In our new series, Ask A Trip Designer, we field questions from travelers and pass them along to our trip designers for answers. This week, Journy's Japan expert (Sarah) answers the question: what's the best way to exchange/withdraw money in Japan?
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In general, it's best to keep lots of cash handy when traveling to Japan. Despite how modern the country is, many small shops, ramen joints, and even some higher-end sushi places are cash-only.
We recommend that travelers withdraw money directly from an ATM to save on any exchange fees. In Japan, you can withdraw money from ATMs in convenience stores like Lawson or 7-Eleven, which are on practically every other corner. Some visitors have had trouble with the ATMs in Lawsons, but the 7-Eleven ATMs work without fail and are just as ubiquitous.
While the exchange rate fluctuates, a good rule of thumb is to think of 100 yen as $1. So when you're at a sushi restaurant and the price is listed as 20,000 yen, that's about $200.
If you open a Charles Schwab brokerage account before your trip (there's no fee to do this, and the brokerage account has no minimum deposit or fees), you can get a Charles Schwab debit card, which offers unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide, no minimum-balance requirement and no foreign transaction fees.
Oh—and a note on tipping. It's not customary at all in Japan and can even be considered rude. Even if you try to leave a tip, a restaurant staffer may run after you to return it. The exception would be for small-group or private tour guides; while a tip still isn't expected, it is acceptable to give your guide 10 to 20 percent as a token of gratitude for their services. There is a certain etiquette involved for tipping in these limited circumstances: Place the yen in an envelope and hand it to your guide with both hands at the end of the tour.
Journy's Japan Trip Designer
Sarah is a Pacific Northwest transplant on the East Coast. She honed her trip planning skills on a year-long adventure around the world that took her to 21 countries across Asia, Southern Africa and Europe. Prior to that, she covered art, culture, food and festivals as a journalist in Las Vegas after graduating from college in LA. When she’s not planning trips for Journy, she’s probably planning her own, or reading at the coffee shop around the corner.
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