Passes, Phones, and Money Before Entering Japan

JR Pass

  • I mentioned the JR pass before in another post, but I will offer more details here.
  • If you plan to buy a JR pass, order it within 3 months BEFORE THE DATE YOU PLAN TO ACTIVATE IT.
    • There are many sites you can use to buy the pass- please pay attention to return information and how long it will take for delivery of the pass.
  • When you buy the pass, you will not receive the actual pass in the mail. You will receive an exchange voucher.
  • DO NOT LOSE THIS VOUCHER- some companies do not issue refunds if lost (unless it was a delivery issue)
  • As I also said before, only temporary visitors can only use the pass. So when you go through customs upon arrive in Japan, tell the customs’ person you are going to Japan for sightseeing  
    • Look at the eligibility tab on the websites to confirm you can use the pass
  • Once you are in Japan, you can go to almost any JR station to a JR OFFICE to exchange your voucher and SET UP AN ACTIVATION/STARTING DATE (you need to have your passport or visa with you).

Money Exchange

  • I do not recommend exchanging all your money at once. Many banks offer poor rates and a fee for transaction. Exchanging money at the airport is the best way to save money and get better exchange rates.
  • However, if your flight is super early and the exchange office is closed at the airport, then exchange your money at the bank
  • I recommend only exchanging $500-1000 dollars before entering the country
  • Exchange rates are better in Japan, so you can exchange the rest or more of your money once you land at the airport.
  • I prefer to exchange as I go so that I don’t have a lot of yen leftover and lose money as I exchange back to USD later. Therefore, I use the atms at any convenience store and pull money as I go. The exchange rates via atms in Japan have better rates too and some credit/debit cards don’t have an international fee. (If you pay attention to the daily exchange rates on google, you can possible get more value for your dollar depending on the day you decide to exchange money/pull money from the atm).

Phone Services

  • DON’T BOTHER WITH POCKET WIFI and get a JAPANESE SIM CARD
  • Unlike in the West, Japan does not provide many free wifi availability, connectivity, or good wifi plans.
    • Wifi is pretty slow there and you would have to pay expensive plans to use wifi like you would at a Starbucks.
    • I remember where loading google maps on pocket wifi being difficult
  • Japan is more CELL DATA FOCUSED and all data plan/usage is much faster than using wifi.
    •  Look for unlimited data or other data plans on google.
    • Some companies have cheap call and texting options.
      • I’ve ordered SIM cards from a variety of sites since pricing of cards change over time
      • I do not recommend getting the SIM card included with the JR pass, I have seen people having problems with it.
      • Make sure your phone is compatible with the sim card and order correctly the size. These websites should have a list of compatible phones.
  • To save money, I recommend only one person get a SIM card with calling abilities. The rest can just use data only cards
    • The calling is for emergency or for making reservations on the phone
    • You and other members can use free apps like Line, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc. to keep in contact rather than pay for texting.
  • Please pay attention if your card will be mailed or needed to be picked up at the airport/hotel/etc. when you arrive.
  • ALSO YOUR PHONE NEEDS TO BE UNLOCKED to use any of the SIM Cards
    • you can talk to your phone provider to do this if you your phone isn’t already unlocked

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