17+ Japan Travel Guide & Tips To Know For Your First Visit

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You are probably planning for your Japan trip and want to check out what’s the Do’s and Dont’s.

So, you’ve got Japan on your travel radar, and I’m here to sprinkle your trip with a dash of insider tips and a pinch of local know-how. Why? Because let’s face it, traveling is awesome, but it’s even better when you’ve got the lowdown on all the cool stuff!

I whipped up this Japan travel guide because I believe that a well-prepared traveler is a happy traveler. Whether you’re a foodie, Otaku, or just love soaking in new cultures, these tips are your secret sauce to turning your Japan adventure into a five-star experience.

Let’s start with the checklist before you embark your trip to Japan!

Check your Visa requirement

One crucial aspect to confirm well in advance of your journey is undoubtedly the Visa requirement. Similar to a passport, lacking it could potentially restrict your entry into the country.

So, how do you know whether to apply Visa to visit Japan? Nowadays, it is very easy to apply for Visa to Japan with their eVisa! First, check the requirement through this list and if the country that you reside requires a Visa to Japan or you need to stay for a longer term, then simply apply here.

Check The Weather And Season

Japan has four seasons and every season has its own uniqueness and magnificent views. I have been to Japan during their summer and I could not wait to explore the place next time for other seasons!

It depends on what kind of travel route you want to go. If you are planning to see the cherry blossom, book your trip between end of March and beginning of April. The cherry blossom season is pretty short so need to gasp the opportunity during these short 2-3 weeks time for amazing experience!

Another popular season in Japan would be the autumn foliage season, where it happens between mid-October through early December. 

Winter season between December to February is famous for hot spring and ski resort. During this period, visiting mountains or onsen town like Hokkaido, Yamagata or the iconic Shirakawa-go village is not to be missed. 

Wearing Kimono in Japan
Wearing Kimono in Japan is one of the most unique experiences

Get A SIM Card or Portable WiFI

Whenever I was travelling abroad, one of the few things I would check ahead of my trip is always Visa, Payment and WIFI. 

Nowadays, staying connected is crucial, and in a foreign country, having access to WiFi is indispensable for searching for everything I need.

In Japan, most hotels offer free WiFi. However, to ensure smooth connectivity when you are in transit or looking at the map to the next destinations, having your own connection ensures you’re always online.

I have compared both SIM Card and Portable WiFi in terms of price and conveniency. Apparently, getting a SIM card is more convenient and it is more cheap if you stay longer. Although a portable WiFi is more cost-saving for trip less than 5 days, you have to carry the router everywhere you go. Additionally, if you are sharing it among a few people, all of you would have to stay close to connect.

And now, there is a new thing call eSIM, which is much more easier because you don’t have to pick up the physical SIM card and put it into your phone. It is just a QR code to get you stay connected! One thing about this option is it is still new, so there is limited type of phone that is compatible for this feature. So before you decide to go with eSIM, check the compatibility first.

The Currency

The official currency is the Japan Yen (JPY). The currency as of this point of writing is about 142 JPY to 1 USD.

Suica Card Is Super Convenient

Payment in Japan is seamlessly convenient. 

Japan has its own unique electronic payment systems, like the widely used Suica Card and Pasmo card, which are rechargeable smart cards primarily designed for transportation but are also accepted at many vending machines and convenience stores.

When I was travelling in Japan, I mainly use Suica Card for transactions at convenient store and transport. It is really convenient and fast! Although there is a 500 JPY initial charge to purchase a physical Suica Card, but i think it is worth to get one especially if you are travelling in Japan for more than a week.

Nowadays, as digital payments have become integrated into our daily lives, the use of Apple Pay or Google Pay in Japan is widely accepted.

Japan Travel Guide : Getting a Suica Card in Japan is convenient
Japan Travel Guide : Getting a Suica Card in Japan is convenient

...But It Doesn't Mean That You Don't Need Cash In Japan

Yes. Despite the convenience of digital payments in Japan, there are still occasions when having some cash on hand is necessary.

Having cash on hand still feels safer especially if you are in foreign country.

You will need cash for reloading your Suica cards and local transportation. Additionally, cash is essential for visiting temples and shrines, as some require entrance fees, and most small ones only accept cash. 

And Now We Can Use Touch 'n Go In Japan!

Yes. On a side note, Touch ‘n Go eWallet has been integrated with Alipay+ since 2022, enable cross-border payment for its users.

Malaysians can now use Touch ‘n Go eWallet in Japan for payment. The payment steps is similar to how we use it in Malaysia. Check this article on how to use Touch ‘n Go in Japan.

Plan Your Transport Ahead

Japan is expensive. The stay, food and transport in Japan usually costs about 70% of the total trip expenses. Despite its expense, it is undeniably an amazing country to visit.

Planning your transport in Japan is a crucial aspect of ensuring a smooth and efficient travel experience.

Don’t get me wrong; Japan’s transportation system is the most convenient and comprehensive among the major cities I have visited. Both major cities and remote regions boast expansive networks. There are always numerous transportation options to choose from, each with its own associated cost and duration.

First, decide which place to visit and plan your Japan trip ahead.

Buying a Japan Rail All Pass isn’t always the best way to explore Japan.

The Japan Rail pass is not cheap, so it is best to consider all your journey and calculate the cost you need to take the train to see whether is it worth to buy a JR Pass.

And if after all the calculations are done and it turns out that getting a Japan Rail Pass is worth, then it is best to buy the pass in advance online to get the best deal.

Best Way to Get Around Japan

There are different types of transportation method in Japan to get you around. 

The best way to get around Japan depends on your preferences, schedule, and the locations you plan to visit.

Subway & Local Trains

In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, extensive subway networks cover the urban areas. Local trains and buses are also reliable for exploring within cities and nearby regions.

There are different types of transport pass in different major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and so on. Some of the passes are really worth, such as Tokyo Subway Ticket (24/48/72 HR) and Osaka Amazing Pass.

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

Japan’s renowned train system, the Shinkansen (bullet train), is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to travel between cities.

Although its price is comparable to taking a flight, I think it is worth taking the chance to experience the bullet train itself.


Long-distance buses are an economical choice for inter-city travel, especially to more remote or rural destinations. They often provide comfortable seating and scenic routes.

Domestic Flights

For covering longer distances quickly, consider domestic flights. Japan has several domestic airlines connecting major cities. Some of the good ones, like ANA airline, are truly comfortable and offer more significant seating space.

Which Japan City to Visit?

Japan has major cities and also rural areas. It all depends on your interests when it comes to which Japan city to visit. Whether it is cultural exploration, culinary experience, historical site visits or any mix of everything. 

I totally understand the challenge of choosing a specific city to visit when time is limited in Japan and you want to make the most of it.

Fret not! Below is a breakdown of the unique offerings of each city. Pick the one that best matches your travel interests.

  • Tokyo : The capital of the land of the rising sun. This is definitely one of the major cities in Japan that is hard to be missed out while visiting Japan. It is a bustling city with a mix of modern and traditional attractions, including high-tech districts, historic temples, and diverse shopping and dining experiences. Although it is not the first city that I visited in Japan, but it totally fit as my favourite city in Japan. If you are an Otaku that loves everything Anime, visit the Akihabara district and you will surely be amazed by this paradise!
  • Osaka : For a foodie like me, exploring a country’s food paradise is a must do. Osaka is known as the street food paradise in Japan. Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, Kitsune Udon, just to name a few. 
  • Kyoto : Kyoto is another city that I love. Known for its well-preserved temples, traditional tea houses, and beautiful gardens, Kyoto is a cultural hub with a rich history.
  • Sapporo : If your trip happens around Winter season in Japan, Sapporo is definitely a city that should not be missed out. Famous for its winter ski resort, winter festivals and of course the Sapporo Beer.
  • Nara : Visit the nodding-deer in Nara Park. This city is also home to ancient temples and the impressive Todai-ji. 
Deers at Kofokuji Temple in Nara
Deers at Kofokuji Temple in Nara

Hotel Or Airbnb?

Accommodation in Japan is slightly pricier compared to other places in Asia especially its major cities.

Getting a standard hotel room in city like Tokyo costs at least 10k JPY a night. And hence, many visitors turn and look for cheap Airbnb options.

However, Japan government is pretty strict about Airbnb. The government had previously shut down about 80% of the Airbnb listings which was running illegally and without “minpaku” license. Hence, nowadays, the listing on Airbnb in Japan are mostly legal. If you are not sure, can always call the Minpaku System Call Center to verify.

Otherwise, I would suggest to stay at reputable hotel to ensure check in smoothly and safe. Of course, if you would like to experience staying at some unique Airbnb stays, such as a temple hotel, Airbnb has more options to choose from.

Buy Your Tickets In Advanced

Kyoto Tower Ticket
Kyoto Tower Ticket : Buy in advance to avoid queue

Japan is always crowded with visitors all year long. 

If you plan to visit popular landmarks like Disney Sea or Universal Studio Japan, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance to avoid queuing up at the spot for ticket purchase.

Learn Some Simple Japanese Phrases

When I was first travelling to Japan, I realised that most of them do not speak English. However, many restaurants feature both Japanese and English on their menu so overall it is certainly still possible to travel in Japan without understanding Japanese.

It is always good to familiarise yourself with a few simple phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Knowing some polite words goes a long way in showing respect and appreciation.

Avoid eating in metro

One of the custom in Japan is that, do not eat in the train. Like Singapore and Taiwan, eating food while riding the train is prohibited.

However, when riding bullet train, it is allowed to eat.

Besides eating, here are some  etiquette tips to know when riding a train in Japan.

Is It Safe To Drink Tap Water In Japan?

Yes. It is said that it is safe to drink the tap water in the cleanest country in Asia.

In fact, you can find faucets in most public parks. There’s even a mobile app that you can download to check where you can find these faucets to drink from or refill your water bottle.

Japan Travel Tips In Conclusion

Japan is a great place to explore with amazing city, wonderful hiking trails and scrumptious street food!

Whether it’s your first time or you’ve been to Japan before, I hope this travel guide helps you plan your trip!

Checkout my other blogs about Japan: