My girlfriend is arriving in Japan next Saturday. We’ve decided to make a long weekend out of her arrival in Tokyo since September 19-23 is a national holiday.
We looked into different accommodations for our time in Tokyo. Hotels were out of the question due to high prices. We looked into CouchSurfing, but we didn’t want to burden anyone with two pieces of luggage and didn’t want to constrict ourselves to a stranger’s schedule.
We settled on staying at a hostel. There are hundreds of hostels in Tokyo, and like any city, they vary in price and quality. I did my research through some third-party websites that specialize in finding hostels in big cities. These sites are really helpful as they organize all of the information and create a simple template for finding a hostel in a city.
We won’t be spending much time in the room so I was looking for a cheaper option, but the hostels I found all had something a little off about them. One was too far from the major areas of the city, one had a lack of information listed, one had a 40% approval.
Tokyo is massive and has multiple downtown areas so we finally just settled on one. The only problem was they didn’t have their luggage policy listed. My girlfriend will have her life in her luggage so we didn’t want to have it sitting in the lobby unlocked, or, even worse, have to drag it with us.
I had the order form filled out – 27,000 yen ($297) for four nights – and was about to grab my credit card, but I just couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t have a good feeling about putting my name in, paying 10% down, and still not knowing if the place was safe.
Despite the language barrier, I decided to call the hostel directly and see if they could answer my security question. I had no idea how much money that five minute phone call would save me.
I was taking a risk as I don’t speak Japanese. I asked the man who answered if he spoke English. He responded with, “not much”. He then continued to understand every sentence I said, articulate complete sentences, and booked me for four nights at his hostel!
On top of his great English and efficiency, he quoted me a price of 21,200 yen ($232) – $65 less than the price through the third-party website. I also found out we could keep the luggage in the room, we didn’t have to pay anything down, and I didn’t have to give my credit card information. If we show up next Saturday and get a bad vibe, we can move on and find another hostel. I also have a friend of a friend on call in case this happens.
Since hostels are low-key they tend to not have websites. I still never comprehended and thought that I would pay extra to book through another website. It was something that never once crossed my mind until I got off the phone with the hostel.
Third-party websites are great for consolidating information and research, but take five minutes and call before you book. The same goes for hotels, airlines, or vacations that you find through third-party sites. That $65 savings will now go towards filling my stomach with even more sushi.