OSAKA and KYOTO: budget travel guide

A a lot more detailed, updated version of this post can be found here: Osaka travel guide Kyoto travel Guide
It was the trip I was so terrified to take.

The notoriety of Japan as an expensive destination hovered over my head for the longest time. even when airlines used bargain deals for flights to Osaka, I was reluctant to book. Not only was I anxious about the visa not being approved for I didn’t have enough in my bank, I was also dreading how much I would be spending in the days after stepping on Japanese soil. Japan is expensive, I always thought. But someday, somehow, this trip has got to happen.

It finally did! And guess what? It wasn’t as hard on the pockets as I expected.

WHAT’S covered IN THIS GUIDE?

Understanding Osaka and Kyoto
Booking Flights to Osaka from Manila
Applying for a Japan Visa
Best Time to Visit
Getting around Osaka and KyotoPocket Wifi Rental
Local 4G SIM

Where to get Train Passes
Where to eat in Osaka and Kyoto
Places to check out in Osaka
Places to check out in Kyoto
Day ToursKyoto Day excursion from Osaka
Nara afternoon excursion from Osaka

Where to stay in Osaka and KyotoTop budget hotels and Hostels in Osaka (Under $70)
Top guest houses in Kyoto (Under $70)

Sample Itinerary
Breakdown of Expenses*
More beneficial Tips
More ideas on YouTube ⬇️⬇️⬇️Related Posts:

Understanding Osaka and Kyoto

Osaka and Kyoto are prefectures in Kansai region in south central part of Honshu Island. other territories in the region include Nara and Kobe (which you might also want to check out if you have a lot more time). Kansai is popular for its irresistible cuisine and rich history. Osaka is considered the culinary capital of Japan, boasting several signature dishes including okonomiyaki and takoyaki. neighbor Kobe is widely known for the prized Kobe beef, cuts of meat of wagyu cattle. On the other hand, Kyoto has always been the cultural center of the archipelago. Impressively maintained and restored ancient temples and shrines dot its map.

Kansai enjoys a temperate climate with strong seasonal variations. the best time to visit? early April for the cherry blossoms and mid to late November for the autumn foliage. I was here in June, and I was smothered with regret while walking around the parks. I was greeted with flowerless trees and green canopies. The region was still breathtaking during my visit, but it would have been extra-special during spring and fall.

Waiting for autumn to come

Booking Flights to Osaka from Manila

A lot of airlines fly from Manila to Kansai Airport. If you book way in advance, you’ll get the best deals from affordable carriers Cebu Pacific Air and JetStar. Cebu Pacific flies to Osaka five times a week. Their lowest year-round fare is at P6399, which is a terrific deal already.

You can also wait for a SEAT SALE! For this trip, I booked a roundtrip Cebu Pacific ticket from their P20 SALE. The base fare per leg was only P20, but including all the taxes, I only paid PHP 5984 for the roundtrip ticket (PHP 2992 per way). That includes a prepaid baggage allowance of 20 Kg. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Applying for a Japan Visa

Getting a Japanese visa is easy. Application for a vacationer visa need to be done through a travel agency recognized by the Japanese Embassy. They no longer entertain direct applications so don’t sweat it.

The articles below will help you get through the application process.

How to apply for vacationer Japan Visa

How to apply for a Visa for checking out pals or RELATIVES

How to apply for a multiple entry Japan Visa

Japan Visa frequently Asked Questions

Best Time to Visit

If budget is a concern, look away from height season: late March to August, especially the following dates:

Golden Week (April 29 – may 5)

Obon festival (August 13–15)

Cherry blossoms season (Late March-Early April)

These dates bring the greatest crowds.

Cherry blossoms in Kyoto
However, the temperate days of spring (March-May) and autumn (October-November) are the best times to check out if you’re after wonderful views. during spring (specifically last week of March to first week of April), cherry blossoms adorn the otherwise plain green canopies.

Autumn (specifically mid- to late November) is optimal because the crowd begins to thin and the prices drop. It’s also interesting as the foliage turns fiery orange and red. temperature is also pleasurable and comfortable for sightseeing.

Getting around Osaka and Kyoto

Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe are interconnected and are linked to the rest of the island by the most expansive (and expensive) train system I have seen in my life. Hence, in theory, traveling around is easy and hassle-free. In practice, it is tough. Besides the language barrier, these train lines are as complicated and challenging as your previous relationship. You might think you’re on the ideal side of the ideal platform at the ideal station, but there’s still a chance that you board the wrong train and in some cases the wrong car. Some trains even split into half at one point, and they choo choo in separate directions.

But thank heavens for the Internet. It really is the best creation considering that Morris Michtom introduced the teddy bear.

So here’s a tip. If you own a smartphone or a tablet, do yourself a favor, and rent one of those mobile wi-fi gadgets. They are quite beneficial and handy!

Pocket Wifi Rental

You will find wi-fi rental booths at the Arrival area of Kansai Airport. rates are normally between JPY 800-900 per day. However, they are very in demand so there might not be any a lot more available if you arrive in the late evening. Some establishments accept only credit scores card transactions.

Wi-fi gadgets for rent at the airport
If you really want to make sure you get a mobile wifi, you can reserve one in development by means of Klook for only PhP per day. That’s a lot more affordable than those you will find at Kansai airport. the best part, if you’re a group, you can connect multiple devices hassle-free. You can then split the cost with your friends. You can pick up the device at the airport.

✅ For 4G Wifi Rental: RESERVE here

Local 4G SIM

If you opt with a 4G data SIM, you can choose between two packages: unrestricted 4G data for 8 days (around P1500) and 3GB data for 8 days (around P1100). If you’re a heavy data user, best to opt for the unrestricted Plan. You can pick up the SIM card at Kansai Airport.

✅ For 4G SIM Card: RESERVE HERE

Once you have it, say hey there to your two new bestfriends — Google Maps and Hyperdia. use the former to see where to turn or how far you are from your destination. use the latter to check which line or train to take, which station to alight, and how much to pay. Off to the ticket machines you go. (Or, you can simply ask someone. How’s that? Teehee.)

One of our readers, Socs, has this to add: Taking the bus in Kyoto is more affordable than trains. If you’ll be taking a lot more than 2 rides in one day, get the JPY500 bus pass from Kyoto station for one-day unrestricted rides around the city. get hold of a complimentary bus map from the vacationer info center in Kyoto station.

Where to get Train Passes

If you’re checking out multiple cities in Japan and you’re staying for 7 days, you can save A lot OF money by getting a Train Pass. Klook uses the least expensive JR Passes available. If you live in the Philippines, the pass will be delivered to you in 7 days.

✅ check JR PASS rates Here

But if you will be staying only in Osaka or Kansai Region, the following passes might be a better choice. These passes will give you access to both trains and buses.

Kansai Thru Pass
Offers unrestricted rail and bus rides in lots of cities in Kansai region including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara. You can also use this to travel from Kansai airport to Osaka. available in 2- and 3-day validity variants.

✅ RESERVE HERE

Osaka incredible Pass
The utmost all-inclusive Osaka sightseeing pass! It gives the holder unrestricted use of the subway, tramway, and bus systems in Osaka. It also gives complimentary access to certain attractions including Osaka Castle main Tower and Umeda Building’s Floating garden Observatory. available in 1-day and 2-day versions.

✅ RESERVE HERE

Where to eat in Osaka and Kyoto

Like everything else in Japan, food is expensive. As I passed by restaurants, I could not help but flinch (and feel awfully poor) when I saw the cost of their meals. On my first day I was hesitant to spend JPY 600 (PHP 267) for a single dish. but I realized that in restaurants it could not get any lower than that. There were those that entailed a JPY1400-pocket damage. and these were not fine dining or high-end restaurants. based on just my observation, I think the average cost of meals play within the JPY700-800 range.

Hamburg Steak meal from a comfort store (JPY 398)
On my first two days, I settled for microwavable meals available at comfort stores like Lawson and Mini-Stop. They sold Hamburg steaks for JPY 450, tonkatsu for JPY 390, and tempura for JPY 350. At first I thought I could survive the trip on comfort store food alone. To be fair, they weren’t awful. but then I realized that I could be missing on an vital part of the Japanese culture — its world popular cuisine. So I gave in and dined at restaurants. 

Our reader Socs also suggests that if you’re on a tight budget: get bento and sushi meals at discounted prices in supermarket groceries normally located at the basement of malls. The meals are identified for discounts, as much as 50%, around 7:00 in the evening. “Splurge” in restaurants at lunch, when meals are used at more affordable prices than during dinner.

You might also want to check out the list of Japanese dishes, snacks, desserts and drinks that surrendered to: 10 Foods to try in Osaka and Kyoto.

Places to check out in Osaka

Here are some of the attractions to check out in Osaka. These thumbnails are clickable and they will lead you to a post with a lot more information about the places.

Universal Studios Japan

Nearest Station: universal City station (JR Yumesaki/Sakurajima Line)

As you already know, it’s a motion picture theme park that could bring a lot of fun to kids and adults alike. USJ is the first us branch in Asia, but it has been given a new life when they opened the Wizarding world of Harry Potter and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

If you’re a Potterhead, don’t miss the Wizarding world of Harry Potter. wander around Hogsmeade, get a wand from Ollivanders have a pint of butterbeer, ride a hippogriff and have a excursion of the Hogwarts Castle!

Old faves like the flying Dinosaur and the incredible Adventures of Spider man are still running.

The problem with USJ is that it can get a bit too crowded especially on weekends. You can waste over an hour falling in line for just one attraction. If you want to get the most out of your time, an express Pass is recommended. It costs extra, but it is worth it, in my experience. express Passes often sell out especially during height season so it’s best to reserve online.

✅ RESERVE TICKETS here    

✅ RESERVE express PASS HERE

Osaka Castle Park

Nearest Stations:
Tanimachi 4-chrome station (Tanimachi subway Line, Chuo subway Line)
Osakajokoen (JR loop Line)

Opening hours:
9am-4:30pm from November to February
9am-9pm during Cherry blossoms season
9am-5pm the rest of the year

More info: Osaka Castle

Dotonbori Nearest Station: Namba Station

Tempozan (Osaka Bay Area) Nearest Station: Osakako station (Chuo subway Line)

Shitenno-ji Nearest Station: Shitennoji-mae-Yuhigaoka station (Tanimachi subway Line)Opening Hours: 8:30am-4:30pmAdmission Fee: 300yen

Umeda sky building Nearest Station: Osaka and Umeda StationsOpening Hours: 10am-10pmAdmission Fee: 1000 yen

Places to check out in Kyoto

Osaka may be too obsessed with its ever-growing skyline but Kyoto is quite the opposite. development is obvious but it shines in places where it dwells in the past. historic districts and ancient structures are its greatest crowd-drawers — Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Gion District, and the Arashiyama District.

But it was the Toei motion picture Park that captivated my heart and ran with it. I was just a Japanese pop culture explosion contained in a theme park! It was that one attraction in Kyoto that I had a strong personal connection to because it reintroduced me to the heroes of my childhood! Ninja shows, anime artifacts, samurai battling lessons, and incredibly sentai reunion filled that visit, the most memorable for me. and because I’m shallow like that.

Photo supplied by Klook
Kyoto Tower
The tallest building in Kyoto, featuring an observation Deck that supplies a panoramic view of the city.

Nearest Station: Kyoto Station
Opening Hours: 9:00am to 08:40pm
Admission Fee: 770 yen

RESERVE TICKETS HERE

 

Gion: Geisha and KabukiNearest Stations: Gion Shijo station (Keihan Line), Kawaramachi station (Hankyu Line)

Kinkaku-ji: temple of the golden PavilionHow to get there: Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 (230 yen)Opening Hours: 9am-5pmAdmission fee: 400 yen

Fushimi Inari ShrineNearest Station: JR Inari station Admission Fee: FREE

Arashiyama Temples and Bamboo GrovesNearest Station: Saga-Arashiyama station (JR Sagano/Sanin Line)

Toei studio Park: Edo town set and Anime MuseumNearest Stations: Uzumasa-Koryuji station (Keifuku Arashiyama Line) or JR Hanazono StationOpening Hours: 9:30am-4:30pm Admission Fee: 2200 yen

Manga MuseumNearest Station: Karasuma-Oike subway station opening Hours: 10am-6pm each day except Wednesday and holidays

Day Tours

This section wasn’t in the original version of this guide because we typically advocate diy Travel, but we’ve been receiving a lot of inquiries from people who will be traveling with kids or seniors (parents). here are some excursions that Klook has checked and is offering.

Kyoto Day excursion from Osaka

Photo supplied by Klook
Stops:

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO world Heritage site

Kinkaku-ji and its gardens

Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of orange tori gates

Inclusive of:

Traditional Japanese meal

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