When last I posted, I was lamenting the recent change in the policy for applying for a China tourist visa while in Canada. The plan has always been to travel to China via ferry, and I am not exaggerating when I say that this new prospect of not having the necessary visa to get into the country scuppered years of planning.
But, I am a problem-solver at heart, so this kind of stuff is my bread and butter. Maybe this is why I’m always making trouble… Regardless, we got lots of helpful feedback on our last post, as well as many sympathetic comments, so I kicked it into research overdrive and, having gotten all of the complaining out of my system (or at least 95% of it), tried to figure out a solution to our China conundrum.
Our original reason for electing to take the slow boat to China (apart from the novelty factor and bragging rights) was because of cost. Flights to China from Japan are oddly expensive (despite their relative proximity), but I started wondering if perhaps I could find a flight from Japan to a different country and not break the bank. Sure, it’s always been our plan to hit up China after Japan, but part of why we didn’t simply buy RTW tickets is so that we could be flexible and roll with the punches.
A lot of the time, when you’re planning a trip, you know exactly where you want to go. There are a lot of flight search engines that can help you out if you know you want to fly from A to B, but what happens when you have an open-ended search? I’ll tell you what you do: you get on Skyscanner. I realize this is going to sound like a paid promo, but I promise, I’m not getting any kind of kick-back for writing this post. This is just me letting you in on one of my travel-planning secrets, because I’m that kind of gal. I honestly start all of my flight searches with Skyscanner, because not only does it aggregate across a ton of different sites so that you can quickly get a sense of prices on offer (including special promotions) across the entire internet, but it also searches through budget airlines, AND it lets you do open-ended searches. So, I can give Skyscanner a starting point (e.g., Japan) and then tell it to give me all the possible flight options it can find leaving from there, and it will provide me with a rank-ordered list, starting with my cheapest options and with each subsequent option increasing in price.
So, to give you a visual, here’s what I did:
Note that with Skyscanner, you don’t even have to specify the city that you want to depart from! I want to find the cheapest possible options for getting out of Japan, so I’m going to let it look for flights originating out of the ENTIRE country. This might not be something you’d want to do if you’re starting off in the U.S., where a cheap flight out of California does you little good if you’re in New York, but for smaller countries, it’s certainly a nice option to have.
Another thing that’s great about Skyscanner is that it offers temporal as well as geographic flexibility. Flight costs vary a lot based on the time of the year and even the day of the week; because I don’t know exactly what day we will leave Japan, it’s great that Skyscanner offers flexible time-range parameters. You can search for a specific date, but you can also search based on an entire month, or even an entire year. Because I think we’ll probably spend about 3 weeks in Japan, I decided to select August and do a search for the entire month.
Here’s what Skyscanner found us:
On the results page, Skyscanner, lists all the flight options (in ascending price order) for the month of August leaving from Japan. As you can see, our cheapest option would be to fly internally, but for just $138 per person, we can fly to Hong Kong! Some of you mentioned this as a possible place to pick up our China visas; a little sleuthing produced this informative post at You’re Not From Around Here that outlines the process for securing a China visa while in Hong Kong in plenty of detail. Unlike many other countries, there doesn’t appear to be a residency requirement (or at least not one that is enforced) in order to procure a visa. We don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong, so we could fly there, get our visas and then head to China. A little extra snooping, also turned up this article, which suggests that Macau (another visa-free place we can visit) is just a short ferry ride from Hong Kong, and may be an even better place to secure a visa (and it’s nice to know we’d have a back-up should Hong Kong not pan out for some reason).
So, Hong Kong looks like a good place to fly to once we’ve exhausted our (TBD) travel budget for Japan. Selecting it from the list, brings you to this screen:
There’s only one airport in Hong Kong, but this screen is essentially presenting me with all of my destination options in Hong Kong. Hong Kong International is my cheapest option (still $138 pp), but if there were other airports, I might find that some of them would be more expensive. Selecting this option, I am then presented with this screen:
Here I am selecting my departure airport out of Japan. We can see that the cheapest flight option of $138, requires me to fly out of Osaka, but Skyscanner provides me with alternative options so that I can weigh convenience with cost. Osaka works for us, so I’ll go with that.
Doing so produces the screen below, where Skyscanner allows me to view the lowest costs for my selected route (Osaka > Hong Kong) for the entire month of August. We can see that flying on August 11 is the most expensive day to fly this route ($264), and August 7 is the cheapest ($138) day. If we fly out on August 29, we can do so for $141.
If I select August 29, and then click “Show Flights”, Skyscanner now shows me all the flights available on August 29, including my cheap $141 flight on Peach airlines. If I click the “Book” button, it will take me to the Peach website where I can purchase my tickets directly! It really couldn’t be easier, and best of all? At $141 per person, this is actually 50% cheaper than what we were looking pay to take the ferry to Shanghai! Double score!
Of course, part of the fun with Skyscanner is seeing all these travel choices open up to you that you had never considered. So while, it would be easy peasy for us to fly directly to Hong Kong, we think it could be a little more fun to fly to Taiwan for a week or two ($160 pp), and then maybe fly to the Philippines ($72 pp) before making our way to Hong Kong (just $27 pp!). We hadn’t really considered visiting either of these places before, but we’re starting to think that the disruption to our original plans may have been a sign to take a step back and re-evaluate our plans. It’s early days yet, so we haven’t decided which path we’ll take, but I’ll admit the possibility of visiting two new places has infused both of us with a new excitement for this trip. The more we look into Taiwan and the Philippines, the more we wonder why we overlooked them in the first place! At this point, we don’t know what we’ll do, whether we’ll commit to a fixed itinerary in Japan and have a departure date and destination set before we land (budget-wise, this might be for the best, because as much as we’d like to, we can’t really afford to spend much more than 3 weeks in Japan… moreover, we’ve heard that Japan is one of those countries that can be very fastidious about having proof of onward travel upon flight check-in), or if we’ll just play it by ear and make our decision when we’re actually planning to leave Japan. We still have time to make that choice, but it’s great to know that in the end, we’re still going to get to visit China, and may wind up having a lot more fun getting there (without breaking the bank)!
And of course: if you’ve been to Taiwan or the Philippines, we’d love to know what you would recommend seeing/doing/eating!
Disclaimer: I received no incentive or reimbursement—financial or otherwise—from Skyscanner to write this post. My endorsement is completely my own, and is simply a reflection of my own personal enthusiasm for the Skyscanner site!