Do you have a trip to Japan coming up?
Are you trying your best to plan out your entire trip so that it goes amazing?
I know for most people, planning a trip isn’t something that they are use to. In fact, it can often times be confusing and overwhelming.
Especially for a place that they have never been to.
So what do you do?
Fortunately for you, I can already tell you that your trip will be fine. Mainly because you are reading this post. And in this post I will detail everything you should know before traveling to Japan.
After all, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about Japan since I been traveling there for many years. It is like my second home….well maybe third after Taiwan.
But you get the point.
Since I have traveled to Japan for many years, I have since picked up quite a few tips and tricks that I want to share with you all. Most of these things that i’ll be talking about can definitely save you time or money when you travel to Japan.
Because lets face it. Nobody wants to travel to someplace nice only to have their trip ruined because they haven’t planned properly.
The trick to any good trip is to always plan ahead.
So if you are ready, lets get started!
- 15 Tips To Know Before You Travel To Japan
- Not All Tourists Need A JR Pass
- Get A SIM Card or a Pocket Wifi
- Carefully Pick When You Want To Visit
- Buy Tickets In Advance To Popular Attractions
- Pack The Right Items
- Get Lost
- Learn What You Should and Shouldn’t Do In Japan
- Take Your Time, Don’t Rush
- Always Have Cash
- Do Not Drive
- Check If You Need A Visa
- Try Out All The Local Food
- Plan What You Are Going To Buy Beforehand
- Check If There’s Construction
- Get Travel Insurance
- Common Questions You Might Have About A Trip To Japan
15 Tips To Know Before You Travel To Japan
All too often do I see people travel to someplace nice only to be frustrated with their trip.
And it’s usually over something silly.
Most of the time, things can be avoided if you have just done a little bit of research and planned ahead.
Which is why i’m writing this post.
Down below are the 15 best tips that I have learned throughout the years on how to be a better traveler whenever I travel to Japan.
Not All Tourists Need A JR Pass
Did you know that not all tourists traveling to Japan will need a JR Pass?
You wouldn’t believe how many times I have seen people buy a JR pass in Japan only to never even use it.
Not to mention the thousands of bloggers out there who always recommend you buy this type of pass if you are ever going to Japan.
However, unbeknownst to many, is that the pass isn’t a necessary thing to buy.
In fact, you only buy the pass if you are going to travel long distances throughout Japan. If you are only going to be staying in 1 city like Tokyo, then you will not even need to use the JR pass.
It is costly and a waste of money to buy this pass and not use it.
However if you are definitely going to be traveling to many differnet places in Japan, then I would highly recommend you buy the JR Pass as it’ll save you both time and money.
If you want read an in depth tutorial about the JR Pass, you can click here.
Get A SIM Card or a Pocket Wifi
Now although there is free wifi located in most of the places around Japan, it may still be a good idea to have something like a SIM Card or a Pocket WIFI as a backup.
After all, you can do so much with these things as you travel around. You can use the GPS, text, call or even browse the internet. You never know when a place might not have WIFI, which is why you should always be prepared.
Plus, they are pretty cheap nowadays so you can buy one without breaking the bank.
Carefully Pick When You Want To Visit
Lets face it, nobody wants to come to a country when the weather is at its worst. Not to mention if you come during a popular season and have to wait for ages just to see your favorite attraction because of large cards.
It is because of this that you’ll want to find out when the best seasons are to visit.
When To Visit
For instance, weekdays will probably have less traffic then other days as this is a school/work time so the locals won’t be able to come as often.
However if you’re going to factor in tourists and locals together, then the least crowded times will be the months of January and February. However the weather might not be the greatest as it is still pretty cold during this time.
If you want to come when the weather is at it’s best condition, then October through December will be the time to come. However since this is usually when the weather is the best, you can expect huge lines and heavy crowds all throughout the day.
By the way, if you want to see beautiful cherry blossoms blooming here, then you’ll want to come here during the March-April season.
When To Avoid Coming Here
There are definitely certain periods when the crowds are going to be crazy. By this I mean that there is going to be too many people here and it won’t be enjoyable anymore.
For instance, Japan has a few special holidays that you’ll want to take note off to avoid these days. You’ll want to avoid Golden Week which is late April through early May, Obon which is mid August.
Not only that, but you’ll want to keep a look out for any other national holidays as well.
Basically any time there is a holiday, you can expect long lines and huge crowds.
Buy Tickets In Advance To Popular Attractions
Because Japan is one of the most popular places to visit in the world, many of the attractions will be crowded. You’ll want to guarantee your spot by buying your tickets in advance. This way when you get there, you are assured a spot to enjoy the attraction.
Nobody wants to go on a trip only to not do anything because all the tickets are sold out or you have to wait in line for literally ages.
So buy that ticket early before hand!
Pack The Right Items
Packing items for a trip is probably one of the most important things you should do. After all, if you forget to pack something, then chances are you’ll have to shell out money to buy it in a store.
Knowing what to pack and prepare can be crucial to a good trip.
If you are interested in seeing a list of certain items you should pack, then click here.
However, most of the time it is just common sense. Because this country is so technology heavy, it is similar to most other countries like the USA or Europe. So just bring whatever you would normally wear or use back in your home country.
Also as for clothing, that really depends on what season you are coming to visit. For instance, during the winter times, you might want to bring more layers as there is a good chance for snow. Where as during the summer time, it can get quite hot, so short sleeve shirts will do. Also you might want to pack a portable umbrella as it tends to rain quite often.
Yes! I’m serious! Well not really…get lost…but like do things the tourists won’t do.
For instance, many people who are traveling to Japan are going to google the top things to do in Japan. Then when they are there, that is all that they are going to do.
They never wander off the path and look at anything else surrounding the area.
Which in my opinion, I think that is a bad thing.
Japan has so much to offer, that not seeing everything can be devastating.
A lot of these cities are vastly different from the most popular ones and gives a real inside look at what the culture and life is in Japan.
Learn What You Should and Shouldn’t Do In Japan
As you know, Japan is not the same country as many other countries. They have many unique cultural differences that will surprise you if you aren’t aware.
You’ll want to find out all the things that are acceptable to do as well as unacceptable because you don’t want to be that tourist where everybody is just staring at you.
For instance, did you know that you have to take off your shoes before you enter certain places? How about not having your chopsticks stand up in your food?
There’s quite a bit of things you’ll have to be aware about.
Fortunately for you, I have a post dedicated to this scenario. You can click here to read it.
Take Your Time, Don’t Rush
As you know, Japan is quite big. There are many things for you to see and do here in this country.
It is for this reason that you shouldn’t rush your trip.
For instance, one common mistake that I see a lot of tourist make is that they really underestimate just how far some of these attractions are from each other.
Kyoto is a perfect example because the famous things you want to see are basically Fushimi Inari, Kinkaku-ji, as well as the Bamboo forest. But each one of these attractions are basically on the opposite ends of each other.
Which means, if you want to do everything in a single day, that is going to be very tiring as well as super rushed. You won’t be able to enjoy each and every attraction that the place has to offer.
It’ll definitely make you regret a lot of things.
So instead, try to plan your trip accordingly and don’t rush. If you don’t get the chance to see something this time, just come back to Japan another time!
Always Have Cash
Just like the saying goes “Cash is king”, that remains true for Japan.
In fact, in many places all over Japan, they still don’t accept credit cards. They will only accept cash. Which means if you don’t have cash, you simply won’t be able to enjoy Japan at its fullest.
A good way of doing things is to withdraw some money from the ATM’s located inside a convenience store like Family Mart or Lawson as they will typically have the best exchange rates.
Tip: If you are going to be using your credit card in certain places, you may get an option to pay in your home currency. Do not do this! In fact, you’ll get a better rate if you pay in the Japanese Yen.
Do Not Drive
As tempting as it sounds, you should definitely not drive in Japan.
Not only is parking a hassle, but the roads are insanely crowded and confusing.
Instead, why not focus on the public transportation. They are cheap, fast, and will be able to get you to anywhere you want to go.
You can easily get around by taxi or train to literally anywhere you want to go in Japan. There is no need for a car as the train stations or taxi stops are usually always in walking distance.
Check If You Need A Visa
Not all countries are equal.
Some countries have harsher restrictions then others.
Which is why you should always check if you need a Visa to enter a certain country.
For Japan, if you are a citizen from one of these 66 countries, you will not need to obtain a visa before coming to Japan.
However, if you are not on the list of the 66 countries, then you’ll have to apply for a Visa in order to come in the country.
Try Out All The Local Food
This is something I see too often that tourists will do.
Instead of trying out the local foods, they go for more western style foods or foods similar to their home country.
I know McDonalds is cheap and all, but if you are going to be traveling to a new country, at least try some of the local food.
There is an abundance of delicious foods in Japan ranging from sushi, ramen, takoyaki, etc.
A lot of which you’ll never be able to find back in your home country.
So if you do plan on visiting, try to give the local foods a chance. It might surprise you!
Heck, they even have a $2,000 USD Watermelon…
If you want to see a list of foods to try in Japan, you can click here.
Plan What You Are Going To Buy Beforehand
As you know, Japan has so many interesting and unique things you can buy that it can definitely overwhelm you.
From things like anime, electronics, tea, and snacks, it will definitely make a hole in your wallet.
So if you are planning on buying things like a souvenir or something, try to plan ahead so that you’ll know exactly what you want to buy.
This way you only buy what you know you want and won’t have to spend extra on other items that randomly come your way.
Check If There’s Construction
When you head to Japan, you’ll want to make note of what things are currently under construction.
Since after all, with the Olympics coming and what not, many places in Japan are trying to ramp up their attractions to make it look as good as it can possibly look.
Which means, certain attractions will be closed due to maintenance or construction.
You don’t want to waste your time visiting an attraction only to find out when you get there that it is closed.
So instead, try to research ahead of time to see which areas are open and which areas are closed.
A good resource to use is this link, as it will show you any major construction works that are going on in Japan.
Get Travel Insurance
Just like any major travel trip you do, you’ll want to have travel insurance before you leave.
For instance, Japan has quite a few tsunamis and earthquakes that happen all throughout the year.
You’ll want to be protected in case any emergency might happen, and the only way to do that is to have travel insurance.
So be sure to read the fine print and see whether or not your insurance is able to cover certain things and more.
Common Questions You Might Have About A Trip To Japan
How Long Should You Travel There?
To be honest, this answer is dependent on each and every person. Mainly because there are so many factors you have to consider.
From things like, how much time off you can take to even how much you are willing to spend.
Not only that, but you have to ask yourself, how much you are wanting to explore here in Japan.
In my honest opinion, 2 weeks is definitely enough time for you to see majority of the places in Japan. You might not be able to see the entirety of Japan, but it will be enough time to see all the highlights without having to rush your way through.
What If I Don’t Know Japanese?
This is highly dependent on where you are going to be in Japan.
For instance, in more rural areas, they might not know as much English if any. But if you are in one of the more popular cities like Tokyo or Osaka, then some of the people might understand basic English.
However one thing you can do is download the app Google Translate and it’ll help translate what you are trying to say into Japanese.
Should I Go On A Tour?
You can if you want, but I would highly suggest you to just travel around yourself without a tour.
Mainly because a tour will take you to all the popular places, but they’ll leave out all the unpopular areas. Not only that, but you won’t get to spend as much time as you like for certain attractions.
When you are by yourself following your own itinerary, you can see what you want, do what you want without a care in the world.
So in the end, it’s really up to you.
Overall, planning your trip to Japan isn’t really a hard thing to do.
Hopefully this list was able to help you out in some way to make your Japan trip a whole lot easier.
Also, if you are planning to visit Japan anytime soon, you might also be interested in some of my other Japan posts.
- Tokyo – 20 Things To Do In Tokyo
- Osaka – 18 Amazing Things To Do In Osaka
- Kyoto – 14 Awesome Things To Do In Kyoto
- Japan – 20 Amazing Foods You Have To Try In Japan
Or you can check out my complete list of things to do in Japan by clicking here.
Let me know how your trip goes!