This is not the perfect “Osaka, Nara & Kyoto on a Budget” guide. This is just a travel guide using Japan's not-so-well-known transportation tickets for tourists. I still hope this is useful to prevent you from going broke on your trip in Japan.
Moving on, everything was a gamble. Visa, bank funds, documents, immigration, etc. There’s a lot of trials before you get to step in the land of Japan.
It may seem expensive at first, but know the tricks and you’ll save a LOOOOT of cash for your travels. You just got to have a strategy. First off, fares, accommodations and food are the major things that will steal your pockets empty, and Osaka is already cheaper than in Tokyo. Food and beverages cost less in vending machines in Osaka, but still pricey when converted to peso. Read on to find out how you can tour Japan in less than Php13,000 for 6 days!!
READ MORE: 10 Reasons to Visit Malaysia too
BEFORE YOUR TRIP
So you have decided you want to go to Japan, but before you get to there, you will need to prepare first for your trip. Here is a summary before you take off to your dream destination:
- Winter, spring, summer or faaaall all you have to do is choose 🎶 now sing it!
- Your Passport: Can't leave the country without it
- Japan Visa: Now you can't enter Japan without this
- Plane ticket: Advisable to buy them after you get your visa application approved
- Book your room: No hotels if you want to stay within your budget
1. Have your Passport and Japan Visa
Ages ago I don’t even know the difference between a passport and a visa, I thought I just need one and then I can travel anywhere. First off get your passport, here’s a guide on How to get your Philippine Passport. Afterwards you will need a Japan Visa, read this post on How to get a Japan Tourist Visa.
Basically, your passport is like an ID you should have before you can leave your own country. And visas are like permits that you can visit and temporarily stay in other countries you will be traveling. Some countries you don’t need a visa, most countries, you need to ask for a visa from their embassies. Once you have both, it’s time to book those flights or you can book in advance for cheaper fares!
2. When's the Best Time to Visit?
Do we need to ask? Of course, it's spring (March-May). Or autumn too (October-November)! The trees accessorizes the country with its cherry blossoms in the spring, come mid-November, the trees are on fire with their fiery leaves with just the right weather temperature. There are more tourists during these times, but that’s okay when you get to see nature at its finest here. I came here in December, it was too cold for a body much suited in a tropical weather, the trees are leafless, nothing in bloom except the flowers in pots at the front of the locals’ houses.
3. Always Check for Seat Sales
Jetstar and Cebu Pacific Airlines has the most affordable fares from Manila to Osaka flights, ranging Php3-5,000 when on promos. Cheap air flights can only be booked in advance though. Like 3 to 6 months earlier to get the best deals, if you’d like to take a risk, go book those cheap fares. Note that, getting a Japan visa is not always for sure, their embassy may deny you, and no one knows but them the answer to your question, ‘why?’.
4. Where to Stay
Yup! Almost all in Japan are expensive, especially for us Filipinos with only an average income. I find Agoda, AirBnB and Booking.com easier to navigate and find cheap rooms. You really don’t need a 5 star hotel or any expensive accommodations when your goal in Japan is to travel right on a budget? You’ll spend more time on the road than in your room. Book room in hostels, guest houses, inns, apartments and/or capsule hotels.
We booked our room in an apartment that says 15 minutes away from Osaka Station because it’s REALLY cheap. Piece of advice. Don’t book that! When they say 15 minutes away, you have got to stride to get there 15m flat. I walk slow because I’m easily out of breath plus it’s winter that time and it took us 20-25 minutes just to get to the station, and there are no buses! Days in Japan start and ends early, you won’t want to waste a half an hour walk just to get to the station. Book in areas near the station, it may be a little expensive but worth your time.
GETTING AROUND IN OSAKA, NARA AND KYOTO
How to travel in Japan on a budget? You will need the following:
- Osaka Amazing Pass
- Passes are available in 1 day (¥2500) or 2 days (¥3,300)
- You can use for 1 or 2 days + free admission on 35 sightseeing spots + some discount coupons
- Where to buy? Kansai International Airport or other sales location for Osaka Amazing Pass
- Kintetsu Rail Pass
- Available in 4 types:
- 1 Day Pass ¥1,500 (Osaka - Nara - Kyoto + Unlimited bus rides in Nara Kotsu Bus lines, with designated areas only)
- 2 Day Pass ¥2,500 (Osaka - Nara - Kyoto + Unlimited bus rides in Nara Kotsu Bus lines, with designated areas only)
- Kintetsu Rail Pass ¥3,800 (Osaka - Nara - Kyoto - Ise-shima - Nagoya + Unlimited bus rides in Nara Kotsu Bus lines)
- Kintetsu Rail Pass PLUS ¥5,000 (Osaka - Nara - Kyoto - Ise-shima - Nagoya + Unlimited bus rides in Nara Kotsu Bus, Mie Kotsu Bus, Toba City Bus Lines)
- Where to buy? Kansai International Airport or these other areas where you purchase Kintetsu Rail Pass
- Available in 4 types:
- Kyoto Bus 1 day pass
- Unlimited bus rides within Kyoto
- The card is worth ¥500
- Where to buy? Kyoto Station Tourist Information Center
TRAVEL 2 DAYS IN OSAKA FOR ONLY ¥3,300
No need to buy a JR Rail pass when you can’t use it to its full capacity, instead, purchase Osaka Amazing Pass, a cost-effective way to explore Osaka. This pass is a transportation ticket and an admission ticket on select facilities. You get unlimited rides on subways, bus and trams within Osaka, plus FREE entry on 35 sightseeing spots. You get to choose a 1 day pass or a 2 day pass.
Cool right? Here are more details on How to Use Osaka Amazing Pass.
- You can use the pass from 5am-4:59am the next day
- For the 2 day pass, you must use it on 2 consecutive days, once you use the ticket it will run a continuous timer up to the second day
- Cannot be used on JR and Kintetsu train lines
- the pass can only be used once for each tourist site
- If you are landing in Kansai Airport, please note that this ticket cannot be used from there
PLACES WE GET TO VISIT USING OSAKA AMAZING PASS:
EXPLORE KYOTO AND NARA IN 2 DAYS FOR ONLY ¥2,500 + ¥500 FOR UNLI BUS RIDES
Not only Kyoto, but you can travel up to Nagoya with this pass. How? Buy a Kintetsu Rail Pass (¥2,500).
Much like Osaka Amazing Pass, but this one leans more on traveling in Nara, Kyoto, Yoshino, Iga, Nagoya and more! This pass offers unlimited bus rides and train rides on the Kintetsu line. There are 4 types of this pass you can choose from and it’s only sold to foreign tourists as a temporary visitor.
It will take too long to explain how to use this pass because it has a lot to offer. Check out this link on How useful is Kintetsu Rail pass.
This is not complete without the Kyoto City Bus One-Day pass (¥500). From the station, sometimes you will have to take a bus on some areas that are near each other. You can purchase this in Kyoto station at the Tourist Information are.
Before you purchase a Kintetsu Rail Pass: When you buy this pass, they will ask you when you will use it, so plan your itinerary ahead and carefully. This pass is valid from midnight to midnight. What’s that?
Ex. You can use it only from January 20 at 12:00am - 11:59pm, just think of it as a Cinderella effect.
PLACES TO VISIT IN KYOTO AND NARA
OSAKA, NARA & KYOTO ON A BUDGET
When I say 6 days are not enough to satisfy your travel cravings in Japan, believe me it isn't. I was here for 14 days and it still felt too short of a visit. Everyone has got to get back to reality after a pleasant dream. In short, don’t go broke trying to overstay in a country, especially an expensive one like Japan, where a bottle of water costs around Php90.
Let’s say you’ve struck the best deal for your flight, mostly you can get one from Cebu Pacific, and the rooms you booked in advance are some of the cheapest you can find in the internet. Then luck is with you! This one’s a sample itinerary for 6 days that might be helpful in your travels.
OSAKA - NARA - KYOTO SAMPLE ITINERARY
Arrival at Kansai International Airport (Osaka promo fares usually has a 5am flight, and you’ll arrive at around 10 am in Japan)
- Purchase the passes: Both Osaka Amazing Pass and Kintetsu Rail are available at the Kansai airport. Or these other areas:
- Check-in at the hotel (preferably in Osaka area)
Start using the Osaka Amazing Pass on this day
Depending on your pace you might not visit all of these, some are only a few minute walk from others. I've listed places that are near each other that you can visit for FREE with Osaka Amazing Pass. The pass comes with a map guide so you will know how to get from one place to another easily.
- Osaka Castle Museum
- Osaka-jo Gozabune Boat
- Santa Maria Day Cruise
- Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
- Umeda Sky Building
- HEP Five Ferris Wheel
- Umeda Joypolis
2nd day of using Osaka Amazing Pass:
- Osaka Tennoji Zoo
- Tsutenkaku Tower
- Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
- Natural Hotspring Naniwa no Yu
After this day, the pass has already expired. If you will be following this itinerary, for the next day you can use the Kintetsu railpass to get from Osaka-Namba Station to Kyoto Station.
If you prefer, you can book a new room and transfer where you will be staying from Osaka to Kyoto.
- From Osaka use your Kintetsu rail pass to get to Kyoto Station. Purchase Kyoto bus 1-day pass for ¥500.
- Using the 1-day bus pass
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple / Kinkaku-ji Temple / Ginkakuji Temple
- Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
- Gion or Geisha District is near Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple
- Using Kintetsu Rail Pass
- Visit Nara Park if you still have time or move this for the next day
Using Kintetsu Rail Pass again, you can get to:
- Mt. Yoshino
- Kameishi Stone Site
- Abeno Harukas
Check out at hotel
Departure to Manila
BREAKDOWN OF EXPENSES
EXPENSES IN JAPAN
¥6000 - Accomodation, Hostel type (6 Days / JPY2,000 a night / divided by 2 pax)
¥3300 - Osaka Amazing Pass
¥2500 - Kintetsu Rail Pass
¥500 - Kyoto 1day bus pass
¥7200 - Food Budget (JPY1,200 a day)
¥3000 - Train fares from airport to hotel back and forth and other places excluded from the pass (an estimation only)
TOTAL EXPENSES: JPY 22,500 / *PHP 10,132
*JPY to PHP at 2.22 conversion rate
This estimation of expenses is only if you have bought the 3 passes since you can use them for unlimited train and bus rides. Excluding here the airfare, visa processing fee and bank certificate fee. Roughly, you need to cash out around Php20-30,000 in total for the trip, preparations for your travel plus other personal expenses while traveling in Japan.
SOME USEFUL TIPS:
Plan your itinerary ahead.
Visit spots per area to save some time on your commute. Getting lost is fun too, but time is ticking, you might spend more time on the road than in places you can sightsee.
Book rooms near train stations.
A little pricey, but it saves you time from walking too far on roads with no buses. Based on our experience.
- Go to Dotonbori for cheaper foods, food stalls are side by side
- Don’t forget to eat Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki in Osaka!
- The best curry I've tasted is in Kyoto Station near an escalator. I.forgot.the.store.name.urgh.
WHO WOULD'VE THOUGHT?
That there are these kinds of passes sold in Japan...
I thought I would have to cash out large sums, but thanks to these kinds of discount passes I've saved up thousands of yens. It is very confusing to understand how they work but once you buy the actual passes and read the instructions, it's easy to follow the guide.
- Too hard too understand how it still works? Just leave a comment down below and I'll answer how much my knowledge can.
- Do visit Japan especially this time that they are relaxing giving away visas. Once it hit 2020, we don't know if they'll go back to being a strict G7 country.