Travel Tips: currency, cash, cards and ATMs in Japan

Japan is more often than not ahead of the game when it comes to technology (hello robot hotels!) so they’ve obviously got some fabulous technically advanced ways of paying for things, right? WRONG!

It may surprise you to learn that a very forward thinking and modern country like Japan is by other standards very old fashioned when it comes to money. Paying with cash is extremely prevalent and in many establishments cards are just not accepted!

Our first tip is to get your Yen before you go. This way you can research a good rate and avoid the hassle and worry of having to change your money when you get there. I work in London several days a week and find that the rates on buying Yen at currency exchanges in the tourist heavy areas are very good, sometimes even better than the live official rate. However, if you don’t have this luxury you can normally get a reasonable rate from a bank or other currency exchanger if you shop around a bit. Usually banks, post offices etc. don’t stock Yen in the UK so you’ll need to order this in advance, we’ve also found that airports usually offer the worst rates so changing cash there should be avoided where possible.

As Japan is such a cash orientated country you may find you need to carry more on a daily basis then you are probably used to, so always ensure you take plenty with you each day to avoid having to return to your accommodation to replenish your supply. Japan is incredibly safe when it comes to petty crime so you shouldn't get too hung up on the danger of carrying cash, there is of course always a risk of losing big chunks of money and you should take sensible precautions to avoid falling victim of a crime though.

Should you require the use of an ATM do be aware that not all ATMs in Japan accept international credit/debit cards. Foreign-friendly outlets are available in big cities but if you are travelling to a rural area it’s better to take cash with you as these can be tricky to locate. Konbini (convenience stores) such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart are the best and easiest places to locate foreign-friendly ATMs.

We hope you find these tips useful and we plan to add more so do let us know if you have any questions that you need answering!