What’s the one place in the world you wanna go to?
Me? Japan. And on May 2015, I did.
Going to Japan requires preparation. At least that’s what my research said.
As I’ve read quite a lot of blogs and capitalized on them, I’m passing on my experience.
I’m from the Philippines and as of the time of visit, we needed a tourist visa. Here are quick things to remember:
- We can only apply at most three months before the trip, and so I applied on March, 2015.
- You cannot apply directly to the embassy – you have to through accredited tour agencies. There are only two in Metro Manila, and I applied at Discovery Tours near Ayala Triangle of PHP800 (tourist visa rate).
- NSO birth certificate (marriage certificate, as applicable) should be issued within a year.
- Bank Certificate may only show the as of balance – there’s no need to show the average daily balance. I think PHP100,000ish should be your as of balance. You can transfer from a friend, get the bank certificate, then return the money. Of course, your friend should trust you to return the money.
- Tax returns – I was with someone who had around PHP200,000 annual income and she was accepted. 🙂
- Itinerary, place to stay, etc – you can just make them up. Here’s the Japan itinerary I actually used during the trip, not for visa submission.
Processing takes three to five business days – so if the five business days are up, call the agency. Chances are they just forgot to inform you.
I bought yen from Czarina. It has a better rate compared to the banks, and considering the PHP10,000 per withdrawal limit and the PHP500 ish bank charges, I was better off buying some yen.
BDO has some pretty good rates too, but you’ll have to wait for the yen (they’ll call you after you’ve submitted the request if they have some available).
If you have USD, it will be better to exchange them in Japan, but I haven’t tried that yet.
Airfare – I went with Cebupac, with around PHP7,000 roundtrip. The cheapest I’ve heard of is around PHP5,000.
From Kansai Airport – There was no promo, so we just bought the tickets from the airport to Osaka.
To Kansai Airport – since we were leaving in the evening, we had an entire day to waste. So we bought the Haruka line ticket (buy it online before you go to Japan) for an unlimited JR line ride (Shinkansen not included). The rate is basically the same if you’re going from Kyoto to Kansai airport. This is how we added Kobe to our itinerary at the last minute. 🙂
Around Osaka – buy the Yokoso ticket. It’s an unlimited ticket around Osaka plus some discounts.
Around Kyoto – buy the unlimited bus ticket at JPY500. The rate’s JPY230 per ride, so it’s already worth it at three rides (and you’d surely go for more)
Oh, the amazing train system of Japan. There are dozens of tracks that different trains pass through. Each train color has a different route, so be sure you are riding the right train (applies to buses too).
We didn’t have one. We survived with asking directions. The Japanese are extremely helpful.
We spent minimal amount in our accommodations – foregoing the lavish hotels to inns. We stayed at:
- Tenma Itoya Guesthouse, Osaka – authentic Japanese experience! We loved this place, though we had a difficult time pronouncing the station near it (Minamimorachi station)
- K’s Backpacker’s Hostel, Kyoto – clean and strategically located – it’s about a 10-20 minute walk from Kyoto station.
Hmmm… I’m not sure if I missed anything – it’s been a year! Will add things up if and when I remember them.