Passport, visa and health regulations
To enter Japan you simply need to present a passport that is valid for the duration of your stay.
For nationals of countries belonging to the European Union, no visa is necessary for a tourist trip to Japan, provided that the duration of the stay does not exceed 90 days.
Nationals of other countries will need to contact the responsible consulate for information.
No vaccinations are necessary for a trip to Japan. However, it is recommended to check that standard vaccinations (tetanus, polio, diphtheria) are still valid.
Every traveller is responsible for observing the Japanese customs and foreign-exchange regulations.
Further information on all of the points mentioned above can be found on the website of the Embassy of Japan in the UK, in the United States of America, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand.
Accomodation in Japan
In Japan it is customary to book an evening meal and breakfast. This will save you a lot of money. Furthermore, the meals on offer are extremely good, and even excellent in some cases.
In traditional accommodation, guests usually sleep on futons (mattresses with blankets that are laid directly on top of rice straw mats (tatami)). It is comfortable, but older travellers with knee and joint complaints are recommended to opt for the “western hotel” variant.
In traditional accommodation, there aren’t usually any single rooms; it is customary to share a room (about 10 m² for 2 people). For an additional charge and if the accommodation has enough rooms available, a guest can of course sleep alone in a room.
To give you an overview of the different accommodation types, a list with a description and prices is provided below. All prices are guide prices; the information given is without guarantee and applies for 1 night and 1 person, without evening meal/breakfast.
One of the cheapest accommodation variants for people travelling alone. They are mostly better furnished than youth hostels in Europe. They sometimes also offer evening meal/breakfast. Dormitory/shared room: from €20.
In large cities, this is a good alternative to youth hostels. They do not usually offer meals. Dormitory: from €20. Shared room: from €25. Single room: from €30.
Traditional Japanese guest house. Private persons offer rooms (usually with tatamis) in their own homes, with delicious evening meal and breakfast. Shared room: from €35. Single room: from €45.
Traditional Japanese hotel. Ryokan are usually in old buildings made of wood, with traditional and very beautiful rooms and a shared bathroom, often with water from a hot spring (onsen). Ryokan offer local specialities. It is possible to book a room without meal, but you will then miss out on some really tasty food! Shared room: from €60. Single room: from €80.
For travellers who find tatamis and futons uncomfortable, Japan also has hotels with normal beds. They cost about the same as ryokan, but usually lack charm and character. Double room: from €60. Single room: from €80.
Other japanese peculiarities
In Japan you are constantly taking off your shoes: in houses, temples, toilets and sometimes even in restaurants. For this reason it is not advisable to wear boots or shoes that are difficult to take off. Also, it is not worth bringing slippers with you because you are provided with a pair of plastic or leather slippers at every hotel, guest house and hostel.
The hygiene and bathing culture in Japan is extremely important and completely different to Europe.
The toilet and bathroom are always separate. The bathtub is not intended for washing, but rather for relaxing. The shower is used for washing. The bathroom consists of a kind of anteroom with washbasin; this is also where the washing machine is usually found. This leads to an extra room with open shower and bathtub.
The bathtub is much deeper than in Europe, but also shorter. It is filled in the evening and the water kept warm.
Bathing ritual: you first wash yourself thoroughly in the open shower. Only then can you slip into the bathtub and relax. As the “bathers” are clean, the water is not changed for each person.
Special slippers made of plastic are worn in the room containing the toilet. There are 2 types of toilet in Japan:
- Squat toilets
They look a bit like the old European toilets, but with an oval opening. This traditional type of toilet is built less frequently nowadays but is often still used out in the country.
- Sit-down toilets
Also referred to as “western toilets”. They are often electrically operated as they offer a whole range of useful and less useful additional functions (such as heated seat and bidet). For western users they look more like spaceships than toilets!
We recommend that you travel with a rucksack instead of a suitcase. Train stations and tram stations in Japan do not always have escalators and the lifts are often at awkward locations. Take as little luggage as possible with you. For example, it is not necessary to take more than one pair of shoes, unless you plan to go on proper trekking tours.