Friday, July 25, 2008

Travel to Japan 09

JR Train Connections, Time table, and fares via Hyperdia
Friday, July 25, 2008

From the Japan Rail website there is a separate link called Hyperdia Timetable that allows one to find out the possible trains that one can take from Point A to Point B with further information about the connection choices and fare.

I found it extremely useful to consult this link for deciding on which trains to take.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travel to Japan 08

Japanese Yen
Currency Rates
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Before you travel to Japan you need to carry some Japanese Yen so that you could use it quickly to make a call or call a taxi. Since the upcoming travel will be my first trip, I wanted to carry some Yen.

I inquired a local bank and a credit union in town. The credit union didn't deal with foreign currencies and the local bank did but through another bank. The bank will only get a foreign currency if you are a member. Since I was already an account holder that was not a problem. I had to physically go to the bank (they won't do it over the phone or on-line, your bank may be different) and fill out an application and request a specified amount in Yen.

The bank will then calculate the amount in dollars and add handling charges (in my case two charges one for my bank and another for the bank that brought the Yen). The dollar amount will vary depending upon the day they calculate the conversion due to currency fluctuations. Then when the currency is ready they will call and you go and pick it up at the bank.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Travel to Japan 07

Japan Travel Forum
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I wanted to find out more information about travelling to Japan and check and see how individuals handled various situations like buying tickets, traveling in trains, handling the language barrier, visiting the shrines, and eating out. So I found out that is one place to start.

One can simply go to this website and click the "Forum" tab and browse through vaious questions and answers posted by newbies and experienced folks. But if you wanted to post a question, like other forums, you have to register (for-free).

When you search certain terms one gets both forum answers and relevant advertisements for that item. Like if you search for "stay" you get results that give information about where to stay in various cities as well as advertisements for hotels. Similarly if search for "food" you get information about Japanese food, food habits, and resturaunts. I found this site very useful.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Travel to Japan 06

Japan Rail Pass

Multi-day pass

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Since my trip to Japan was relatively soon, and I needed to go from one international airport to my conference site on the way in and the way out, I started to look for Japan Rail Pass. The multi-day pass (7, 14, and 21 days are available) is expensive in the hundreds of dollar range (due to exchange rate fluactuations, the exact cost will change unless bought it using Japanese Yen) but worthwhile, since couple of trip in Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet trains) is costly. So even if you are going to be traveling two or three days and take long trips it is worthwhile to get the Japan Rail Pass.

First the traveler needs to determine whether he/she needs Superior Class (Green) or Ordinary Class (Pink). The Green pass is about 1 1/3 more expensive but there are certain advantages. Then the traveler needs (assuming it is an adult; if not there are children's passes available too) to decide whether she needs it for 7-, 14-, or 21-day validities.

Then he needs to decide whether he will be traveling more than one or two regions of Japan or will travel extensively in one region only (refer to for regions). Assuming she will travel more than one region (which is probably best bet if you are visiting Japan for a short trip) then go ahead decide on the General Pass rathern than Regional Pass.

I decided to go with the General Pass and so I contacted the travel agent to get the Rail Pass and purchased it. What I got was not really the Pass but receipt to purchase the Pass. Once you arrive in Japan take this receipt and passport and then you will get the real Pass at Exchange Office. At that time you have tell them when the start date and time of the pass will be. It Need NOT have to be immediately. However, once the start date and time is stamped it can't be changed. So plan ahead and get it stamped properly. Let us, say your first trip using the train will be a short one and you will not travel for another day or two. Then buy separate ticket for the short trip and save the pass for the extensive and long trips.