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Travel & Holiday Tips

Tips while being in Japan

Japan is probably the most expensive country in the world for travel, but there are ways of keeping the outlays to an almost bearable level. A skeleton daily budget, assuming you stay in the cheapest hostels, eat modestly and travel short distances, would work out to US$60. Add about US$10 for extras like snacks, drinks, admission fees and entertainment. Staying in business or deluxe hotels and eating in pricey restaurants can easily have the ticker tipping US$100. Long-distance travel is a real budget buster in Japan - if you intend to travel around to different places, it's well worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass. At the other end of the spectrum, high rollers will have no problems off-loading their cash. Japan specialises in establishments catering to the ostentatious flattery of business accounts - the higher the bill, the greater the prestige of the guests.

It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. Japanese customs officials have detained travelers carrying prohibited items, sometimes for several weeks. Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar, but not identical, substitutes.

Most train stations in Japan have many stairs but do not have escalators, elevators, or porters. Pack light!

Cash is still king in Japan, although the use of credit cards is pretty widespread in major cities. The Japanese are used to a very low crime rate and often carry wads of cash for the almost sacred ritual of cash payment. Foreign travelers can safely copy the cash habit, but should still take the usual precautions. You can change cash or travelers' cheques at an 'Authorised Foreign Exchange Bank' or at major post offices and some of the large hotels and stores. US dollars are preferred; trying to exchange Taiwanese or Korean currency is a fruitless task. The majority of ATMs do not accept foreign-issued credit cards. Look out for the Cirrus or Plus logos or check with your card company before departure.

While there are ATMs in Japan, most are not open 24 hours a day. For travel in Japan, it is better to carry cash than to rely on ATM cards.

Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars; bus fare can run $25 (U.S.) or more. Take the train if one is available.

There is little tipping or bargaining in Japan. If you want to show your gratitude to someone, give them a gift rather than a tip. Bargaining is largely restricted to discount electronics districts where a polite request will often bring the price down by around 10%.

Tourists and foreign residents in Japan have access to valuable information, including professional counseling, via help and information telephone hotlines. The Tokyo English Lifeline ( provides English-speaking counseling and referrals at (813) 5774 0992. The Japan Help Line provides similar assistance nationwide at 0120 461 997 (

Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes and typhoons. Japan is one of the most seismically active locations in the world; minor tremors are felt regularly throughout the islands. While responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities, one of the first things a traveler should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials.

Every attempt is made to ensure that the travel information we present to you is current. Before you depart, be sure to check with official government sources to determine the status of critical information relating to a particular county.

Learn as much Japanese as you can before you come. Anything you learn will make your stay here easier. Very few Japanese can speak English with ease. If you get lost, try writing your question on paper and giving it to someone young. Use simple words. Probably they can point you in the right direction.

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