It’s that time of the year again: travel season.
With great deals on flights and hotels being thrown about now, it’s hard to resist that urge to spend a nice holiday with family or friends to close the year off. And we’re willing to bet one country many Malaysians are eyeing to visit is Japan.
But with our weaker currency, it can be a pricey place to travel to. It’s quite easy to overspend your budget, what with their delicious food, amazing attractions and quirky souvenirs exclusively found there.
Don’t fret too much, there are ways to be smarter about your finances. We’ve listed 8 tips to soften the punch to your wallet that doesn’t sacrifice the true Japanese experience.
1) Buy travelling passes before heading to Japan.
If your trip includes a lot of stops in different prefectures, like landing in Tokyo and then spending the rest of your holiday in Osaka, a JR Pass will be your life saviour.
It gives you access to railroads and buses owned by JR so if used wisely, it can really give you a bang for your buck.
Example, a one way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto using the shinkansen (bullet train) is more than RM500, but using the JR Pass, you have unlimited access to the trains for a week with a price of about RM1,100. Totally worth it.
It’s strongly advised that you buy the JR Pass here before leaving to Japan because it’s a lot cheaper. Klook, an online travel experience booking platform, lets you buy the pass according to your needs and they’ll deliver it to your home. All you have to do is to exchange it for the actual ticket at the JR Rail Office in Japan.
If you’re not planning on roaming around, you can get the regional passes which give you the same unlimited usage but restricted to the region you’re in.
2) Wait until the right time to get good deals on food.
Konbini or Japanese convenience stores are a whole new level of their own. They always have a generous range of scrumptious treats that are good to your wallet and can keep you pleasantly full through the day.
The prices are usually already cheap (ranging from RM3 to RM8) but if you go after 8PM, a lot of the stores like 7Eleven and Family Mart, and even some supermarket chains, will mark down their prices, since a lot of food in Japan is prepared and served fresh daily.
Rather than throwing it away, they sell it for half the price so it’s prime time to take advantage of—and yes, the food is still delicious.
4) Go souvenir shopping at 100 yen stores.
Everyone normally allocates a certain amount in their budget for souvenirs but you never have to feel obliged to splurge on these. Especially not in Japan when their bargain stores are a gold mine for cute gifts to bring home for your family and friends.
100 yen stores and MEGA stores are known to have a wide range of cute and yummy souvenirs at a flat rate of around RM4 per piece. They sell almost everything, from cute pottery to interesting sweets. You’ll feel spoiled for choice walking around.
MEGA stores often stock up on limited edition goodies, like uncommon flavours of Kit-Kats and Calbee chips, which are sold at a lower price compared to their branded stores.
4) Scout online for deals on iconic attractions.
Common things on people’s bucket list when visiting Japan are their iconic landmarks (i.e Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studio Japan). These passes can cost quite a bit but if you’re really keen on seeing them, there are ways to get them for a cheaper rate than purchasing at the door.
Klook has an extensive list of attractions in Japan at a discounted price (some even with priority lane privileges) so you can buy the tickets beforehand.
It also saves you the time of queuing up in those long lines at the entrance because all you’ll need to do is just “flash” your mobile voucher and you can enter the park directly!
5) Engage a free (yes, free!) tour guide.
Japan’s known for their picturesque landscapes which fortunately, often require no admission fees to see. But finding these spots can be a bit tricky considering most of their directions and signboards are in Japanese.
In certain areas like Tokyo and Nara, you can try finding volunteers who offer a free tour guide service. These are usually locals who enjoy bringing tourists around as a way for them to practice their English language skills while making new friends.
They don’t take any payment but out of courtesy, it’s nice to treat them for a meal as thanks for showing you around, which isn’t a bad deal. You can check this website to see if there are any tour guides where you’re going to.
6) Use your passport for more than just identification.
Some of us feel safer locking up our passports in safes when we travel but in Japan, having it on hand can be useful.
Not just for identification purposes, your passport can be handy in stores that offer tax-free shopping because it acts like your coupon to cheaper prices.
All you need to do is show your passport and the 8% consumption tax is voided because tourists aren’t required to pay this tax. Just remember that this only applies if you have your physical passport so no copies are allowed.
7) Skip the hotels and check out other options instead.
Accommodation can make a dent on our budget but thanks to Airbnb, it’s a lot easier to find more affordable options. Japan has a wide range of options. Pick the ones located a little further away from touristy areas, with some starting from as low as RM100/night.
Japan also has eccentric capsule hotels that’re super cosy and comfortable, costing about RM150/night. Do note that some of these hotels can be gender-specific so make sure to check their terms before booking.
Another choice that is also very Japanese are mangakissa (manga cafés).
Manga cafés are 24-hour cafés that offer each guests a cubicle with a PC inside that gives you unlimited internet access and an extensive manga library. Some cafes even provide charging stations, showers, food vending machines and free-flow drinks.
Most of them have a special rate if you’d like to stay longer than 6 hours, about RM60 to RM70/night. You can request for a cubicle with a reclining seat or a sleeping pod to make it more comfortable.
8) Get a pocket Wi-Fi instead of a local sim card to stay connected.
Surprisingly, staying connected in Japan isn’t as easy because their Wi-Fi accessibility is quite limited. But it’s not impossible. You could either rent a pocket Wi-Fi (a small wireless router) or get a local sim card.
The price of a pocket router is RM20 a day while a SIM card is priced at around RM100 upwards for 7 days. With a SIM, you’re limited to one device whereas a pocket Wi-Fi can connect up to 10 devices at a time, meaning you only just need to buy 1 to share the internet with your travelling party or even use it with multiple devices.
You don’t have to skimp out to make your trip to Japan wallet-friendly.
Rather than restricting yourselves on what you can’t and can do, you can just make wiser decisions on what you’re buying and get the best deals to make sure you’re not overspending.
With the right planning, you could easily enjoy a week of fun activities and delicious food without worrying about your budget.
Some of these tips can also be applied to any other trips you may have, just be sure to do the proper research before heading off.
Platforms like Klook could help make the process a lot simpler. They currently cover over 120 cities (including Malaysia) where you can check off a lot of things on your travel “to-do” list (i.e getting internet, transportation, tickets for attractions) at the best prices online.
Now that you’re armed with these tips on how to stay within your travel budget, you can focus on the most important thing: having the time of your life while on holiday.
If you’re ready to get cracking on your year-end holiday, we’re giving you RM15 off your first purchase by using the promo code VULCAN15 to kickstart your travel planning on Klook!
This article is written in collaboration with Klook.
Feature Image Credit: wikimedia.org