Congratulations on planning a trip to one of the most fascinating countries in the world! Japan is a stunning destination that truly has something for everyone; so much so that it can be an overwhelming experience trying to figure out what to see. While we have plenty of guides on what to see while you're in Japan, what we don't have is what to prepare before getting to Japan - until now.

This guide will give travelers a good starting point when it comes to travel passes, what to book, and how to plan.


Book Your Hotel & Accommodations First

These two go hand in hand and you can't do one without having the other. Once you've found a date that works, cross-reference it with hotels and flights in order to make sure everything works out.

Try to book in an area near the attractions you want to see so that arranging transportation is easier once you arrive. Pro tip: Google maps and Google Earth will be your best friend; use these both to see what's around the area of the accommodation you're considering.

  • Hotels, ryokans, and Airbnb should be book at least three months in advance.
  • Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) should be booked earlier than three months ahead of time.

When it comes to booking flights, it's as simple as booking anything else. Travelers can go through sites such as Kayak, Skyscanner, and even Google Flights. However, there's also the option to book with a travel agency. It might sound like an outdated method of planning a vacation but trust us - going through a travel agency, especially when the process feels overwhelming, is worth it. According to The Travel Pockets, IACE is highly recommended for Japan travel, specifically.

Related: How To Spend A Day On Japan's Jade Coast (And Where To Find Jade Stones)

Reserving A Japan Rail Pass Is A Must For Easy Transporation

The funny thing about getting a Japan Rail Pass is that you need it - but you can't purchase it in Japan. It's a special pass that's given to overseas visitors and it's worth its weight in gold; this pass allows visitors to freely travel on every JR train and most bullet trains.

  • The rail pass must be purchased online and will cost adults 29,650 yen, or $267.03 USD. It's pricey, but worth the cost to have access to Japan's most popular - and easiest - transportation system.

Another option for those who plan to stay fairly local is a Suica card, which can be purchased in Japan.

  • This is a prepaid smart card that allows visitors to travel via the monorail, metro, trains, and buses.
  • The card itself is 500 yen, which is about $4.50 USD. This is a deposit; anything extra will count toward the money for transportation that's charged to the prepaid card.
  • Visitors can put anything from 1,000 to 10,000 yen on the card.

Be Sure To Bring Cash, Not Everywhere In Japan Is Card-Friendly

This is a pretty good rule of thumb when it comes to any new country. The major outlets and restaurants in Japan might take cards for payment but when it comes to smaller stores and mom-and-pop establishments, cash is still the only way to go. It's important to remember that when budgeting for a trip to Japan, the easiest way to obtain cash is to do so at the airport. This is where USD or other currencies can be exchanged for yen and it eliminates the need to find an ATM later on.

  • In the event that travelers need money on the go or didn't exchange enough at the airport, don't worry. Many convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, will have ATMs that make taking out money a breeze.
  • Another reason to have cash on hand is so that when visiting the Daiso store, you can purchase fun things to bring home! Everything here is less than one US dollar.

Learn At Least The Basics In Japanese

Learning a new language is quite an endeavor to take on and it's something that many people don't look forward to when planning a trip to another country. While Google translate can help with some things, it's always good to learn the basics of another language so that travelers can communicate basic things. Many of the taxi drivers in Japan speak little to no English so even knowing how to say numbers or the correct pronunciation of certain things can go a long way.

If nothing else, travelers should be sure to memorize the most basic words such as thank youpleaseexcuse meyesno, and help. Knowing how to ask certain questions will also go a very long way.

Next: A Guide To Highlight That Takayama Is Worth Working Into Your Japan Itinerary