Our trip to Japan was a DIY project. I researched on what sites to see, how to get to each destination, where to eat. Here is a compilation of the tips that helped us in this trip:
- Apply for your Japanese visa 60 days before your scheduled trip. Get the forms from accredited travel agencies. Complete all the forms and submit them. Make sure you fill in all the blanks. You will also need to submit your planned itinerary, copies of your tax returns, and certifications from your bank. Allot 6 – 10 working days from the time you submit your application to the time you get your passports back. Also make sure that your passport is not yet expired.
- Order Japanese yen from your bank. Some banks require a few days to a week.
- If you are going to take the Keisei Skyliner from the Narita Airport to Tokyo, it would be cheaper if you booked your tickets online.
- Consider getting a hotel close to most of your destinations. We always choose a hotel that is close to a major train or subway station.
- Get a Suica card or its equivalent. These are reloadable cards which you can use to pay for train/bus/subway tickets or even convenience stores. This saves you time since you don’t have to line up to buy tickets. Consume it to the last yen, if possible. Before leaving Japan, you can return the cards for a refund of JPY500. You are charged JPY220 if your remaining balance is more than that.
- Order a rental pocket wifi. I rented a unit from Pupuru. This will come in handy when you are trying to access Google Maps or any navigation guide. I had the unit delivered to the hotel so it was ready when we arrived. Before leaving, I placed it in an envelope that they provided and had the hotel drop it in the mailbox for return.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will do a lot of walking.
- Don’t be afraid to try small restaurants in the side streets. Food is delicious and prices are lower. Even the sushi and onigiri sold in convenience stores, department store basements and train stations are delicious.
- Depending on your itinerary, you might want to consider getting a Tokyo Metro 24-hour pass for unlimited subway rides. I think there are also passes for multiple days.
- If you are a fan of outlet shopping, you might want to schedule a trip to Gotemba Premium Outlets. You have the added bonus of having Mt. Fuji as your backdrop while you shop. Prices are generally not as low as those in the US outlets, although there were some stores that offered great deals. You can get to Gotemba by bus or by train. I booked our roundtrip bus tickets online before leaving Manila.
Japan is a very nice vacation destination. We hope to return there someday soon.