1. PLAN YOUR TRIP
- 6 Months before departure: Try to plan your trip around six months before your departure. Make sure you have enough time to prepare all necessary documents. Moreover, the sooner you book your flight tickets, the more chance you can buy them at cheaper prices!
2. ALONE OR WITH TRAVEL MATE(S)?
- With who? Some people think that it might be boring to travel alone. It can be very exciting to travel alone. You can do what you want whenever you want. But also you will depend on yourself in case of trouble. You will get to know yourself better! People traveling alone have more chance to meet locals or other backpackers on the road. Should you plan to travel with (a) friend(s), beware of the fact that irritations might arise the longer you are together. Mostly it will be the first time that you spend night and day together for such a long time. On the other hand you can share all sorrows with your friend. Biggest advantage to have a travel mate is of course the budget. You can share a lot of costs what makes your trip cheaper.
3. WHERE IN JAPAN?
- Destinations: Japan is a large country. It has a surface that equals 5 times the surface of Belgium and the Netherlands together! Maybe it won’t be possible to visit every spot you would like to. Make a selection based on experiences of others, articles or blogs you read, discussions with your travel mate, etc. Still need some inspiration? Please go to the – Where to go in Japan – pages!
- When? Japan has all seasons. The climate can be a very important aspect in your decision on when to go to Japan. Summer in Japan can be very hot. That does not need to be a burden because almost all public buildings, hotels and houses have air conditioning. The real burden in summer is the humidity that goes along with the high temperatures. Autumn can be a very nice season to go to Japan if you are fond of autumn colored leafs (Kouyou). In Japan ‘Momijigari’ (autumn leafs viewing) is very popular. Almost as popular as ‘Hanami’ in spring. Having lunch and drinks in a park under the cherry blossom trees is one of the must do’s should you be in Japan during spring. For the exact timing of Momijigari or Hanami, all depends on where you are in Japan at that time. You will need to check the Japanese weather forecast!
- How long? The duration of your travel depends on several aspects. First indicator will be your budget. The longer you travel, the more accommodations you will need to book. Another aspect is the custom-service aspect. When entering Japan as a European tourist, you will get a tourist permission. This permission is valid for 90 days. This means that you will need to go out of the country after that period. A lot of backpackers schedule their trip in that way that they make sure to be in Kyushu the week before. From there it is only a few hours travel to South-Korea. After a city trip to Seoul they return to Japan and have a new permission…
- Which traveldocuments? As a Belgian or Netherlands citizen, you only need a valid international passport to enter Japan as a tourist. With that passport, you can stay in the country for 90 days. Beware that the passport needs to be valid for 6 months after your arrival in Japan. Next to your passport, you ‘ll also need to be able to show a return flight ticket or a ticket to travel from Japan to another country. It ‘s always a good idea to make a scan of your passport and send it to your own mail address. In case of loss, you still have the scan…
7. PAYMENTS IN JAPAN
- Money: It is not necessary to bring Yen in cash with you. Almost all ATM’s in Japan accept Maestro/Cirrus/Visa/Mastercard. Please note that you need to “open” your bank card at your bank to be able to withdraw money with the card outside of Europe. On the other hand, not all shops accept paying by card. So please make sure to withdraw money from the moment you arrive in Japan and hold some cash with you.
8. DRIVING IN JAPAN
- Driving a car in Japan: The International Driving License is not valid in Japan for Belgian citizens! Although a lot of websites tell you the opposite, Japan still refuses to recognize the international driving licenses. For Belgian citizens the solution lies in taking your Belgian driving license with you and let it be translated at a special office in Tokyo (Japanese national vehicle federation)! The crazy thing about this is that for citizens of the Netherlands, the International Driving License is recognized!
9. WIFI IN JAPAN
- Wi-Fi: Free WiFi is still not common in Japan. Besides browsing on the internet at Starbucks or in your hotel, there is another convenient solution: the so called ‘pocket Wi-Fi’. This portable small device is a small box that provides you Wi-Fi (unlimited data) everywhere in Japan. You can order the pocket Wi-Fi through internet and pick it up at the airport upon arrival or you can let it be delivered at your hotel. You can rent it from 5 days on. You can connect up to 10 devices and the battery lasts about 8 hours. Ninja Wifi is one of the more than 30 providers and is known by travelers as one of the best for heavy users.
10. SOCIAL MEDIA IN JAPAN
- Message app: While we communicate a lot with Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber, in Japan they are fond of their own system: Line. So make sure you install Line if you want to communicate easily through your smartphone with Japanese people.
11. FLIGHTS TO JAPAN
- Booking flight tickets: All depends of course on your wishes. Direct flights will bring you fast and comfortable to your chosen destination in Japan. In Belgium there is only one Japanese airline company that provides this service: ANA (All Nippon Airways). This convenient flights unfortunately has its price… You can go for the cheaper ways, but this will lead you to a longer flight route with transfers. Very popular are budgetfriendly routes of Finnair through Helsinki. Also flying with the Russian company Aeroflot can provide you with sharp prices. Be aware of the fact that the longer you search online for the best deal, the higher the rates will grow. This can be avoided by surfing in private modus. Popular sites: skyscanner, cheaptickets, Vliegtickets.be, Connections.be , Momondo..
12. ACCOMMODATION IN JAPAN
- Booking your accommodation(s): The best way to travel and and get acquainted with the local culture is to stay with locals of course. But not everybody has friends or family in Japan. Coachsurfing can be a solution but is only popular in the Tokyo area. Keep in mind that begging for a stay at the door of a local is not done in Japan! Another way to experience real Japanese style stay, is to book a Ryokan (Japanese style hostel), a Minshuku (Japanese style pension) or to book a stay at a shrine or temple (Shukubo) with ‘Japanese Guest Houses’. Note that the prices for a stay will be higher during special festival periods as the Golden Week, Obon or New Year.
Accommodations budget friendly :
- Manga cafes (1500 – 3000 Yen/p/night): Establishments where you can rent a space to read manga or go on internet. You can rent the space for the night.
- Hostels (1500 – 3000 Yen/p/night): Dormitories, hostels, backpackers inn’s are quite common in larger cities. Hostelworld is a very popular booking site
- 24 Hour Bahts (2000 – 5000 Yen/p/night): Gender segregated public baths with special rooms to rest.
- Capsule Hotels (2000 – 5000 Yen/p/night): World famous small cabins with or without TV and Internet.
- Ryokan, Minshuku and pensions (3000 – 15000 Yen/p/night): booking is possible with ‘Japanese Guest Houses’
- Homestay (75000 – 95000 Yen/p/month): Homestay is a rather popular formula for young people and students. You stay with a host family mostly for long term. Breakfast and diner included.
- Regular Hotels (5000 – 50000 Yen/room/night): Sometimes hotels offer some reductions depending on rooms they have left. Always interesting to check several booking sites like: Booking.com, Ebookers, Expedia, Hotels.com, Trivago, etc.
- When traveling with your family, an organized familytrip can be interesting. Several agencies provide all in familytrips to Japan:
Other interesting ideas to check when planning a trip to Japan:
A very usefull website is Tofugu (also for other items on Japan, see other pages). The site gives you a lot of nice suggestions for trips in Japan.
A nice website worth to check is Voyagin. It offers a lot of “experiences” in the country you chose as a destination. Those offers are often unique chances to meet locals or do extraordinary things in Japan.