Practical Tips on Traveling through Japan-A guide on how to Navigate through Japan with ease!
Yes we know not to tip in Japan and to never, ever, enter someone’s house with our shoes on, or even worse, enter the bathroom while still in our house slippers. With so many websites and travel guides filled with what to do in Japan, perhaps it’s useful to have a guide that teaches you HOW to get around? In a country with an incredible public transit system, knowing what’s what will make your vacation go by a lot smoother. These are some of the most useful travel tips, broken down into categories, to make things a little easier for your next Japan getaway!
Use the Bus to get around the City
A great, inexpensive option for getting around Japan would be the bus. Significantly cheaper than taxis, taking a bus is a great alternate. With buses that take you around the city to buses that offer long distance rides, the bus is a great, low-cost travel option. Most buses in major cities also accept Suica or Pasmo cards for payment, making a bus ride around the city painless and easy. If you do use a bus, expect slightly longer travel times. Do keep in mind that city buses do not run 24/7, so be sure to get on the last bus after a night of fun or else you may resort to taking a very expensive cab ride home. Click Here to learn more about the Buses in Japan!
Take the Train... Everywhere
Taking a train in Japan almost feels like something you have to do to really get the Japanese experience. Taking the train is also a great way to get around the country. For starters, be sure to book a JR Rail Pass before your vacation starts. Usually costing around 250-300 dollars, these week long rail passes allow access to unlimited train and shinkansen (bullet train) rides. Keep in mind, a one-way ticket from Osaka to Tokyo on the shinkansen alone costs about 200 dollars, the rail pass is a very worthwhile investment.
If you plan on staying in only one city while in Japan, you may not need the rail pass, but be sure to get a Pasmo of Suica card. These nifty smart cards can be used to pay train fare, bus fare, and even get snacks from 7-11 or other convenience stores. Pasmo cards are great, usually only needing a deposit of about 27-33 dollars and work just like prepaid debit cards. There are even special tourist edition Pasmo cards which double as great souvenirs when your vacation is over.
To make navigating around stations easier a station's name appears at the center of the signboard in large letters, while the names of the previous and next station are located to the left and right of the signboard in smaller letters. Don’t worry, all JR stations display the station names in Japanese at the top and Romaji (English characters) at the bottom of the signs. Much like buses, trains stop running at 12 am, and resume at 5 am the next day.
If you are flying into/out from Narita Airport, then maybe consider The Narita Express or Keisei. The Narita Express and Keisei are competing services that offer train rides in an out of Narita Airport. The fares usually range depending on the station you arrive/depart from, but prices can be as low as 14 dollars to 34 dollars.
Click Here to learn more about the Trains in Japan!
Technology & Apps
Trains and Buses are great ways for getting around, but while in Japan, there are some apps that can be lifesavers for getting around. If you plan on taking the train a lot, consider downloading apps like HypeDia, which provide real time updates in English on local train departure times. Available for both android and apple, this app will make train travel significantly easier. Speaking of apps, untilili becomes available, consider downloading the Google Translate App for some quick English to Japanese translations.
If you have your own app that you swear by, or just want to use your phone to get around, invest in a pocket wireless-router to stay connected to the internet. A little more costly but a great way to stay connected, especially when you are in a rush and don’t have time to find free Wi-Fi while traveling.
A few things to keep in consideration to make navigating Japan easier:
Be sure to buy an English/Japanese map. If you don’t have service and can’t find free Wi-Fi, this will be a major lifesaver. I speak from experience walking around Shinjuku for 45 minutes to vouch that a map would have saved a lot of trouble. Also, unless you have an incredible memory, be sure to print your hotel address or wherever you’re staying in English and Japanese (or Romaji). This is also a good idea for places you plan on visiting in general. You never know what may happen, so better safe than sorry right? Hopefully these travel tips will help you navigate your way through Japan like a naitive. If all else fails, just look for a Koban or a friendly face and ask for directions!