Hello there! Another travel related post because I am having an absolute wanderlust moment right now. Flew back to Singapore last week after a short getaway and I thought what better than to write this post since it is so fresh in my mind. I have been to Japan twice now and it is indeed a traveller's dream. Here are some tips that I have picked up along the way and hopefully it will help you in planning your next getaway to the wonderful land of culture and of course, SUSHI!
1. Sygic Travel App
If you know me irl, I am super into apps and probably have too many apps that an average girl needs on her iPhone. I made full use of the Sygic Travel app even while I was on my trip. If you read my previous travel post on 10 Tips for Solo Travellers, you will know my ultimate first tip is NOTHING will never go as planned. With Sygic Travel, I can free-play my itinerary and switch locations according to whatever the day brings. This app has an in-built library of itineraries, tourist attractions, restaurants etc; All you need to do is to select whatever places you are interested to visit on the day and voila, it automatically plans the day whilst maximising your time by sorting them according to the distance between each place. Awesome right!
(They do have a website but honestly, it sucks. 30 minutes of waiting and I am still on the loading page. Trust me and just download the app, it is much more convenient as well.)
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
RENT IT EARLY!! I wish I had listened to my own advice... I submitted a last minute request (literally the day before I fly) and there were no units available locally for rental. I was low-key panicking because I knew that I will never survive a day without a wifi. Ended up having to pay double the amount at Osaka Itami Airport. I rented from Global Advanced Communications for about SGD$75 for a 6 days trip. No complaints about them though, the connection was great even when I went to really secluded alleys and I had unlimited data to use throughout my entire trip. Will definitely recommend them if you are a last-minute person like me. The best thing is to always do your research first as there are many places that offer portable wifi devices. Some can be extremely cheap but they do compromise on the connectivity. Also, do look out for occasional promotion codes which can help save some extra moolahs too!
Here are a couple of wifi rentals available locally:
3. Japan Rail Pass
If you are looking to cover different cities in Japan, I highly recommend getting the Japan Rail Pass as it is much more affordable. The one week JR Pass costs SGD$370. The JR Pass gives you access to all of the JR Lines except for the Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen. Do note that you require to purchase your tickets before your trip. For more information, click here.
Listed below are the approximate prices for Shinkansen ticket:
Tokyo to Osaka (round trip): SGD392
Osaka to Kyoto (round trip): SGD40-50
Osaka to Kyoto (round trip): SGD40-50
Judging from above, if I were to pay a la carte for all the tickets, I would have spent a total of SGD492. If I had the JR Pass, I would have saved a whopping SGD122! So ultimately it all boils down on the places that you wish to cover, do your research and it's time to practice your math! ;)
4. Plastic Bags
Trash bins are really difficult to come by, so keep a spare plastic bag in your bag to toss your trash in, stop yourself from caving in and becoming a litterbug.
5. Speak (basic) Japanese
English is not widely spoken in Japan, it is good to have a few Japanese words up your sleeve. Here are a few that I found extremely useful:
Thank You: Arigatō
Excuse Me: Sumimasen
Can I have the menu? : Menu Kudasai
Have enough cash with you for the entire trip as the ATMs may not accept foreign bank cards. If not, you can always use your card in shopping malls and save those precious dollars for food/taxi. You will receive tons of coins in Japan and I highly recommend spending them on train tickets or taxi rides ASAP as they do get pretty hefty after awhile.
If you are shopping in a mall, remember to enquire about tax refund! That will save you a whole load of money. Got a pair of Nike sneakers for only SGD130 instead of the full tax price! Score! However, if you are getting anything beauty related, your products will be sealed in a "tax free" bag and you can only use them when you leave the country. Strange rules....
The rumours are true! It is indeed expensive. In fact, everything is expensive in Japan. However, if you are travelling in groups, taxis might work for you! Travelled in a group of 3 and some places are actually cheaper by taxis instead of train. The starting prices for taxis range from 540-580yen and they only start jumping after a bit. You can get your price calculations here.
That's all I have for now! These are just some of the tips I can come up with to prepare you before your trip. Hope this helps and have an amazing trip to Japan! It is indeed a beautiful country to visit with tons of awesome food!
Thank you for reading!