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14 Best Japan Travel Hacks: Travel Tips for Visiting

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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 having a more enjoyable experience.

One of my favorite things to do is travel (obviously). I may journey worldwide for little to no cost through travel hacking. There are a number of different components of 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.

How to Prepare for a Trip to Japan

Authentic Japanese Izakaya Pub Experience in Ginza, Tokyo - Traditional pub exterior with vibrant noren curtains and cozy ambiance
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

I want to clarify that our Japan travel tips and hacks primarily focus on essential things when you arrive. The way we think about travel hacking is based on these four components:

Travel rewards credit cards

Man Handing Over a Credit Card

Using travel rewards credit cards is a great way to travel more without spending much 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 use it correctly. Most cards offer bonus points or miles for specific types of spending, such as dining out or shopping.

Take advantage of these bonus categories and use your card for all purchases to maximize your rewards. You’ll also need to pay off your card each month. Many people forget that using a credit card means borrowing that money.

If you can’t pay off the balance in full every month, you should probably find a different travel rewards card. Otherwise, you are paying unnecessary interest charges on the money you spend. 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

Man Typing in a Laptop with Printred Insurance and Umbrella on Paper on its Side

When planning a trip to Japan, it’s important to ensure you have the right travel insurance. We recommend using SafetyWing (for an affordable policy) or TravelInsurance.com (to compare multiple policies).

This will protect you in case of any unexpected events or emergencies 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 cover medical or evacuation costs.

It is 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 have a huge bill to pay and, even worse, miss out on a fantastic trip.

See Related: Ways to Book the Cheapest First Class Flights

Travel hacks without a credit card

10000 Japanese Yen in a Book

Japan is a popular destination for its rich 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.

Japan is a cash-based society, so most businesses and restaurants don’t accept credit cards. This can be difficult for foreigners who are not used to carrying 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 return 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 having multiple cards and accounts set up with different banks if you plan to visit Japan for a long time. Have a Japan-specific international debit card so you can withdraw cash from Japan. If your home bank 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, ensure you know the different types of award tickets and how to book them.

There are several ways to book award travel, but the most common is through airline websites or online travel agencies like Skyscanner or Kayak. Another thing to remember 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 an online travel agency, but it may also come with additional fees like baggage 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 before booking anything. More and more people today are embracing travel hacking to make their vacations better and cheaper.

See Related: Booking Sites for Cheap Flights and Hotels

Choose your season carefully

Peaceful pond and lush greenery at Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Japan is an amazing country with many 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, spring is the best time.

However, fall might be a better choice if you’re looking for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

Summer in Japan

Serene Shinjuku Gyoen Pavilion and traditional Japanese garden in Tokyo
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Summer in Japan can be a great time to visit, especially if you’re looking for cooler temperatures. Remember 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

Cherry Blossoms and a Shrine

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. The cherry blossom season only lasts 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 stroll through a park or a Japanese garden, where you can admire the beauty of the flowers up close and personal.

Winter in Japan

Falling Snow and People in Jackets Walking on an Empty Streets

Winter in Japan can be a great time to visit if you want 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 Colors in Trees Surrounding a Shrine

Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year to visit Japan. The leaves turn 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 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 seasons, so there are great reasons to visit in every season. If you want to get the most out of your next trip, consider the following travel hacking tips.

See Related: The Fascinating Hells of Beppu, Japan

Top Japan Travel Tips & Hacks

These simple hacks can make your life easier when you visit Japan and save you a lot of money.

1. Take advantage of green taxis

Green Vehicle in the road Surrounded by Buildings

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 ensure 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 love working on trains, planes, and (sometimes) automobiles. There’s nothing better than getting things done while in transit. Efficiency is everything.

I did not purchase 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 Wi-Fi access, I slotted 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. You can also get Docomo beyond the Shinkansen bullet trains in many places.

3. Use the Japan rail pass as much as possible and book early

One of the most important tips for traveling in Japan is to use the extraordinary public transport offered there. The Japan rail pass is an excellent way to travel around the country for a one-time fee that offers unlimited travel throughout Japan.

The Japanese railway system is one of the world’s most effective and efficient operations. I was amazed at how easily I could get around. One thing that many 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, but Google Maps often tells you to use the subway because it runs more often. Japan’s rail pass also includes the subway system, which can save some money.

The JR pass allows you to travel on major lines all over Japan. It is pretty easy to book it online, or you can always ask your hotel or hostel for help.

Get the most bang for your buck with your JR pass and ride JR trains rather than the subway system. If you take the subway from Tokyo city center, purchase the cheapest fare and show your JR pass upon exit.

Another aspect of the JR pass is that you will need your pass shipped to your address before your trip. Once you receive your pass, you must activate it 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 ensure you plan out your train times right then and there. Lines can get very long when 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 costly. Japan is one of the most expensive countries to travel to, but with a JR pass, you will save money traveling around. Grab your Japan rail pass now and save money.

Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo: tourists and locals engage in activities, offering prayers and soaking in history under a clear sky.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

When you buy tickets in advance to popular activities in Japan, you’re guaranteeing yourself a spot at whatever 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, you can usually get a discounted price by buying tickets ahead of time.

5. Exchanging your currency is pretty easy

Japanese 10000 Yen

Another travel tip is not to worry too much about how or where to exchange money. You can do this at the airport or inside the city center at a Japanese 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 to get 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

Authentic sushi platter and drinks at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

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 eat what you think tastes good.

Most people do not know you can order the sashimi you want if you ask for an a la carte menu. You can make your plate of different types of fish. Depending on what type of sashimi you order, it might be more or less expensive.

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

People Walking in a Street

The best thing to do when you visit Japan is to meet some locals. A trip to Japan can be expensive, especially if you avoid Japan’s famously low-priced public transport. Many locals would happily hang out with you for a few hours and show you 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 the hardest tip since you may not know anyone in Japan.

So, plan 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

Google Translate App Logo

Learning basic Japanese words before you arrive is always a good idea, and that should be a rule of thumb for any place you visit. The language barrier can be a real challenge, depending on your location.

To make your life (and those of others) easier, download the Google Translate app and turn it off (in case you don’t have a service). This is another approach to preparing for a vacation 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.

However, Japanese is a significantly different language from English. The thinking about the language is done differently, naturally resulting in a language barrier. You may not have that luxury in the Japanese countryside, 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 could not 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 unique and special. It’s a lot different from traditional Western thinking, making travel unique. Read up on proper etiquette before your Japan trip.

11. Try everything!

Master sushi chefs preparing fresh sushi at Tsukiji Market Tokyo
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The food is exquisite, and there are 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 in Japan, so you must 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

Beverages in a Japanese Convenience Store

Japan’s convenience stores 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 tide you over until you have a more formal sit-down meal.

The stores are also great for getting 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 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

Shibuya Scramble Crossing illuminated at night with no pedestrians
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are some of the most popular destinations in Japan, and with good reason – they offer a fantastic mix of history, culture, and modern amenities. However, hordes of tourists can sometimes make these cities feel a bit overwhelming. 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 immaculate. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the crowds and make the most of your trip:

  1. Plan ahead: Know what attractions you want to visit and plan ahead of time. This will help you avoid wasting time figuring out what to do next.
  2. Use public transportation: Taking the subway or bus is often the quickest way around these cities.
  3. Avoid peak hours: Avoid visiting popular tourist attractions during peak hours (i.e., lunchtime, weekends, or national holidays).
  4. You don’t have to do it all: Japan has many worthwhile attractions that are not as well-known outside the country. Don’t feel obligated to visit every sightseeing spot on your bucket list – spend some time on a less crowded attraction instead!
  5. Go during the week: Japan’s peak travel season is typically in August, so it can be very crowded. 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)

Old Woman Using a Vending Machine

If you’re traveling to Japan, be sure to take advantage of the country’s amazing vending machines. There’s a machine for 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 a wide variety of products.

You can find everything from standard sodas and chips to unique items like octopus-flavored crackers and squid-ink ice cream. And if you’re looking for a caffeine fix, plenty of machines dispense hot coffee, too. Another great thing about Japanese vending machines is their variety of payment options. Most machines accept cash and credit cards; some even have touch screens allowing 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 provided a fresh perspective on my passion for travel.

If you remember your mistakes so 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.

FAQs

Can you travel cheaply in Japan?

Yes. Traveling around Japan can cost less than 100 dollars daily; you can easily travel 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). 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 two meals (no drinks) at an izakaya would definitely be the cheapest option.

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 they are less efficient than the subway and train systems.

How should I prepare for a trip to Tokyo?

Tokyo is an amazing city to visit, but before you go, you should do a few things 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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