Well, I am back for some new posts. Yes, I’m so behind my schedule on posting but I have pretty much good reasons for that. Just this past weekend, I was actually back in the motherland for a short vacation with my younger brother. It was a rushed and at the same time, scheduled trip and I could pretty much say I didn’t mind it apart from the fact I was a babysitter for the most of it.
For this entry, I’d be giving you a little run down of the preparations I did for this weekend getaway to Summery Japan and give some tips along the way for it!
– Before you can head to Japan, you must get your tourist visa ready to travel around the country. In the Philippines, you can file your visa with the help of various agencies. It is ideal to apply your visa 3 months or earlier before your trip. The latest you can attempt filing for a visa is a good two weeks before your trip. However, I advice against it unless its an emergency. I was able to get a visa in the same period last year, but it was cutting a bit too close.
– Make sure to prepare your documents ahead of time and when you apply, the documents should not be close to their expiry dates.
— Birth certificates, Marriage contracts expire 3 to 6 months depending on when it was received or depending on the requirements of the embassy.
— Bank certificates are good for three to 6 months as well after it was issued.
– If you have visited Japan at least once or twice, don’t be afraid to try requesting for a multiple visa. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always often that the Embassy gives out multiple visas if it is your second time to come. Sometimes, it may take you three or more times to get one unless you request it. Ask your travel agency for the form for it and tell the Embassy on that form why you would keep coming back. Of course, your documents should show that you will come back to the country and that you can fund every trip you will make to the land of the rising sun.
– When you are 100% sure that you will be able to go to Japan, may your visa be a Single Entry (Good for 15 days straight stay within a 3 month period) or Multiple Entry (Good for 30 days straight stay, 5 year expiration), check the airlines you plan to use.
– From Manila, you have quite a lot of good choices when it comes to trips to Japan: from the cheap airlines Cebu Pacific and Jetstar Japan, to the hard core ones such as Japan Airlines, Philippine Airlines, All Nippon Airways and the other airlines that do make a stop in Japan. If you are flying from Cebu, you can try out catching Vanilla Airlines. It’s like Jetstar Japan and lands in Narita Terminal 3. From what I saw in the adverts, a one way trip with them is around 5,000+ or so and they also drop that price to 4,000+ pesos so check it out.
– Cebu Pacific is currently one of the cheapest ones in the market and regularly does seat sales. When I was planning my trip, it so happened that Cebu Pac had a seat sale which would get you a round trip ticket to Japan (They only stop at Narita, Osaka and Nagoya) around 10,000+ pesos to mostly 16,000 if you went all out on the add-ons. Jetstar is the other alternative, but their prices do increase the closer the date is. For the schedule we got, the seat sale tickets we picked that would let us arrive in Tokyo Narita at 10:25 am of August 5 and leave Narita on August 9 at 11:25 am with all the extra fix-ins were just 14,000+ pesos. If we gotten the Jetstar flight, which arrives earlier and leaves later, it would put us 20,000+ pesos for just one person. The 14,000+ pesos was good for one person only. Good saving so catch up those seat sales.
– If you are traveling via Cebu Pacific, make sure you to check the “Include Philippine Travel Tax” button so you won’t have to fall in line in TIEZA lanes prior to check in just to pay for that. Philippine Travel Tax is around 1,620 pesos and the lines can get pretty long if you arrive late because only a few lanes are available in the terminals and you also have to wait as you are sharing these lanes with other flights.
– Cebu Pacific also included several new features in their tickets such as travel insurance for your stuff and for your flight should you find yourself stranded for some natural reason the airline cannot foresee. Also add in some food for your trip!
– Always take advantage of the seat selector options, it comes with some airlines when you purchase your tickets online. Pick one that is before the wing of the plane. Less noisy and you do get a great glimpse of the cities you would be touching down on.
– Extra note: The planes of each airline varies depending on the flight you selected and what they offer for that route. Some airlines have very small leg room such as the ones in cheap airlines. In our case, the legroom of our Cebu Pacific flight was alright when seated but yes, it can be difficult to get in and out.
– The maximum you can put on check in for Cebu Pacific flights is 20kg. Any additional weight is subjected to extra fees. You also are ok for a 1 carry on baggage which should be around 7kg.
– While waiting for your visa, it is ideal you have a clear idea on where you will be staying throughout your stay.
– In my case, I use Agoda for my travels to Japan as they have the usual exclusive deals every week so if you are after a specific hotel which is normally expensive on usual days, book when these sales occur. You do have an option to pay now or pay later or pay in the hotel.
— Extra tip: If you do decide to pay later, be cautious of the exchange rate. When I reserved for our hotel – which was Hotel Shirobara Inn Asakusa – I was only supposed to pay somewhere around 18,000+ when I saw the sale. However, when it was paying time, I ended up paying 19,000+ due to the present exchange rate. Have a secondary card with you if the one you registered with Agoda for the lower price does not have the funds for the changed price.
— You can call Agoda to switch your cards if you do have the funds to pay for your hotel already. However, they will charge it immediately so think carefully :))
– When in Tokyo or in any major city, you need to be prepared for the walkgeddon which is the train switches. While there are lines that would take you to the closest hotspots (Ex. JR Yamanote), some are quite hard to reach. Trains are also very expensive in Japan if you are going around and in super many connections.
– In our case, we would be staying close to Tokyo Metro – Ginza Line so we do need to make connections to go around Japan. To remedy this, I ordered the 72 hour Tokyo Subway Ticket in Klook. This Tokyo Subway Ticket would grant me and my little brother free travel access in all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway Lines for 72 hours. There are also 24 and 48 hours so depends on how you will do your trips.
– JR lines do not have a similar equivalent to this that is affordable. However, if you are planning to go stay around Japan for more than 7 days and will travel around the country, I suggest getting yourself the JR Pass or their regional equivalent to save up on the tickets. Japan Rail Passes grants you free travel using any JR line nationwide/regionally, the Shinkansen line (please refer to the JR official website for this because not all Shinkansen lines are free through the pass), and the Narita Express.
– If you are not staying that long in Japan, using IC cards like Suica and PASMO is an investment you need to consider. You can get a card in any ticket terminals in stations in Tokyo and for just 1000 yen, you can go around. The IC Cards work for 10 years so keep your IC cards for your next trip in Japan. Suica and PASMO – as well as other IC Cards – also double as mobile wallets and you can use them to pay for your stuff in stores around the country that allows it. Of course, you should load your card up for these in train stations!
– To determine how much you would be spending for your trips or find out the best connections, using Google Maps or apps such as Jorudan would go a long way. In Google Maps, which I use, it details how much the prices are in total and the ideal connections to take. It also doubles as a map as noted so you won’t get lose when you make the connections. Jorudan also gives a clear rundown of the transfers but does not have a map function.
– Of course, to make your life 100% easier in Japan, you’d need Wi-Fi connection to get around. If you did not make prior arrangements, there are booths in the airports from major Japanese telcos and brands which offer great deals for WiFi or SIM Card rentals so you can go around Japan. If you are coming from the Philippines, some agencies – such as Friendship Tours – offer WiFi rentals as well. In my case, I tried out CDJapan’s WiFi rental service. I paid for a good 5 days for the WiFi and picked it up in the airport’s post office.
— I have yet to try out SMART’s Travel WiFi Service and PAL’s Travel WiFi service so I can’t give an advice on that.
To and From the Airport
– If you are arriving via Narita (Like me and my bro for this trip), you need to figure out the best way to go to the city and back to the airport when its time to leave. Fortunately, there are trains, buses and taxies that goes in and out of the airport.
– For trains, here are your options
— N’EX – Narita Express – which passes by Tokyo Station and certain stations (the train’s PA system will tell you which ones when you board and the on-board screens). I’ved ridden this train before for free thanks to the Japan Rail Pass I gotten. If you are intending to try this out and in a rush to get to Tokyo, a roundtrip ticket would cost you around 4,000 yen and can be bought in JR East Travel Service Centers in Narita and Haneda. (check more details about it here)
— Keisei Skyliner – Similar to the N’EX in terms of speed, but this passes only to Ueno and Nippori. A single trip ticket is 2,200 yen and the site also offers combo tickets such as the unli Tokyo Metro passes and discounts in certain establishments affiliated with the Keisei Electric Railway Co. You can also purchase their tickets online if you are a foreigner or try discounted ones in sites such as KLOOK. I got ours there and what is interesting with this is that if you were unable to claim the voucher to replace for your tickets, you can use it within 90 days. For more details of the Keisei Skyliner, check here.
— Keisei Sky Access Line – This is a commuter train that passes by in various stations up to Haneda Airport. This is the cheapest train option, but it would take you an hour or so before you get to your destination. You can use Pasmo and Suica to pay for this :)
– Buses are also available. I have yet to try these out because the accommodations I have selected were connected mostly in the Tokyo Metro lines.
– Taxis are not really advisable unless you do have a lot of budget for it. Narita Airport is in another Prefecture from Tokyo so it is very far away.
– Uber – There is a service as such for you guys. But, like Taxis, you do need a lot of budget for it :).
– When you get the visa, you need to plan properly when it comes to the clothes you will be wearing. When we went, it was in the middle of summer. It is ideal to shove off the thicker stuff and go with shirts, tees, jeans and shorts!
– However, keep a shawl or jacket prepared because summers in Tokyo can also get rainy. When we visited, Typhoon Nori came over. Also, you need the shawls when going to shrines.
– When traveling in Japan for summer, bring some high SPF sunblock because the sun is super hot at this time. Umbrellas are ok but when you are there, its like a handful of people would use them. Bringing caps, hats and so on would be ideal as well.
– Shoes, make sure you would be able to walk with them for a long period of time and not get blisters and foot pains. Tokyo is a walking paradise and if your footwear is not good? Blisters baby. Always have a slipper ready when you get home as well. (You can also get the Lion Foot Pads to help sooth the pain of your foot. It can be bought in convenience stores for 450 yen).
– Keep some space in your luggage for your souvenirs. Buy those foldable bags or duffle bags so you can check in your excess stuff without problems.
– When packing for toiletries, you do have options. If you are not sure if the free toiletries such as shampoos, soaps and conditioners, you can pack small bottles of your preferred brands. If you are ok with the free stuff and I kid you not, the freebies in hotels are branded. Of course, if you go to hotels and see its in large bottles, you can’t bring those home!
– Medicines are ok to bring in Japan. However, please double check with the list of allowed medicines to be brought in Japan and if you are in prescription medicines, bring your prescriptions for your doctors. Japan also sells the usual meds for the usual ailments in convenience stores and pharmacies. If you are uncertain which ones you need, ask a friend who knows Japanese to help you ask.
Translators or no translators?
– Well this one is up to you because for one, Japan is now becoming a multi-lingual country, especially now that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is coming. If you are uncertain about something, try speaking in English and gesture which item you are asking about. Learning a few greetings and sentences would also go a long way.
– Google Translate is a buddy sometimes, but do not often rely on it because it has yet to be perfected.
I think I got everything all up. If you want to ask me some more stuff about Tokyo travel hacks which I forgot to mention, feel free to send in a holler on the comments below or send me a tweet or something. I’ll check them out and answer for you.
Next entry? Working on that though that would be the first wave of Summery Tokyo!
I have also updated some of the entries due to the Photobucket issue. Please refer to my Twitter feed as to which ones they are. I will be updating the rest when I get the time. So much work, so little time.