Prior to May 2016, Filipinos with an onward ticket to Japan and with a valid Japan visa can enter South Korea visa-free. Filipinos can enter Taiwan as well by using the same Japan visa to obtain a travel authorization certificate online (note: Filipinos can enter Taiwan visa-free on a one-year trial starting approximately on September 2017 once details have been finalized by both governments). With these in mind, my friends and I decided to include Taiwan and South Korea legs to our planned Japan trip to save on visa processing fees for these two countries. By getting only one visa, we were going to be able to visit three countries.
That was the initial plan, but then South Korea decided to remove the aforementioned visa-free privilege. By the time the rule was revised, we had already booked some of our tickets and we had already conditioned our minds and pockets that we were going to three countries in late October to early November of 2016. And so the planning commenced, even though I have to admit that we were a bit scared of how much the trip would cost considering the fact that South Korea and Japan are relatively expensive countries to travel to compared to most Southeast Asian countries.
We estimated around Php 100,000 per person for the two-week trip and actually spent around Php 75,000.00. Some may still find this amount quite expensive but I believe that the concept of being expensive differs from one person to another. In our case, Php 75,000 includes insurance, wifi rental, amusement park fees, non-sale plane fares (due to late booking as we were not sure yet if the trip will push through), and a bullet train ride (that costs a fortune, more expensive than a one-way plane ticket from Seoul to Osaka!) — things which one may be able to forego to bring down the total cost.
Here is a quick summary of expenses and calendar for the two-week trip (adjusted to reflect expenses from Manila – abroad – Manila only):
Visa Application Fees
Total Cost: Php 2,000 (estimated)
Visa application for South Korea is gratis (for free), although as we are from the province, we were forced to get help from an agency. Visa application for Japan must go through their accredited agencies, and these agencies could charge you for as low as Php 800.00. Click here for the list of agencies accredited by the Japanese embassy.
Total Cost: Php 19,212.21
We incurred the highest expense for plane tickets, as we were only able to book our flight from Taipei to Seoul and Seoul to Osaka a month or so before the trip. Costs would be greatly reduced if one got promo fares (case in point: I got roundtrip tickets to Tokyo for November 2017 at around Php 2,100!).
Total Cost: Php 16,363.53
For accommodation, we had a criteria. First, it has to be centrally located. Second, it strictly no bunk beds. Third, no shared bathroom. As we were not too sure about the trip pushing through, we were confined to searching for hotels and hostels at Agoda and Booking (we mainly use these two for booking accommodations) that had free cancellation, hence Airbnb was out of the picture (huge savings could have been had, though, as there were 6 of us in the trip) as it rarely offers free cancellation.
The second and third criterion were what drove the cost of our trip up but we thought that we have had enough of roughing it for the past years that we should allow ourselves these simple pleasures. Only when the cost was too high (i.e. the Japan leg of the trip) that we able to forego these.
Taipei — King National Hotel
Located on the Ximending District, this is just distance to the shopping area and subway station. Also a short taxi ride from Taipei Main Station, where one could catch a bus to Taoyuan Airport.
Seoul — Khaosan Seoul Insadong Guesthouse
About a minute or two walk away from Jongno 3-ga subway station, location is a walking distance to Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung and Insadong. Airport Limousine Bus to and from Incheon Airport (Bus No. 6002) stops near the guesthouse.
Osaka — J-Hoppers Guesthouse
This is one of the hostels where we compromised our criteria, but make no mistake, the place was great. Although we indeed got bunk beds and shared bathrooms, we got twin rooms and the bathrooms (showers and toilets were separated) were squeaky clean. Located near JR Fukushima Station, this is located along the Osaka Loop Line (which stops to almost all tourist destinations in Osaka) and a train direct to Osaka Airport stops in this station.
Kyoto — K’s House Kyoto
A walking distance from Kyoto Station, this is where we shared a six-person room with three bunk beds. Still, as per Japan standards, this place was immaculately clean with a great common area where visitors get to bond and eat their meals. The kitchen was well-stocked with cooking necessities as well (We’d know. Running low on funds on the tail-end of our trip, we were forced to cook our breakfasts and dinners at the hostel).
Tokyo — Tokyo Ueno Youth Hostel
A five-minute or so walk from JR Okachimachi Station (which is one of the JR Yamanote Line stops — this line would take you to various tourist locations in Tokyo) and a few minutes from Keisei Ueno Station (where you could take the Keisei Skyliner to Narita Airport), the highlight of this hostel for me is the congeniality of the owners, who even offered umbrellas to us when we got caught in a heavy rain just as we were about to take our train to Narita Airport. The hostel is a few minutes walk to a Don Quijote (where one could shop for Kitkat’s and other Japanese souvenirs for cheap) and Ueno Park.
Total Cost: Php 7,050.13
This covers the cost for Universal Studios Japan in Osaka and Tokyo Disney Sea.
Yes, it’s quite expensive but for this…
… every single centavo is worth it.
Total Cost: Php 14,952.22
The bulk of this total cost is due to the bullet train ride from Kyoto to Tokyo. It cost a whooping Php 6,200.00 (rounded using current exchange rate). But when you are in Japan, you might as well experience riding in the famous shinkansen, right?
Most would probably recommend getting the JR Pass for exploring Japan but I would recommend it for certain when you are going to ride the bullet train twice because those trips alone would already justify the price tag. We didn’t get the pass and we were able to save a few thousand pesos.
I used these guides during our trip:
Seoul – Jihachul/Subway Korea
This is just an overview of the trip. For queries, comment down below so I could assist you in planning for your next trip.