops. Like other regulars, I personally like Don Quijote or Donki. They have everything, including vibrators, lol.
8. Alcohol in Japan is affordable and widely available. There is even single malt whisky in Family Mart. This is undoubtedly a drinking nation so if you’re exploring a big city like Tokyo, save by looking out for 50% off on drinks for the ladies. It is also good that in most coffeeshops or restaurants, you can have free water or even green tea to go with your meal.
9. Read up! Of course, you have to research on the internet and read blog posts like this one before going on a trip, so do that! I personally found websites like Tokyo Cheapo very useful in keeping me informed about flea markets, events and even English-speaking hairdressers 😀
10. Remember, it’s all about the experience! It’s not really about checking out all the restaurants on the Michelin guide or buying those must-have designer items because that will certainly cost you money. Savoring Tokyo’s sights and sounds is the best…and free. Words from my host still reverberate in my mind:
“When you travel to a foreign country, you have to experience local life. Otherwise, you’re better off staying at home and watching the National Geographic.”
I have to say I agree with that.