Japan travel tips: 17 Things to know when planning your trip

Updated: Jun 1


Japan is the perfect mix of old and new. It has retained so much of its traditional ways, yet it has absorbed many western influences over time creating an incredibly unique culture. There are ancient temples, castles, and shrines to visit, there are many different types of Japanese foods to try, usually in an exciting and unique restaurant or food stall! The Japanese people are incredibly warm and welcoming, and depending on the area in Japan it is possible to experience an entirely different trip, a city getaway, a ski-holiday, a mountain hiking trip, Japan has it all… even sandy beaches! These are 17 tips to help when planning your trip to Japan!


If you want to see a lot more detail about trip, check out our VLOGS on Youtube:


What currency is used there?


Japanese Yen ¥ (April 2020 conversion)


1 GBP = ¥130

1 AUD = ¥65

1 USD = ¥105

1 EUR = ¥115


How expensive is Japan?


Japan can be portrayed as being one of the most expensive Countries in the world, and whilst it can be if you were to stay at luxury hotels, eat out in posh restaurants every night and do a lot of activities, there are definitely ways to reduce the costs!


Here is a breakdown of average costs that we found on our trip:


Eating

Cheap Restaurant (Food courts, business areas): ¥500-¥1,000 ($4.50 - $10) per person

Mid-range Restaurant: ¥1,000-¥3,000 ($10 - $30) per person

Upper market restaurant: ¥3,000 plus ($30 plus) per person


Accommodation (hugely affected by season in Japan)

Hostel dorm rooms: ¥1,500 plus ($15 plus) per night

Budget: ¥5,000 - ¥12,000 ($45 - $100) per night

Mid-range: ¥12,000 - ¥30,000 ($100 - $275) per night

Luxury: ¥30,000 plus ($275 plus) per night

Ryokan stay (traditional Japanese stay with Kaiseki dinner) ¥30,000 plus ($275 plus) per night


Transport

Taxi: typically start at ¥600 (~$6) and the most expensive way to travel in Japan

Bus: typically ¥200-¥300 (~$2 - $3)

Train: typically ¥200 (~$2) short train or subway ride

Bullet train (Shinkansen): one way from Tokyo to Kyoto ¥19,000 ($175) (it is worth purchasing a JR pass for travelling between cities)


What is a Japan rail pass (JR pass)?

The Japan Rail Pass is a rail pass available for temporary visitors to Japan. It covers train travel on the six rail companies comprising the Japan Railways Group (JR Group) and is the most convenient way of traveling throughout Japan by rail.

There are two types of passes available for purchase:

- Ordinary car pass

- Green car pass // first class


We recommend purchasing this in advance as it can be considerably cheaper than purchasing when on the ground in Japan. Check out KLOOK WEBSITE for JR Pass options, costs and delivery times.


Are the JR passes worth the money?


The Japan Rail pass, also known as the JR pass is a very popular purchase for foreign tourists visiting Japan. To consider whether a JR Rail pass is worth the cost when planning a visit to Japan, you can compare the costs against a 7, 14, or 21 day pass.


It depends on how much rail travel you plan to take, but as an example, the cost of a 7 day pass is already covered after making a return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto (14,000 yen each way) A 7 day pass costs ¥29,650. If you are planning to travel to more than one city, it usually is worth purchasing.

Do I need a tourist visa to visit Japan?


To visit Japan on a holiday (less than 90 days) some Countries will need to apply for a tourist visa, however there are 68 visa-exempt Countries.

Visa exempt Countries include:

- United Kingdom

- Majority of Europe

- United States

- Australia

- New Zealand

- Some Asia and South America


If you hold a passport from these Countries you are able to visit for a holiday, to visit relatives, and business purposes. However, visitors cannot receive any paid work under this visa and would need to apply for a work visa.


Here is further information for specific Countries if you are not visa exempt.


Do I need travel insurance to visit Japan?

Travel insurance is an essential part of travelling and we would always recommending purchasing travel insurance for any trip! If you were to be super unfortunate and have an accident then you’re covered to go to hospital and have your medical expenses insured. We also travel with our camera equipment and so we need this to be insured at a decent level!


How easy is it to get around without speaking Japanese?


Easy! Even in the remote parts of Japan we still managed to communicate through broken Japanese and broken English. We even had one instance in a restaurant where we visited a very traditional local restaurant and the waitor couldn’t speak English, the head chef called his friend to speak to us in English so that we could order our food! An example of how accommodating the Japanese are, and it ended up being one of our best food experiences during our entire trip.


What is the food like in Japan?

The food is Japan is one of our absolute favourites and it one of the reasons alone to go to Japan, to try the local food! The food that most people associate with Japan is sushi and sashimi, there is tempura which is a deep fried dish usually vegetable or seafood, ramen which is a noodle soup dish and tastes different in every city, and our favourite, okonomiyaki which is similar to a pancake full of vegetables, or meat and seafood topped with cheese and green onion.


Are the menus in English?


Depending on the restaurants you visit, you may not have an English menu. We found an app called ‘Google translate’ that you can download. You just hover your phone over the menu and it brings up a translation to help figure out what dish it is. This came in super handy especially with vending machines ordering food.


How safe is Japan?


Japan is very safe with it’s crime rate being very low. Like anywhere in the world, there is always a possibility to fall victim to petty crime, and as a tourist should always be aware of your surroundings. However, in our experience it is a very safe Country walking around in both daytime and night-time and a very friendly place to be. We never felt unsafe.



Any tips on savings money in Japan?


Japan will never be as cheap to travel around as Thailand, Cambodia and alike, however there are many ways to stay within a budget:

- Eat the local food

- Be clever with accommodation, book in advance where it is possible and search for deals through third party sites such as BOOKING.COM

- If travelling between cities look in to purchasing a JR pass to significantly reduce costs

- Book in advance where you can for activities

- Picking the season in Japan also plays a huge part, as an example Cherry Blossom season will always be the most expensive time to visit as it’s their peak season, and may be worth considering which time of year to go if you are on a tighter budget.


Are there any customs in Japan I should be aware of?


We have written an entire blog about this one too as there are a few that we believe tourists should be aware of. However, there are 3 big ones which we will list here!


- The big one to be aware of is it is a ‘no tipping’ culture, not for restaurants, cabs or any service.

- Chopsticks! Just give them a try! They are not as hard to use as you think and we would urge you to try to use them before asking for a fork.

- Public bath houses also known as onsen pools are a big tradition in Japan, and you may find one at your accommodation. They are split up female and male, and you will be required to wash before entering the main bathing pool fully naked. Be extra careful not to dirty the water in any way, keeping it pure is very important.


How easy is it to get around Japan?


Very easy! Japan is one of the few Countries where you would be totally mad not to utilize its efficient transport network. Our entire trip was almost completely reliant on public transport including the JR Railway network, metro system and buses, with the odd taxi thrown in the mix.

We purchased a JR pass which is a joint offering of the six companies comprising the Japan Railways Group (JR Group). It is the most convenient and economical means of traveling to different parts of Japan by rail, and the most efficient, not a single train was late by even a minute!

Any apps worth downloading?


- Google Translate for Japanese food menu translation.

- Google maps for getting around. We purchased a Japanese sim card so we had signal on the move, if - - Maps.me if you don't plan to purchase a sim card which works without signal or wifi, a must-have for anyone that travels because you can download so many different languages for offline translation.

- Japan travel for travel routes on the public transport, you can also add what pass you have e.g. Japan Rail pass and it will alter any costing.

- Ramen beast to source out all the ramen spots in Japan!


What are the most popular cities to visit in Japan?


The most visited cities in Japan are Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Yokohama.


Where can I get a Japanese SIM card in Japan and how much do they cost?


We got our 15 day SIM card with unlimited internet from JAL ABC for 5,600 YEN which is equivalent to $50 USD. You can find this store in the International airports across Japan at the arrivals area.

(Options include a 7, 15, 21 day SIM option.)


Do the high-tech Japanese toilets live up to their hype?


The famous high-tech toilets are EVERYWHERE in Japan and they are AMAZING! You’ll find them in hotels, restaurants, in many homes, even in public toilets in shopping centres and bus stations.

On most of them you will find a heated seat function, a sound of flushing water that often starts as you enter a cubicle to drown out the sounds of you doing your business, bidet and shower options, it is an experience in itself!


Check out our other VLOGS in Japan:




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