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6 Things You Need To Know About Travelling To Japan Now (According To 5 Travel Agencies In SG)

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Qistina Bumidin •  Sep 09, 2022

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If there is a destination Singaporeans can't get enough of, it's Japan. And with the recent news that Japan now allows you to travel without strictly following an itinerary from a tour group (you can check out the updated rules here!), we bet many of you are excited to plan your trip soon 🥳 However, the rules aren't still clear as ever, so we asked these local travel agencies (Nam Ho Travel, Azza Travel, NTA Travel, SA Tours and JTB Singapore) to break down the process for you 😉 Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://bit.ly/3LnFN1F

How much do visas cost?

Credit: Goldmund on iStock  So a little recap, visas are mandatory for all travellers, including Singaporeans. Visas were not required for Singaporeans before the Covid-19 pandemic. Travellers from all countries must apply for a visa through the authorised travel agents. It goes without saying that visas booked via travel agencies do cost a little more due to service charges. While other tour agencies that responded to us declined to give a rough cost of their visa costs, SA Tours told us that they charge about $120 per person 🥶

How long should I expect to wait for my visa?

In general visa processing do take at least between 5-14 working days; a general answer provided by all the tour agencies we interviewed. However, it's the visa approval part that's simply a hair-pulling situation 😩 For your visa to be approved, you'll need to receive the Entrants, Returnees, Follow-up System (ERFS) code from the travel agency, once you've made the necessary trip planning arrangements like booking flight tickets. Once you've received the code, you can proceed to make an appointment at the Japanese Embassy of Singapore to apply for your visa.
Credit: yuriz on iStock However, due to overwhelming enquires, it could take weeks, even up until months, for your visa to be approved. NTA Travel and JTB Singapore told us that the system is currently booked till 7th November. Simply put, it's highly impossible to travel in October and early November as the visa would not be approved in time. NTA Travel told us that appointments have to be booked almost 5 weeks in advance now! 😱 The general consensus among all of the travel agencies we interviewed is that you'll need a minimum of 2 months to process your visa and get your visa approved. Looks like your Japan trip this year might be postponed to next year instead 😢

What are the unguided tours you offer?

While some tour agencies did not share the list of unguided tours, the ones that do are making their tours a lot more private, albeit guided. For instance, Nam Ho Travel are in the midst of launching their private guided tours. Currently, these are the ones available:
  • 5D4N Kansai Private Tour (Osaka, Kyoto and Nara)
  • 6D5N Tokyo, Mt Fuji and Osaka Semi Tour
  • 6D5N Kyushu Private Tour
Do note, however, that the English speaking tours are currently limited at the moment. They added that they might launch non-guided tour packages, once they are able to clarify the regulations to do so! 😨
For Azza Travel however, they have always been providing mostly customised tours as well, which includes a combination of non-guided packages. These are some of their unguided tours on offer:
  • 6D Tokyo + Yamagata Mountain Cabin by Rail (Spring/Autumn/Winter)
  • 7D Honshu Highlights By Rail (Tokyo / Osaka)
  • 6D Osaka + Kyotango By Rail
They've already started selling these unguided packages to Japan, however the group departure will only begin in 2023, so again, travelling to Japan this year may not seem possible at the moment 😣

What are the average costs of these tour packages?

Out of all of those who replied, only two (SA Tours and Azza Travel) have gotten back to us on the average costs of their tour packages on offer. Azza Travel said their popular package (6D Tokyo Yamagata) starts from SGD1480 onwards. They added that most of their customers have also switched to their unguided and semi-guided tours as it's much more cheaper.
Credit: Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organisation However, SA Tours shared the average price of a 6 nights tour (including the estimated cost of a flight) plus a local 4-star hotel (twin/triple sharing) is estimated at $3500 per person. You can however proceed to seek a quotation on the actual cost, however you do have to place a non refundable deposit of $200 per pax. It will be offset in the balance, if you do so though. These costs have yet to include your personal expenses and travel insurance, and we're expecting it to go up to about SGD4000 per person. Better start saving up soon! 🤥

How flexible are the unguided tours?

One good news though - it seems that you can actually choose a hotel of your preference! However, this depends on a lot of factors. Firstly, Azza Travel told us that their rates are based on the hotels that they usually work with, so if the hotel you choose lie on the high end, or is located in somewhere obscure, be prepared to fork out a lot more money for your tour package 😓
For Nam Ho Travel, they allow customers to choose their preferred hotel, but they are unable to accept requests of choosing hotel room types. The rooms are given based on availability. SA Tours allows you the freedom to provide your hotel preferences, where they will send an agent to book it for you, however, it's unclear if this applies to hotel room types.

Do you have any tips for travellers heading to Japan in the future?

SA Tours advise customers to remember that you need to arrange your flight tickets (round trip) and accommodation for the entirety of your stay in Japan via a travel agency! Secondly, they added that you should remain contactable via a phone call, email or an SMS at all times with your travel agent throughout your entire stay. Azza Travel shared that you should start planning your trip early (more than 3 months!) due to long waiting times for visa processing and application. Many experts predict the rules might stay in place at least till early spring next year, so if you want to see those cherry blossoms, start planning now! 😳
Credit: Japan National Tourism Organization You can also consider checking out less-crowded prefectures, as suggested by Azza Travel. Not only is it safer Covid-wise, you wouldn't have to spend as much. Plus you'll be treated to a different side of Japan you've never seen before - which captures the true authenticity you missed 😍 If you need some ideas on where to go, we give you 5 less-touristy spots to check out in Japan before the crowds kick in. We hope this gives you a general guideline to help you decide your future trip to Japan 😌 For more information, you can head over to the websites and social media pages of these travel agencies below. You can also check out the full list of travel agencies listed under the Japan National Tourism Organisation Singapore office via this website.Nam Ho TravelWebsite | Facebook | InstagramEmail: [email protected]sgContact: 6221 8433 Azza TravelWebsite | Facebook | InstagramEmail: [email protected]Contact: 6292 7110 NTA TravelWebsite | FacebookEmail: [email protected]Contact: 6352 0613 SA ToursWebsite | Facebook | InstagramEmail: [email protected]Contact: 6535 2611 JTB SingaporeWebsite | Facebook | InstagramEmail:  [email protected]Contact: 6595 0600