3 top tips for planning a trip to Japan

Japan is an incredible country. Its mystique and rich cultural heritage continue to draw millions of tourists from all over the world. Some 30 million people visited Japan in 2018 and its incredible variety and history make it easy to see why so many people view it as such an alluring and fascinating destination. But what is the best way to prepare? How do you ensure that you have an incredible time?

Here are three top tips for planning your trip to Japan.

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1. Get a JR Rail Pass

Japan has a population of 127 million people and many of them travel around this beautiful country by train. The world-famous bullet train is just the tip of the iceberg. The rail network is astonishingly efficient and reliable. So, my first tip for when you are planning your trip to Japan is to plan to travel around the country by rail. The Japan Rail (JR) Pass for tourists costs around $250 (that’s around 26,914.00 in Japanese currency Yen) and it allows you to travel on any JR rail line around the country for a full seven days. It is only really relevant if you are not just staying in Tokyo but planning to see more of the country, though.

2. Take cash

When you go to Japan, you will want to visit the stunning Peace Park, walk through the world-famous Cherry Blossom or see spectacular Mount Fuji. But before you arrive in Japan, it is worth understanding how money works there. The country, certainly outside of Tokyo, remains more reliant on cash than many western nations. There are some places where you can pay by card, but most places will only take cash. So, make sure you take plenty of yen (500Y is around $5), and also make sure you have a way of getting hold of more when you do get there. We have become so used to being able to pay with our cards, it will take a habit change to adjust when you get to Japan. Take cash and you should be fine.

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3. Don’t expect everyone to speak English

As English speakers, we come to expect the rest of the world to speak our language. Well, large parts of the world still don’t, and why should they? If you are planning to visit Japan then it is worth learning a few key phrases that will help you get by. Start with ‘eigo o hanashimasu ka?’ which translates to ‘do you speak English?’ Many locals will, at first, claim they don’t speak English very well, but will end up being much better than they think they are. In airports, hotels and train stations, you will find a higher percentage of English speakers, but having some Japanese phrases will help you greatly. Technology can also help if you do get stuck. Google translate’s app will allow you to record a phrase in English and then it will repeat in Japanese. That should help.

Have you visited Japan? Let me know any other tips that could help me or other readers who are planning to visit!

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