10 things you need to know before you travel to Japan

Japan is a unique country. On one hand you can see the modern characteristics in the big cities like Tokyo and on the other hand you can see the traditional, Japanese features in the inland and small towns of Japan. I fell in love with the country. A few years ago, I traveled to Japan for only a short time and ever since I’d love to go back one time to see and experience even more!

Are you planning a trip to Japan? In this article I will show you ten things you need to know before you travel to the country.

Golden Pavillion

1. Japan is a safe country to travel in

Japan ranks as one of the world’s safest countries: it’s an incredibly low crime rate. And I also really felt that way during my time in Japan. That’s also why I think it’s a perfect destination for solo travellers!

2. Japan is a very clean country

Although there are only a few trash cans you can find, Japan is a very clean country. If people have trash, they won’t throw it on the floor, but they keep it with them until they get home or somewhere where they can find a trash can. Furthermore, for example in Tokyo you cannot smoke just everywhere. In several places in the city you can find a ‘smoke area’.

Another clean aspect which is very important to the Japanese, are your shoes. Most restaurants will ask you to remove your shoes before you can go inside. Shoes are seen as dirty, because they touch the ground all day. Most of the time you can take off your shoes and go inside on your socks, but sometimes you’ll get some guest slippers. Besides, when you need to use the toilet, you’ll get special bathroom slippers.

3. The Japanese do not speak English very well..

… but are always so kind and will always help you, even it takes them to use their hands and feet! Furthermore, it’s still very easy as a tourist to get around. You find English signs to direct you everywhere. One little tip for travelling to Japan: bring a map of the places you’re going to visit. If you cannot find a particular place, you can simply ask a Japanese by point out the place you need to be. In this case they can easily understand what you mean, what makes the communication a little bit better.

Lake Ashi (Hakone)
Lake Ashi (Hakone)

4. You shouldn’t give a tip in a restaurant

In Japan, tipping is seen as a rude gesture. Although you’ll get help from local people all the time, they will never expect anything in return. If you are giving a tip anyways, most of the time they will just smile and friendly return you the tip. They won’t be mad at you, but won’t accept it either.

5. Pre-plan your trip

If you would like to go to Japan, you should definitely pre-plan your trip. The country has so many beautiful places and you should really look up the places you definitely want to visit and make a logical route for yourself. Besides, how long would you like to stay in each place? I can recommend to stay longer in Kyoto than Tokyo. Although Tokyo is breath taking, three or four days is enough to discover the city. Kyoto has so many beautiful shrines, temples and other attractions to discover, you can almost spend a week here!

It’s also recommended to book your hotel (especially in Tokyo) in advance, as many can be full when you get there. This situation is mostly when you’d like to stay in an unique hotel, like a capsule hotel or a traditional Ryokan.

6. Traveling by train or metro is the best way

Although it’s safe to get around by car, I think it will be much more expensive than travelling by metro and train. Especially in Tokyo I can recommend to use the metro for getting from one place to another. Travelling by train is very easy when you’d like to go from one place in Japan to another. In Japan you have the Shinkansen, which is a network of high-speed railways lines. For around € 228,- you can get a national Japan Rail Pass, which gives you the chance to travel around Japan by train in seven days. Of course you can also buy the rail pass for a longer time.


7. Most museums and temples are free

The museums and temples owned by the government are usually free. Besides, most of the time they even give you a free audio guide in your language. How perfect is that?

8. Change your money already on the airport

The banks most often do not accept foreign-issued cards. Normally they display Visa and MasterCard logos, but still only accept Japan-issued versions of these cards. It is possible to get money from your bank account, but very hardly. That’s why it’s best to already exchange your money at the airport. This is the easiest way to do it.

9. The Japanese toilets are unique

And by unique I really mean it, even if it’s just a toilet. They have all kinds of buttons: from playing music to heating the toilet seat and from spraying water to spraying air to ‘dry’.

10. Japan isn’t as expensive as many people think

And that’s absolutely true! Of course it’s more expensive than another Asian country, but it’s definitely cheaper than most West-European and North-American countries.


Hopefully this information will help you by the preparation of your trip to Japan! Would you like to read more about this destination? Take a look in our folder of Japan by clicking here.

Author: Tamara


  • Sandy N Vyjay

    I have always heard that Japan is very expensive. So I kept it as a dream destination! Looking at that last point though made me rethink my destination and the above points made me realize that I should visit Japan soon! Nice tips which are a great help, especially to first time travelers to Japan.

    • Girlswanderlust

      Thank you for your comment! Travelling to Japan is very expensive, but being there and buying dinner or so is not as expensive as many people think. It’s absolutely worth a visit! You will fall in love with the country :-).

  • Paige Wunder

    These are really great tips for someone who has never been to Japan (me!). I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but somehow just have never made it happen. I’m surprised that they don’t speak English well – not that they should – but I just picture, especially Tokyo, to speak it well. I also really appreciate the knowledge to not tip. That’s always a struggle for me when traveling. I always want to tip.

  • eatlivetraveldrink

    That is so interesting about tipping. I would have never guessed that. I guess being a former waitress when I was younger and even now, I wouldn’t turn away money. But I guess that is what makes the cultures different.

  • Nisha

    Those were some nice and useful tips. Japan is on my mind & I know they’ll come handy. I didn’t know about removing shoes to enter a restaurant. 🙂

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