Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This is how I plan my first solo backpacking trip to Japan!

I wanted to write about this for the longest time... my first solo backpacking trip to Japan last Christmas & New Year because it was my first time trip travelling alone. I was thrilled, have so much fun and glad I finally achieved one of my personal bucket list!
I always wanted to do so but always wondering would I be able to do... who is going to take my pictures, will I be bored because I'm all alone... 

Well let me tell you ... You will meet plenty of awesome travelers who will help you to take pictures. I still keep in touch with these awesome backpacker I met along my trip! 

I bought Yi Camera action camera just before I went to Japan so that I can take wide angle selfie) and you get to meet a lot of new friends when you are travelling alone! Traveling with your friends and partner are fun but travelling alone makes you learn about yourself more and the experiences are really rewarding. Though almost 8 months have passed, it is amazing how like yesterday it seems in my memory! 

All thanks to the lucky draw I won at the AirAsia media event (thank you AirAsia!!) I got myself a round trip ticket to Sapporo. I have actually been to Sapporo few year back and I traveled with bullet train from Tokyo to Sapporo during winter but I did not manage to visit a lot of places.... So this time around I picked Christmas season to travel to Japan since AirAsia allowed me to redeem my ticket even on peak season.... yay I wanted to experience White Christmas in Japan! 

So a few of my friends have asked me what do I plan or prepare before I go for my solo backpacking in Japan?

Well here are some my travel checklist before I depart for my solo backpacking trip to Japan.

1) I only booked for 1 night stay in Sapporo because I have not plan for others night. I booked Social Hostel 365 paid ¥3,000 (about RM118/night) as it's highly recommended by my friend Sherrie who have stayed there earlier on . 
Very cosy and nice hostel to stay in Sapporo! Highly recommended!
I noticed that it's cheaper to book via compared to their website. A very decent hostel to stay actually... more reviews on this hostel later ya! 

2) Since I am going to travel in Japan for 12 days, I decided to get 14 days Unlimited Japan Railway pass from Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) located in  Amoda building.  I paid about RM 1716 , it's not cheap at all I know but transportation fee in Japan not cheap either ( one way train fee from Sapporo to Tokyo cost about  ¥27k which is about RM1k). I personally like to travel with train in Japan so convenient and flexible to move around within 14 days with (from North to South and East to West!) Now they also have a sales counter in Isetan KLCC now.

3) I bought data sim from Sakura Mobile ; paid for ¥5,940 (about RM210) for 11 days usage of LTE DATA SIM 3GB together with express shipping to my hostel so that I can use when I check in. Although Japan is really an advance country but there are still a lot of places which don't offer free wifi and I need data to check and plan my trip on-to-go. 

My trusted data storage systems! 

4) Make sure I installed my mobile phone with My Cloud app so that I can sync and backup all my photos to personal Western Digital My Cloud Mirror at home when I travel in Japan. I could conveniently search and backup all my pictures easily via my My Cloud App.

You know one of the worst nightmare one can have ...losing our precious travel pictures when  camera got stolen, memory card got corrupted etc. Plus my family in my hometown was able to view all my travel pictures in My Cloud with the access I gave to them :)

5) I have researched roughly where I wanted to go for my winter trip and one of my highly recommend site is because they have really extensive travel guides  also forums to ask questions (which is super helpful!!). I was lucky to fond out a lot of places of interest are closed during New Year from the website because apparently to the Japanese, New Year is one of their most important celebration. Didn't waste my time & effort to travel these places to find out they are closed. 

6) I used Hyperdia to plan all your trip schedule ; they provide very comprehensive timetable of their railway and flight service within Japan. You will be able to know which stations, platforms and trains to get on in this . I installed their mobile app and it's super fantastic, I can just swipe and check on their timetable to decide on my next destination. A must have mobile application if you are travelling in Japan on your own!

7) Lonely planet book is good to have but mobile applications are always better! These are mobile applications I have all the time with me; super useful when I'm travelling. Besides, AirAsia apps for me to do mobile check in, I have used accommodation booking apps like Agoda, and Expedia. For me apps like Tripadvisor & XE Currency converter is a must have for traveler lah... can do quick check on places of interest, reviews of accommodation and do quick currency conversion.

8) Last but not least ; the most important of my travel plan is to get proper attire for my winter holiday. Since this a winter holiday, I need to make sure I layer my clothing appropriately to make sure you keep warm. I am not sure about you, but I felt it's pretty hard to know what to wear during winter holiday because we are not used to it. So this is what I have learnt about dressing appropriately for winter holiday in Japan where temperature fluctuates between -10 Celsius to 3 Celsius. Bear in mind, wind is pretty strong and it was snowing in Japan during Christmas ..

For Body : 1st layer I wore Uniqlo HeatTech followed by Uniqlo Fleece Top or Cotton Long Sleeves Shirt and Uniqlo Fleece Jacket (as I easily get cold, I wore another fleece jacket lol) and most outer layer Down Jacket as windbreaker (best to a long one that can cover your thighs too!). Best to wear few layers, so you can remove the necessary layers when you enter indoors. And it's better to buy Uniqlo from Japan because it's so much cheaper and have more choices! In New Chitose Airport  (Sapporo airport) itself, there is a big Uniqlo outlet for you to purchase your clothing! 

For Pants :  I wore Uniqlo HeatTech Legging before I wore my jeans...for better protection against the wind, wear windbreaker pants.  

For socks, hat and gloves : Remembered to get wool socks or Uniqlo HeatTech socks or hat to keep yourself warm. The last time you want frostbite! I would personally prefer leather gloves over wool gloves because they are water resistant.

Let me share some of my personal experience about picking shoes for my winter holiday.... I hope you can learn a thing or two!

For shoes : Ideally wear winter boots which are waterproof with wool insulation inside. But to be honest, those winter boots selling in Malaysia are not only expensive, bulky but it's ugly (old fashioned). Hence would strongly suggest you to buy from Japan. Price ranges from RM50 to few hundreds depends on the quality and brand, but definitely more choice for you to pick!

I wore this cheap boots I bought from online to Japan. It's okay to walk on ice (slippery okay!!) but not on snow because it's not a waterproof boots. I remembered how my socks are wet and my feet are cold when I walked on snow! Ewwww...

You can travel with sports shoes during winter but bear in mind, it would be slippery when you walk on ice, hence best to get ice grip for your shoes or boots. It's easier to walk. I got this from online. You also can also buy this from Japan convenient store.

After a while, the bottom of my boot is coming off... So I need to buy new shoes! 

I bought this super comfy boots from ABC Mart in Sapporo station. As this is not really 100% waterproof,  I bought and apply waterproof spray on this boots for better protection. I think I paid about RM237. A good winter boots makes your walking on snow and ice easier...

Here are all the 8 tips I can remembered so far, I will add in more tips along the way if I can remembered more. And if you have not try solo backpacking, you should consider Japan as one of the option. Japan is a great country to do solo backpacking for female traveler because the country is safe, people are nice, transportation network is extensive and lots of other female backpackers you will meet along the way! 

That's all for now, I will continue my solo backpacking story in Japan for my next posts :)

 Hope you enjoy my story & tips so far! 

Leave me a comment, if you have any questions, I will try my best to answer you :)

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