Visiting Japan for the First Time: Start Your Adventure Right
Visiting Japan is on the top of almost every seasoned traveler’s bucket list. But it is always best to dip your toes into the water before fully diving in. If you live in Europe, you will not be shocked or confused by the customs or requirements in nearby countries. However, Japan is a unique gem in East Asia, and the traditions differ from what most visitors see back home. And while locals do not expect foreigners to know the appropriate etiquette by heart, some tips can make a difference. Thus, if you cannot wait to get some well-deserved time away, and you are ready to do some good-old studying, be our guest!
Open Google Docs (or your preferred software) to jot down essential details, scour Instagram for the most beautiful spots, and discover Japan with our tips for first-time visitors.
Buy a 4G SIM card or consider hiring a pocket Wi-Fi Device
Although there is free Wi-Fi at most establishments, public spaces, cafes, restaurants, and hotels throughout Japan, you should consider buying a 4G Japan SIM card or hiring pocket Wi-Fi that you can use on an unlocked phone during your travels.
With the internet dominating the world, many travelers prefer to stay connected with friends, family, and loved ones via their preferred communication channels and social media. They rely on smartphones and GPS for everything they need, including directions.
Also, consider that the average fees for mobile data in Japan are higher than anywhere else. Overseas roaming is still one of the nightmares people warn you about. While roaming prices have come down a bit, they can skyrocket rather quickly. Check with your mobile provider about the prices and be extremely vigilant. Thus, if you must use cellular data, use it for checking maps or locations. For streaming or other highly bandwidth-heavy activities, pick alternatives like hotel or Airbnb Wi-Fi. However, even the latter option is not the one you can rely on.
After all, it is easy for random strangers to snoop on your activities once you connect to public Wi-Fi. Since these networks lack encryption, the information you submit could travel unencrypted (meaning, anyone can read it). Thus, travelers know how beneficial a Virtual Private Network can be. It protects your data on any network by encrypting it. Thus, you can use any network you want and avoid those hefty charges for cellular data.
Tread carefully when buying a Japan Rail Pass
Many traveling blogs recommend buying a Japan Rail Pass when paying a visit to Japan. However, whether you need to buy it or not depends on what you plan to do while in Japan. While this pass can save you time, it can become a cost you simply don’t need as it doesn’t cover all types of bullet trains in the country. For more convenience, you can use a calculator to estimate whether the pass will be worth it.
Consider all the trips you plan on taking to see if you need this pass or not. Aside from JR, you also have two additional options – Tokyo Subway Pass and Suica card. The latter is reloadable and refundable. If you still decide you need a JR pass, buy it online in advance as it costs more when you buy it physically in Japan.
Pay attention when choosing your traveling season
There is no one-size-fits-all answer regarding the best time to visit Japan. It is very subjective and varies from person to person. Each season has its pros and cons. In other words, the best time to visit Japan depends on your preferences and interests as a traveler. If you don’t like crowds, you should consider paying a visit to Japan between August and September.
Knowing the most important dates can also help:
- Fall foliage (September-November).
- Public holidays.
- Golden week (includes four national holidays over seven days, 29th April-5th May).
- New Year’s (the first week of January).
- Cherry blossoms (the most popular time to visit Japan, the end of March to mid-April).
If you decide to visit on New Year’s Eve, keep in mind that some ATMs take a holiday break, many stores are closed, and transportation tends to be very crowded.
Book tickets in advance to popular activities
When you plan to visit some of the best tourist attractions in Japan, the best thing to do is to book and buy your tickets in advance. Some of the most popular events get quickly sold out, or the tickets become too expensive as the event draws near.
Since Japan has a vibrant and unique cultural heritage and a developed event culture, there will be plenty of events you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Some of the most popular events include:
- Traditional Kyoto tea ceremony with local people
- Hidden Bar hopping tour in Kyoto at night
- Legoland, Nagoya
- Studio Ghibli, Tokyo
- Universal Studios, Osaka
- Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
- Sumo Wrestling Tournament, Tokyo
- Hakone Free Pass
- Tokyo SkyTree
- Sanrio Puroland, Tokyo
- teamLab Borderless, Tokyo
- The Robot Restaurant, Tokyo
The last couple of things on our list include checking if you need a visa for Japan and purchasing travel insurance. If you’ve already taken care of that, you’re good to go. After finally considering everything for your itinerary, you can relax and enjoy.
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