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Planning Japan & Singapore Adventure - Visas, Bookings, and Beyond

Updated: Jun 11

What is covered in this blog:


1. Introduction


Embarking on a journey to Japan is a dream for many travelers, and for us, it was no different. As avid explorers, we eagerly set our sights on the Land of the Rising Sun, but before we could dive into its vibrant culture and scenic landscapes, there was one crucial step we had to tackle – the Japan visa application process. Join us as we unravel our journey through the visa application maze and share how we successfully obtained our visas right from Bengaluru in April 2024.


Our Japan visa application process was remarkably smooth. We attribute part of this success to our previous Schengen visa application experience, despite its challenges. Through that experience, we gained valuable insights into the documentation required for visa applications and learned how to prepare effectively. We submitted our Japan visa application on April 8th and were delighted to receive our passports back with the approved visas on April 18th. Considering there were a couple of public holidays during this period, the swift turnaround was commendable.


2. Visas, Bookings, and Beyond: Our 10-Day Adventure Planning Journey including Reflections and Recommendations


In this section, we are sharing how we planned our 10-day adventure through Japan and Singapore. From securing visas to making essential bookings, we share our experiences and offer insights gained along the way, including retrospective changes and recommendations based on our firsthand experiences.


a. Crafting the Initial Plan and Submitting Visa Applications:


  • Finalize Destination and Key Places: After finalizing our destination as Japan, we identified key places to explore in our 1st tour to this country. 3 key cities being: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka



  • Flight Bookings: Booked flights directly through the airlines' websites, specifically Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, as they offered lower cancellation fees compared to other platforms. For Visa application, flight tickets are a must.


  • Added Singapore to itinerary: Opted for a flight via Singapore to take advantage of the Visa-Free Transit Facility for Indian Citizens, allowing us to explore Singapore on our way back without having to pay Visa fee or applying for separate Visa.


  • Reduced travel to catch flight by booking flight to Tokyo return from Osaka: To streamline our journey, we booked flight from Bengaluru to Tokyo (Narita Airport) and then Osaka (Kansai Airport) back to Bengaluru. So, that we don't have to travel back from one city to the other to catch flight saving time and cost.


  • Hotel Reservations: Booked hotels for all the days as per itinerary via MakeMyTrip.com and Booking.com with option for cancellation with no additional fee.


  • Document preparation: Prepared all the required documents for the visa application. VFS Link: https://visa.vfsglobal.com/ind/en/jpn/apply-visa. List of documents prepared:

    • Visa Cover Letter (Our template is available here: Visa Application Cover Letter Template (hilltrotters.com))

    • Duly filled in Visa Application Form

    • Photos as per Visa requirements

    • NOC/Leave Approval letter from employer

    • Hotel reservations

    • Detailed Travel Itinerary

    • Latest bank statement (3months) - attested by bank - We ensured our account had consistent balance of 1.5L or more since last 3 months, downloaded statement via netbanking 2 days prior and got this attested by visiting nearest bank branch. In addition, we attached Fixed deposit statements & Investments statements. This is optional but would recommend including as much financial proofs to avoid Visa rejection possibility.

    • Income tax returns acknowledgement (3 years) - Required is 2 years, we included 3 years anyway

    • Flight reservations

    • Proof of Marital status (only applicable if you are travelling with a spouse)


Note: As we wanted to rule out any possibility of having our visa rejected, we enclosed both of our income details and bank statements separately. We also had taken travel insurance. However, as both of our applications were sent together, VFS representative, took single copies of flight & hotel reservations and returned travel insurance documents as this was not required.


  • Visa Appointment: Booked an appointment for the visa application through the VFS website, where slots were easily available in the next week. As we reside in Bengaluru, we had to visit VFS global office @ Gopalan Mall, Bannerghatta road to apply for the visa. You may take an appointment earlier and then start preparing documentation as well. There is option to postpone/cancel the appointment on VFS website. Payments are made only after your application is submitted at VFS Global office.


  • Visited VFS Global for submission on 8th April: On the appointed day, we made our way to the VFS Global Application Center in Bengaluru. With prepared documents and the requisite fees in cash, we submitted all the required documents, paid the visa fee and VFS fee in cash (as they only accept cash). It was 1850 INR per person as of April 2024.

    • Japan Visa fee per person: 500

    • VFS logistics fee per person: 800

    • VFS courier charges per person (no option to pick from center directly is provided by this office): 550


  • Addressing Additional Requirements: During the application process, we encountered a minor hiccup regarding the Singapore visa requirement, as our itinerary included a layover in Singapore. To address this, we reached out to the Japan consulate for clarification. Contacted Japan consulate (contact number provided by VFS in the office) to confirm our eligibility for the Japan Visa without having to show Singapore visa as Visa-Free Transit Facility (VFTF) would be availed in Singapore, thankfully they promptly confirmed to go ahead. Here is the official Singapore ci We received a tracking number from VFS Global to be able to track the Visa application status. We were notified on 17th April that passport is couriered, and visa status would be shared along.

b. Fine-Tuning Plans Post Visa Approval and Preparing for Travel Ahead:


  • Budget Planning and Currency Exchange:

Planned our budget and exchanged currency through Bookmyforex, which conveniently delivered the currencies to our doorstep.

Initially exchanged 180,000 YEN and 200 SGD for the trip, along with additional USD for emergencies and extra expenses, especially for food as vegetarian options tend to be more expensive. We converted an additional 200 USD accordingly during the trip.


Our biggest cost was the flight tickets. We could have saved a bit by not stopping in Singapore for a day. However, we wanted to take advantage of the Visa-free transit option with our Japan tourist visa and visit another country during the same trip. Expenses vary for each person, but roughly, we spent around 4 lakh INR overall for Japan (about 2 lakh per person as two of us traveled). Keep in mind, this could change based on exchange rates and how you spend during the trip. We saved money by exploring places using public transport, but we spent more on food (lunch, dinner) and snacks (vending machine food) because it was hard to find vegetarian options, and they were a bit pricey.


Allocating Expenses: A Breakdown of Our Japan Trip Costs


  • Advanced Ticket Bookings:

We pre-booked some entry tickets ahead of the trip, nearly ten days prior to our trip. We highly recommend this approach as some tend to sell out quickly due to limited slots, so advanced booking is advisable.


a. Skyliner Narita Airport Express with Tokyo Subway Ticket: We booked One-way Narita Airport Express ticket (to reach Tokyo from Airport on Day 1) with 72-hour Tokyo Subway Pass via Klook website. Skyliner Narita Airport Express Klook Voucher could be converted as ticket at the SKYLINER & KEISEI Information center. There is option to book the ticket through ticketing machine as well, however the queues were quite long.


The Skyliner transported us to Ueno station, where we exchanged our Klook voucher for a 72-hour Tokyo Metro pass, a convenient tool for seamless exploration. It's essential to note that the subway pass doesn't apply to JR line trains and some metros. Throughout our Tokyo exploration, we came across 1 subway trip (Tobu Skytree line) which was not covered, and we had to take ticket of around 160yen per person to travel in that subway line. Generally, on google map metros mentioned in circle were covered through this pass. JR lines and few others were showed in square in google map which were not covered.


b. Tokyo SkyTree Tembo Deck (350m) Ticket - Tokyo sky tree is a must to get bird eye view of Tokyo City. We visited Tokyo Skytree on Day 2.


c. TeamLab Borderless: MORI Building digital art museum in Tokyo: We could directly enter the digital art museum by showing QR code from Klook booking. We visited this museum on Day 2 of the trip.


d. Highway bus round trip from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko (Mt. Fuji Area): Comparing to trains as this was cheaper option as well as we wanted to get bus experience at Tokyo, we booked the bus seats earlier for our day trip to Kawaguchiko on Day 3 of the trip.


Note: At Narita airport, there are vending machines with sim cards as well which was available for even less charges. We did not try this however, they seemed a better option as well considering the price. Even if you buy at a counter, they generally do not help in setting up the SIM anyway.


You may also book SIM card via Klook.com.


  • Reviewed & paid Hotel reservations booking amount: Reviewed location of hotels, changed few hotel bookings and confirmed the booking by paying booking amount to avoid having to carry more cash and card transactions.


c. Tips for the commute along the journey


In Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima, the standard fare for bus and metro rides was approximately 240 yen per trip, often regardless of the distance traveled. Opting for a commuter pass proved highly convenient across these cities, eliminating the need to purchase tickets for each journey. Another efficient choice for commuters was the ICOCA card from JR, allowing seamless entry and exit from buses and metro lines with automatic fare deduction, sparing the hassle of constant ticket purchases or carrying cash. Below is a breakdown of the passes we utilized in each city and where we leveraged ICOCA cards:


Tokyo Subway pass: We highly recommend acquiring a Tokyo subway pass based on the length of your stay. For our three-day visit, we obtained a 72-hour pass, easily pre-booked through Klook and collected from a ticket machine at Ueno station.


Kawaguchiko bus pass: We opted for a one-day bus pass for 1,500 yen in Kawaguchiko, granting unlimited rides on the red, green, and blue line buses around Mt. Fuji. We mainly opted for the red and green lines to embark on our chosen explorations.


ICOCA Card: These JR electronic cards streamline train and bus travel by eliminating the need for ticket purchases. They can also be used for shopping. Available from specific ticket vending machines, ICOCA cards require cash for purchase and come with a 500 yen deposit. For instance, purchasing a new card with 2000 yen credit allows for 1500 yen of travel and shopping, with the remaining 500 yen refundable upon card return at JR-West offices upon leaving Japan. More details can be found here: ICOCA - How to use JR-West

On Day 4, we bought this card at Kyoto JR station and utilized this card for exploring sightseeing spots in Kyoto, and on Day 8, it facilitated travel via buses, streetcars, and metros in Hiroshima.


Kyoto Day Pass: Exploring Kyoto city mainly relies on flat-rate 240 yen city bus fares, regardless of distance. A 1100 yen day pass covering city buses and metro lines proved to be a convenient choice.


Osaka Day Pass: Similarly, Osaka offers a day pass for 880 yen, also providing discounts for entry to select attractions. We were able to leverage discounts at Osaka Castle.

In Osaka, we purchased a day pass directly from a ticket vending machine on one occasion, and on another day, we booked it through Klook. However, finding the designated ticket office proved to be quite challenging to convert the Klook voucher into a pass. We would strongly recommend buying the pass directly from the ticket vending machine, especially in Osaka, to avoid such difficulties.

There's a variety of passes available, each tailored to different travel plans. We highly recommend exploring the options to find the one that best suits your itinerary.



d. Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Ticket booking


During our Japan trip, we utilized the Shinkansen for our journeys from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka to Hiroshima, and Hiroshima back to Osaka. We purchased our Shinkansen tickets on Day 2 of our trip at the Tokyo JR station using the Shinkansen Ticket Vending Machine. Opting for reserved tickets, we ensured seats were pre-booked, allowing us to select our seats during the ticketing process. While this option does come with an additional cost, roughly around 5000 yen, it guarantees seat reservations. Alternatively, non-reserved tickets grant access to unreserved train cars, where passengers can find available seats on a first-come-first-served basis. Considering the length of our journey and our backpacks, we found the reserved seats to be a more comfortable choice.


e. Singapore Commute & bookings


At Changi Airport in Singapore, we obtained NETS cards from the UOB Money Changer for 25 SGD each. These cards incurred a 5 SGD charge, leaving us with 20 SGD to use for public transportation. This made our daily commuting hassle-free, allowing us to navigate both the metro and buses for sightseeing throughout the day, as well as travel to the airport by bus the following day. Remaining balance, approximately 8 SGD, could easily be transferred back to our bank account upon returning home.

More details are available here: NETS Prepaid Card – NETS



During our visit to Singapore, we made advance bookings for tickets to Gardens by the Bay's Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, as well as for supertree observatory, river cruise. Unfortunately, as evening approached, light rain started, prompting the closure of the skyway and Supertree Observatory for safety reasons. Disappointingly, we were informed that no refunds could be issued, but the tickets remained valid for the next 60 days.

However, luck was on our side as the rain stopped late in the evening, allowing us to utilize our tickets and enjoy the stunning views of Marina Bay from above. Despite this fortunate turn of events, our experience led us to recommend purchasing tickets on the spot rather than in advance, particularly for attractions like the skywalk or Supertree Observatory, to avoid the risk of missing out due to unforeseen weather conditions.


We hope that these details are helpful for planning your trip to Japan and Singapore.


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With Thanks,

HillTrotters Team

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