If you know me & have spoken to me in the last year you’ll know that I travelled to Japan last year because I talk about it incessantly to anyone who will listen. Some friends of mine are planning to go this year so I thought I’d blog about the whole trip – one post per day of the trip.
BEFORE WE LEFT
If you are planning to visit Japan there are some things to consider.
If you want to traverse the country a bit i.e. visit more than one city, then it’s probably worth your while getting a Japan Rail Pass. We bought the 2 week option which was around £360. Shop around different sites from the UK for your pass – the price is the same in Japan but the exchange rate each company offers can vary the price you pay considerably. You can also get area passes for East/West etc.
It’s definitely worth it as you can stroll on to almost any bullet train, and reservations are free. You also get to use local JR lines, which includes lines like the Yamanote line in Tokyo (which is a sort of circle line).
If you’re used to how rubbish public transport is in the UK, then you’ll be DELIGHTED by how brilliant it is in Japan. It’s no exaggeration when they say you can set your watch by the trains. It’s almost like magic. Then you realise it’s actually just efficiency and good infrastructure.
We flew from London and to get the best deals I suggest considering departing and arriving from different airports. We flew with Qatar Airways Gatwick-Doha-Osaka, and Osaka-Doha-Heathrow. If you don’t mind a stopover you can get really reasonable fares. Consider flying to Osaka rather than Tokyo to browse all your options. Using things like Skyscanner & Kayak help in finding the best fares.
Change your money in the UK. The rate was much better and there are hardly any Bureaux de Change in Japan. You have to change money at the Post Office and the only cash machines you can use an international card in are in Post Offices. Don’t be afraid to have loads of cash on you – the Japanese hardly use cards. They carry loads of cash and it’s super safe.
SUITCASE – if you’re travelling around and staying in ryokans then you’ll want something quite portable. The Japanese tend to travel with teeny suitcases. And if you are like me I advise you to strongly leave LOADS AND LOADS of room in your bags for all the amazing stuff you will buy.
That’s probably enough for post no’1.