A trip to Japan is a must-do for any serious traveler. Here are some of our favorite travel hacks for Japan to help you save time and money while also having a more enjoyable experience.
One of my favorite things to do is traveling (obviously). I may journey across the world for little to no cost through travel hacking.
There are a number of different components to travel hacking to consider. I’d love to clarify the definition of travel hacking from the perspective of our lens.
Here are the Japan travel hacks that you need to know.
Table of Contents
- How to Prepare for a Trip to Japan
- Travel rewards credit cards
- Which credit cards are best for travel in Japan?
- Lock in your trip with travel insurance
- Travel hacks without a credit card
- Booking award travel efficiently and effectively
- Choose your season carefully
- Summer in Japan
- Spring in Japan
- Winter in Japan
- Autumn/Fall in Japan
- Top Japan Travel Tips & Hacks
- 1. Take advantage of green taxis
- 2. Buy docomo wi-fi before getting on the Shinkansen
- 3. Use the Japan rail pass as much as possible and book early
- 4. Buy tickets in advance to popular activities
- 5. Exchanging your currency is pretty easy
- 6. Order sushi / sashimi a la carte to save money and get what you want
- 7. Find a way to meet with locals
- 8. Prepare for a wi-fi disabled trip (depending on where you are)
- 9. Use the Google translate app
- 10. Don’t carry disposable trash with you
- 11. Try everything!
- 12. Make use of the ridiculous convenience stores
- 13. Major cities are not overwhelming
- 14. Vending machines are amazing in Japan (and everywhere)
- Final Thoughts
- Can you travel cheaply in Japan?
- What is the cheapest way to travel around Tokyo?
- How should I prepare for a trip to Tokyo?
How to Prepare for a Trip to Japan
I want to make it clear that our Japan travel tips and hacks are primarily focused on things that are essential when you arrive.
The way we think about travel hacking is based on these four essential components:
Travel rewards credit cards
Using travel rewards credit cards is a great way to travel more without spending a lot of extra money.
There are a number of different travel rewards credit cards available, so it’s important to do your research and find the card that best suits your needs.
Some cards offer points or miles that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, or other types of travel. Others offer perks such as lounge access or free checked bags.
To take advantage of your travel rewards credit card, you’ll need to make sure you are using it correctly. Most cards offer bonus points or miles for specific types of spending, such as dining out or shopping.
Be sure to take advantage of these bonus categories and use your card for all of your purchases to maximize your rewards.
You’ll also need to pay off your card each month. I know, it sounds obvious, but many people forget that using a credit card means you are borrowing that money.
If you aren’t able to pay off the balance in full every single month, then you should probably find a different travel rewards card. Otherwise, you are paying unnecessary interest charges on the money you spent.
Always pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
Which credit cards are best for travel in Japan?
Not all travel rewards credit cards are created equal, so it’s important to find the one that can maximize your Japan trip as much as possible.
Lock in your trip with travel insurance
When you’re planning a trip to Japan, it’s important to make sure you have the right travel insurance in place. We recommend using World Nomads (for an affordable policy) or TravelInsurance.com (to compared multiple policies).
This will protect you in case of any unexpected events or emergencies that may occur while you’re away.
When shopping for travel insurance, be sure to read the fine print and compare policies carefully.
Some policies may cover cancellations or lost baggage, while others may offer coverage for medical expenses or evacuation costs.
It’s important to choose a policy that best suits your needs and protects you from as many potential risks as possible.
Travel insurance is especially important when traveling to Japan, as the country is known for its high rates of natural disasters.
If something happens while you’re there and you don’t have travel insurance, you could end up with a huge bill to pay and even worse end up missing out on an amazing trip.
Travel hacks without a credit card
Japan is a popular travel destination for many reasons: its rich Japanese culture, delicious food, and stunning landscapes.
However, Japan can also be expensive, so it’s important to know some travel hacks to help you save time and money.
One of the best Japan travel tips is to avoid using your credit card.
Japan is a cash-based society, so most businesses and restaurants don’t accept credit cards.
This can be difficult for foreigners who aren’t used to carrying around large amounts of cash. However, there are a few ways to get around this.
First, you can use a prepaid travel card or currency exchange card. These cards allow you to load them up with yen before you travel, and then use them as a travel credit card during your trip.
When you get back to your home country, you can either load a new currency on them for use in another destination or withdraw the cash from them at an ATM.
Another travel hack is to have multiple cards and accounts set up with different banks if you plan on visiting Japan for a long time.
Have a Japan-specific international debit card so you can withdraw cash from Japan.
If your bank back home doesn’t have a Japan-specific debit card, sign up for one before your trip.
See Related: How to Book a Flight Without a Credit Card
Booking award travel efficiently and effectively
When it comes to booking award travel, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
First, make sure you’re familiar with the different types of awards tickets and how to book them.
Another thing to keep in mind when booking award travel is the various fees associated with different tickets.
For instance, booking a ticket through an airline website may be cheaper than using an online travel agency, but it may also come with additional fees like baggage fees or seat selection fees. Be sure to compare the total cost of each ticket before making your final decision.
Finally, always be sure to read the fine print. Sometimes there are blackout dates or limitations on award tickets, so it’s important to be aware of these before booking anything.
More and more people today are embracing travel hacking as a way to make their vacations better and cheaper.
Choose your season carefully
Japan is an amazing country with plenty of things to see and do, but when is the best time to visit?
The answer depends on what you’re looking for in a trip. If you want to see the beautiful cherry blossom season, then spring is the best time to go.
However, if you’re looking for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, then fall might be a better choice.
Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan can be a great time to visit, especially if you’re looking for cooler temperatures.
Keep in mind that typhoons can be a risk during this time of year, so be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out.
You’ll also want to be prepared for hot, humid weather. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a view of Mount Fuji, although the chances of seeing it are lower during the summer months.
Spring in Japan
Springtime in Japan is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The cherry blossoms are in bloom, and the weather is warm and pleasant.
However, the cherry blossom season only lasts for a few weeks, so it’s important to plan your trip accordingly.
One of the best ways to enjoy the cherry blossom season is to take a stroll through a park or a Japanese garden, where you can admire the beauty of the flowers up close and personal.
Winter in Japan
Winter in Japan can be a great time to visit if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. The ski season is in full swing, so the cities will be more populated than usual, but the ski resorts are definitely worth a visit.
Mount Fuji is also more likely to be visible in December due to the warmer winter breeze and limited humidity for cloud coverage.
Autumn/Fall in Japan
Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year to visit Japan. The leaves begin to turn a brilliant red and orange, and the weather is calm and cool.
In the months leading up to November, cities like Kyoto have a night tour called “Yozakura” where all of the lanterns in Gion light up and remain lit until midnight. This is an experience you will not want to miss.
Japan is an island nation with four separate seasons, so there are great reasons to go in every season.
If you really want to get the most out of your next trip, consider some of the following travel hacking tips for your trip to Japan.
Top Japan Travel Tips & Hacks
These simple hacks can make your life easier when you visit Japan. Plus, they can help you save a lot of money.
1. Take advantage of green taxis
Green taxis are the most affordable taxis in Japan and they’re easy to flag down on the street or at a taxi stand.
The only problem is that there aren’t enough of them. If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on this great opportunity, you should always choose a green taxi instead of a regular one.
2. Buy docomo wi-fi before getting on the Shinkansen
I absolutely love working on trains, planes and (sometimes) automobiles. There’s nothing better than getting things done while in transit. Efficiency is everything.
I made the error of not purchasing a wi-fi docomo pass for the Shinkansen (the Japanese bullet train). While traveling by rail, I like to work. Because I didn’t have access to wifi, I ended up slotting in a lot of work time on my trip, which was almost entirely wasted.
I’m usually pretty efficient, so I figured out how to get by without having access to the internet… Thank you, Microsoft Outlook. For around $3, purchase a day pass for docomo wi-fi.
There are lots of places where you can get docomo beyond the Shinkansen bullet trains as well.
3. Use the Japan rail pass as much as possible and book early
One of the most important Japan travel tips is making use of the extraordinary public transport offered in Japan.
The Japan rail pass is an excellent way to travel around the entire country for a one-time fee that offers basically unlimited travel throughout the entire country of Japan.
The Japanese railway system is one of the most effective and efficient operations in the world. I was amazed at how easy I could get around.
One thing that a lot of people don’t know about is the Japan rail pass. It works for a number of different train lines in Tokyo.
There are two train systems in Tokyo, the subway and the JR. They both work just as well, but Google maps will often tell you to use the subway because they run more often. Japan rail pass includes the subway system as well, which can save some money.
You can use the JR pass to travel on major lines all over Japan. It is pretty easy to book it online, or you can always ask your hotel/hostel for help.
Get the most bang for your buck with your JR pass and opt for riding JR trains rather than the subway system. If you take the subway from Tokyo city center, purchase the cheapest fare, and upon exit just show your JR pass.
Another piece of the JR pass is that you will need your pass to be shipped to your address in advance of your trip. Also, once you receive your pass you will need to activate your pass at one of the major rail stations.
Save this for the best day when you will start traveling on the Japan train system. This will ensure that your pass won’t run out before you leave.
Once you have activated your JR pass, talk to the agent at the train station that activated it to book all of your train times on the spot. This will make sure you plan out all of your train times right then and there.
Lines can get very long for booking rail tickets, so avoid doing this each time you want to ride the JR train network.
Although a trip to Japan is a dream destination for many, it can be very expensive.
Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world to travel to, but with a JR pass, you will save money traveling around.
Grab your Japan rail pass now and save money.
4. Buy tickets in advance to popular activities
When you buy tickets in advance to popular activities in Japan, you’re guaranteeing yourself a spot at whatever it is that you’re interested in doing.
This is especially important for high-demand activities like theme park rides, cooking classes, robot shows, hot springs, private onsen experiences, and more.
Plus, by buying tickets ahead of time, you can usually get a discounted price.
5. Exchanging your currency is pretty easy
Another travel tip is to not worry too much about how or where to exchange money. You can do this at the airport or inside the city center at a Japan money exchange center like Mr. Donut or Japan Post.
Japan Post ATMs give you your cash in Japan yen — even if you use an ATM card from another country.
So, Japan Post is the best way for getting your cash while avoiding conversion fees. You’ll typically get a better exchange rate when you exchange money by using an ATM or a bank directly.
6. Order sushi / sashimi a la carte to save money and get what you want
Ordering sushi in Japan is hard because there are different types of fish. Japanese words for the food might confuse you.
But you can order it and just eat what you think tastes good.
Most people do not know that if you ask for an a la carte menu, you can order the sashimi you want. You can make your plate of different types of fish. It might be more or less expensive depending on what type of sashimi you order.
This travel tip is truly based on personal preference, but most people don’t know that you can order a la carte at nearly every place. Most restaurants want you to pay the premium price for the pre-set sashimi plates.
7. Find a way to meet with locals
The best thing that you can possibly do when you visit Japan is to meet up with some locals.
A trip to Japan can be expensive, especially if you are avoiding Japan’s famously low-priced public transport. Many locals would be happy to hang out with you for a few hours and show you around their favorite hidden spots for excellent Japanese food.
Japan is best experienced with locals, so remember to take advantage of this opportunity if you can. It’s by far the hardest tip since you may not know a single person in Japan.
So, plan ahead and accordingly. Japanese people are friendly and fun to be around. To make the most of this amazing country, make sure you get the opportunity to experience local culture.
8. Prepare for a wi-fi disabled trip (depending on where you are)
One of my favorite things about international travel is that I can be off the grid. I like to plan for any unforeseen events.
People don’t often realize that if you are not online, Google maps will show your location even though it uses GPS and does not require an internet or data connection.
Prepare for locations and landmarks by saving them on your map before you arrive.
9. Use the Google translate app
It’s always a good idea to learn basic Japanese words before you arrive and that should be a rule of thumb for any place you visit. Depending on where you are, the language barrier can be a real challenge.
To make your life (and others around you) easier, download the Google translate the app and turn it to offline mode (in case you don’t have service).
This is another approach to prepare for a vacation that will be limited by wi-fi. This is a fantastic method to overcome language barriers.
All you have to do is scan the language, and the translation in English will appear. In Tokyo and other big cities, English is common and known by most Japanese people. English can be found in a number of places like public transportation and train stations.
But Japanese is a significantly different language than English. The thinking about the language is just done differently and that naturally results in a language barrier.
However, in the Japanese countryside, you may not have that luxury so avoid any potential mishaps while visiting Japan.
10. Don’t carry disposable trash with you
When it comes to carrying and consuming meals or beverages in public, Japanese people are known for not doing so.
As a result, there aren’t many public trash cans available to use while walking down the road. I couldn’t tell you how many times I held onto a water bottle or two because I was unable to toss them away.
Trash cans aren’t a common sight on the streets of Tokyo, either. Live like a Japanese citizen and refuse to take food or drink away with you. In a private setting, eat and drink only what you require.
Japanese culture is very unique and is truly special. It’s a lot different than traditional western thinking and that’s what makes travel so amazing. Read up on proper etiquette before your Japan trip.
11. Try everything!
The food is exquisite and there are so many different types to try. Not only that, but the customer service is excellent at nearly every restaurant in Japan and you can be sure that the quality of the ingredients and preparation is very important to them.
Plus, it’s clean – which is always a plus. You won’t find good meals anywhere else here in Japan, so you need to try everything.
“Trying everything” doesn’t apply to just the food. Do not be afraid or avoid unique experiences in Japan as well.
There are plenty of unique things to see and do in Japan like cat cafes, owl cafes, maid cafes, no-interaction ramen bars, and so much more. Try something different, it will open your eyes to a new cultural experience.
12. Make use of the ridiculous convenience stores
The convenience stores in Japan are great for getting your caffeine fix on the go, as Japan has some of the best coffee in the world.
You can also find food here that will tie you over until you have a more formal sit-down meal.
The stores are also great for getting your hands on some cheap snacks and drinks.
One of the best things about these convenience stores is that they’re open 24 hours a day, so you can get your food and drink at any time of the day or night. These are excellent options for saving money on your trip to Japan.
13. Major cities are not overwhelming
Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are some of the most popular destinations in Japan, and with good reason – they offer an amazing mix of history, culture, and modern amenities.
However, hordes of tourists can make these cities feel a bit overwhelming at times. That is the only thing that makes the huge crowds overwhelming.
Tokyo is the most populated city in the world but it actually is very calm in light of the hustle and bustle. and the city is incredibly clean all things considered.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the crowds and make the most of your trip:
- Plan ahead: Know what attractions you want to visit and make a plan ahead of time. This will help you avoid wasting time trying to figure out what to do next.
- Use public transportation: Taking the subway or bus is often the quickest way to get around these cities.
- Avoid peak hours: Try to avoid visiting popular tourist attractions during peak hours (i.e. lunchtime, weekends, or national holidays).
- You don’t have to do it all: Japan has many worthwhile attractions that are not as well-known outside of the country. Don’t feel obligated to visit every sightseeing spot on your bucket list – spend some time on a less crowded attraction instead!
- Go during the week: Japan’s peak travel season is typically in August, so it can be very crowded during this time. If you’re visiting during summer vacation, try to go earlier or later than this month.
14. Vending machines are amazing in Japan (and everywhere)
If you’re traveling to Japan, be sure to take advantage of the country’s amazing vending machines. There’s a machine for practically everything, from cold drinks and snacks to hot coffee and cigarettes.
One of the best things about vending machines in Japan is that they offer such a wide variety of products.
You can find everything from standard sodas and chips to more unique items like octopus-flavored crackers and squid-ink ice cream. And if you’re looking for a caffeine fix, there are plenty of machines that dispense hot coffee, too.
Another great thing about Japanese vending machines is their variety of payment options. Most machines accept both cash and credit cards, and some even have touch screens that allow you to type in your order.
Traveling across different countries might be difficult. It can be overwhelming at times.
But you can do it! You should attempt to follow in my footsteps in Japan. It was a lot of fun, and it provided a fresh perspective to my passion for travel.
If you remember your mistakes so that you don’t quarrel with your friends while traveling, Japan is a wonderful destination.
Japan is truly one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. I hope this helps you make the most of your trip to Japan.
What do you most look forward to during your trip to Japan? I’d love to hear from you.
Can you travel cheaply in Japan?
Yes. Traveling around Japan can cost less than 100 dollars per day, you can travel with ease by using subways or buses.
If you are looking for cheap accommodation, you can opt for staying in a hostel or guesthouse that costs around 4000-5000 yen per night ($40-$50), and this may be the cheapest option if you’re not planning on cooking while also getting insight into what local life is like.
If you don’t mind eating out, then 2 meals (no drinks) at an izakaya would definitely be the cheapest way to eat.
What is the cheapest way to travel around Tokyo?
The cheapest way to travel in Tokyo is by subway and train. Prepaid Suica/Pako cards are the best way to pay for transportation.
You can purchase Suica cards online in advance and pick them up at airports. The taxi service is excellent but very expensive. Buses are not recommended for travelers for longer periods as it’s simply not as efficient as the subway and train system.
How should I prepare for a trip to Tokyo?
Tokyo is an amazing city to visit, but before you go, there are a few things you should do to make the most of your trip.
First, book your flight and accommodation; then reserve Japan Rail passes and download Google Maps to help you navigate the city. You’ll also want to bring some hard cash in Yen and extra bags for shopping.
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