Hi everyone, hope you’re doing well and welcome to this post about travelling in Japan, all about the top 5 essential list of things you should know!
These are all the key points that my friends and fellow travellers commonly ask me before they go off on their Japanese adventure, and maybe something that might be very different in your country.
Hopefully you will find this useful, and it applies to the whole of Japan rather than area/region specific posts that will be coming up next. Let me know what you think via one of the social icons below, and connect with me!
Have you been to Japan? What else would you add to this list? I’d love to find out!
Essentials for travelling in Japan
So Japan is often portrayed in the West as a far away land where everything is different. This is both true and false – some things are exactly the same! You turn on the tap, drinking water flows out. You walk down the streets, the same traffic rules apply. Some minor things are different, but day-to-day life can sometimes conjure up the most unexpected things!
Having said all that, let’s get right to it with the 5 most common questions I get about travelling in Japan.
1. Transport for travelling in Japan
If its your first time visiting Japan, and/or you want to travel around the country, I would definitely recommend the Japan Rail Pass. This Pass, from JR (Japan Railways) will allow you to travel on ANY JR train (including bullet trains!) in the whole country. Some lines are private, and you will have to pay separately for them. But you can get a PASMO or SUICA card, and top it up to tap in and out of barriers, when you can’t use your JR Rail Pass.
There are some exceptions, such as not being able to go on the fastest bullet trains, but even the “slow” ones are pretty speedy! For UK citizens, you can buy your rail pass in person at Liberty Department Store in London, or there are many outlets online where you can purchase them.
You can read more about the rail pass here.
Personally, anytime I’ve travelled to Japan without my Japanese phone, I’ve never had the need to buy a travel/data SIM during my stay. This is because most stations, cafes, restaurants, department stores, convenience stores etc. all have free Wi-Fi! It’s never hard to find a hotspot if you need. There are also multiple Wi-Fi hotspots across the country exclusively for tourists to use. Many of these are password protected, and you may need to show foreign ID (passport, National ID card etc.) to obtain the key to use the WiFi. Its still free, and its super convenient as you don’t have to keep signing up to different networks!
Having free WiFi in hotels is the standard, and if you’re out and about, I would recommend the Free WiFi Passport from SoftBank. They have around 400,000 hotspots across the country. Just select the WiFi network on your phone and follow the instructions to be connected!
Japan uses a two-pin plug, the same as that of North America. However, the voltage is different. In Japan it is 100V, but in North America it is 120V. If you live in Europe it is usually 230V.
Plugs from North America should work in Japan, but some equipment may not work properly or can get damaged. So make sure to check before you plug them in. You can easily pick up an adapter at the airport or at convenient stores around the country, most of which are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
4. Money: Japanese Yen
Even though Japan has a lot of advanced technologies and robotics, cash is still the preferred payment method in a lot of places. Most places, especially in Tokyo and chain stores accept major credit and debit cards. But smaller places and food stalls may only accept cash. You can usually also pay with your PASMO or SUICA card, using contactless payments. This is the transport card, but you can top it up at any station and use it at a lot of stores, including convenience stores and vending machines.
$1 (USD) is about ¥112, and £1 (GBP) is equivalent to around ¥147 (at time of writing). I would personally recommend around ¥5000 per day, to allow for transport, eating, drinking and a little bit of shopping. But Japan has shops and restaurants to accommodate almost any budget, so you can do it for much less as well as for much, much more!
People who come to me for tips and advice about Japan always ask me if Japan is expensive to travel around in. I think they are pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive Japan can be! Compared to a lot of other “budget” back packing countries, Japan has expensive accommodation and transport. But a lot of things in Japan are high quality for the price, and you will usually be able to cater for any budget with a little bit of forward planning.
A lot of sight seeing attractions are free or have cheap entry tickets. You can also get food and drink which is not only a delicious local delicacy, but also incredibly cheap. I always say that Japan can be as cheap or as expensive as you want, and a little bit of advanced bookings goes a long way.
I hope some of these tips come in handy or answer any questions you may have had. Have you been travelling in Japan? What would you add to this list? Please let me know!
Thank you so much for reading, and please leave any thoughts and comments below or on twitter.
See you in the next one,
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