Okay so on first glance this post may seem a bit odd, since I’m restricting this to Tokyo and Japan. I haven’t blogged much and haven’t done so in ages but I feel like many will appreciate this. This is because over the past 9 months (basically since I first visited Japan) I have had lots of people ask me about how I went about it and did it cheaply (considering I only work part time on minimum wage). Of course some will read that and think ‘why are people asking you that?’ which I also am wondering as nobody has ever stopped and asked about any of my other trips. Also its not like I have a huge social media following or anything. But I have had friends, family, people at work and a few people on social media ask me in person and over message about how to go to Japan. So here it is, the basics to visiting THE best country in the world and being able to do so when you’re young, lack huge funds and don’t want anything too scary 🙂
I would like to write a post more about the best things to see and do and about other areas of Japan that many do not think of, but for now just being able to book the trip and afford it is what people have asked about! However I thought I would also add this after writing this post, much of this can be applied to any destination, but the focus is on Japan <3
Even after this post, many reading may still think such a trip is a huge expense and travelling Europe is more doable from the UK (or traveling other countries that are closer if not from the UK). Which is totally fine! Many of these tips may still apply. But for me visiting Japan was not just ‘a holiday’ or ‘a fun trip away’. It is the one place in the world I had always wanted to visit since I was 8 years old. Japanese gaming opened up this wonderful country to me when I was in Primary School and since then my love and curiosity for Japan has just grown and grown. So saving up and going myself in January and having a lovely family who let Japan be the annual family holiday in the August previous was a real life experience <3
Getting the money together
Work, work, work
This should be obvious. If you are going away, money is something you really kind of need! If you really want to go you will be willing to put the hours in to get there. This applies to life in general – don’t moan about not being able to have or do nice things if you have done nothing to earn that. Of course lots of hours and lots of overtime really can suck sometimes but when things get tough always remind yourself of why you are working. Trust me when you are on your flight at 40,000 feet cruising over Asia you will be thanking yourself.
Don’t spend your money on pointless things
This is definitely easier said than done! But every time you pop out just to get your ‘essentials’, keep it that way. Whenever you pick something exciting you wish to buy up, just remind yourself what you are saving for. Do you really need to buy that extra piece of makeup? Do you really need to have that energy drink or will tap water just do you fine? It’s all about priorities. Besides if you save too much you can always buy pointless things when you’re abroad! That way it’s worthwhile as you may not be able to buy that pointless stuff back home – sounds really stupid but I always buy so much rubbish guilt free when I’m travelling!
Request money/foreign currency/travel company vouchers on Birthdays/Christmas
If your family believe in gifts on Birthdays and at Christmas this can totally apply. Some may not believe in gift buying, which is fine. But if you receive gifts on these occasions, maybe ask for things that could help with your travelling. Asking for money straight up may not be your thing, but asking for foreign currency, vouchers for airlines or even various things that you might need could be really helpful. Plus it takes a little pressure off of you and your family know you’ll be using your gift and enjoying it.
Okay, this is something I really am not a fan of unfortunately. I just do not believe in asking for money off of other people randomly purely so I can go and enjoy myself whilst they are back home. Like I said before, go get a job, try and get hours and work, work, work! Buuuuuuuut say you have never travelled much in your life and you are going to make a really big thing out of it then maybe give it a shot. If you know you have lots of friends and family that will support you and be 100% happy about it then maybe raise a little this way.
Where to go
Tokyo is probably the easiest to explore and has the best English for beginners. Plus there is a lot to see in Tokyo and you could easily make it a small city break or stay there for a week.
However Osaka also takes international flights and is much cheaper with the surrounding cities of Kyoto and Kobe also being very cheap. Just like how hotels in London are very expensive compared to the rest of the country, the same goes for Tokyo in Japan.
If you do opt for Tokyo only or go to Tokyo for a portion of your trip, to keep costs down pay attention to the wards. Pick a ward that is not in the very centre but is near to the various things you wish to see and experience. If you want to explore the west of Tokyo, Ikebukoro and the outskirts of Shinjuku can be cheap with good links to the JR and metro lines. For the east, Ueno and Asakuasa, for the south Maihama.
Also if you fly into Tokyo the airport can matter. Haneda airport is very close to the city centre making travel from your flight cheap and quick. However there are less flights to Haneda and sometimes they may be more expensive. Narita is the most common airport for international flights and is often the cheaper option. However the downside here, is that it is far away from the centre and return rail fare can cost from 4000 yen upwards. In other words just jiggle round your flights and see where you can get the most comfort and value for money! Which links onto the next point…
I always use Skyscanner. This is because it is great for giving you a rough guide on which airlines are the cheapest for the dates you wish to fly on. Plus it can show you the whole month’s flights so you can see if it is cheaper to fly a few days earlier/later or even a week earlier/later. However I would always advise to book directly with the airline of your choosing, as accessing and modifying bookings will always be easier. Also check Skytrax for reviews of the airline and the airports you’ll be using so you can decide to go for a cheap lower rated airline or pay more for a better one. It honestly depends on your preference, I personally do not care about cheap airlines but if a certain airport for instance says the transfer service is very poor and the connection is very tight, I will think again and try and find other flights.
Although I try and make my travels as cheap as possible, lets just say a girl has her standards :’D. When going away on a trip with either family, my boyfriend or friends, I don’t really want to be sleeping on somebody’s sofa or sharing a dormitory and bathroom in a hostel. So for me a serviced hotel is the minimum! But I try and go for the best value hotel and I’m not always looking for luxury. So here I would say use booking.com to get a rough idea of hotel prices and to have a browse at what the hotels have on offer. This is because I think booking.com has a really nice interface and the best gallery viewer. Following this check TripAdvisor for reviews and customer photos to see if the place is what you are looking for. Always take the super positive and super negative reviews with a pinch of salt though! Then if possible book directly with the hotel and make a loyalty account. This can sometimes give you a discount of 5-20% and other goodies like free drinks, free snacks and sometimes free upgrades. You will almost always get the better rooms as well.
How to stay cheap when there
Hotels and food
Back onto the topic of hotels – Try and book a hotel that has a kitchenette/microwave if you want to be on a budget. There are 7/11s, Family Marts everywhere (basically mini supermarkets). Go grocery shopping and eat breakfast and dinner in the room and have lunch somewhere nice. Restaurants often hike up prices in the evening and usually offer cheaper lunch menus – so take advantage! Because of this my boyfriend and I spent around £7 a day on food, more money for shopping! <3 However this is more of the case in Tokyo as hotels and living costs in the other cities are much lower.
Light metro/rail travel
Get yourself a pasmo or suica card (basically an oyster card) so you only pay when using it. Some days I would walk between stations instead of taking the train, which would render a day pass useless. Pay as you go is also very easy and the cards also double up as vending machine payment too! Also by using these cards you can use any railway company whereas most daily/weekly passes are limited to one company.
Long distance rail travel
Check certain deals if travelling far by rail. Certain companies offer discounts for tourists and bulk packages. For instance you can grab various Japan Railway (JR) passes for certain areas of the country on various timescales. Now if you are using the bullet train here, this will save you LOADS. One country-wide unlimited travel rail pass (7 day) is roughly the price of one return bullet train journey to Kyoto – that really puts it into perspective haha! But if taking smaller trips just outside of the various cities, look up the route and railway company you will be using and then check if they offer any deals. A trip to a mountain just outside Tokyo cost only 1000 yen which included return rail fare, and return cablecar/chairlift too!
Activities and shopping
Check out all the amazing things that are free in Tokyo – parks, museums, just walking around and getting the atmosphere is all free! Also you must GO TO DAISO! This is basically a one stop shop for snacks, souvenirs, and so many random things, go search it up on google it is literally the place of dreams. Everything cost 100 yen (basically 50-80p depending on the exchange rate at the time). I walked out with three giant bags of shopping that only cost around £30 on my first trip 😀 For clothes shopping Harajuku is very cheap for many various things, plus you cannot go to Tokyo and not go there! For other places, Shibuya is a little more upmarket but Shibuya 109 has some stores that always have sales on. Uniqlo can be found pretty much everywhere, its basically the classier better quality version of Primark in Japan. If you’ve ever seen it in London, trust me it is much better in Japan, cheaper with better selection.
So there you have it, just a very detailed tip post! At points I did delve into various things to do but I promise I will make a post solely about actives in the future! Many things that I said may be obvious to some but completely new information to others so don’t worry I’m not trying to be ‘an expert’ but just trying to share tips that I know that you may or may not know 🙂 Plus people asked so I thought I would answer a lot here to save me answering the same questions over and over. But if there is anything else you want to quickly ask just drop me a DM 🙂