Japan Travel Tips: Advice Before Traveling to Japan

Dreaming of a trip to Japan? Or wanting to start planning your Japan travels but don’t know where to start?
It can be intimidating to travel to a foreign country, especially when you know that the culture and language will be completely different. But traveling to Japan doesn’t have to be hard. With just a little bit of preparation, you can make sure your Japan trip will be smooth sailing.
We’ve put together a few simple but important Japan travel tips, coming from our own experiences helping travelers in Japan, that will be sure to help you when planning your Japan vacation.  Read on to find out what travel tips for Japan you need to know before your vacation!

What do I need to know before traveling to Japan?

Shinkansen Train in front of Mount Fuji
©︎ beeboys / Adobe Stock

So what exactly do you need to know before planning and traveling to Japan? Here out a few basic things to keep in mind when planning your Japan vacation.

Do people in Japan speak English?

One of the first hurdles of traveling to a foreign country can be the language. In the case of Japan, most of the country speaks Japanese. It is said that 20%~30% of the Japanese population speaks some English, but that doesn’t mean that many people in Japan are fluent in English. You’re more likely to encounter English speakers in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, but in more rural places, you’ll hear much less English.
But don’t let the language barrier stop you! Japan embraces foreign tourism, so it’s extremely easy to travel even if you don’t know the language. There are many English signs and explanations in public places like airports, train stations, museums, and sightseeing locations. Even many restaurants and shops have English menus and signs to cater to foreign tourists. Japanese locals also don’t expect travelers to know the language, so many are understanding if there is a little difficult communicating. 
With that said, a little goes a long way! Just learning a few simple phrases like “arigato gozaimasu” (thank you), “konnichiwa” (hello), and maybe even “sumimasen” (sorry) will definitely earn you points when traveling in Japan. You can also take advantage of foreign language translator devices or even apps on your smartphone. Google translate can be a lifesaver!

What is the currency in Japan?

©︎ tamayura39 / Adobe Stock
The currency in Japan is called the yen (円). Foreign currency is not accepted in Japan, so be sure to know the basics of which coins and paper notes are worth how much before traveling. 
Although cashless payment options have grown in recent years, Japan is very much still a cash-based society. You’ll find most Japanesse still prefer to make transactions with cash, and many establishments may only accept cash payments. This is especially true when you’re in more rural areas of the country, or in smaller shops and food stalls. 
For more info on money in Japan and our advice on where the exchange currency or get more cash while traveling in Japan, be sure to check out this blog article.

What is the best time to visit Japan?

Hikone castle spring cherry blossoms in Shiga, Japan
©︎ Sanga / Adobe Stock
So just when should you schedule your Japan vacation? Japan is country of 4 very distinct seasons, and there are benefits and downsides to traveling during any of them. It really does come down to preferance and scheduling. If you’re set on seeing cherry blossoms in Japan, be sure to visit in early April. If you’ve been dying to see the gorgeous autumnal leaves display, then you’re looking at November.
We do recommend, however, that you be aware of which dates tend to see more travelers, both foreign and local. Scheduling your Japan travels to not coincide with Japanese national holidays is a great way to keep your travel plans smooth and help avoid the crowds.
We’ve also rounded up our recommendations on some of the best times of the year to schedule a visit to Japan. Check out our blog here for some of the best times to visit Japan during the year.

What do I need to prepare for a Japan trip?

So now that you’ve got the basics of language, money, and when you’re planning to travel to Japan down, here are a few things to know before your trip to prepare.

What to pack for Japan

So what do you need if you’re planning to travel in Japan like a local? Being sure you have what you need for a stress-free trip can make a world of difference. 
We’ve rounded up a few essentials you’ll need during your travels here, as well as a few practical info that will help you keep your Japan trip smooth.

How to access the internet in Japan

From checking train time tables to finding your way on a map, having access to the internet can be crucial to your Japan vacation. Although Wi-Fi is available in many locations in major cities like Osaka and Tokyo, you’ll find smaller towns and rural areas do not have readily accessible hotspots. The registration process is also only available in Japanese oftentimes, making access difficult.
To help you prepare for your Japan trip, we’ve listed all the different ways you can have internet access during your Japan vacation. Be sure to take a look to see which option is the best fit for your Japan travel plans.
We’ve rounded up a few essentials you’ll need during your travels here, as well as a few practical info that will help you keep your Japan trip smooth.

How to travel in Japan?

©︎ RUZIO.ART / Adobe Stock

After arriving in Japan, how do you plan to travel? Most Japan travel experts will recommend at least a 2 week stay to experience, but travelers rarely spend the entire time in just 1 city. Most travelers to Japan visit mutliple cities, traveling around the country to experience the unique atmosphere different areas have to offer.

You don’t have to hop on an airplane each time you want to go to a new city, however! Japan has an amazing train network, with the shinkansen, or bullet train, connecting major cities and making traveling a breeze. It’s fairly easy to use, with English instructions at major train stations to guide you through. Japan also has great bus systems and local train systems in most cities, so you don’t have to get on a taxi or walk everytime you visit a different sightseeing spot. Be sure to take advantage of one of the most efficient public transit systems in the world.

As most travelers to Japan visit both Tokyo and Kyoto, we’ve put together an article on how to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto on the bullet train.

What is the JR Pass?

Speaking of the bullet train and traveling in Japan, you may have heard of the JR Pass or Japan Rail Pass if you’ve been considering a trip. Simply put, the JR Pass is multi-use, all-you-can-ride ticket that can be used on most buses and trains run by the Japan Rail company and affiliates in Japan. It’s a perk only available to foreign visitors to Japan.
Besides being convenient not to have to buy tickets every time you hop on the train, one of the top reasons you should consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass is the cost. If you’re planning on traveling a lot throughout your trip, it can be much cheaper to buy the pass then buying tickets individually.
We’ve put together the basics of a JR Pass like how to purchase one as well as the pros and cons of buying it for your Japan trip in this article.

Where to stay in Japan?

Another thing to consider while planning your trip is where to stay. Japan has an accommodation for every type of traveler. You can find major hotel chains, luxury hotel experiences, capsule hotels, and more. No matter if you’re just planning on doing the minimum showering and sleeping at your chose accommodation or want to experience Japanese hospitality, there’s a place for every traveler.
If you are looking for an accommodation that allows you to experience the unique culture and history of Japan while also melting into the local life, we recommend considering staying in a machiya (traditional Japanese house) during your Japan trip. For more info on staying in a machiya house and why you should stay in one during your Japan vacation, check out this blog article.

Quick and Handy Japan Travel Tips

These are just a few of our top travel tips for Japan on what to know and consider before planning and traveling. Be sure to check out our other articles for more tips and advice on where to go and what to do in Japan!

Where to stay when in Japan


Stay in a traditional Japanese-style accommodation during your next visit to Japan.

Related Posts