Q: How can I contact people after I’ve arrived in Japan?
So can you use your phone? You’ll have to ask your service provider and then find out the charges for roaming. It doesn’t hurt to just use your phone to make a quick phone call, but if you intend on using a lot of data (which you probably will for navigation and looking things up), I highly recommend renting a “pocket wi-fi” device. Not only can you connect your smartphone to it (though you won’t be able to make calls or text messages), but you can connect other devices like your laptop or a handheld game system.
If you have an unlocked phone, you can also rent a SIM card, though if I recall correctly, you won’t be able to make phone calls or send text messages. Alternatively you can try to connect through Facebook Messenger, Skype, or another app.
Q: Hotels are expensive, but I want make sure I’m staying in a safe, clean space. How do I find a place for my budget?
I highly advise that you book early, especially if your stay falls on a weekend and also during high travel seasons (late March/April, first week of May, August, and towards the end of the year). If you're okay with dorm-style accommodations (bunk beds in a large room) those are usually easier to get and cost less, and hopefully you won’t have to deal with someone snoring or making too much noise when entering and leaving the room. But if you absolutely need your privacy, start searching early, at least three to four months in advance to be safe, and earlier if you're traveling during a high season period.
And don’t forget to read reviews! Places with at 80% high ratings are ideal. Keep in mind that just because one person had a particular experience may not mean you’ll have the same, but it’s more comforting to know that a majority enjoyed the place you’ve chosen.
Q: I’ve saved money. How do I access it while I'm in Japan?
You may want to bring some cash or traveler's checks with you to be exchanged at the airport; I'd say about $500 is a safe amount for the first few days. If for some reason you forget to exchange your money at the airport, hotels and certain banks can exchange it for you, and popular shopping areas like Harajuku have some exchange centers, though I'm not sure the rates are very good.
To get cash from your bank account, the most popular methods are the ATMs at a 7-11 convenience store or a Seven Bank (run by the same company as 7-11), or using an ATM at a post Office. Withdraw large amounts at a time to avoid repeat ATM withdrawal fees. If you have an account with Citibank, they actually have branches in Japan, although not many so you’ll have to look up their locations.
As I said before, more and more stores in Japan are accepting credit cards. But I like to just avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience for the cashier by just having cash.
Q: The Tokyo rail map is so confusing!!! How do I figure out where to go?!
I also highly recommend checking routes before you even get to Japan! Hyperdia provides the estimated cost for a trip, and if you’re not careful you may end up spending a significant amount of money that you didn’t anticipate. You can also get an idea of how much your travel costs will total so you can determine whether or not you can save money by getting a Japan Rail Pass, which will grant you unlimited rides on JR-operated routes during a limited period of time after the pass is activated.
Q: I speak little to no Japanese. Will I be okay finding my way around?
If you have any other questions about traveling to Japan and traveling IN Japan, feel free to message me through Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment below!