Japan is one of the most popular destinations flocked by tourists from all over the world all year round. This doesn’t come as a surprise given how much Japan offers with its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and vibrant, modern cities.
Whether you’re planning to visit the futuristic city of Tokyo or witness the beauty of cherry blossoms blooming, we’ve put together some helpful travel tips to ensure your trip to Japan is smooth.
Planning Your Trip
1. Know the seasons when deciding on travel dates
The charm of Japan varies throughout the year as it’s a country of four seasons. While each of these seasons has a different experience to offer, it helps to know which season is most appealing to you before planning your travel dates.
If you want to witness nature’s beauty and see flowers in full bloom, visit during spring. If you prefer warmer weather during which you can visit beaches and lakes, you may prefer traveling during summer. Fall is one of the best times to visit in Japan. Walk through Japan’s many breathtaking parks and admire the vibrant autumn leaves. Of course for those who prefer cold weather, the winter season is the perfect fit.
Refer to this list for the seasons:
- Spring: April to May
- Summer: June to August
- Fall: September to November
- Winter: December to March
2. Plan ahead and prepare an itinerary
There are a hundred and one (perhaps more) destinations to visit and things to do in Japan, most of which are usually crowded all year long. As such, planning and creating an itinerary in advance is wise. Event and attraction tickets often sell out very quickly, more so during peak seasons. So purchase them online in advance where possible. Having an itinerary also makes getting around by public transport a lot easier!
Preparing For Your Trip
1. Check your passport validity and visa requirements
Your passport should have 6 months validity, as with visiting any other country. As for visas, Malaysians are not required to have one as long as it’s a short-term visit (90 days or less).
2. Fill up the disembarkation and customs cards ahead of time
To enter Japan, all foreign tourists must fill up 2 documents – the disembarkation card and the customs card. These cards are usually handed out in the airplane en route to Japan for you to fill in, but you can get it done online ahead of time these days. It’s an easy process and saves you a lot of time.
Visit this website and sign up for an account. Then, follow the instructions on the website to fill in the 2 forms. Once this is done, QR codes will be generated which you can scan at the airport and skip the queue!
3. Decide if you need a rail pass
When researching about visiting Japan on Google, you may come across multiple articles that suggest getting a Japan Rail Pass. While having one can be useful for getting around Japan, it may not always be the best option. Japan offers many different rail passes depending on which cities you will be visiting. This is another case where having an itinerary ahead of time comes in handy. Based on your itinerary, research all the different rail passes and decide which would be the best fit for you. At times you may not even need one.
4. Cash is king in Japan
Although Japan is renowned as a hi-tech futuristic country, it still relies heavily on cash, especially smaller businesses. Not all restaurants and local shops accept card payments. Make sure to exchange sufficient Yen before you take off.
5. Download these useful apps
- Google Translate or DeepL – comes in handy when trying to communicate with locals
- Japan Official Travel App – use this to plan train routes with accurate timing
- Google Maps – extremely useful for navigating Japan’s streets
- smartEX App – allows you to book Shinkansen (bullet train) tickets in advance
During Your Time in Japan
1. Purchase an IC Card
An IC Card works like Touch n’ Go, you can use it for fares on public transport networks with a single tap. Buying physical tickets can sometimes be confusing so having an IC card solves that issue. Although there are a few IC cards available depending on which city you buy them from, these cards can be used anywhere. Some vending machines and physical stores also accept payment via IC cards.
Just head to a JR ticket machine at any train station and purchase one. It’s so easy!
2. Learn some basic Japanese etiquette
Whenever visiting any foreign country, it’s wise to learn some basic local etiquette so as to not become the annoying type of tourist that everyone dislikes! Here are some tips, but make sure to do your own research as well:
- Smoke only in designated areas, never in public
- Learn some basic Japanese phrases if you can, it will go a long way
- Do not tip, it’s considered rude in Japan
- When paying with cash, place it on the little tray provided instead of the cashier’s hands
- Be quiet during train rides
- Hold on to your rubbish. Bins are hard to come by on the streets of Japan, but that doesn’t mean you should litter.
3. Withdrawing cash at ATMs
If you find yourself running out of cash, note that ATMs at convenience stores such as Lawsons and 7-Eleven sometimes have the best exchange rates. Just head to an ATM machine and withdraw as you would in your home country.
4. Use the trains, avoid taxis
Taxis in Japan are a really expensive way to get around. Luckily Japan’s fantastic well-connected public transport networks make travelling around a breeze. More often than not, there will be a train to where you want to go. Make full use of it!
We hope that this comprehensive guide has been helpful to you. Have a safe and enjoyable trip!