I found travelling to Japan wasn’t as easy as landing, then starting the trip. There were quite a few things I needed to plan before I arrived. I realised after my first trip, that I’d missed out on a lot of great things; because, I didn’t plan or pre-book some of the unique attractions.
So here’s my list of things to consider, when planning a trip to Japan.
Buy a Japan Rail Pass
If you intend to cover a large portion 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.
It will allow access to shinkansen (bullet trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains. As well as 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, and is only available non-Japanese nationals 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, which I ended up missing out on, because I failed to book in advance (it’s not all bad, I have an excuse to go back).
I highly recommend researching your bookings. 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, and it’s very easy to book accomodation while you’re there. I always like to book the first couple of nights, the play the rest by ear.
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, especially if you’re a solo traveller. 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
You can organise portable wifi and a Japanese sim card online prior to arriving in Japan, however, one or the other will suffice. On my last trip, I just hired a wifi dongle, which covered all my needs for the trip.
You can pre order online, or organise wifi and a sim card at the airport when you land.
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 I didn’t know where I was going.