6 Ways to Make Your Trip to Japan More Affordable and Hassle-free

Japan is an expensive country to visit. However, there are ways to visit Japan and not break your bank in the process. Let me share with you 6 ways on how to do so.

  1. Transportation
    Transportation is very costly in Japan. Buy a JR pass if you intend to travel by JR trains especially Shinkansen often and visit many different cities within a short period of time. Take note that the JR pass is only valid for Japan Railway (JR) lines and a few JR buses. There are other private railways and also buses that don’t use the JR passes. A short bus ride can easily cost 200 yen.  If you intend to do much travelling by bus during a day trip in a city, buy the 1-day bus pass which is available in many cities, usually costing 500 yen.
  2. Buy from supermarket (7-eleven, Family Mart etc.) or 100-yen shops
    You can get delicious and fulfilling bentos below 500 yen from supermarkets.  At night, there might even be a discount to the bento boxes. Mineral water is cheaply available at around 100 yen for a 500 ml bottle. Some of the in-house brands even cost below 100 yen. There are many 100-yen shops around and you can buy a wide variety of household items  and food (instant noodles, tidbits and can or bottled drinks).
  3. Bring more Japanese Yen rather than withdraw your money from ATMs
    I’m unclear what are the withdrawal service charges for cards issued in other countries. For Singapore issued cards, do note that the service charge is not fixed by the local banks in Singapore as I’ve inquired about this before I departed to Japan and was told that the service charge levied would depend on the Japanese bank. I got a hefty service charge of 2.9% for withdrawing my money from a Japanese bank (AEON). It might be a better choice to bring more Japanese yen rather than withdraw money unless you intend to stay in Japan for an extended period. Japan is a safe country and crime rates are low, so bringing large amounts of cash is still relatively a safe option, unless you have the tendency to be careless and misplace your wallet easily. In such cases, you might want to use a money belt. Personally, I don’t use a money belt because of comfort issue and prefer a sling bag.
  4. Keep your valuables close to you and have photocopies of your important documents
    Although Japan is safe, do still take the usual precautions when travelling and keep your valuables close to you. As the saying goes, low crimes doesn’t mean no crimes.I heard of first-hand experience from a lady I met at a dormitory who has her backpack stolen (with laptop, mobile phone and wallet all lost) at the airport when she fell asleep for a short while after a tiring midnight flight. She said she was lucky as she happened to put her passport in her pocket. Else, the passport would also be lost and it would cause much trouble for herself since she didn’t have a photocopy of this important document with her. Always have photocopies of your important documents when you’re travelling. You can store a set in your luggage if the original documents are in your sling bag or opt to email yourself a copy of the documents or both.It would be best not to draw attention to yourself by wearing expensive valuables or carry branded and expensive wallets or bags. When out sightseeing, you should put your expensive big items such as laptop in the hostel locker.
  5. Learn the language
    Besides the simple few words of greetings (Konnichiwa: Hello ; Arigato gazaimasa: Thank you ; Sayonara: Goodbye), it’s best to learn different phases of asking questions and basic conversation Japanese, especially if you intend to travel by yourself for a period of a few weeks or more. This will definitely make your trip a more pleasant one. This is because the majority of Japanese, even staff who work at train stations and tourist places, might not be able to speak English or speaks minimal English. If you know how to read and write Chinese characters, you are in a better position. This is because Kanji has many similar characters as the Chinese language. So, you can also write your question using Chinese characters. This is especially if you don’t have internet connection on the go. If your conversational Japanese is limited and you don’t understand Chinese characters, the best option to make travelling a breeze is to get subscription to an internet connection while you’re in Japan so that you can use Google Maps to help you find your way or translation software to help with the communication issue.
  6. Bring small luggage
    Japanese are master packers as they can stuff many items into a small luggage. It’s uncommon to see Japanese carrying huge luggage. From my experience, it’s in your best interest if you go light in Japan, especially if you intend to use public transport most of the time. This is because there are no escalators or lifts at subway stations, and you would need to carry your luggage up and down. Even for JR stations, there might not be escalators for some of the exits. Even though I am quite strong and can carry my luggage and backpack at the same time, it was tiring doing this every few days. Also, most hostels don’t have lifts and it’s common for your dormitory rooms to be on the second floor or higher. Some hostel staff would help you with your luggage but not all do and this should not be expected if you stay in hostels. When you travel on Shinkansen and you have a big luggage which is too heavy to lift to store in overhead compartments, to make it more hassle-free, do enter by the back of a train compartment. There are some space between the last seat and the compartment and you can put your luggage there. It’s safe to just store your luggage there and look for a seat in front. Of course, don’t put valuables in your luggage if you do this. Although it’s a safe practice, there is no 100% guarantee that it would not be taken by someone.