How to STAY CONNECTED When Traveling in Japan
When traveling in Japan it can be a pain to not have steady connection to the internet and/or access to contact people. In some cases you may not be able to find or get access to WiFi anywhere near you! If you don't have a way to get in touch with people, unless you have some insane rates set up through your phone company, you may be asking what is a reasonable solution? This issue can be really stressful if you are doing business in Japan, trying to meet up with friends/family, adventuring to find places you want to go, you get lost, the list goes on and on. Long story short, here are some helpful tips on how to stay connected when you travel to Japan...
RENT A PHONE and/or PORTABLE WiFi in Japan:
Hotels will most likely have some form of WiFi, it can be free or cost money and probably won't be very fast. Hostels typically at least have a computer, but 9 times out of 10 it will be VERY slow and lots of people will be trying to use it to coordinate their plans. The best solution to these problems I have encountered is the capability to rent a phone and/or portable WiFi (otherwise known as pocket WiFi) for your trip to Japan. One of the most English-friendly sites I have come across is Rentafone Japan.
http://www.rentafonejapan.com/index.html or click here
This website allows you to choose from phones and pocket WiFi. It explains the rates for all the services and gives you different options to choose from that best suit your needs. It explains how to retrieve your gadgets and how to return them, both of which seem fairly simple. The instructions are pretty straight forward and easy to understand, but if you have questions there are plenty of links to help and an email address for further assistance. I would strongly recommend this site over others I have come across where the English navigation is limited or nonexistent. Plus side, the rates don't seem all that bad either for staying connected while abroad. There are other sites out there to use of course, but just make sure to do your research.
Another website that I came across received even better reviews than the one listed above, as the WiFi is supposedly faster. The name of the company is Global Advanced Communications. There website is very user friendly AND in English. TAKE A LOOK!
http://www.globaladvancedcomm.com/pocketwifi.html#plan or click here
(SIDE NOTE: If you've never heard of portable/pocket WiFi, it's exactly as it sounds. It's a relatively small device you carry around so you can use your phone, tablet or other internet dependent device to access the internet no matter where you are located.)
APPS FOR STAYING CONNECTED:
Now when you're abroad and want apps to keep in contact with people back home (or people in Japan) there are a few different options. Below are some of the most popular ones I've used and I'll explain a little about each so you can decide which ones you would like to try...
This app was my least favorite out of all the apps I tried for international communication, but seems to be somewhat popular in America. You can text internationally, but it had limited or nonexistent features the other apps offered such as calling capability, emoji, stickers, camera filters, etc. Sometimes my text messages just wouldn't go through either, so that was frustrating to say the least. Also at the time I used it they charged money for the app, but I believe now it is free. Either way it was my least favorite and seemed somewhat stifled in its' range of capabilities.
This app was the one I used when I first got to Japan and realized how much I didn't like WhatsApp. This was good at first, but I came to find out the international call quality was kind of crappy with anyone who didn't have an iPhone. Then sometimes it just wouldn't work, it wouldn't send my texts or I didn't receive them from others. From my experience if you communicate with people who have anything other than an iPhone it was pretty hit or miss services at times, but overall not a terrible app. After all it did get me through my first couple weeks abroad and helped me stay connected to friends and family.
This app seemed to be the most popular among people who communicated with others in Korea, but its' usage is not limited to Korea. I used it for a bit, but never made an international call on it. I've heard others have had good experiences and really enjoy KakaoTalk because of the texting capabilities and the call quality. The stickers were a bit weird for me, not as cute as other apps, but they did have a cool movement effect to them that was unique. I would suggest this app, but it is all personal preference. I think LINE was better, which brings me to my next suggestion.
This was by far my favorite application for international calling/ texting when I lived in Japan. This app is REALLY popular in Japan and for good reason. Even normal Japanese people use it to text/call because it is super customizable and just flat out more enjoyable. It has fun camera filters, backgrounds, stickers for texting/ pictures, games, etc. The international call quality was great and the texting features were awesome as well. I would highly recommend this app to anyone who was traveling abroad!
5) Facebook App/ Messenger:
There isn't much to say about this... Almost everyone has Facebook, but I personally get tired of Facebook trying to implement itself in every way, shape or form in my life. So if you don't feel like venturing out, use it for the texting capabilities, but for international calling... NAH, try something else.
I hope this helps shed some light on staying connected when you travel abroad to Japan or any other country! If you have any questions or comments, you know what to do...