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A trip to Japan is a must do for any avid traveler. Here are our favorite Japan travel hacks to help you save time, money and have a better experience.
Top Must-Have Travel Hacks When Visiting Japan
Travel hacking is one of my favorite hobbies. Through travel hacking, I can travel around the world for little to no cost. There are a number of different components to travel hacking to consider.
I’d love to clarify the definition of travel hacking from the perspective of Millionaire Mob.
What is travel hacking?
Travel hacking includes a number of different components, so I want to be clear that our ‘travel hacks’ for Japan include mainly items that are important when you get there. The way Millionaire Mob considers travel hacking is through these core components:
- Credit card churning: Credit card churning is the act of opening credit cards solely for the benefit of the sign-up bonus. With credit card churning, you are able to earn significant rewards points in a relatively short period of time. Churning credit cards is a marathon and not a sprint. Read more on the basics of credit card churning.
- Manufactured spending: Manufactured spending is spending money artificially that can be used to generate additional points or use artificially spend to accelerate the minimum spending requirement necessary to achieve the sign-up bonus. Manufacturing credit card spending is not for everyone. Here is our manufactured spending guide.
- Travel hacks without a credit card: Travel hacks without a credit card are the small things that you do on your travel. The in-betweens. These small travel hacks are usually specific to a particular destination or county. These small travel hacks add up and are important to save you time, money and have an overall better travel experience. Here is an example of over 23 ways to participate in travel hacking without a credit card.
- Booking award travel efficiently and effectively: Booking award travel is important since you want to optimize all of those hard-earned points. No need to throw away points just because you want to book a trip. You need to ensure that you are booking your travel at the most favorable conversion rates. These are some of my favorite tools to book award travel.
In order to be a good travel hacker, you need to cover off on a few of the above components. Use my free credit card tracker to help you monitor your churning portfolio.
You don’t necessarily need to participate in all of the above components of travel hacking. For me, I like to participate to unlock amazing experiences around the world.
List of the Best Japan Travel Hacks
Japan travel hacks are important. Depending on where you are coming from, the trip over to Asia can be an eye-opening experience.
I mainly spent about 4 days in Tokyo, 3 days in Kyoto and a day near Mount Fuji. There are plenty of weird things to do in Tokyo, which keeps things interesting.
Whether you are visiting Tokyo Disneyland or the mountains, you need to have the necessary travel hacks in place to make the most out of your experience. Japan was a new country for me and so I had a lot of learning to do. I compiled travel hacks to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes as me.
Some of my favorite travel hacks in Japan will save you time, save you money and help you have an overall better experience during your travel.
Buy docomo wi-fi before getting on the Shinkansen
I absolutely love working on trains, planes and (sometimes) automobiles. There’s nothing better than getting things done while in transit. Efficiency is everything!
I made a huge mistake of not purchasing a wi-fi docomo pass for the Shinkansen (the Japanese bullet train). For my train rides, I love using this free time to work. I ended up slotting a bunch of work time for my train ride that ended up being nearly completely lost due to not having wi-fi.
I’m usually pretty efficient, so I found ways to work without wi-fi… Thank you Microsoft Outlook! Purchase a day pass for docomo wi-fi for around $3. There are plenty of spots that have docomo beyond the Shinkansen too!
Use the Japan rail pass as much as possible and book early
The Japan rail pass is an excellent way to travel around the entire country for a one-time fee. The Japanese railway system is one of the most effective and efficient operations in the world. I was amazed at how easy I could get around.
One thing that people don’t realize is that the Japan rail pass actually works for a number of different train lines throughout Tokyo. In Tokyo, there is the subway system and the Japan Rail (JR) system. They both work just as effectively, but Google maps will often defer you to use the subway because they run slightly more often than the JR. However, if you buy a Japan rail pass you have unlimited rides on the Japan Rail system, so avoid the cost of the subway and ride for ‘free’ all around Tokyo.
Get the most bang for your buck with your Japan rail pass and opt for riding Japan Rail (JR) rather than the subway system. If you take the subway from Tokyo city center, purchase the cheapest fare and upon exit just show your Japan rail pass.
Another piece of the Japan Rail Pass is that you will need your pass to be shipped to your address in advance of your trip.
Also, once you receive your pass you will need to activate your pass at one of the major rail stations. Save this for the best day when you will start traveling on the Japan rail. This will ensure that your pass won’t run out before you leave.
Once you have activated your Japan rail pass, talk to the agent at the train station that activated it to book all of your train times on the spot. This will ensure that you plan out all of your train times right there and then.
The lines can get very long for booking rail tickets, so avoid doing this each time you want to ride the Japan rail and just do it all upfront upon activation. This saved me a ton of time!
Order sushi / sashimi a la carte to save money and get what you want
Ordering sushi and sashimi in Japan should be straightforward. However, the language barrier can limit your ability to know what you are truly getting with a sashimi plate. If you are an adventurous one, you can order your sashimi plate and simply eat the seafood. That can be risky as well because not all fish is delicious.
Most people do not realize that you simply need to ask the restaurant for an a la carte menu to order the sashimi of your choice. You can then craft your own plate of variations that include the fish that you enjoy.
This may be more or less expensive depending on the type of sashimi that you order.
This Japan travel hack is truly based on personal preference, but most people don’t know that you can order a la carte at nearly every place. Most restaurants want you to pay the premium price for the pre-set sashimi plates!
Prepare for a wi-fi disabled trip
One of my favorite components about international travel is going nearly completely (clearly… see above) off the grid. I like to prepare in advance for any unexpected travel.
Not many people realize that even if you don’t have internet, Google maps will still show your location since it is based off GPS and doesn’t require internet or data connection. Prepare for locations and landmark in advance by saving them to your Google maps profile. This will allow you to have a walking map completely wireless internet free while walking around town.
Another way to prepare for a wi-fi disabled trip is to download the Google Translate app for offline. This is a great way to break through the language barrier. All you have to do is scan the language and the English translation will appear.
Don’t carry disposable trash with you
Carrying and consuming food or drinks in public is not customary for Japanese citizens. Therefore, they simply don’t have much public trash cans for use while walking down the street. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had a water bottle or two in my hand and was unable to throw it away.
In Tokyo, you cannot find trash cans on the street either. Tokyo is such a clean city I was amazed. Live like a Japanese citizen and avoid taking food or drink to-go. Eat and drink what you need in a private setting.
Read up on some Japanese etiquette before you make the trip.
Travel Hacks Japan Conclusion
International travel can be overwhelming at times. Don’t let it be. International travel is a journey. Embrace it. My experiences in Japan can help serve as a guide to not the same mistakes that I made.
Use these travel hacks to be a smart traveler and to travel like a pro. Small travel hacks like these boost your experience and help you avoid those arguments with your travel partners. Check out our other travel hacking tips like becoming a digital nomad.
Money + Travel = Freedom
Japan is an amazing country. You will enjoy every second of it.
What are you most excited for during your trip to Japan? Let us know of your favorite Japan travel hacks in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
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