Traveling in Japan is amazing but sometimes situations arise in which a little help can be very useful. If you have an Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad or Ipod Touch) or an Android device (such as the Samsung Galaxy phones or a Google Nexus) you can now download a couple of apps that can really enhance your trip!
Whether you are a new or frequent traveler in Japan, we have made a list with some of the most essential apps to help you make the most of your Japan Rail Pass (what is Japan rail pass?).
Trip planning on the go
The number one mobile application for any JR-Pass user without-a-doubt is the Hyperdia app. If you are not yet familiar with Hyperdia, it is recommended to read our general article about Planning with Hyperdia first. The app works about the same as the website and allows you to see the following: travel time, ticket prices, transfer information and even keeps a history of your previous searches. If you use it to plan with your JR-Pass don’t forget to select the right options under details! The only downside of the app is that is requires an active Internet connection to work. Available for both iOS (1 month free / $2.99 a month after) and Android (free).
Getting around in Tokyo
When you see the Tokyo Metro map for the first time, you can feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of stations and lines criss-crossing the map. The apps from Tokyo Metro Subway and Trains.jp can help you to navigate and make sense of and the Tokyo travel network.
Trains.jp uses a very simple interface and displays the route from your starting point to your destination with price and travel time. Tokyo Metro Subway comes equipped with an interactive map of the Tokyo Metro but is limited to the Metro only and does not display ticket prices. Both apps use no data connection and can be downloaded for free from the Appstore (iOS only).
Bringing your own map of Japan
Sometimes the biggest challenge is working out where you are :)… With the maps app MapsWithMe you can search for address and have the route calculated for you. The great thing about this app is that you can pre-load the maps on your device before you leave home and you won’t need any data connection! It has all the cities of Japan covered. In addition it can use GPS, so you will never be lost again. If you can use a mobile Internet connection you can use Google Maps but this requires a constant data connection and can get expensive quickly. MapsWithMe is available for both iOS and Android, there’s a free version and paid pro versions. Website is here
It’s always tricky when dealing with a foreign currency and the Yen can be particularly confusing because of the large numbers. Make sure you download the app free XE.com app that allows you to quickly convert any amount of Yen to your local currency. Don’t forget to sync to latest exchange rate over WiFi before you leave your accommodation. Available for both iOS and Android.
Some extra tips:
- Be warned that some apps use an active data connection. To avoid high roaming fees try to limit the use of data, or disable it if you are unsure about the costs. Local free Wi-Fi is available in many places (incl. McDonalds) and is a great substitute.
- It can be useful to have your own rail map of the Tokyo with you. You can download them directly from us and store them on your phone for later use.
- Some trains in Japan come with power outlets, ask the JR-Staff if a seat equipped with one is available and you can charge your device on the go.
This is only a small guide to what you can do with apps while traveling in Japan, lately, Google Play and the Apple app store are booming with useful apps. Try a couple of searches and you may find some great apps yourself!
Written by Daniel-San