I found travelling to Japan wasn’t as easy as landing, then starting your trip there and then. There were quite a few things I needed to plan before I arrived. I realised after my first trip, that I missed out on a lot of great things; because, I didn’t plan and pre-book some of the unique attractions.
Buy a Japan Rail Pass
If you intend to cover a large protion of Japan, I highly recommend pre-booking a JR Pass. The pass covers you on most trains throughout Japan, and will save you a lot of money.
The pass allows access to shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains. It will also cover you on some local JR bus services, (not on highway buses), Tokyo monorail to and from Haneda Airport, and the ferry to Miyajima from Hiroshima.
It must be purchase outside of Japan, a voucher pack will be posted to your country of residence, which then has a 3 month expiry. You must travel to Japan and exchange the voucher within 3 months of the date of issue. You must also be a non-japanese national travelling to Japan on a temporary visa. For more information and to purchase a JR Pass you can click here.
The voucher can be exchanged at the airport on arrival, once exchanged the date cannot be altered.
I recommend purchasing an ordinary JR Pass. Green class provides slightly more space and priority bookings; however, ordinary class has plenty of space and is just as immaculate.
Book in Advance
I have alway been a serendipitous traveller. When I arrived in Japan I had plans to visit some amazing places, I ended up missing out on quite a few things (which isn’t all bad, because, I had an excuse to go back).
I highly recommend researching if some things need to be booked in advance. With the dense population, and the interest of travellers heading to Japan, so many attractions require a 3 month advance booking.
Accomodation in Japan is much the same, where possible I recommend booking in advance. Hotels can be quite expensive and book out fast, staying in hostels is a great idea to save money, which, they also provide private rooms.
I found that most hostels were nicer and cleaner to stay than some hotels, so don’t be afraid to book a hostel once in a while. You will meet some amazing people along the way if you do.
Staying in a Ryokan will give you a traditional Japanese living experience. If you are travelling solo this may be a little harder, as most Ryokans require a minimum of 2 guests to make a booking.
Wifi and Sim Cards
It’s possibly to organise portable wifi and a Japanese sim card prior to arriving in Japan; however, one of the other will suffice.
You can pre order online, or you can organise wifi an a sim card at the airport when you land. This way you can return your rental wifi at the same time as fly out day.
I recommend one of these two options; as once you leave the airport it can become a little confusing to locate a service to purchase wifi or sim cards.
Although there are free wifi locations throughout Japan, it’s very easy to get lost and lose your wifi signal. Many street signs are written in Japanese. This is where a portable wifi and google maps saved me, although I found myself on some pretty amazing adventures when when I didn’t know where I was going.