Get a budget internet data sim card when you visit Japan
If you are looking for cheap internet in Japan, a budget travel sim card is just the right internet for you. I got one myself during my trip to Japan last November.
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I went to Japan alone as a tourist, but with a lot of help from friends who lived there, the experience was one of its own.
I got myself an internet data sim card during my stay in Japan.
Internet access for tourists
When I visited Japan, I knew that getting internet access would be challenging. With research, I came to know how Japan has many internet service providers, so, apart from leeching WiFi from shops or hotels, you can get internet access by either:
Renting a pocket WiFi
Although convenient, this option can be a little pricey. Kiosks can easily be found in airports, but I wouldn’t recommend this, especially when you’re on a budget trip or there’s only one or two of you.
If you’re traveling alone, it’s better to get a data SIM card with your own open-line smartphone.
Go on roaming
When you do not have an open-line smartphone, you’ll need to ask your telephone service provider’s help before you travel. I’m biased against getting roaming services. I think of them as overly expensive. Telco fees vary, plus you’d need to seek approval from your ISP. I can’t vouch for roaming, really, as I’ve never tried it before.
An open-line smartphone, for those who need to know, is one that will accept any carrier SIM card. They are not locked to one network and can work with a Japanese telco SIM. A closed phone line will be of no use in Japan unless it was set to roaming before the trip.
Which brings us to a third option.
Buy a data SIM card
This is the cheapest option for getting travel internet in Japan. A data SIM card is available for tourists who are staying in Japan for a limited time. You will need to bring your own open-line smartphone during your travel.
My data SIM card only cost me around 1700¥ + 10% tax during my week-long stay. That’s around ₱822 then. Again, you have to be a tourist to get this SIM. The cashier will ask for your passport upon payment.
A full section of internet data sim cards are sold in Japan.
Free FB, Viber, WhatsApp, etc.
Some data SIM cards offer free messaging apps, which is a must if you get lost and need to chat Clueless Commuter while in Japan.
Nonetheless if you have decided that the data SIM card is what’s right for you, here’s a few tips.
Things to bring when you buy your data SIM card
In Japan, I strongly recommend that you get yourself a data SIM card when you visit as a tourist. Make sure you bring the following during purchase:
Your money in Yen.
Don’t forget to bring Yen in Japan stores and shops.
Your Passport and Japanese Visa (if applicable)
Travel SIM cards, as far as I know, are only for tourists. You have to be identified as a temporary visitor in Japan to be able to buy them. You will also need to prove you are eligible to do transactions.
Also, a number of shops promote TAX FREE Shopping.
NOTE: The tax free policy only applies to (A) Single receipt consumable items (make-up, food, etc.) worth ¥5000 or (B) Single receipt non-consumable items (clothes, gadgets, toys, etc.) worth ¥5000. Only tourists are eligible for this so they ask for your passport when you avail of tax free shopping. NOT all shops exercise this just like the one in this post.
Your open-line, data-capable smartphone
The store will need to configure it for you, so it’s better to bring the device when you buy. You can configure it by yourself when you go back to your hotel but I don’t recommend you do this. Even if the SIM pack comes with a manual in English, it’s better to have your internet working ASAP before you go.
Determination, patience and understanding
Japan is a non-English-speaking country. They understand key English words but locals will have to use sign language to get a message across. There will be English speaking staff, but, most likely, the one who approaches you first will be a local speaking staff. Just remember to respectfully and nicely ask, especially as you are the tourist here.
Most importantly, you will need patience. You will have to wait for your turn since there are fewer English-speaking staff and a number who might be tourists. They are doing you a favor by helping you with your internet needs.
How and where to buy your internet data sim card
In Japan, the electronic stores such as Yodobashi and BIC / BIG Camera will be located around the city or train central stations. So, what you’ll need to do is:
I found an electronic store near Nagoya Station’s vicinity, in Nagoya City Center. There, I bought my internet data sim card.
Go to city centers or central train stations
Electronic shops can be found there.
I got my internet data sim card from BIC Camera store in Nagoya City Center.
They’re just lying around there, waiting to be discovered. You will find them by walking around. If they have appliances, cellphones or electronic devices displayed by the entrance, it’s most likely going to be an electronic store. You won’t be able to read much since the characters will be in Japanese too.
The electronic shop signages are in Japanese, so take note of this brands in their store entrances.
Ask where the internet SIM Cards are. Say keywords such as, “English” to let them know you do not speak Japanese. They will find an English-speaking sales person for you. Or you can directly say “Internet Data Sim Card.” As I have mentioned, staff can understand basic English words. They just won’t be able to reply back. By saying this, they can lead you to the isle full of internet sim cards!
Choose your sim card
Take your pick from the wide variety of telco sim cards. Read the packaging while taking these considerations:
- Length of stay
Some sim cards are packaged for 7 days, 14 days, while some are good for up to 30-60 days. Just check the package details.
- SIM Card size
Make sure it will fit your smart phone or the device you will use it with. That’s why it’s important to bring the device you will be using with you during your purchase.
Make sure it will work if you plan to go to Neko Island or other far-flung destinations in Japan. Ask your English-speaking crew about the internet company handling your chosen sim card for coverage.
The sim card I got had free Facebook, Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, etc. with it. It meant more data for searching in Google.
Have it installed
As I mentioned, It’s better to have it installed before you leave the shop. Some of the sim cards might need additional fees for installation. I did not pay extra since my manual had an English translation with it. Pay the minimal installation fee instead of risking the chance of going home and not successfully installing your sim card.
Bring your own device during your trip
You will need to bring a separate open line smart phone if you plan to do this. I assure you– as a budget traveller, this will cover your basic internet use. It might be slower, but it will cover basic GPS, maps, Google search queries and sometimes, free messaging Apps. There will be a lot of carriers to choose from. Others have better Sim Card networks which may be a bit more expensive with 4G or LTE capabilities. Just ask your English-speaking sales person.
Also, since the Sim Cards are for tourists, you may also read the packaging since they are usually in English.
Just the right internet for the basics
During your Japan trip, your internet data sim card will meet your basic internet needs. It will have a decent GPS for maps. It will have a decent internet coverage for doing quick searches. And for starters, you will most likely just roam around known tourist places where there’s always going to be internet coverage.
Better brands will have better GPS accuracy and internet speed. Just ask the English-speaking sales person on this. At the end, I just bought this since I will only stay there for 9 more days.
I got this data sim card since it was cheap, and it was all that I would need.
It’s the internet for tourists
Internet data sim cards are really for Japan tourists to discover. For me, finding myself a cheap internet sim card was an experience on its own.
I also found it fascinating how my friends from Japan did not know of this. They also do not frequent the shops I have mentioned here since their telco providers usually offer and deliver electronic services in package deals.
After all, it has to be for tourists.