2019 Top 10 Tips for Traveling in Japan

As we’re getting nearer and nearer to the end of the year, let’s all admit it: we’re dreading that annual family reunion. We’re tired of hearing out Aunts and Uncles have their one time a year where the karaoke stage can be theirs, and we wish the spiked eggnog didn’t include eggnog. Our tip? A nice winter getaway at the one country where you can experience the holiday festivities away in perfect silence. 

Despite being known for their winter meals, Christmas ‘illuminations’, snow festivals, and most notably, their questionable Christmas traditions, traveling to Japan for the first time can be difficult. But frequent flyer Kim Dao came up with an extensive list of the ten top travel tips for all travelers thinking to take on Japan in 2020.

Cash

Does money really buy you happiness? The answer is… yes. Unfortunately, we’re currently not giving away free trips to Japan, so you’re going to have to rely on trusty hard-work and dedication to get you here. Like Kim mentions, Japan is still very much a cash society with many restaurants and institutions only accepting cash payments– particularly in countryside areas of Japan, or if you want to indulge in some street food. So next time you’re roaming the streets of Japan, make sure you have a trusty backup stash of cash ready to go if you can’t find an ATM or if places don’t accept cards.

For money exchanges, Kim mentions that she finds that currency exchange rates in your home country will probably be better than the foreign exchange offered in Japan, so be sure to do your research before you come so that you can maximize the most of your money!

Credit card

If you’re looking for another way to make the most of your money, we also recommend taking a look at the exchange rates at your bank. More often than not, the foreign exchange rate is actually priced reasonably, and if you’re a member of the bank, you’re more likely to get a better deal. Additionally, a trusty backup credit card is always a good option for you if you’re nervous about carrying massive amounts of money on the streets of (relatively) safe Japan. In city centers, the majority of stores available that accept foreign credit cards are now on the rise, and ATMs with different language options are readily available at every 7/11 or Family Mart convenience store.

<Image from Live Japan

Power board/adapter

Now that you’re feeling secure about your spending, you might need a power board or adapter to make sure that your electronics are all charged and ready to go for your adventures in Japan! One point that Kim mentions and that we follow religiously, is traveling with a power board from your country and only having to bring one adapter. The next best blow-your-mind product? The world-travel adapter; Decked out with multiple USB ports and every country’s power head– this adapter is the cream of the crop.

Without these tools, how can you share with your friends on social media that you had the most fabulous time at Fushimi-Inari or Tokyo tower? Because if you didn’t gram about it… did it really even happen?  

Mobal Sim Card

The best, cheapest and fastest way to share that latest post of yours is through Kim’s personally recommended sim card service, Mobal. Although it’s known as the city of technology, finding wi-fi isn’t as easy as you’d think, which means you need something that will allow you to contact your accommodation, access the internet if you get lost, and work at even the most barren areas of Japan. One thing that Kim also points out is that service connection is really important in Japan and may be particularly hard if you’re in an area that is crowd-dense or in the countryside.

Mobal sim cards come in two different packages: you can have a data-only sim card, which, as the name suggests, only gives you access to the internet, or you can have a data and phone sim card, which allows the ability for calling and texting in Japan. Before you even arrive in Japan, Mobal can send you your ready-to-use sim card anywhere in the world. Activation is simple and quick, and you can basically start calling your family and friends within the next couple of minutes of activation. As for price, Mobal is definitely a bang for your buck– with 4G 7gb of data for your everyday use and a working Japanese phone number, Mobal is our and Kim’s first choice of service. There are no exclusive contracts, no activation or termination feeds, and no taxes for using Mobal, so we’re telling you loud and clear:

Not even just traveling in Japan, but in all areas of life, remember to call your mom!

<Image from Mobal>

Prepare your Apps

Now that you have a working sim card with data, getting lost is not an option anymore. Sounds pretty straight forward, but Google Maps in Japan has recently been patching up their bug issues, now including transit fare, which exit is best for your desired location, and even the crowdedness of certain train lines. Accordingly, Google Translate has also been upping its game with the new function of recording and translating live conversations as they happen. This makes communication easier but also you can start pick up a lot more vocab while traveling.

JR Pass

JR Passes can be a real lifesaver and we are always endorsing it, but like Kim, we’re always asked if JR Passes are “worth it”. The answer? If you intend on frequently traveling long distances, then absolutely. If not, perhaps JR Pass isn’t right for you. But the benefits do come in handy- with a flip of your pass, you could easily travel between cities without stress. Just do you math, figure out if it’s worth it for your travels, and enjoy! 

Travel Cards

Your transport pass will be your life if you travel in Japan, because not only can they be used for riding Japan’s infamous transport systems, but you can also buy food with them! Quite normally, these travel cards can be used to purchase goods from all kinds of stores, so if you need that water ASAP, just tap and go!

<Image from Japan Station>  

Travel insurance

Sounds like a simple tip, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Literally anything can happen when you’re on holiday, but the only way you can be properly reimbursed for any incident that happens to you while traveling is travel insurance. The way we see it: it’s a small price to pay for traveling without any worries.

Tickets (book in advance)

One thing that every visitor should know when traveling to Japan is that you’re entering into a society that is very systematic. Rocking up to an experience on the same day works for most, but for some specific experiences, pre-booking tickets are very important. Like Kim mentions, experiences like Team Lab, the Ghibli Museum or the Yayoi Kusama exhibition require pre-booking so to monitor the flow of audiences within a day. Each institution varies so we definitely suggest you do a little research on your itinerary to figure out if you need any ticket reservations!  

<Image from CN Traveler>  

Passport

To save a lot more as a foreigner in Japan, bring your passport with you when you’re out and about to get all the discounts and tax-free prices for clothing and experiences that are available only to tourists. As passports are very legitimate forms of identification, we also recommend that you carry them around just for safekeeping… because… you know!

<Image from Anglo List

 A wise friend of mine once told me that all you really need to bring when you travel is 1. your wallet, 2. your phone, and 3. your passport– and this list has seven more helpful tips for you to take with you on your next trip to Japan.

 If you’re actually one of the few who love to see spend time singing Mariah Carey with your family of a hundred but want to travel to Japan for the first time in 2020, then definitely keep these tips in mind as they might save you a lot of stress! 


Elise Meng