The one where your journey home turned into a three-day sojourn thanks to flight delays and missed connections?
You might be owed money for that trip thanks to a European law.
No insignificant sum, either. Depending on the length of the delay, you may be owed up to $700.
You can either attempt to claim this money yourself, or enlist the help of professionals like Click2Refund.
What is EU Regulation 261/2004?
EU regulation 261/2004 is a European law that protects passengers against flight disruptions that are the airline’s fault.
When your flight is delayed or cancelled within 14 days of scheduled departure, European airlines or airlines departing from the EU have an obligation to compensate you for your time and inconvenience under EU regulation 261/2004 — except in ‘extraordinary circumstances.’
This compensation can vary from €250 – €600, which is $293-$704USD at the time of writing.
You can also claim this compensation if you are denied boarding when the aircraft is overbooked.
How much compensation can I get?
The amount of compensation you receive varies depending on the length of the flight and the length of the delay.
The delay must be more than 3 hours in order to qualify for any compensation. If your flight is:
1,500 km or more, you may qualify for €250.
1,500-3,000 km, you may qualify for €400.
3,500 km or more, you may qualify for €300.
If your delay was 4 hours or more on a flight of over 3,500 km, you may be entitled to €600.
For reference, it’s about 5,585 km from London to New York City, and a little over 7,000 km from CDG to ATL.
Do airlines have to compensate for cancelled flights?
Yes. Under the same regulation, airlines must provide you with a ticket refund or a replacement flight. They also have to feed you while you’re waiting, and cover your hotel if necessary.
If the cancellation happens within 14 days of your scheduled departure, you may also be eligible for flight compensation as outlined above.
Is EU 261 compensation per person or per purchase?
Per person. If you bought four tickets for your family, each person would be eligible for their own individual compensation check.
Does EU regulation 261/2004 apply during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes and no.
EU 261 still applies during the Coronavirus pandemic. If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to circumstances the airline reasonably could have controlled, you’re still entitled to compensation.
But if your flight was cancelled or delayed due to a travel ban or warning related to the virus, you aren’t necessarily entitled to compensation. The airline must comply with current health and travel guidelines. These qualify as extraordinary circumstances the airline cannot control or predict.
How long do I have to file a claim under EU regulation 261/2004?
It depends on the country of departure.
The EU country that offers the shortest time frame to file your initial claim is Romania. You only have six months.
Other member countries are far more generous with their statutes of limitations.
Here are the EU countries where the statue of limitations extends to only two years:
If your flight is departing from one of these EU countries, you have three years to file your initial claim:
Here are the EU countries where you have up to five years to file your initial EU 261 claim:
In these countries, you have up to six years:
The UK (unless your flight left from Scotland.)
Lithuania, Luxenbourg and Sweden allow for up to 10 years. Amazingly, there is no statue of limitations if your delayed flight left from Poland.
How do I file an EU 261 claim?
There are a few different levels to making an EU 261 claim. The first option is to contact the airline that operated the delayed flight. They should be able to tell you their procedure for submitting a written claim.
If your claim with the airline is denied or not responded to within two months, you can then escalate things to the national enforcement bureau in whichever country the flight departed from.
For example, in the UK, you would contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
At this point, the airline can choose whether or not they want to take the claim to court. This is where things start to get more difficult if your live outside the jurisdiction, as you’ll incur not only legal fees, but also potential travel costs.
Get help filing your EU 261 claim.
If doing all this sounds like a pain, you can use a service like Click2Refund. Click2Refund handles your claim for you, from initial contact with the airline to court — should things go that far.
You only get charged if they win your claim. Then, the fee is 25%.
This fee is in line with what other similar service providers charge, though many competitors charge additional administrative fees in addition to a 25% fee — making Click2Refund one of the best deals on the market.
In this time when work and money is so disjointed, a claim from an old cancelled flight could help smooth out your budget. Check and see if yours qualifies here.
Talk to your doctor about your health and any travel concerns prior to boarding your next flight.
This post is in collaboration with Nakturnal, and is contributed by an outside writer. While its tips are evergreen, note that now is a particularly important moment in history to consult with your doctor before embarking on any grand adventures.
You’ve planned your next big vacation and you can hardly wait! A trip to Thailand to explore Bangkok, visit beautiful beaches, and live like the locals — something you’ve been itching to do for years.
While you might be ready to jump on the plane now and head to your exciting destination, you’ll want to take a step back and consult your doctor first. There are a number of things you need to consider medically when traveling abroad.
From attending a yearly check-up to getting the proper vaccinations, you’ll want to hear what your doctor has to say. So once that once in a lifetime trip has been booked, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor and learn what you need to consider before packing your bags.
Here’s a quick look at what we’ll cover in this article:
Visit your doctor ahead of your trip
Get any necessary Immunizations
Pack plenty of medication
Know what your health insurance covers
Reasons to Consult with Your Doctor Before Travelings
It’s always a best practice to talk with your doctor prior to traveling. This is especially true for individuals with underlying health conditions or people who are looking to travel abroad. You should listen to all the medical advice of your provider to ensure a safe and healthy trip.
Here are a few of the things you should do before your next big trip to keep you healthy and prepare you for an unexpected emergency.
Visit Your Doctor Ahead of Your Trip
It’s a good practice to visit your doctor ahead of your planned schedule for a quick check-up. This will allow you to address any potential problems and discuss things you may need to consider when traveling.
For many people, this visit might just be your yearly check-up. But for people who have underlying conditions, it’s a time for them to ensure their health is in travel shape and refill any needed medicines.
You have a fever or severe sinus, ear, or nose infection.
If you’re unsure about whether you should plan a doctor’s appointment prior to your trip, give them a call and they can provide you with the best advice.
Get Any Necessary Immunizations
Another important reason for visiting your doctor prior to traveling is to identify any immunizations you may need. When you leave the country, you may expose yourself to diseases that are not present in the US.
You may not need to worry about this if you’re just traveling across the US — but if you plan to travel to another country you’ll need to consult your doctor.
Leaving yourself exposed to these viruses and diseases could not only ruin your trip but leave you very sick. It’s best to address this issue early on to ensure you have plenty of time to prepare your body before travel.
Pack Plenty of Medication
Making sure you pack all the proper medication is another very important thing you need to consider. If you forget to fill your prescription and are short on medications, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
While you might be able to live without Tylenol for a headache, you may not be able to live without blood pressure or diabetes medication for more than a few days.
That’s especially true when you are traveling internationally or small cities that don’t have readily available pharmacies. So make sure to check and double-check your bag to ensure you have the medication you need to get you through the entire trip.
Know What Your Insurance Covers
Last but not least, it’s important to know what your health insurance covers for travel.
What will your plan cover if you have to take an unexpected trip to a hospital in another country? Are there any limitations to what you can and can’t do when traveling if you need a prescription?
These are all good questions to ask — but you’ll want to ask them before that emergency arises.
Here are a few steps you can take to gain a better understanding of your insurance coverage before you travel.
Call your health insurance and ask about your policy’s coverage outside of the US
Know what to expect if you need to be transported back to the US and what costs that may entail
Consider purchasing travel insurance to help fill in coverage gaps
Knowing these things before you board your next flight will help you be prepared in the event of an emergency when traveling.
Follow the Doctor’s Orders and Travel With Confidence
While you may not want to think about these things when you’re in the process of planning your dream vacation, it’s best to be prepared.
Talking with your doctor ahead of traveling will let you travel with ease knowing you’re in good health, have plenty of medication, and understand what expenses you could incur due to illness. These are worst-case scenario situations, but if an emergency arises, you’ll be happy you considered it.
If you want to head some of the top 2020 travel destinations, but don’t have the money to shell out for hotels, I’ve got good news.
You might be able to score FREE accommodations while you were in town.
Stay in Top 2020 Destinations for Free
It’s true! You can travel to many of this year’s most popular destinations without paying for an expensive hotel.
The catch is there’s labor involved.
The beautiful thing is that the labor involves cuddling adorable animals.
If you’re a pet lover, traveling just got a whole lot cheaper for you.
That’s because if you’re willing to pet sit while you’re in town, you can use sites like TrustedHousesitters to score free accommodations.
Your host will be out of town while you’re in town, so you’ll have the place to yourself — and the pets. Remember, in exchange for free digs, they’re trusting you with the love and care of their furry family members.
How do I get a pet sitting gig?
Just because a job is available on TrustedHousesitters doesn’t mean it’s there for you to claim.
It’s there for you to apply to. It’s the homeowner who ultimately designates who they let into their home.
You can up your odds, though, by making your profile more attractive. You can do this by adding quality photos to your profile, along with completing an array of verification options.
Where can I get a pet sitting gig?
Without further ado, here are the top 2020 travel destinations where you can stay for free via a TrustedHousesitters gig.
Country:United Arab Emirates(UAE)
Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 16
Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 1
Why is Courtenay on the list? Ecotourism, for all its problematic trends, is on the rise. Airbnb saw a 114% increase in year-over-year bookings for Courtenay in particular. Your stay is likely to be a bit less problematic as you’re presumably lending a hand to a local.
Know before you go: You’re going to need to take a plane or a ferry to get to the island.
Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing:1
Why is Romania on the list? It’s beautiful. It’s affordable for and welcoming to tourists. Dracula castles. Prince Charles has been obsessed.
Know before you go: The peak of Ceausescu’s madness happened before most of us millennials can remember. Steadily but slowly, Romania has been healing the wounds that era left behind. It’s a work in progress — but one people are increasingly looking towards with hope.
Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 2
Why is Copenhagen on the list? Copenhagen has been under major infrastructure construction for the past several years, but in 2020, it will be back open for business! The Museum of Copenhagen also reopened a couple weeks ago after relocating.
Know before you go: Denmark is one of the happiest countries on Earth. But if you want to catch Copenhagen while the sun is shining, traveling in June is your safest bet.
Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 1
Why is Galway on the list? Galway was named a European Capital of Culture for 2020. As a result, there are a ton of innovative and thought-provoking experiences to be had across all the arts on Ireland’s west coast this year.
Know before you go: If you’re into nearly any given music scene, July could be an ideal time to visit this year.
This past Fall, I had the good fortune of being able to travel to Japan once again for my friend’s wedding.
During that trip, I also took some time to explore parts of the country I had missed the last time around. One of those places was Hiroshima.
Why visit Hiroshima?
I only allotted a day for Hiroshima. It’s small for a Japanese city; arguably smaller than my hometown of Pittsburgh.
I stayed at an Airbnb in Hiroshima, and my host was super generous, sending me a guide to strategize my short visit — both for time and money. His tips are integrated with my personal experience throughout this post. I love staying with Airbnb when I travel, and love that I can get you a $55 credit off your first booking even more.
After my visit, though, I realize I could have easily spent far more time here. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so again.
Peace & History
This was what drew me to Hiroshima; its history of being one of the two Atomic bomb sites in Japan. It felt like it would be an uncomfortable place to visit as an American, but an important one. Too important to skip on this trip. I was in the West anyways.
Any discomfort I felt was of my own imagination’s imposition. When the Japanese say they are now dedicated to spreading the message of Peace around the world, especially in context of nuclear weaponry, they appear to really mean it.
While the memorials I visited were somber reminders of what we as Americans — nay, humans — should never do again, it was not framed in that context. There appeared to legitimately be no grudges or malice. Only a desire to remind people of what happened, to ensure it never happened again. Anywhere.
Okonomiyaki is a flour-, noodle-, egg-based dish with sauce and other toppings. I really can’t think of an Western equivalent at all. Depending on which part of Japan you visit, the Okonomiyaki will have a different flair, flavoring or ingredient.
Hiroshima, in particular, is known for its excellent Okonomiyaki. In fact, there’s an entire building dedicated to it. It’s called Okonomimura. In this multi-level building, you’ll find stall after stall of Okonomiyaki restaurateurs, each putting their own spin on the dish.
My friend’s dad told me I had to eat there. So I did. I had to ask some locals how to get there; Google had me wandering in circles. You ride up this elevator that’s a little difficult to find if you can’t read Japanese.
It was amazing and if you’re in Hiroshima, you should go, too. The dining is not expensive, and you’ll be fine dropping in wearing whatever you may happen to have on.
Kagura Folk Theater
Kagura is hot right now. It’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity — especially in Hiroshima and the surrounding prefectures.
Kagura is folk theater, performed as an expression of gratitude for the harvest. In the area around Hiroshima, each farming community has their own Kagura performance.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t in town on the right day of the week to catch a show. There are two shows every Wednesday, and admission is currently 1,200 yen, which is roughly $12 USD at the time of writing.
As I walked around Hiroshima on my history tour, I was surprised by the amount of shopping there was. It was reminiscent of downtown Osaka in some places, with covered streets lined with multi-floor shop fronts.
I learned that this is the place you’ll want to buy Kumano brushes, which are some of the best in the world for painting, calligraphy and makeup. It’s also the best place to buy the Maple-leaf-shaped sweet, Momiji Manju and the best sake.
I didn’t actually buy any of those thing. Because I’m me and I hadn’t planned the spending.
But I learned that is what you’re supposed to do.
Save money with the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass
If you have the JR Rail Pass, you’ll be able to get to Hiroshima for free. You’ll even be able to ride some buses for free.
But if you’re staying for more than 24 hours like yours truly, you’re likely to find yourself paying for transportation around the city itself. In these situations the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass may save you money.
You get access to all the Hiroshima Electric Railway lines, almost all the bus lines in the area and the ferry to Miyajima — a UNESCO World Heritage site — for 3 days for 2500 yen, or roughly $25 USD. If you want to travel throughout the entire prefecture, you can pay 3500 yen — roughly $35 USD — for the same three-day time period.
Like JR Pass eligibility, you can’t get the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass unless you’re in the country on a tourist/temporary visitor visa. However, you can actually buy the pass once you’re in Japan.
You can pick up your Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass at the Hiroshima airport or as soon as your arrive at Hiroshima Station. At the station, you can purchase a pass at the Transportation Information Center near the South Exit or at Swallow Travel on the second floor.
Peace Memorial Park
As soon as I got off the train, I locked up my suitcase and headed to Peace Park. I only had 24 hours, and I wanted to see as much as I could before the sun went down.
Everything I did and saw at Peace Memorial Park was free, moving and unforgettable.
Take the Meipuru-pu bus line to Peace Memorial Park.
The Meipuru-pu line is designed specifically for those looking to visit Peace Memorial Park. If you have the JR Pass, you should be able to ride for free by showing your pass to the driver the same way you show it at the train station. The only localized JR Pass that would also potentially work is the JR West Pass.
Otherwise, it’s 200 yen — about $2 USD — to ride. If you’re good at planning ahead and frugal, you’ll splurge on a 400 yen all-day pass. If you plan on riding the bus there and back anyways, it can only save you money.
The walk to Peace Memorial Park is doable. I took a bus almost to the edge of the river on my way there. I wanted to walk across the bridge as I approached the sites.
On my way back to the station, I walked the entire thing. I ended up walking with my suitcase all the way to the Airbnb, too. It was a beautiful night, and I wasn’t staying too far outside of Peace Memorial Park. The trek from station to park and visa versa took about half an hour each way.
It’s about half that when you take the Meipuru-pu. You can catch this bus right outside the entrance to Hiroshima station.
Hiroshima Municipal Girls High School Memorial
As I crossed the bridge for the first time, I happened upon a memorial for Hiroshima Municipal Girls High School. On the morning of August 6, 1945, 541 preteen students and 7 teachers were helping clear fire lanes in preparation for bombings. Japan mobilized many students into child labor during the war because of the shortage of working-age men in local municipalities.
At the moment these girls were pitching in for the war effort, the Americans dropped LIttle Boy from the Enola Gay over their heads. They died instantaneously.
Some of the teachers were cognizant of the planes overhead. There were efforts to save the girls. Efforts afterwards to save the dignity of those who had lost clothing along with their lives. Exposed bodies were covered. During the blast, teachers died trying to shield the young girls in cisterns or with their own bodies.
The love and righteous mourning of the mothers is on display at the memorial. Visitors can leave their chains of 1,000 cranes and pay respect.
I stayed at the girls’ memorial longer than most people would, I suppose. It felt like if I left, I would be breaking with the respect they deserved. I needed to spend time with their memory.
Eventually, though, I crossed the street. That’s where the bulk of the memorials and museums were.
Before I crossed paths with any museums or memorials, though, I ran into one of Hiroshima’s atomic trees. Miraculously enough, dozens of plants survived the blast and are still growing today. Eleven of them are inside Peace Memorial Park.
Cenotaph at Peace Memorial Park
Next I wandered over to the cenotaph. It was built so that those who bring offerings and prayers to lay in front of the sculpture’s feet will look out over the peaceful pond, over the Flame of Peace, and have their eyes drawn directly to the destroyed frame of the Atomic Dome.
Before it was destroyed, the Atomic Dome was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The bomb went off almost directly above it, pushing down into the building and igniting it and everything — and everyone — inside. Because the impact came from almost directly above, the walls and large parts of the structure largely survived the ensuing fire.
The Japanese decided to preserve the destroyed structure as a stark reminder of the destruction caused by atomic warfare.
It’s an impressive reminder, inspiring reverence every time it pops into your field of vision.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
I walked through the lobby of the Peace Memorial Museum. Grabbed a couple stamps for the passport.
It was getting closer to close, though, and there was a line for headsets. My Japanese is remedial; I wasn’t going to get as much out of the tour as I wanted to, and I was going to feel rushed.
I took note of the hours, fully intending to return the next morning.
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims
I wandered over to the National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims. It was a quiet, somber place, and everything was printed in a myriad of languages, including English.
You walk in and go down this ramp lined with cement walls on either side. You feel like you’re walking down a nautilus’s shell as you read the story of everything that happened not just on August 6, 1945, but also beyond.
When you finally arrive at the center, you find yourself in the middle of a circular room, with 360 degrees of Hiroshima surrounding you. Hiroshima as it looked immediately following the atomic bombing. It’s a place that calls you to sit and show respect for the sanctity of human life.
In the next hall, known victims are listed along with their photographs when available. The number now exceeds 290,000, but the list grows longer every year.
At the end, you’ll be able to tour the library where manifestos of mourning mothers and other family members tell the stories of those who lost their lives. You’ll be able to view some of the possessions that survived the blast, and listen to video testimony from survivors.
This testimony doesn’t just tell you what happens. It tells you how Japan’s spirit transformed and survived. Hiroshima’s mothers chose to ascribe meaning to the loss, allowing them to push forward. Allowing them to push for peace at a global scale. It was through this meaning that any semblance of healing was born.
Because of my short timeline, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, but you can listen to live readings from parents, survivors, etc at the Hall for free. Some times slots are even read in English.
The girls memorialized just over the river’s edge weren’t the only mobilized students to lose their lives. In fact, a ton of students were out working on the fire lanes that day.
As you cross the river once again via the northern bridge, you’ll run into another memorial for mobilized students. This memorial honors not only the 6,907 that died in Hiroshima’s Atomic Bombing alone, but all those who died helping the war effort both in mainland Japan and across the Pacific Theater.
Folding Origami at the Atomic Dome
I was standing there contemplating the twisted metal and lives lost in the Atomic Dome alone when I caught someone out of the corner of my eye.
He was an older man. He tried a couple languages before he got to my native English, inviting me over next to his “FREE” sign, motioning for me to sit on this tiny little portable stool so we could fold origami together.
My American backside spilled over both sides of that stool, but it did not break. My origami teacher pulled out his papers to show me he was 8 months in utero when the bomb went off. He was born during the black rains that followed the bombings. His medical records showed that he had survived many lung diseases as an infant.
I was given the portrayal of a long, vibrant life, not letting anything slow him down or defeat him. He married a Portuguese woman, and now spends a portion of the year giving Hiroshima tours in Portuguese, largely to European and South American tourists.
Later, I realized that he had shown his papers to me to tell his story. But the real reason he had them was to show to the cop that stopped over about halfway through our visit.
I love that the Japanese cop was watching out for me as an obvious gaijin, and it made me even happier to see he probably wasn’t going to try to scam me in the next ten minutes as the paperwork more than assured the police officer of the origami teacher’s legitimacy and apparent right to be in the park spreading the message of peace.
1,000 Paper Cranes for Hope and Healing
Because ultimately, that’s what he was doing. He was teaching people how to fold origami cranes — specifically the red-headed kind that migrate to Japan from mainland Asia. He was impressed that my friend’s mother had taught me the art before, and took the opportunity to teach me a more advanced method.
I’m always getting rewarded by my Japanese teachers like a little kid. And I love it. This time, my origami teacher rewarded me with the tiniest paper crane I’ve ever seen. He must have used tools to make it; there’s no way any human fingers are that nimble.
My final stop for the day was actually outside Peace Park. The epicenter — the site where the Enola Gay dropped Little Boy all the way back in 1945 — sits about a block into the city, down a smaller street.
The plaque lies in front of what appears to be an apartment building. As ordinary as could be.
But 600m in the air above this building, the Atomic Bomb went off and changed the course of history.
Like the Japanese, I hope we remember the lessons of history, allowing the massive shift that happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be for the better. For denuclearization. And beneath it all, a current of genuine and healing peace.
At the beginning of this year, I had no concrete plans to travel except to DC for FinCon.
As I look back, I pause for a moment of gratitude. I was a little ping pong ball this year, bouncing all over the place. Getting work done and catching up with some of those people who have meant so much to me over the years.
I promise I’ll cover all of these trips, as they were all made pretty frugally. But today I want to spend some time on the accommodation situation in Japan.
Affordable Accommodations in Japan
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you’re probably worried about the cost of accommodations–especially if you’re staying in one of the big cities.
While it’s true that Japan can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. While I did stay with my friend for three nights (I was there for her wedding!) most of the time I was away I was able to score low-cost accommodations without even feeling like they were low-cost to begin with.
I booked my flight through miles, and apparently getting from Pittsburgh to the Western side of Japan is darn near impossible via rewards. So both times I have gone, I ended up flying into Tokyo.
This time, I decided to take a little time in Tokyo before the wedding to catch up on sleep and adjust to all the shifts that come with traveling to the other side of the planet.
I managed to get out a little, too, between naps. Those adventures are currently being logged on Instagram, but I’ll write about them here, too, in the near future.
I had points built up through the Marriott Bonvoy program. The Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho was affordable, available and in a great location, so I booked. I had enough points that I was able to get half of my nights in Tokyo for free.
If you don’t do the rewards points thing through specific hotel chains, another method I use to get free nights is booking through Hotels.com. Your tenth night is free, regardless of the hotel chain you use. You can book the Moxy here. I’d also recommend this method because they have killer discount prices.
Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho
My stay here was great. The room I booked was small; while I had two twins, there was only about a foot between the end of the bed and the wall.
This is Tokyo, though, and the layout of the room was so smart that the size wasn’t even noticeable. There are collapsible tables, chairs, luggage racks and more hung along the wall in the entrance way. The shower room in the bathroom is a good size, allows for American- or Japanese-style showers, and even has a stool if you need to sit down.
The decor was adorable and trendy. This place markets itself as a party hotel, though I largely stayed during the week so everything was pretty quiet. I met a lot of other gaijin guests in town for different world events; there was no shortage of socialization opportunities. It just might be louder on the weekends.
The location is perfect, too. Walkable from the Kinshicho station–even with luggage in tow–you can easily get to everything in the Sumida City neighborhood. Probably the biggest attraction is the Skytree, which is the second tallest structure in the world. But that really is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re travelling using the JR Rail Pass, the proximity of the station makes it easy to get everywhere else, too. I used it as a jumping off point for Odaiba, Roppongi Hills, Nakano and Shibuya, but also spent time exploring the neighborhood itself.
Airbnb in Hiroshima & Kyoto
Airbnb is one of my favorite ways to travel on a budget. Not only is it often more affordable than a hotel, but you also usually get a better travel experience, too.
Affordable Private Apartment in Hiroshima
After the wedding, I headed to Hiroshima for one night. It is something I highly recommend everyone do if they have the opportunity to visit Japan. I’ll write about the transformational experience soon, but right now I’ll just cover accommodations.
While I was in Hiroshima, I booked a private apartment. It was the best experience. I had access to laundry so I could prep my clothes for the next leg of the trip. The bed was like sleeping on a cloud — a true rarity in the land of the rising sun. I had privacy and space and slipped into sleep easier than I have in years.
My host was amazing, too. He knew I was staying for just one night, and sent over this guide prior to my stay to help me maximize my time and money while I was in town. It was incredible.
The room itself cost about $70, which was cheaper than a cheap hotel. On top of that, I had enough Airbnb credits to get more than 50% off.
If you want to use the same method, you can sign up for Airbnb as a new member and get $55 in credit towards your first stay. Then, when you refer your friends you’ll get more credit when they complete their first stay.
Hostel Kyoto Gion
As a solo traveler, I have booked hostels in the past. I’ve found that the fears I had in the past are overblown, and that being a safe traveler in a hostel is easier than you’d think. In fact, it can be good to have other people there to notice your presence or absence when you’re in a big city by yourself.
When I went to Kyoto, I also booked on Airbnb. The last time I was in Kyoto I missed one of the key attractions: Gion. The older-feeling part of the city (so much relativity here) known for its geisha.
Much to my delight, I found the Hostel Kyoto Gion. It would have been under $100 to book for 3 nights had I not had had enough Airbnb credit to cover the stay 100% free.
I was a little nervous about it being a co-ed hostel, but I figured if there was anywhere to give it a shot, it was the ultra-safe Japan. I felt 100% safe the entire time. Most of the co-ed people staying there were couples in two separate beds, mixed in with one pair of male friends and a few other female solo travelers.
There were cameras. I never felt unsafe, but it’s always nice to have that little extra layer of assurance there — to know that there is accountability even in an ultra-safe environment. Each bed was spacious and had curtains and outlets and a light and earplugs so you could have complete privacy.
Perhaps the best part of this stay, though, was the hosts. My Japanese is not great, though I have studied it through my local library sporadically in preparation for my trips. While my hosts’ English was limited, it was way better than my Japanese and they were so adept at using interpretive technology that communication was not only never a problem, but so warm and sincere that at times you forgot you were in a hostel rather than doing a home stay.
I mean, on top of free coffee, printed travel guides and local tips from the hosts themselves, I was offered a meal in the spur of the moment one day. We talked about my kids and the host ended up buying them their favorite souvenir from Japan: Japanese candy. I know one of them ended up taking another guest to some type of festival when she asked about things to do.
Oh, and for the first time ever? I got the bottom bunk.
I did end up staying at a hotel in Narita my last night. It was near the airport and there was a free bus and because of a combination of the booking platform and points, it was crazy cheap.
But they tried to nickle and dime you for everything once you’re there. No free breakfast. No water bottles waiting for you in your room. Literally the only dirty carpets and hotel bathrooms I’ve ever seen in Japan. The shower room was in with the toilet without any separation between the two.
So I wouldn’t highly recommend this particular place.
But I would recommend finding a place near the airport for your last night if you’re flying out of Narita. It’s not close to Tokyo — depending on where you’re staying it can be an hour or two ride by train. By staying near the airport that last night, you have a way easier commute when your flight does take off. Plus, if you do a hotel, most of them have free shuttles.
Have you ever been to Japan? How did you manage the costs of accommodations?