International Trip Tips
Onewing

Hey all, I'm planning on taking a trip to Japan in July/August for about 2 weeks. Yay!

I've never done a trip of this caliber before. I left the country once, but I wouldn't say that really counts. Any suggestions/tips/thoughts? What about budget-saving ideas?

Eric Johnson

I've never been outside the country, but I'd avoid people with tattoos (unless you want to join the Yakuza ;))!

LennyLen

Make a laminated copy of your passport and carry that with you instead of your actual passport is about all I can think of.

bamccaig
LennyLen said:

Make a laminated copy of your passport and carry that with you instead of your actual passport is about all I can think of.

I never would have thought to do that. Can you elaborate? Is it to make a fake target for theft? Or is that actually going to be accepted as identification? :o

Mark Oates

Have fun! :)

Other than that, have a backup person to contact, be extra careful to keep your passport from being stolen, and you should be OK.

LennyLen
bamccaig said:

Or is that actually going to be accepted as identification?

It won't be accepted as official ID by government agencies etc. but usually will by car hire outlets and other businesses, and will reduce the risk of losing your passport (most hotels will offer a safe or other secure storage where you can leave your important documents).

Onewing

Interesting. Net result of what I'm seeing discussed is "be overly aware of where your passport is at all times."

We're looking at doing a homestay with a Japanese family to reduce the cost of lodging. This goes against my introverted instincts, but everything about going to Japan is going out of my comfort zone, so why not. :D

Jones64

I would get the JR rail pass if you're planning to travel. You can use it to travel by all JR trains and it's way cheaper than buying a few Shinkansen (bullettrain) tickets. You can't buy the pass in Japan.

Tokyo area is really warm and humid in July/August. I don't know where you're from but I'm from a colder climate, so stepping out of AC cooled trains felt like getting fried by a flamethrower every time again :D

Homestay sounds good. I've stayed a few weeks at some Biological farmer families. Work for food and a place to stay for free (WWOOF Japan program). Far more interesting than following a tourist guide.

Elias

I can only emphasize the "keep track of your passport at all times". My most recent travel last November I wish I had done that myself with my greencard.

I stupidly had it in my wallet and so when my wallet got stolen (and lets face it, even in Japan if you go to any kind of tourist spot that's likely) you are only out $10 in cash and have some hassle of locking your credit card. (Maybe keep a backup credit card somewhere so you still have a way to pay...)

For me, it meant I had to travel to the closest US embassy (not easy without a wallet) to get emergency travel documents, just to be able to travel on. (Those emergency documents also came to a total of over $1000 payable to the embassy...)

Derezo

My friend had a durable flesh coloured chest strap to hold secure documents and emergency cash, something like this one. Pretty handy.

I'm a risky traveller myself, so unless you want to grow a beard and smell like a garbage dump most of your trip, I wont bother with giving you advice... but it would be free! ;)

amarillion

I definitely recommend the JR pass, it's great value if you want to see more than one place. Book it before you go, tourists get a special deal that is unavailable to locals.

Japanese language is a big barrier, yet I found it easier to get around in Japan than in Europe or the USA. That's because the Japanese go out of their way to help you out. Also, most restaurants use pictures or plastic models of the food which really helps a lot.

Having said that, use the free Duolingo app to learn some of the basics of Japanese. Just learning a bit will help a great deal.

Bring lots of nice gifts from your home region for when you meet locals. They will really appreciate it.

As for sights to see, Japan has a lot to offer. I really liked Himeji. The castle and gardens are beautiful!

I'm actually planning another trip to Japan myself this October.

Don't overly worry about your passport. I never lost mine and Japan is exceptionally safe. However, if you do lose it then it's a big pain to replace it, so some simple precautions make sense. I just put (scans of) important documents in a "Travel" directory in my Dropbox folder. That way it's automatically copied to my phone. This is not just for passport but also e.g. hotel reservations, flight bookings, etc. Nice to have it all in one place and impossible to lose, provided you know your dropbox password :)

Onewing

Good call on the JR Pass.

I'd like to see Kyoto and Tokyo, but we're currently looking to spend the majority of our time in Osaka. Not sure if we'll go west to see Himeji, but that would be pretty cool! No itinerary set yet.

I've been using Duolingo for a while, it's very nice. I'm on the last 4 lessons. :) I also use Google Translate to practice speaking japanese to see if it can pick up what I say and translate it to English. I've made it a game to have people ask me a question in English and I try to respond in Japanese using that app to give them their answer.

My wife doesn't speak it at all, but I think (hope!) I've got a decent amount of survival phrases. Currently working towards the JLPT N4 exam.

Good call about the gifts for locals. Didn't even think of that. I put it on my trello board (because of course I have a trello board for this).

Eric Johnson
Onewing said:

I've got a decent amount of survival phrases.

Don't forget the most important one:
ちょっとすみません。ここの近くに、トイレはどこにありますか? ;)

And don't forget to take your shoes off while visiting a person's home.

But most importantly... have fun! Oh and take lot of pictures. :P

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