Japan: Tokyo & Beyond
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
For the most up to date entry requirements for this tour, please visit this page.
Travel Documents & Tour Preparation
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 617-619-1411. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Passport: In order to enter Japan, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date of at least six months after the date of re-entry.
- Visa: For U.S. citizens, visas are no longer required for tourist stays up to 3 months.
- Travel Insurance: While Travel Insurance is not required to enter Japan, we strongly encourage all travelers to obtain coverage before departure. Check out cost-effective Travel Protection, designed to meet the needs of EF travelers here.
- Talk with your doctor: It is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
- Traveling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals.
- Request a roommate: Double-check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan for your mobile device so you can stay connected while on the road. Free Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
- Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, though charges may apply and it may be slower than in the U.S.
- Wi-Fi is not available on the bus.
- Get the EF Ultimate Break app: Your trip's group will be able to connect on the app before you meet IRL. Don't miss out! Meet other travelers, get updates from your Tour Director, see flights and accommodations, and more. If you're having trouble, give us a call at 617-619-1411.
Arrival Information & Transportation
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. You can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
- If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
- Travel from the U.S. to Asia is a lengthy process (20 – 30+ hours travel time total), so prepare for your long flight. Download movies ahead of time, bring that book you’ve been meaning to read, and get some sleep! When flying, we suggest occasionally getting up to stretch, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!
Arriving in Tokyo
Congratulations! You’ve landed in the world’s most populous metropolitan area of the world, and the capital city of Japan. We can’t wait for you to dive in! Before you do arrive, your Tour Director will communicate through the EF Ultimate Break app, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is an important reason to make sure you have the EF Ultimate Break app! Once you arrive in Tokyo it will be mid-late afternoon.
Transportation in Japan
Transfers between cities and countries are via private bus, or high speed train, and these transfers can take anywhere between 2-6 hours. You’ll also receive a public transportation pass in most major cities where necessary. Transportation in cities that offer no pass may require more walking. Prepare to walk between 4-8 miles per day, especially when sightseeing.
- The rail network in Japan is over 150 lines over 5,000 kilometers, and it is a strict place. Out of respect, try to be quiet and considerate when using public transportation. This means no talking on cell phones, and no food or drink.
Accommodations - Special Note
You booked an Ultimate Plus tour which means you are guaranteed twin-based accommodations. There is one instance on your trip to Japan where this may vary. In every accommodation in Japan the rooms have a private toilet and bathroom, but there is once instance on your tour where this doesn’t happen. In Koya-san, this overnight is a temple-stay, and the bathroom facilities may be shared and not private. You also may have to share your ryokan-style accommodation rooming experience with 4-5 other people, however the rooms are large and the experience is one you will never forget!
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:
- Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon nap, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Stay hydrated: It’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, we recommend bringing a refillable water bottle!
- Be prepared: We recommend bringing a small first aid kit including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
- Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
- What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
- Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi and always have cash on hand.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
Though same-sex marriage isn't legal and there are few discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity in place, Japan is considered to be a safe destination for LGBTQ+ travelers. That being said, public displays of affection across any orientations or identities aren't the norm. While you are unlikely to face any harassment for such things, it may lead to awkward attention.
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (recommended 27" x 21" x 14”), but note that years of customer feedback tells us the lighter you pack, the better; Aim for one piece of luggage no more than 30lbs, plus a smaller backpack or purse for carry-on. You should feel comfortable managing your own luggage without assistance. See more packing tips below:
- A light jacket or rain-wear, or a warmer jacket for winter
- A shawl or layer to use when visiting temples or other religious sites where bare shoulders / legs are not permitted
- A sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers for long days of sightseeing
- Waterproof shoes or sandals, a swimsuit, sunscreen
- 3-4 pairs pants, shorts, or skirt
- 1-2 long skirts or dresses
- 4-5 shirts / t-shirts
- 1 dressier outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat (optional)
- Reusable water bottle
- Phone or camera
- Passport, Visa
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
- Adapter / Converter
When visiting temples or religious sites, you must have appropriate clothing that covers your shoulders and falls below the knee. For monasteries, public baths, hot springs, and gyms, your tattoos MUST be covered as they are forbidden. If you have tattoos, bring gauze or band aids to cover them.
In Japan, you'll need type “A" power adapters/converters. Or, Amazon has universal adapters and voltage converters (if you plan on using your own hairdryer).
Money & Tipping
We at EF will help facilitate any testing requirements while on tour, however it is the travelers responsibility to pay for these tests and it is our recommendation that you budget roughly 150 USD total. Please note that non-boosted travelers may be required to do additional testing to enter places such as restaurants, and/or major attractions.
Budget around $60-$80 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities.
Remember that you know your spending habits best and not everyone’s spending habits are the same. These recommendations are based on a traveler who says yes to any and all activities while on tour.
The local currency in Japan is the yen. Read on for more must-knows about money and tipping on your trip!
- When exchanging money before the trip, better rates are usually found overseas, but it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive.
- Cash is king in Japan, but you should take debit and credit cards with you to withdraw cash at local banks as needed.
- You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks Cirrus and Plus, but be wary of fees.
- We recommend tipping your Tour Director $36 - $54 at the end of the trip.
- For local guides, you should tip $1-$2 at the end of each experience.
- Tipping at restaurants or for taxis is not customary, and in some cases can even be considered rude.
The official language of Japan is Japanese. While it may feel awkward at first, attempting the local language goes a long way when navigating a city and interacting with people. Practice these basic phrases to get started:
- Hello: Kon’nichiwa
- Goodbye: Sayanara
- Please: Onegai shimasu
- Thank you: Arigato
- Pardon me: Sumimasen
- Yes: Hai
- No: Iie
- Cheers: kampai
As you prepare to spend time in a new culture, here are some expert tips to help you understand the ins and outs of Asia, and feel like a true local:
- #BeHumble: The Japanese are simultaneously the most proud and the most humble people. Humility is a core principle in Japan, and there is a deep respect for elders, superiors, and order. You’ll notice this in locals bowing, customer service, or even lack of confrontation.
- Navigating: There are no street names in Japan, so an address in Japan starts with the city, then the ward, then a specific area of the ward, then finally ends with the block number. Try to orient yourself with landmarks and asking for directions!
- Bargaining: Haggle for everything in the markets! Request a price that is half of what the vendor initially asks. After that, it’s just back and forth until you’re happy with a price!
- Restaurants: Some restaurants in Japan may turn you away because you are foreign. This is usually because they are either worried about making a mistake, or, pure exclusivity and needing an introduction from a trusted patron to get in.
- Bathrooms: The rumors are true. Japan has high-tech bathrooms, specifically toilets that flush backwards and have a lot of buttons. It’s an experience to say the least.
Food & Drink
Dining in Japan is very different than in the United States. Prepare to dive into a fusion of ancient tradition and extremely modern practices. This is the gastronomical paradise that is Japan. Read on for tips, tricks, and delicacies you must try.
- Street Food: In Japan you have to try the street food. Try to find stands with long lines - that means it’s delicious, AND safe to eat.
- Noodles: Noodles are a popular base in Japan, similar to rice in China. Soba noodles are buckwheat flour noodles with soy sauce or sugar sauce. Udon noodles are kneaded wheat flour with similar toppings as soba, but a much thicker, firmer density than soba!
- Shabushabu: Sometimes known as “Hot Pot” - this is a dish where you boil your own meat and vegetables in a flavored broth and eat as you cook! Try adding some udon noodles to the dish to kick it up a notch too.
- Onigiri: A boiled rice ball typically dried plum, salmon, or cod roe all wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed. You can ind these everywhere and take them to go. And you should.
- Sushi: Heard of it? In Japan, try a kaitenzushi (conveyer belt sushi restaurant) for some cheap, yet delicious, sushi options. Just 100 yen per plate!
- Tempura: Tempura is a dish where veggies, seafood, or other ingredients are dipped and fried in a flour & egg batter. Served with dipping sauce, guaranteed deliciousness.
- Ramen: Consider Ramen in Japan a significant upgrade from your 99 cent college ramen noodle days. Try this noodle soup dish with a chicken, beef, or seafood broth, noodles, veggies, spices, and usually an egg!
Note: Chopsticks are a staple of Asian cuisine and culture. Attempting to use chopsticks instead of western cutlery will earn you some respect with the locals, but be wary of using chopsticks to point at someone, poke at food, or play them like musical instruments - these are all signs of disrespect.
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account for available add-ons.
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.