Help! Tell Me About Travel to Japan!

I will be going to Japan soon for two weeks.

  1. I am not sure how much American dollars to exchange for Yen before I go. A local bank offers 80Y/$1. I know I will need some Yen to start with. But, how much is reasonable with carrying around too much? Also, knowing I will charge as much as possible, how much USD should I bring?

  2. I was told the taxi ride to my hotel will be 40Y, but that sounds awfully low, doesn’t it? That’s like $.40 USD! While the hotel is near the airport, that can’t be right! Also, what would you tip the driver?

All other suggestions appreciated, too!

  • Jinx

In Japan, carrying cash is a good thing. While large supermarkets/malls/hotels will accept credit cards, most businesses do not.** You can, however, use a US debit card at 7/11 ATMs as well as the ATMs available at the post offices to withdraw cash, if you don’t mind a small finance charge. For a few weeks, I would bring at least 100,000 yen. You can exchange USD to JPY at the airport, and most hotels will exchange small amounts at reasonable rates.

As for the taxi ride, 40 yen is ridiculous. I have never seen a taxi that didn’t have a base fare of at least 600 yen. Expect to pay around 1000 yen for a hotel. And don’t tip. Tipping in Japan is generally considered rude and ostentatious.

Where is the hotel? And what airport are you using?

**especially restaurants. Do not ever expect a restaurant to take credit. Chances are they do not.

The hotel is the Crown Hotel. The airport is just listed as “Okinawa Airport”.

Oopes :smack: I meant “expect to pay 1000 yen for a taxi” not for a hotel. Hotels are much more expensive than that.

Ohhh, Okinawa is its own little animal. One with which I’m not so familiar. I know much more about the Tokyo region, Okayama, and wintry Niigata. Still, I wouldn’t expect the prices to be that different. Okinawa is a tourist destination, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with exchanging USD for JPY. And more places might accept credit. But it’s also fairly rural, so I would not rely on a credit card for much more than cash advances at ATMs.

Hopefully somebody who lives in Okinawa can give more insight.

Also, traveller’s cheques are pretty dicey. If you are worried about the security of cash, you can get something like Visa TravelMoney and withdraw from it at an ATM as you need it, but that will incur you the same fees you would get from a debit card.

I’ve travelled to Tokyo several times with close to 1000 USD worth of yen in an envelope. I’ve been without incident so far, but I’m also fairly careful with my cash. Again, somebody living in Okinawa might be able to give you more specific information than I can.

My usual MO when traveling is to just use ATMs for getting local currency. I didn’t notice it was that much more difficult in Japan to find ATMs than most other countries, but I was in cities the entire time. The ATM fee is reasonable, and you tend to get about the best exchange rate.

I agree that finding the ATMs is not a problem. I’m more warning against expecting to use credit cards or debit cards in businesses. Both the post office and 7-11 have very reasonable rates for international transactions. If you don’t want to carry cash, using your debit card is fine. Okinawa is fairly rural, so there maybe some places you go that won’t have ATMs handy, but, as long as you plan each day in advance, you can do just fine with only a debit card.

Still, some cash is a good idea, as others have complained about on this board, it is not unheard of for a bank to lockdown a debit/credit card because of an overseas purchase, even after being informed of the trip.

No. Taxis would never be that cheap. I checked online and the minimum for Okinawa is around $4.50 and $5.00.

No tipping in Japan, including taxis, hotels and restaurants. Since there are a log of American military in Okinawa, then they may be more used to receiving tips, but it’s not a requirement.

The only exception is to people who answer questions on message boards. Tip heavily. :wink:

ATMs offer much better exchange rates than most banks, and run away from exchange services in US airports. Terrible rates.

That’s highway robbery. Use the ATM at the airport. Don’t bring travelers checks, because you have to go to a bank to exchange them, even ones in yen.

More and more restaurants do accept credit cards. It depends on where you go. We’re in Tokyo, and most of the places we go for dinner accept them.

I’d only bring $100 or so with you and withdraw what you need from the ATM.

You fancy Tokyo folk and your credit card-accepting restaurants, pshaw. :wink:

I seem to recall that a year or two back when I often traveled to Tokyo, the only place I could reliably get Yen from an ATM was at Citibank. I believe 7/11 added Citibank ATMs not long ago so you could get cash there, too. I may be misremembering and/or this may have changed. In any case it would possibly be different in Okinawa anyway. In general, however, whenever I travel overseas (which is a lot) I change all of my currency through ATMs. The exchange rates are usually the bank rates which is as good as you can expect to get, and there is no conversion fee. There is also no “foreign ATM fee” (meaning, paradoxically, “ATMs at American banks different from your own American bank”–NOT “banks in a foreign country”) in most other countries.

For the last 6 or 7 years most American banks have added 1 - 3% “finance charge” or “service charge” to ATM transactions in foreign countries (this is not an “conversion fee” but it hardly matters what they call it, does it?). Visa and MasterCard also add 3% (I think) charges to all foreign purchases.

Taxis in Tokyo are so expensive that if stayed out past the time the subway shuts down (around midnight) I would sleep in a Capsule Hotel (if available), a Love Hotel or even doze in a 24-hour karaoke place rather then pay the $25-50 taxi fare to get across town. Taxis are probably cheaper in Okinawa as I believe someones else has mentioned.

ha, indeed! What is this restaurant that accepts credit cards? I’ve never heard of such a thing!

Seriously though, Okinawa might be a little different due to the military guys, but I wouldn’t expect restaurants to accept debit or credit cards. That said, Japan is generally pretty safe, so you can carry a couple hundred bucks around no problem. A friend once lost his wallet (was drunk, what can ya do?) so he went to the koban (police box) the next day and someone had turned in his wallet, get this, WITH ALL HIS MONEY still there. Foreign fuckin concept to an american like myself :smiley:

dunno if they’re citibanks (the signs all say “Seven and Holdings”) but you should have no problem getting money out of a 7-11 atm. Also JP Post Bank (at the post office) atms should be no problem. My brother pulled money out of a JP Post Bank without incident, though he’d been turned down at the Sunkus, Lawsons, and Family Mart ATMs.

If someone said 40 yen for a taxi, they might’ve meant $40. most taxis start out at 500 to 790 yen for x kilometers (depends where you are) than go up expo-fuckin-nentially after that. A taxi ride from the station to my house (15 minute bike ride) is 790 for maybe 3/4s or 3/5s of it, but always ends up around 1400-1500 yen. One time I yelled at the guy for giving me the “gaijin tour” and not listening to my directions and he only made me pay like 1300 something :smiley: They’re expensive, though, I only take them when I’m drunk and it’s really cold and raining and I don’t have my bike or am with someone. I love me is correct in saying it’s often better just to pass out in a Karaoke booth if you miss the last train (or hell, I slept in an alley in Osaka one night. Salary men do it all the time so I figured what the hell)

I’ve lived in Okinawa for 3 years now. Finally a Japanese question I can help with!

The only ATM in Naha you can get yen from is the one at the post office. (Oh, and at the airport…I believe it’s on the second floor in a little post office cubicle). All others will summarily reject your card and tell you why in Japanese, making you insane. Guess how I know this. I believe the yen rate here is 90 yen to $1, so your bank’s rate is kind of crappy, but I’d absolutely go ahead and bring at least 100,000. NOBODY takes credit cards here, except larger department stores. I don’t even think hotels do.

Taxi’s start at 500. You can’t get into one for less than that. Don’t tip.

You’re going to have language barrier issues–it’s pretty rare to find anyone here that speaks english.

How long are you going to be here? What are your plans? Feel free to e-mail me if you need anything.

Here are some photo albums if you want pictures:

I found this to be the case EVERYWHERE in Japan aside from Osaka and Tokyo.
Also it should be mentioned that in Japan ATMs CLOSE. I know, I know, it seems blasphemous and heathen, and it is, but it’s a fact. If you’re only shot is a JP Post Bank ATM than it’ll probably close at 5pm most days, 9pm if it’s a main post office. 7-11 ATMs are open till 11pm most nights, though YMMV, except EVERYTHING closes early on sundays, and sometimes none of them ATMs are open on holidays. You can (and I have) gotten stuck somewhere without cash, so take that to heart and make sure you’ve always got a good mahn or so (10,000 yen, basically $100) on you just in case.

holy crap. i live in okinawa too. we three should get together sometime! i live 5 min from the airport in naha.