New Year’s in Tokyo: 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.
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 800-766-2645. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Verify your 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. A Visa is NOT required for this trip.
- Join the Facebook group: Join your private Facebook group as soon as it opens! It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. Call us at 800-766-2645 if you’re having trouble joining.
- 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.
- Personalize your trip: Travel Insurance is not available for purchase on tour, and the price of Optional Excursions increases after departure. We suggest logging in to your Online Account now to add these items.
- Call your bank: Let your bank and credit card company know of your travel plans so you can withdraw cash and use your debit/credit cards abroad. Otherwise, you risk your account being blocked.
Vaccinations and Health Precautions
When traveling to an exotic destination, vaccinations or health precautions other than your routine vaccinations may be required or recommended. Consult your primary care physician or local travel clinic at least 60 days prior to departure for the most up-to-date recommendations or requirements by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). While you're in Japan, keep these additional tips in mind to stay healthy:
- Drink bottled water only, avoid tap water even when brushing your teeth
- Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they're cooked, washed, or you can peel them (like a banana)
- Bring a small first aid kit that may include antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, etc,
- If you have daily medication, make sure you have enough for each day of the tour plus some, in case of delays
- Depending on season and weather patterns, air pollution in some locations may be problematic for travelers with a history of respiratory problems. Based on your health history, please discuss any precautions with your healthcare provider prior to departure.
Pack Like a Pro
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. Pro tip: 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 is for long days of sightseeing
- Waterproof shoes or sandals, a swimsuit, sunscreen
- 1-2 pairs pants, shorts, or skirt
- 1-2 long skirts or dresses for female travelers
- 2-3 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 – type “A”, or universal. Looks like two flat pins, two rounded pins, or three flat pins at an angle
Note: 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.
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.
Pro Tip: 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 as much sleep as possible! When flying, we suggest getting up to stretch every so often, 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 or Trip Consultant will communicate on Facebook or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group! Once you arrive in Beijing it will be mid-late afternoon.
Meet Your Tour Director and Fellow Travelers
Your Tour Director will also tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them. Concerned about international cellular data and staying in touch with your group? Check out “Phones and Electronics” further down in this guide.
Phone, Internet, and Electronics
We recommend purchasing an international data plan from your cell phone provider for this trip. The most common options are the Travel Pass with Verizon, or use a personal hot spot with your carrier. See more details about connectivity while in Asia:
- Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, though some charges may apply. There is no Wi-Fi on any of the motor coaches.
- For your cell phone and any other electronics you bring abroad, you will also need a converter/adapter. Finally, remember that WiFi is not available in the safari vehicles; more reason to take in the views around you!
- Your hotels may provide hairdryers, irons, and other small appliances. However, these amenities cannot be guaranteed.
Note: In Japan, you’ll need a type “A” adapter/converter on this tour for your electronics. A staff favorite for all travel is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com)
On The Ground
Money and Tipping
The local currencie 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
- Budget around $60-$80 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities
- Tipping at restaurants or for taxis is not customary, but we do recommend tipping your Tour Directors and Local Guides. 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.
Note: Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
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.
Note: 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.
Optimize Your Free Time
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.
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! Pro tip: 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.
Wine and Dine
Dining in Japan is very different than in the U.S.. 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.
Speak the Language
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
Health and Safety
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. But, it’s equally important for you to maintain your health and safety while abroad. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, drink plenty of water, get sleep when you can, and 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
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.