September 30, 2014
NAIA Terminal 3
Arrived NAIA Terminal 3 at 12:00 noon to check-in for my flight on Cebu Pacific flight 5J828 bound for Osaka-Kansai (KIX) Japan. Before check-in, I had to pay for the mandatory Philippines Travel Tax (P 1,620) located at the Travel Tax Counter on the far right of the Departure Hall. Note that the Travel Tax applies only to Philippine Passport Holders (with exceptions).
The lines at the Cebu Pacific check-in counters were not too long and I was done in 15 minutes.I was also able to request for an aisle seat which was great since I needed more legroom. Since I still had a lot of time to spare, I decided to grab a quick meal at Pancake House located at the mall just above the Departure Hall. After my meal, I did a bit of window shopping to pass the time. Before proceeding to the pre-departure area, I grabbed a burger at Wendy’s to take with me on the flight. Previous experience has taught me to bring food instead of ordering the meals offered by Cebu Pacific. Yes, you can bring food, for Cebu Pacific at least, and you can now bring bottled drinks purchased outside to the pre-departure.
Before entering the pre-departure area, I still had to pay the P 550 terminal fee. However, tickets purchased beginning February 1, 2015 for flights departing Manila already include the terminal fee. Glad that for the longest time, airport officials have finally figured it out. After paying the terminal fee, I proceeded to Immigration to have my passport stamped. I have to give credit to the Bureau of Immigration (BI), I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by young, well-groomed and amiable immigration officials who can actually type haha. If you’ve passed though Manila before, you’ll know what I mean. After immigration, you now have to pass through final security checks. Luckily, there weren’t any lines at the x-ray machines.
The NAIA pre-departure area was bright but looked empty and staid. There’s a small duty-free shop and some souvenir and coffee shops here and there. I also noticed that the areas used by the airlines that recently moved to T3 have been enclosed in glass. You could however see that the space provided was simply not enough and too cramped. Most of the toilets were still undergoing repairs and you’d have to walk a bit to go to the toilet if you’re gate is at the far end of the terminal.
On Board Cebu Pacific
The flight or rather boarding was delayed by about 40 minutes. Surprised? Not! We likewise spent a bit of time on the tarmac waiting for our turn to take-off. The Airbus A320 was really old and dated with some rows unusable. You could also see the upholstery of some seats worn out and torn. Yet Cebu Pacific brags about having one of the youngest fleets out there. Good thing, the flight crew were friendly and attentive. There were snacks and meals available for sales on board. Generally, the flight went on smoothly with only a slight turbulence as we approached Japanese airspace. Immigration cards and Customs Declaration Cards were handed out prior to descending.
Arriving Osaka-Kansai International Airport (KIX)
The plane landed in Osaka 40 minutes delayed at almost a quarter before 9PM. Upon disembarking, you would have to walk a bit to get to the people mover that would take you from the concourse to the main terminal. The Cebu Pacific flight arrives at about the same time a flight from Taipei does so there was a line building up once I got to immigration. It was moving fast though and when it was my turn, the immigration just got my biometrics, stamped my passport and I officially entered Japan. Not long after, I picked up my bags from the carousel and passed by two customs officers who just looked at my passport and asked for the purpose of my visit and that was it. I was out in the arrival area in a little over 30 minutes. Once out in the arrivals hall, you’ll immediately notice a line of concessionaires where you can ask for information, book tours, transfers, hotels, rent cellphones and wi-fi devices, etc.
Since I would be staying in Kyoto, my first order of business was to purchase my round-trip ICOCA+Haruka ticket at the Japan Rail (JR) Office. To get there, I had to take the escalator to the 2nd level immediately on the right as you exit customs. Then exit the door on the left and cross the bridge to the next building. That’s where you’ll find the ticket counters for the different train companies. Those heading to Osaka usually take the Nankai Train.
Transport to Kyoto
The ICOCA+Haruka is a combination discounted ticket on the Ltd. Express Haruka Train plus an ICOCA stored value IC Card worth ¥ 4,060. The combination ticket is available only to foreigners on short visits. The Haruka train is the fastest and most convenient way to get to Kyoto from Kansai Airport at an excellent value compared to buying tickets individually. The ICOCA is a stored value IC card that comes with an initial value of ¥ 2,000 that you can use for riding trains, convenience stores or any place that displays the ICOCA logo. Out of the ¥ 2,000 value, ¥ 1,500 is consumable while ¥ 500 is a refundable deposit.To purchase, you’ll have to present your passport and return ticket. You’ll then be asked to fill-up an application form. Luckily there were only a few people when I got there. You can easily top-up the ICOCA card at ticket kiosks located mostly at train stations. I then proceeded to the ticket gate to take the next Haruka train to Kyoto.
You’ll have to take note of the reserved cars on the Haruka train. The Haruka ticket is valid only on unreserved cars. Reserved seats require an additional payment. Don’t worry, it hardly ever fills up. The trip on the Haruka to Kyoto takes about an hour and 17 minutes. It only stops at Tennoji and Shin-Osaka stations in Osaka before heading straight to Kyoto. Seats are comfortable with enough legroom for you to stretch. There are also luggage racks located by the door. There are toilets available on certain cars only but it can be accessed from any car. Be sure to keep your ticket handy as a conductor will check your ticket after every stop. I reached Kyoto station almost 11 in the evening. Luckily, my hotel was located just across the station. Check-in was fairly quick and was glad that the pocket wi-fi I rented and had delivered to the hotel was already there. Then it was off to bed and looking forward to my first full day in Japan.