5 Tips For Easy Travel Around Japan

5 Tips For Easy Travel Around Japan
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High-Speed Pocket WiFi Rental

You can get free WiFi in Japan, but it is not a reliable way to get Internet access. Free comes with tedious registration, short-range, slow speed, and intermittent connection. Although my T-Mobile data plan has international coverage in Japan, but a measly 2GB data speed doesn’t cut it for me.

My recommendation is to rent a pocket WiFi like Pupuru. The experience was seamless and fast.

The process:

  • Order and pay online at https://pupuruwifi.com/
  • Specify the day of arrival and the hotel address. (can also specify a private address or pick it up at the airport)
  • Pick up the package at your hotel
  • At the end of your rental, drop it off in a pre-postage envelope at the airport

The kit includes a pre-postage yellow envelope so you can mail it back to them when you depart. And I can guarantee you will find a postal mailbox right before you go through the security gate at the airport. Japanese people take immense pride in everything they do includes making your life easier before you even realize it.

The device works as a wireless router. It has a network name and a password that anyone can access with these credentials. Both my husband and I could access the same pocket WiFi, and it’s cost-efficient for multiple users.

On a typical day, the battery life lasts 6 – 8 hours, and sometimes we turn off the device to conserve battery. When it runs low, a portable power bank will save the day not just to recharge your phone but to recharge the pocket WiFi device. I can’t live without a phone and WiFi, not in Japan, when I heavily rely on it to navigate around and research places to eat on the fly.

Baggage Storage and Baggage Delivery Service for Hands-Free Travel

Baggage storage and baggage delivery service are widely available in Japan today so you can travel light and explore more places while transiting to the final destination.

Baggage Delivery Service

This service comes in handy when you are changing hotel from one city to another, or from the airport to the hotel or back. You might have done some shopping with extra baggage to send to the airport ahead of time and pick up there to check-in. Public transportation is much more comfortable without lugging around bulky luggage, finding room for them on the train, and you never know when you have to take the stairs (no elevators and escalators) to exit the train station.

Ask the hotel to arrange it for you, and give enough time in case same day delivery is not available.

Baggage Storage

There are many ways to store your baggage at the airport or train stations, coin-operated lockers that come in many sizes and costs or luggage drop off at the counter, for a specified rental period (hours or days).

Apps to Download for Traveling around Japan

Before you go, consider downloading these apps to get familiar and be prepared for your trip.

  • OpenTable: the app filter by smaller neighborhoods and cuisines type.
  • The Infatuation: restaurants curated by professional reviewers.
  • Foursquare City Guide: reviews by people like us, and show recommendation based on current location.
  • Japan Travel – route, map, JR: this app helps you to navigate the train and shows you the best route and cost from Point A to Point B, find the nearest ATM, etc.
  • Japan Official Travel: another train navigation app; it doesn’t hurt to have more if one feature works better than the other.
  • JapanTaxi: It is easy to get a taxi in Japan, but this app is useful for just in case, schedule in advance, or compare a trip cost because sometime it may be worth taking the taxi instead of the train when you have more than one person in your group.

SUICA and PASMO reloadable cards to pay for train tickets, taxi, and convenient store

In Tokyo, SUICA and PASMO are among the favorite reloadable cards to tap in and tap out at the train stations without the need to buy a ticket each time at the machine. The fare is automatically calculated for you when you tap in and tap out and deducted from your card balance. If you don’t have enough balance, you will not be able to tap out. You need to see a ticket attendant who will collect the fare difference, and you can reload them as many times as you like.

A credit card cannot be used to load money onto these cards, so you need to have some yen on hand.

You can also use SUICA and PASMO cards for bus, convenient store, vending machine, and taxi rides. These time-saving tap cards come in handy to eliminate scrambling for cash and coins as the local metro does not take credit cards.

Where can I use SUICA and PASMO?

SUICA and PASMO are interchangeable, so you don’t need both, and they are made compatible to use in other major cities of Japan. Please be aware SUICA and PASMO cannot be used on the bullet train to get you from one city to another. However, you can use it on local rails once you get inside the city. You would need to buy a separate ticket or a Japan Rail pass to travel from one region to region. Read more about the Japan Rail pass here.

Which one should I get?

A significant difference is not the same company that sells them. SUICA is from JR East and PASMO from the local Tokyo subway. Not that it matters, but where you return it at the end of the trip matters if you want a refund on any unused funds and the initial deposit money.

On my first visit to Japan, I happened to have both cards carry over from my sister’s trip since she didn’t return it, and we used one for each person. At the end of my vacation, SUICA was more convenient to return because the JR East Office was easier to find on the way to the airport without leaving the station.

WELCOME SUICA and PASMO PASSPORT for foreign visitors 

SUICA and PASMO also has a version for foreign visitors, WELCOME SUICA and PASMO PASSPORT respectively, with no deposit fee, so you don’t have to worry about returning them. However, remaining balance on the card is non-refundable, and to be used within 28 days from the date of purchase.

Here are the official websites for each of these cards and learn which one best suits your needs.

PASMO https://www.pasmo.co.jp/visitors/en/normalpasmo/

PASMO Passport https://www.pasmo.co.jp/visitors/en/

SUICA https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html

WELCOME SUICA https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/welcomesuica/welcomesuica.html

Where to Exchange Money In Japan

Japan is a cash-oriented economy. You will need to have cash on hand as many small businesses do not accept credit cards in Japan. ATM at 7-Eleven and Post Office are the best places to get money, but my preferred choice is exchanging money at the hotel. It is not the best rate, but extremely convenient and saves a lot of time. At this age, I want a simple and faster solution. The less work, the better so I can free my mind and time for other activities. Tokyo is massive. I rather get lost finding the best ramen in town than get lost finding an ATM machine.

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