10 Useful Websites And Apps I Wish I Knew Before To Travel To Japan
Useful Websites and Apps Japan – So you’re traveling to Japan, and all you know is that you want to eat some authentic sushi, try on a beautiful kimono, ride some epic rollercoasters, and witness if the transport is as on-time as people make it out to be (we’ll save you the trouble and confirm that, yes, Japanese people are some of the most timely people in the world).
However, sometimes the importance of the less glamorous parts of traveling (i.e. the actual organization and logistics and aligning itineraries, etc) is lost in all that haze, and you’ll discover that the one restaurant that you listed that you’ve been wanting to experience for ages is actually a two-hour train ride away and doesn’t open on Tuesdays. Joy.
What we’ve discovered is that there are actually a handful of very useful websites that you can use to plan your trip, making getting from A to B convenient, making contact within Japan super easy, and making bookings for whatever you may need seamless.
10 Useful Websites And Apps You Need To Know Before To Travel To Japan
- Hyperdia for transportation
- Voyaging and Klook to book activities
- Willer Express & Japan Bus Online to book bus trips
- Rental Cars
- Ninja Wifi for pocket wifi
- Sakura Mobile for SIM cards
- Happy Cow to find vegetarian / vegan restaurants
- JMA for earthquakes
- Meet up to make local friends
- Craiglist for almost everything
1. Hyperdia (check train itineraries, timetables and prices)
Hyperdia is definitely the number one app for tourists who are in Japan. It gives you real-time information on all that’s going on with the transport system in Japan, including for both JR train lines and subway lines, buses, shinkansen (bullet trains), shuttle buses, time to walk from one place to another, and even the airline information if relevant.
Hyperdia has been used since forever by everyone and anyone using Japanese transport, and they even offer it in three different languages: Japanese, English, and Chinese. All you need to do is input where you are and where you want to go, date and time, and indicate your preferred method of contact, and then voila! The results will show you exactly what time you need to board, if and where you will need to change trains, the different train lines you’ll need to take, how long each stopover will be, the cost of the trip, and whether it’s reservable or not. Whilst it may seem like a handful now, once you start using it, it will save your life! (and if not, at least it will save you a lot of time traveling through Japan!).
Hyperdia offers fantastic apps for both iOs and Android, so download the app now and get familiar with it.
Hyperdia Website: http://www.hyperdia.com/
2. Voyagin and Klook (book activities and tickets)
We are avid believers in both exploring new places on your own terms, in your own time, but when time is precious and you just want to relax and not worry about logistics or any of that matter, we’re also advocates of local guides and tours. In the instance of Japan, when cities even 30-minutes apart may seem as different as night and day and to really experience it means you might need a local tour guide, then we have your back. Or rather, Voyagin and Klook have your back.
Both websites are global experience websites that offer millions of activities, tours, transport deals, and much more for travellers around the world. The ease of use, affordability, and reliability of these websites means that they’re constantly offering the best deals in the market, whether it be for a bus ticket from one city to another, or a full-on two-day tour in the countryside of a foreign country. In terms of Japan, you will find that they’re both monsters in terms of offering the best deals online as well as offering a variety of deals that you may never have even heard about, and really, isn’t that what traveling is about? Getting to know a country in all aspects? If you’re looking for a tour, Voyagin and Klook most likely have it. If you’re looking for a bus ticket, just hop on their website and book it instantly. If you don’t know what you want, just put in ‘Japan’ and have fun (for hours) perusing what they have to offer!
3. Willer Express & Japan Bus Online (book bus trips)
What you’ll find when coming to Japan is that the bus network across the country is insane – in the best way possible. They have buses running from A to B to C to Z every day of the week, at every hour of the day. Need to get from one side of the country to the other side and want to do it all via bus? Not a problem! Willer Express and Japan Bus Online both offer thousands of services across the country that are guaranteed to get you wherever you need to be, and most of the time it will be at extremely affordable prices.
One of the best things about using Japan’s buses to get around is that most trips offer overnight legs, meaning if you’re keen to explore one city, but don’t want to waste time traveling to another city the next day, you can most likely book a bus that will depart at night and get to the next location early in the morning. All you need is a sleeping mask, and you’ll be there in no time!
Most buses also offer gender-separated areas on the bus, recliner seats, toilets, and some even offer screens! At times it can be quite a luxury experience, and given the convenience of traveling via Willer Express or Japan Bus Online, we highly recommend looking into it!
- Willer Express Website: https://willerexpress.com/en/
- Japan Bus Online Website: https://japanbusonline.com/en
4. Rental Cars (book a car)
Driving in Japan might be one of the most therapeutic experiences you have in the country. The countryside of Japan offers some of the most beautiful views you can see whilst driving: imagine looming mountains in the distance, green grassy fields to your left and right, and a long (long) stretch of road behind you with not another car in sight. This is the reality in some parts of Japan, and you’ll absolutely love it.
Sometimes, getting to and from certain places might not be convenient via train or bus, or it might not be as affordable as hiring a car, so in these instances, we recommend you booking a car at Rental Cars (Japan). This website is trusted by millions of people around the world, and offers rental services across all the major cities in Japan.
Our tip: if getting a rental car is similar price to getting a train, bus, or ticket, we recommend booking the car (if time permits!). The leisurely pace that you can drive at, the freedom that you have to stop whenever, wherever you want, and just the idea that you’re driving a car in a foreign country like Japan is amazing.
Please note that you will need to have an International Driver’s License to rent a car in Japan, which you will need to organise before you leave your own country.
Rental Cars Website: https://www.rentalcars.com/
5. Ninja Wifi (Pocket Wifi)
One of the things that is unique to tourists in Japan is the fact that you can rent your very own pocket Wi-Fi (or dongle as some may know it as) to carry around with you for constant internet. Getting easy access to the internet has always been an issue for visitors to Asian countries (if you don’t have global roaming on) but this dongle will seriously eliminate all those problems.
Ninja Wi-Fi is one of the biggest providers of these dongles in Japan, and they make it so easy to book with them. You can even choose to either pick it up from the airport the moment you land in Japan at a designated point, or you can have it delivered straight to your hotel for when you arrive. Returning it is also super easy: simply pop it into the mailbag provided when you pick up the dongle and drop it off at a post office, or just drop it back off at the airport – simple and easy.
To reserve one online, all you need are the dates you require it for, where you would like to pick it up and drop it off, and voila, it will be confirmed in no time. Hundreds of people utilise this service daily – it will change your life!
Ninja WIFI Website: https://ninjawifi.com/
6. Sakura Mobile (SIM cards)
If you need a bit more than just the internet, and require the ability to make and receive calls as well whilst in Japan, then we recommend booking a SIM card with Sakura Mobile. Sakura Mobile has been offering their services to foreigners for many years now, and their biggest selling point is their ability to communicate with customers seamlessly in English, which is a massive plus.
They also offer various ranges of SIM card inclusions, so you get to pick and choose which one suits you: whether you just want the internet, whether you’re just after a SIM card to make and receive calls, or whether you want both. They’re also quite affordable, and similar to the pocket Wi-Fi, can be picked by you wherever you choose – simply indicate this when you’re ordering the SIM online and it will arrive at the destination the night before you arrive!
7. Happy Cow (find vegetarian / vegan restaurants in Japan)
Vegetarianism and veganism are taking the world by storm, and whilst it’s still got a while to go before it hits mainstream tourist attraction status, they’re actually so popular now that plenty of travellers heading to Japan are actively seeking the best restaurants to eat at. Given that the country boasts an abundance of delicious root vegetables and seasonal vegetables throughout the year, you can imagine that their vegan restaurants offer some spectacular dining experiences.
One sure way of being able to find the best vegan restaurants as well as ones that are close by, affordable, and highly rated in Japan is through Happy Cow. Whilst it is a global website, its coverage of vegan restaurants across this country is commendable, and makes it super easy for those on a vegan diet to source and locate places to dine at, as opposed to guessing their way through the menu.
Happy Cow Japan Website: https://www.happycow.net/asia/japan/
8. JMA (real time earthquake info)
The Japan Meteorological Agency website is the perfect website to stay up to date with what’s happening in Japan in terms of heavy rainfall, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.
If you didn’t already know, Japan is a country that experiences a relatively high number of natural disasters a year, particularly through earthquakes, due to its position on top of four tectonic plates. Whilst you’re in Japan, there is a chance that you might experience a tremor through the ground. Most of the time, you won’t need to fear, however, if you’d really like to stay on alert, we recommend checking the JMA website regularly so that you’re aware of what’s going on around you and what you expect.
JMA Website: https://www.jma.go.jp/
9. “Meet Up” (mobile app to make friends)
Many foreigners who have used the ‘Meet Up” app whilst in Japan can attest to its success and usefulness. For those staying a little longer than the average traveller, solo travellers, or those who just want to meet up with like-minded individuals in Tokyo to either bar hop or play games or eat or simply get to know other people, then Meet Up is a wonderful app to use. There are so many activities posted on this app, and you can choose which ones you’re interested in and would like to attend.
Sometimes these meet-ups are very general and you’ll find yourself in a diverse crowd, and other times it’s very specific, so you’ll find yourself engaging in a discussion with someone else who has the exact same interest. It’s a wonderful way to form friendships, so don’t hesitate and download it now!
MeetUp Website: https://www.meetup.com
10. Craigslist (for almost everything)
If you’re wondering if the Japanese have a buy-and-sell community and if it’s big, then yes, they do, it’s called Craigslist, and it.is.absolutely.huge. Locals and foreigners alike post and list about everything and anything else. You will find brand-new never-been-worn pairs of shoes by a local right next to a foreigner’s five-year-old couch that they’re looking to palm off before they return back to their country. You’ll find ads for relationships next to ads looking for workers. Bars and restaurants hire from Craigslist, as do educational institutions. You’ll find hair salons marketing their services on here, and you’ll also find that you can rent rooms off Craigslist too.
You can literally find almost everything you need on Craigslist, and whilst it’s probably not the most secure website to rely on, it’s affordable, reaches millions, and is a great option for those looking for random knick-knacks, cheaper-than-the-market items, and random jobs.
Craiglist Tokyo Website: https://tokyo.craigslist.org/
We hope we’ve shed a ton of light on some of the most useful websites you can use whilst in Japan. From experience, we’ve found that constantly referring to these aforementioned sites made our lives easier, and we wanted to share this piece of information onto you. We know how hard it is to travel through a country where English is not the first language spoken, so make sure you use the right tools and websites to get you through your trip!
Before to leave, make sure you check out these blog posts for more general tips about traveling to Japan.