Budget Travel Guide: 16 Tips For That Year-End Japan Trip

Budget Travel Guide: 16 Tips For That Year-End Japan Trip

Put Japan on your list for the upcoming year-end holidays.

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The year-end holidays are around the corner, and it’s that time of year when everyone’s wanderlust goes on hyperdrive. There are so many places in the world to see but Japan, indisputably, reigns at the top of anyone’s travel list.

So, why Japan? Home to amazing cuisines and some of the most stunning sceneries in the world, Japan is the epitome of a perfect city: clean, green and filled with impeccably polite citizens to boot. Boasting more than just mouth-watering food and world-class trains, Japan is full of culture, beautiful sights and even super modern-technology. It’s no wonder that it’s on everyone’s bucket list!

However, despite the excitement that we all share towards visiting Japan, some of us may be apprehensive – due to the country’s high prices and language barrier. But what if we told you we had some tips that could help make your next Japan trip that much easier? 

Here are 16 tips to keep in mind for your year-end Japan trip:


1. Bring multiple layers – just in case

Image credit: Chi Tranter (left), Yosemite (right)

As we approach the end of the year, Japan transitions from autumn (September to November) to winter (December to February). During this time, temperatures gradually fall, especially in areas that lie in Northern Japan, such as Hokkaido. You’ll generally experience cool and pleasant weather in October and November, where gorgeous red and golden leaves bloom, whilst December ushers in a season of snowfall. And during winter, one golden piece of advice would be to layer up!

Winter temperatures in the Southern areas such as Okinawa are generally milder, whilst  mainland areas such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are cold, sunny and dry with not much snowfall, except for a few days in January or February. However, areas such as Hokkaido and the Japan Alps do get extremely cold, with heavy snowfall and below-zero temperatures. Therefore, do remember to bundle up, especially if you’re going to be heading up North!

Image credit: Jap Beauty

Klook Pro-Tip: In order not to fall ill, keeping your fingers and neck warm is also extremely important. We highly recommend purchasing heat packs, which can easily be found in Japanese stores in Singapore, as well as convenience stores or pharmacies in Japan. Plus, they are really compact in size and are easily portable – perfect for you to easily shake one up to remain warm and snuggly whenever, wherever.


2. Invest in a Rail Pass for inter-city/region travel


Choose from a 7 day, 14 day or 21 day rail pass for more flexibility

Take rides on the majority of all JR railways, buses, and even the Miyajima Ferry

Despite being undeniably beautiful, as many of us have realised, the cost of living in Japan is far from cheap. If you’re keen on visiting various cities, we highly recommend getting a Japan Rail Pass, which is an all-you-can-ride pass that allows foreign visitors to travel at a discounted price. Not just valid for all Japanese national trains and Shinkansen bullet trains, this multi-discounted pass can be used for buses, a special ferry service that includes the transfer from Hiroshima to the island of Miyajima, and EVEN the Narita Express (N’EX) as well as the main metro lines in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka! Awesome or what?

Klook Pro-Tip: To calculate whether getting a rail pass is the best way to go, visit Hyperdia – a website that consolidates train schedules and route prices. Do note that the Japan Rail Pass is valid for a consecutive 7-day, 14-day or 21-day period, depending on when you activate it.

And if you’re buying your Japan Rail Pass from Klook, don’t forget to take advantage of our special promo code! If you’re a first-time Klook user, simply input the promo code “TZKLOOK5” at checkout to enjoy US$5 (~S$6.50) off your purchase. Even if you’re purchasing activities for other countries, this promotion is site wide, so you can still reap the benefits!

Image credit: Klook

If you’re all set to fully explore a region without breaking the bank, city travel passes are your best bet! If you’re planning to visit the Kansai region (including cities such as Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe), do consider getting the Kansai Thru Pass for unlimited train and bus rides within a 2- or 3-day period, or the ICOCA IC Card, for great discounts for transportation and shopping in the Kansai region. If train travel is more of your kind of thing, then the Hankyu 1 Day/2 Day Tourist Pass is the perfect option. Finally, for non-stop adventures in Tokyo, purchase a Tokyo Subway Ticket (valid for 24,48 or 72 hours) from ONLY S$10. Wow!

3. Purchase city passes to see the best of each city

If you’re one who loathes trip planning and doing research, these are perfect for you. Here are two that caught our eye:

A. Osaka Amazing Pass  

Image credit: Klook


 Choose a 1- or 2-day pass and gain entry to 30 iconic tourist sites

 Visit Osaka Castle Museum, Osaka Science Museum, the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel, Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory and more!

For a complete experience, the Osaka Amazing Pass is a definite must have. For just S$31, you get to enjoy the convenience of an all-inclusive pass, all whilst having the freedom to discover Osaka at your own pace. Besides, the pass includes the unlimited use of public transport in Osaka (subway, tramway and buses), on top of offering discounted prices for selected restaurants and shops in town. Does that sound fantastic or what?

B. Okinawa GoGo Pass

Image credit: Klook


 Save an exclusive 70% by booking with Klook

 Explore 7 Okinawa attractions within a 5 days period

If you’re heading to this beautiful Japanese prefecture consisting of more than 150 islands, then the Okinawa GoGo pass will be your best buy! Not only do you get to visit 7 top attractions that range from villages to parks, you get to skip the queues without having to worry about purchasing individual tickets at the door. If you’re interested to visit one of the world’s largest aquariums, a GoGo Pass and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium package deal is also available (at 54% discount).

4. Realise the cost-effectiveness of an airport transfer

Image credit: Klook


 A stress-free transfer in a spacious and comfortable car

Get picked up right from the airport, where your friendly driver will help you with your luggage

Many people often struggle with finding directions from the hotel to their accommodation, especially when there’s a language barrier, but you might find that airport transfers might actually be a more economical (and much more convenient) option! Let us break it down for you: with an airport transfer you can a) skip the headache of figuring out which train goes where, b) avoid jostling with a large crowd of commuters, c) be delivered straight to your accommodation’s doorstep and finally, d) not worry about handling multiple pieces of luggage. Whether you’re heading from Haneda Airport to Tokyo City or Kansai Airport to Osaka (or vice-versa respectively), getting an airport transfer is really a no-brainer – especially when the costs are shared among multiple people.

Image credit: Klook

Besides, you get to save a substantial amount simply by clinching onto this great deal! For example, for a group of six heading to central Osaka from Kansai Airport via communal trains, depending on which of the three types of trains you choose to take (JR Haruka Limited Express Train, JR Rapid Airport Train or Nankai Railways), tickets can easily cost up to ¥17,100 (~S$206). This is even coupled with the inconvenience of getting lost and having to drag your heavy luggages around. But with the above transfers, you’ll get to enjoy travelling in a luxurious vehicle, easy and completely fuss-free – for just S$119 (~S$19+ per person). Doesn’t that sound like a bargain and the perfect solution to travelling with young children?

Klook Pro-Tip: If you’re worried about flight delays, your driver will wait for you with no additional charges for up to 90 minutes, or even or longer  if notified of flight delays in advance.

In addition, get an extra US$5 (~S$6.50) off your Klook bookings with the promo code “TZKLOOK5“. Do note that this is only applicable for first-time users!

What to Do

5. Seize the chance to marvel at the winter illuminations

Towards the end of the year, Japan lights up in a dazzling sea of lights as winter illuminations start to pop up all over the country. Typically displayed between November and December, these extravaganzas immerse visitors into a magical world of twinkling lights and offer sparkling vistas like no other. These are found all over Japan, but we recommend feasting your eyes on the Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination in Tokyo, the Sagamiko Winter Illumination in Kanagawa, or the Rohm Winter Illumination in Kyoto.

Image credit: er Guiri

If you’re heading to the one in Tokyo, don’t miss out on paying the Tokyo Tower a visit as well! Even though there are light shows ongoing throughout the year, December is extra special, as Tokyo Tower celebrates it’s birthday with special lightning displays throughout that month, especially on New Year’s Eve. With two kinds of lights ( the “Landmark Light” and “Diamond Veil”) interchangeably used during various seasons, the Tokyo Tower transforms into a stunning light show from dusk till midnight. In addition, head up the tower’s Main Observatory for a stunning city view.

6. Skip the queues at theme parks with fast/express passes & pre-booked entry tickets

For all you adrenaline junkies out there, you’re in for a treat! No matter the season, Japan’s theme parks are an absolute blast for all ages. Plan a trip to any of the below theme parks where, in winter, waiting in queues becomes a whole lot more bearable. However, long queues are still unavoidable, so we’ll let you in on a little secret: pre-booked entry tickets and express passes can actually be a total lifesaver!

Klook Pro-Tip: These theme parks are even open during the festive season, so seize the opportunity to celebrate Christmas or the New Year’s there! Beware of the crazy queues though!

A. Universal Studios Japan (USJ)

Whether you decide to immerse yourself in a world of wizardry and witchcraft as you enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or party with the lovable minions at the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, you’re bound to have an afternoon filled with non-stop fun at Universal Studios Japan (USJ)! Yet, with its popularity comes immense crowds, with queues forming even BEFORE you enter the park. However, book your USJ 1-Day E Ticket with Klook and a mobile e-ticket will be sent directly to your email. All you have to do is to scan the QR code upon entry and voila! You’re in. Klook is also an authorised reseller of USJ tickets, so you don’t have to worry about receiving phony tickets and being barred entry into the park!

Klook Pro-Tip: One really cute thing to do is to go around getting stickers from the park staff! Simply approach them and ask nicely, and you might just be rewarded with an adorable sticker for your collection.

Image credit: (left) Universal Studios Japan Facebook; (right) Neil Thompson

One big draw is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as Japan offers you much easier access as compared to its only other American counterpart all the way on the other side of the globe. However, not everyone can gain access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with timed tickets in place to regulate crowds. To ensure that you get to experience this magic for yourself, opt for the Express Pass 4 or Express Pass 7 – both of which will give you guaranteed access the Harry Potter section, as well as allow you to head right to the front of the queue for specific rides. In addition, you’ll even get access to designated areas for parade viewing, allowing you to have front-row seats to all the action!

If you want a more exclusive VIP experience, however, the USJ VIP Wristband is just the thing for you! Fun fact: did you know that the exact opening time of USJ changes daily? To counter that, VIP visitors will receive a secret website link that reveals the exact opening time of USJ the day before, so that you can stake out your game plan and be first in line to enter the park! You’ll also be first in line to collect a ticket for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. What’s more, book your USJ VIP Wristband with Klook and receive free entry into Osaka’s Harukas 300 Observatory, as well as receive a free luxury Imabari-towel (valued at ¥1000 (~S$12)) plus a ¥500 (~S$6) afternoon tea coupon.

And since New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, strap yourself in for a wild ride at the Universal Studios Countdown Party 2018! Grab this Party Pass which allows you access to USJ for a total of 26 hours, including the countdown party happening from 7pm on 31 December to 2am on 1 January. This party is exclusive to Party Pass Ticket holders, so don’t miss out! If you wish, you also choose to combine this pass with a Special Minion Ride Express Pass. Grab your Party Pass now and start 2018 with a bang!

B. Tokyo Disneyland

Image credit: gwaar, Laika ac

Calling all crazy Disney fans! Tokyo has not one, but TWO Disney parks – Disneyland and Disneysea, which is the only of its kind in the world! Known for their extravagant parades and fireworks, fast passes are available for most of Disney’s popular rides, and the best part? The fast passes are entirely FREE of charge. These fast passes can be obtained from booths right outside the respective rides, and they’re given out on a first-come-first-serve basis. One park entry ticket will entitle you to one of these passes for a specific time period (i.e. 2.30-3.30pm), during which you get to go right to the start of the line. New fast passes may be obtained either a) after you have used the one that you are holding or, b) after two hours have passed upon getting your current FastPass.

If you can’t choose which park to go to, opt for this mobile ticket where you can choose to visit either park on a specific date. Similar to USJ, this e-ticket will also allow you to skip the entry queues and enter the park in a jiffy! Or, if you want to visit both, this Tokyo Disney Ticket 2-Day Pass will allow you to explore both parks to their fullest.

Image credit: (left) sstrieu; (centre); Hideto KOBAYASHI; (right) Loren Javier

Klook Pro- Tip: If you’re into cute and Insta-worthy food/snacks, liven up your Instagram feed with the Green Alien Mochi, Mike Wazowski Melon Bread or Mickey-shaped Ice Creams – available only within the Disney parks. There are also plenty of adorably-shaped popcorn buckets for you to collect!

Experiences are always more fun when shared with your loved ones, so why not start planning that year-end trip with your family and friends? And if you’re a first-time Klook user, take US$5 (~S$6.50) off your bookings with the promo code “TZKLOOK5” while you’re at it!

C. Fuji Q Highland Amusement Park

Image credit: (left) Nayvik; (right) Jeremy Thompson

If you’re into high-speed adrenaline-fuelled rides, head to the Fuji Q Highland Amusement Park where you can scream your lungs out! Home to four terrifying roller coasters, this amusement park is definitely not for the faint of heart. For a better gauge: ‘Takabisha’ has a free-fall drop of 120 degrees, and is in the Guinness World of Records for being the world’s steepest roller coaster! Granted that there are no fast/express passes here, but queues rarely go beyond 30 minutes. So if you’re looking for a theme park without much crowds, this is it. The entire park is somewhat like an express pass in itself! Plus, you’ll also get to enjoy a majestic view of Mt. Fuji from the park, or from atop the rides.

Klook Pro-Tip: If you can’t get enough of the view, head to the nearby Chureito Pagoda for an unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji. Do check the weather before you go; Mt. Fuji is only visible on clear days!

What To Eat

7. Grab quick bites from convenience stores, supermarkets and street stands/shops

The cost of living in Japan may be rather expensive, but your meals don’t have to be! By eating street food as well as meals from convenience stores and supermarkets, travelling around Japan on a budget is DEFINITELY possible.

Street-food wise, do try snacks like Takoyaki (flour balls filled with various ingredients), Taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), Gyoza (Japanese dumplings), Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) and Yakitori (meat skewers). As for convenience stores, not only are they conveniently located, but their delicious snacks like Onigiri (triangular-shaped rice snacks), Karaage (fried chicken) and Oden (Japanese stew) make for a perfect meal to have on the go. Finally, be awed by the variety of ready-cooked meals in Japanese supermarkets – ranging from bento sets to ramen bowls. They’re even served hot so you don’t have to worry about having to eat cold food!

Klook Pro-Tip: Visit the department stores at 7pm (an hour before closing), when prices of sushi and sashimi are drastically slashed. You might even be able to score some salmon sashimi at half price!

8. Sign up for local food walks

Image credit: Klook

Calling all you foodies! If you want to get a thorough understanding of Japan’s food scene without simply trying everything that you see on the streets, pamper your stomachs by participating in a guided food walk. One of our favourites is this Downtown Osaka and Local Food Walk, where you can gain insight into Osaka’s dynamic food scene. You’ll be brought around by a knowledgeable guide, who will not only bring you to taste iconic Osakan street foods such as Takoyaki and Kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), but also to the Taiko Bridge and Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine – one of Japan’s oldest shrines. A local food walk is indeed one of the best ways to seek out the best food haunts – from the locals’ points of view!

Klook Pro-Tip: Unlike some countries where eating loudly is considered rude, it’s encouraged to eat as loudly as you like (and can) in Japan. For example, slurping your ramen actually equates to a sign of respect and appreciation for the chef!

9. Opt for novel dining experiences

If you’re tired of regular ol’ sushi shops or typical restaurants and want to seek out something different, Japan has no lack of quirky dining options! From restaurants where you can fish from your own dinner to ninja experiences, eating in Japan becomes so much more than just a means of sustenance.

Image credit: Klook

If you’re looking for something that everyone can enjoy, however, look no further than the one-of-a-kind Robot Restaurant, located right in the heart of Tokyo. A performing arts theatre cum restaurant, you can enjoy a delicious array of food and drinks against a backdrop of glitzy performances and talented dancers. Even if eating out in Japan can be a rather expensive affair, this evening of non-stop energy, excitement and entertainment is an absolutely unique experience nary found anywhere else in the world – and is well worth every cent.

Klook Pro- Tip: Grab the First Performance offer (4pm on specific dates) to get 2 exclusive FREE gifts: a ¥500 (~S$6) drink coupon, on top of exclusive photo-taking opportunities with the robots!

10. Channel your inner Masterchef with a cooking course  

Image credit: Klook

If, however, you’re up for a more hands-on experience, check out a cooking class/course. Not only is this a great bonding activity for family or friends, you’ll also get to master the art of preparing Japanese cuisine. You’ll even get to feast on your creations at the end of the session! A good one to try is this Afternoon Izakaya Cooking Course in Kyoto.

During this course, bring out your inner Masterchef as you learn to prepare four to five authentic dishes that are often eaten in Japanese homes and Izakayas (Japanese gastropubs). For a more immersive experience, prepare your meal whilst donning traditional buddhist monk clothing! You’ll also get to learn about dashi broth (soup stock used in Japanese cuisine) and various types of seasonings. After a satisfying cook, tuck into the food that you’ve prepared alongside your classmates a.k.a. your newfound friends, and relish the thought of showing off your new skills back home.

No matter which you choose, the food in Japan is simply out of this world. Indulge in plenty of unique dining experiences – they might not be the cheapest of the cheapest, but they’re certainly worth every cent. After all, you won’t find anything like this back home! To help you out, use the promo code “TZKLOOK5” to get US$5 (~S$6.50) off your bookings and you’ll be well on your way.


What To Buy

11. Get the most value-for-money buys at Daiso/100 Yen Stores

Image credit: Daiso Japan Facebook

Image credit: Akiyoshi’s Room

Shopping in Japanese department stores and malls can sometimes be quite a torture for some – there’s so many things to buy, but also little that the budget traveller can afford. If you can relate to this, make a beeline for the Daiso/100 Yen Stores! Filled with everything you could ever need, from nail polish and beauty products to irresistibly cute stationery, these stores are any budget traveller’s heaven.

Klook Pro-Tip: If you’re willing to spend a little more, check out the Don Quijote chain – which sells everything and anything.

12. Fill your luggage with unique snacks

Whenever your friends go to Japan, they usually lug back suitcases of the usual Tokyo Bananas, Matcha Kit-Kats and Shiroi Koibito (more commonly known as 白い恋人 ) cookies. These are yummy, for sure, but there’s a whole new world of other Japanese snacks that are waiting to be explored!  Buy back any of the below for your friends and family, and all of you will be left wondering what you’ve been missing out on all these years.  

A. Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory

Only available in Tokyo, these cheese cookies are a total hidden gem! Smooth, yet creamy and crisp at the same time, these cookies are available in various flavours – Salt & Camembert, Honey & Gorgonzola and Basil Tomato & Mozzarella. Indeed, Tokyo Bananas got nothing on these.

B. Calbee Jaga Pokkuru

Image credit: Calbee

If you’re a french-fry lover, you’ll definitely love this! Locally grown in Hokkaido, these fries are not only fresh, crisp and bursting with flavour, but they are certainly super addictive. (One pack is never enough, don’t say I didn’t warn you!) If you prefer sweet potato instead, they have the sweet potato version as well.

C. Sapporo Okaki Oh!

Having recently tried this, we wondered, “where has this been all our lives?” An underrated, albeit extremely flavourful and crunchy, corn snack, Okaki-Oh is one that adults and kids alike will love. Packed in small and bite-sized portions, they certainly make a handy gift to bring home for your friends or family. These, however, are sadly only available in Hokkaido, so do stock up on them if you’re heading there!

D. Candied Baby Crabs

If you like unique snacks, this is the thing for you! Not simply crab-flavoured, this snack is made of real baby crabs! Coated with sesame seeds and a sweet flavoured sauce, they certainly pack a punch.

Things to Take Note Of

13. Equip yourselves with some basic Japanese phrases

Travelling around Japan without knowing some basic phrases may be possible, but it will be tough. So why not make your trip a little easier by getting equipped with these few simple phrases that’ll definitely come in handy during your trip? From eating in a restaurant to thanking a passerby for his kind gesture, you’re bound to find these phrases extremely useful.

  • Arigatou: Thank you
  • Sumimasen: Sorry to trouble you
  • Konnichiwa: Hello, good day
  • Wakarimasen: I am sorry, I do not understand

Learn these for a start!

14. Always carry hand sanitizer and plastic bags around

Image credit: (left) David McKelvey; (right) elmimmo

It may come as a shock for those who’re visiting Japan for the first time but soap is often not provided in the public toilets in Japan, as they believe that sharing a bar of soap is unhygienic. Therefore, if you’re one to feel icky should you leave the toilet without using soap, remember to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer around!

In addition, in an effort to minimise waste, most shops in Japan do not provide plastic bags when you purchase your items. Trash bins are also relatively uncommon; therefore, carrying plastic bags around will save the trouble of you having to search the streets for a bin to throw your rubbish.

15. Take note of when shops/businesses will be closed during the festive season

Image credit: (left) 663highland; (right) そらみみ

If you’re planning to visit Japan during Christmas or the New Year, it can be a rewarding, yet frustrating, experience. You’ll have the chance to embrace the festivities in all its splendour, but some tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and even ATMs may be closed on certain days.

From 29 December to 4 January every year, many attractions and amenities are likely to be closed. Do double check this online before heading to your desired destination! Museums-wise, they are typically closed for multiple days over the holiday season, whilst temples and shrines naturally do not close over the New Year, as crowds throng in for the New Year Hatsumode (first visit to a shrine/temple.) As for shops, they typically close on January 1, but are open on all other days around the New Year. Restaurants, similarly, usually close on one or more days over the holidays, especially 1 January. However, theme parks such as Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disneyland remain open throughout the festive season, so these might just be the perfect places to celebrate the New Year’s!

16. Get a SIM Card/Wifi device for staying connected on the go

Image credit: Klook

Getting around a foreign country is never easy, especially without internet connection. What’s more, if you’re heading to suburban areas or some obscure islands, it’s likely that most restaurants or even some hotels won’t provide wifi – making it extremely challenging if you’re a social media butterfly or, as reliant on Google Maps as I am. Therefore, your best bet is to equip yourself with a SIM Card or Wifi device for your trip! We strongly recommend getting this 7-day 3G/4G SIM Card loaded with 1GB 4G data plus UNLIMITED 3G use in Japan, or picking up a portable WiFi device that can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously. No more having to aimlessly wander around in search of an attraction or having to wait till you reach your hotel room to Instagram your pictures – not only will you be able to eliminate the risk of getting lost, you’ll be able to update your friends and family, as well as use social media on the go!

Arm yourself with these tips, and you’ll be all set for your trip to Japan. Remember to use the promo code “TZKLOOK5” to get US$5 (~S$6.50) off your bookings with Klook! So why book with Klook? Klook is basically a one-stop portal for everything you need to plan a trip – activities, tours, transport, theme parks and more – all laid out before your eyes. In addition, the best prices are guaranteed, ensuring that you’ll get the best bang for your buck. For example, they offer 70% off this Okinawa GoGo Pass! With their mission of ‘making it simple for you to enjoy everything a destination has to offer’, you can sit back, relax and enjoy your travels!

In other words, with Klook – you’re in safe hands. よい旅行を! (Japanese for ‘have a good trip!’)

Brought to you by Klook.

About Author

Joyce Khoh
Joyce Khoh

Curious by nature and armed with a heart of wanderlust, Joyce enjoys nothing more than discovering new places and cultures, meeting people and telling stories. When she's not embarking on some crazy adventure, she loves a good book or film. An avid coffee-drinker and crazy dog lady, she is fascinated by the human condition and passionate about social issues, photography and fashion.