Ello! Here is Part 4! With just 2 days to go before I leave, I am slowly reaching the end of this series, while also preparing to go! Writing these posts also keeps me from going insane from excitement and anxiety, haha. In the case that this is the first time you are stumbling upon one of these posts of mine, welcome to my travel prep series! In a series of 5 posts, I have (and will be) discussing how I get ready for my trips abroad in the hopes that it will help some of you prepare for future trips of your own! In this post I will be discussing attractions and internet! Also, if you would like to read parts 1-3 first, you can read them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3! If you have already read the previous sections, or would just like to jump right in part 4, please read on!
– Attractions –
So, this section might end up being a little shorter than some of the previous sections, simply because I have discussed a major part of this section a few times already. The most important thing about figuring out which attractions you want to visit, and how to get there, is by doing your research. It seems like I can not stress this enough. Even if you are fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, it’s good to know some things ahead of time! Here is an example for when I’ve had to do this in my own life. Some of you may know that I visited my home country, Romania, last October! And while I’m fluent in Romanian and stayed with my paternal and maternal grandparents the entire time, there was a thing that I had to look into on my own before I even left Canada, and that was finding a way to get from Bucharest (my country’s capital city), to Rupea (my birth town, which is more of a village than a town really). You can compare images of both places below, the first 2 photos being of Bucharest, and the other 2 of Rupea (which is located in Transylvania, oh yeah!
My grandparents (sadly) never visit each other, as they hold a 30-year-long grudge against one another, and thus have no idea how to get from point A to point B. I therefore had to research the trains (prices and safety), and it turned out that the prices were a little high for my budget, and that the trains are not too safe for a young woman traveling alone. I therefore started looking into busses, and found that taking a bus was not only cheaper, but safer. If I had not done this research in advance, and had in stead done it in Romania (where the internet was considerably slower), I would have wasted precious time with my grandparents! While this story is about transportation rather than tourist attractions, the point I am trying to make is that even if you speak the language of the country you are visiting, it is better to look into things in advance!
In the case of my upcoming trip to Japan and South Korea, my friends will be with me for our trip to Kyoto, as well as South Korea, so I left those research subjects mostly untouched. I did look into bullet trains to Kyoto, and which are covered by our JR passes (mentioned in Part 3), just to be aware, and I did look into the attractions we most definitely want to see, but did not research how to get to all of those places.
For the rest of our time in Japan, however, we will be entirely on our own. My father does speak intermediate Japanese, but we don’t want to spend the entire time bothering busy people on the street, asking them for directions. I’ve therefore looked into each place, checked how to get from a certain spot to another, how much it costs, and how long it takes, etc. And I want to mention that Japan Guide was immensely helpful in figuring a lot of stuff out! It was great to only have to stay on one website while looking into all of the attractions we were interested in! It’s important that, if my dad does have to ask someone something, I at least know what to tell him to ask about specifically. Having done your research is one of the best things you can do, especially if you have no access to what I will be discussing below.
– Internet –
Being connected to the internet is not only a preference these days, but if you’re traveling alone, also a matter of safety and security. Whether it’s just to stay in touch with people back home, or to contact someone in the case of an emergency, internet is one of the best things you can have (especially if you are unable to make phone calls with your cell phone in the country you are visiting).
When I visited Romania last Fall, I took my SD card out of my phone entirely, rather than paying for a travel plan. I knew that I would be with family most of the time, and that they would have wireless internet which I could use (no matter its slowness). The only time I was worried was when I took the bus from Bucharest to Rupea, but I was entirely safe the entire time, and was also able to check in with family and my boyfriend at a halfway point because they offered free wireless there.
The last time I traveled to Japan, I purchased a travel plan which allowed me to send out maybe 200 text messages or so. It cost me about $60, which doesn’t seem like a lot if you look at it as one expense, but if you add it to all of the other expenses you already have to worry about (and if you’re like me and think of sums of money in terms of how many meals they are ((6 small meals, or 3 bigger or more extravagant meals in this case)), it will feel like a lot more). It was nice to be able to text my family, even though we Skyped on the occasion anyway. But I did find it disappointing that I was unable to text either of the friends I was visiting, because one of the reasons why I paid for the plan was so that I would be able to text one, or both, of them in the case that I got separated from them somehow. Or if I left the house and got my silly self lost, haha.
I am glad that I only have to worry about that for half of my trip this time, though, since the Airbnb which we booked in Japan also includes a portable WiFi thingy! I had never heard of anything like it before, but we can take it with us all over Japan and have access to WiFi 24/7! It sound magical! We do have to see how fast said internet is, but I mean, slow internet is better than no internet, right? We will also be using the portable WiFi thingy (I sound so professional) to navigate places which are a bit more complex. We will be using my Google Maps app to get to the train station for the first time too, just until we see the route with our own eyes for the first time and memorize it.
If you do no have Google Maps installed on your phone already, and are planning on leaving on a trip soon, I highly recommend that you download it! It has saved my life even when visiting nearby places like Toronto, where everyone speaks English, and all of the signs are in English as well. My little sister also bought my parents a travel guide in preparation for this trip (Japan: The Ultimate Japan Travel Guide by a Traveler for a Traveler) which recommended the following apps for Japan specifically: Navitime for Japan Travel, a scan and translate app, and an app with speech recognition technology to translate English to Japanese (and the other way around).
While I did download the first suggested app, I was unable to find a text recognition app which was good and free. As for speech recognition, I think that Google Translate does just fine (but might look into other apps just before leaving on this trip). If you have access to WiFi and have not paid for a travel plan on your phone, I also recommend that you download a chatting app which uses WiFi rather than your Data for communicating with fellow travelers, or people back home. I will be using Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with my sister and my boyfriend, for example, and LINE messenger to talk to my friend who lives in Japan (and it’s what I use to stay in touch with her even now, from Canada), as well as another friend who is going to be traveling through Japan by herself during the time that I’m there as well.
If you do not have access to a portable WiFi device, and did not include a travel plan for your phone in your budget, don’t worry! Many places int he world also have many public locations which offer free WiFi, and if you’re looking to sit and enjoy a drink or a snack while writing back home, there are also internet cafes! Be sure to (and I sound like a broken record now) do your research in advance though, just so that you will know what to prepare for!
My How I Prepare for a Trip Abroad Series:
AND THUS ENDS PART 4 OF MY TRAVEL PREP SERIES! I HOPE THAT YOU HAVE FOUND THIS HELPFUL, AND IF NOT, THAT YOU WILL LEAVE ME FEEDBACK ON HOW TO IMPROVE THESE POSTS! IF YOU ENJOYED READING THIS TRAVEL PREP POST, PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR THE 5TH AND FINAL PART TO THIS SERIES!