Planning a trip to Japan is no easy task. There’s a HUGE language barrier (many people speak no English at all), they have their own standards and are very closed minded in term of tourism. That’s actually one reason why the place seems still untouched and keeps its own culture, which, to me, is a great thing. However, when travelling, it just makes everything complicated.
1. Pocket WiFi
This is a life saver when travelling in Japan. Not only WiFi is not the easiest thing to get (in contrary to America, there are no Starbucks nor McDonald’s every corner), but it’s very useful to do everyday tasks. You can get those in airports or online if you know someone who lives in Japan. Also, a lot of AirBNB‘s are offering them for free.
I’m putting a smart phone on this list because there are specific apps that will make your life easier:
- Google Maps
Because you can pin point addresses and use the live compass to find yourself in this complicated country. Also, all train/subway schedules are available through this application.
- Google Translate (Japan/English version)
Since the recent updates, you can talk directly to the app and it’ll start a conversation with the person you’re trying to talk to. Just speak to the app, then show the cellphone to the other person and it’ll speak Japanese to him/her and if he or she speaks back in Japanese, it’ll do the inverse job to you! Also, you can put your phone to horizontal facing the other person and it’ll show the Japanese signs of what you’re trying to say in big, bold text that’s easy to read.
- (Any) Dictionary
It’s always useful, especially when trying to have a conversation with someone. They often search for words that makes no sense to us, so the synonym section is super useful.
- Line Chat
If you meet people in Japan, this is a must. Almost everyone under 35 use Line Chat as a popular way to talk to each other. You’ll get used to it.
3. Passmo / Suica Card
These cards are awesome. It’s a magnetic card that allows you to take the subway or train in pretty much any big city (Tokyo & Osaka as well as their suburbs) so you don’t have to buy tickets everytime you take public transport. The magnetism of this cars is great, just put it on your wallet and hit your wallet on the sensors when required. You can also use these cards to pay for Taxi, Vending Machines & at many grocery stores (there will be a sign showing it’s accepted). To get these cards, go at an information center in a big station (such as Shibuya, Shinjuku or even Narita Airport).
4. Japan Rail Pass
This thing is ONLY available for those who DON’T live in Japan. Why? Because the deal is WAY too good. It’s basically an unlimited pass for local trains and Shinkansen (400 km/h bullet train) that are using JR Railways (most of them are). You cannot use ALL Shinkansen with the regular card, however, you just need to ask someone working at the information to prepare all your itinary and you’re all set, it’s super quick, too, and you have reserved seats. It’s an expensive card, but totally worth it. Mine cost around $400 for 14 days and I’ve used it for around $950 value, so it was $450 savings on my trip here and I travelled first class (Shinkansens are awesome and SUPER fast). You can get the card here.
5. Japan Yen Currency
You thought you were going to one of the world’s most advanced technology center? You are correct. However, they are really not up to date with recent payment methods and A LOT of place will NOT accept Credit Card payment. Also, most banks or ATM will NOT work with foreigner’s debit cards or credit card to get cash. I highly suggest to trade a lot of currency to be sure you can buy everything you need during your trip with cash. Here’s a tip for you : if you ever run out of cash, find a 7-Eleven as they usually accept international cards and it’s a life saver!
Bnous : Plan of your first destination on PAPER
This might sound stupid. But I highly suggest anyone who travels for the first time to Japan to make a real detailed step-by-step plan of their destination FROM their arrival airport. And have all this on paper in case you run out of battery. The cabs are SUPER expensive and there are NO street names nor door numbers. If you rent an apartment or hotel, ask for directions on how to find it as it’s really complicated to find anything… especially when you’re fighting jet lag!
Don’t forget to Subscribe! And in the next weeks, I’ll be in Japan, so I’ll try to bring more subjects related to my trip!