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Travel Basics

It’s crucial to do your research properly before travelling to another country, especially one where you most likely don’t speak the language. This will help you get the most out of your experience abroad.Here is some basic information you should have while planning your journey.

Tips for Budget Travellers

money-pusheen

  • Japan Rail's JapanRail 7 Day Pass allows for unlimited travel on JR lines throughout the entire country, which will save travellers a lot of money and time spent buying tickets. You can also use the pass on connected buses and ferries.
  • Purchasing an Economy Ticket or JR's 1-Day Pass in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka will also give you a lot of savings on transportation costs.
  • The Welcome Card (Culture Card) is available to foreign travellers for free and allows you to get discounts and specials services at tourist attractions, museums, galleries, shopping areas, accomodations, and transportation services. You can get the card at local information centres in Japan or through the JNTO website.
  • You can save a lot of money by eating at or getting take-out from fast-food establishments. Weekday lunches are some of the cheapest meals you can get! Also try to avoid eating in popular tourist areas, since all the prices will be higher than usual there.
  • 100 Yen Shops are becoming more popular in Japan and sell a wide range of items for daily use, including food, and are usually found in busy areas, like train stations or shopping districts (Note: 100 yen = approx. $1 CAD).
  • Try staying overnight in minshuku, hostels, business hotels, or even temples to save money. You can look at the Accomodations page for more information.
  • If you plan to take local flights between cities in Japan, you should try and buy your ticket in advance and combine it with your international flight to Japan. This will save you a lot of money!
  • Japan For Free lists several attractions all across the country that you can vist at no cost!

Transportation

Japan has one of the most developed and efficient transportation systems in the world. While there is a variety of transportation methods in Japan, ranging from trains and buses to car rentals and domestic flights, I'm going to focus on more of the affordable options.

jr-train

The rail service, provided by Japan Railways (JR), can take you to almost any destination in Japan. Rail is probably the most efficient and effective way to travel in Japan. JR's long distance service uses shinkansen (bullet trains) that provide super fast, reliable, and punctual transportation. You can purchase passes based on time length (7, 14, and 21 day) and region (Hokkaido, East, West Sanyo, West Kansai, Kyushu).

Subway lines are available in all the major cities in Japan and are just as efficient as the long distance rail. Subway transportation is pretty affordable, as fares rage from 130 to 170 Yen ($1.50-$1.70 CAD). Don't be surprised if you fee someone wearing white gloves shoving people on to trains - this is their job since the train stations can get super crowded at times. Bus service is also available in all cities, but it is more difficult for non-Japanese speakers to use than the subway or train.

Rental bicycles are available at most tourist destinations and walking is also great way to save money and see the sights Japan has to offer!

Social Customs

bowing-in-japan

  • It is common practice to bow slightly when greeting someone or meeting them for the first time. A slight 15 degree bow or nod of the head is considered acceptable, so you don't need to do a full 45 degree bow - those are reserved for more formal or serious occasions.
  • Make sure to take off your shoes when entering a home or public venue, like restaurants, temples, or shrine
  • It's socially acceptable to eat sushi with your hands and slurp when eating noodles
  • There is no tipping in most service situations in Japan. Tipping your cab driver or waiter is seen as rude, since the the service given has already been covered by the price
  • Most people wear a mask in public when they have a cold and it's considered rude to blow your nose in public.
  • It is polite to apologize very frequently for small mistakes
  • Names are very important in Japanese culture. The word for "you" can be considered rude. Unless you're familiar with them, you should address a person by their last name with the title "-san" afterwards

Useful Japanese Phrases

phrases

The JNTO's Tourist Language Handbook is a helpful reference if you're trying to communicate with non-English speakers, as it has Japanese and English translations of common phrases.

General Information

prefuncture-map

Here is a more detailed map of the country that shows the prefunctures of each region. If you'd like to learn more about what each region has to offer, check out the Explore Japan section.

  • The peak travel seasons to Japan are around the Year End and New Year holidays (Dec 27-Jan 4), the Golden Week holiday season (April 29-May 5), and the Bon festival season (week of August 15).
  • The climate of Japan is usualy mild and light clothing can be worn year round, except for winter. However, the weather you experience will vary greatly depending on whether you travel to the sub-tropical region of Kyushu or the snowy mountains of Chubu region.
  • The currency of Japan is the the yen (¥). 100 Yen equals about $1 CAD - so don't be too concerned when you see that a soda costs 200 Yen.
  • Traveller's checks and international credit cards (American Express, Visa, MasterCard) are acceptable at major establishments like banks, hotels, ryokan, and stores in big cities. ATMs marked as "International Servie" can be used to get more money if you're in a tight spot. However, if you're travelling to rural or remote areas, it's probably better to have cash on hand with you.
  • Tap water is safe to drink anywhere in Japan!
  • Some North American electronics will work properly with Japanese outlets without an adapter, but be careful! Certain equipment, especially equipment involving heating (e.g. hair dryers, straighteners) may not work properly or even get damaged. It's probably good to have an adapter or converter just in case.
  • The emergency numbers are 110 for the police and 119 to report a fire.
  • There are special emergency services that exist for non-Japanese speakers and foreigners who are travelling in the country.
    • Tokyo English Life Line: 03-5774-0992 (Daily 9 a.m.-11 p.m.)
    • Tourist Information Center: 03-3201-3331 (Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
    • Metropolitan Police Department Counseling Service for Foreigners: (03-3503-8484)