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Can you use an Australian SIM card in Japan?

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No matter where you are in the world, it’s important to be connected.

As one of the most technologically advanced places in the world, Japan certainly has its finger on the pulse of what people need to remain digitally connected. That’s why there are a range of SIM card options when travelling to this eclectic country.

Here’s everything you need to know about SIM cards in Japan.

Can I use my Australian SIM card while in Japan?

In Japan, phones operate on the CDMA and W-CDM networks, while in Australia we operate solely on the GSM network. For this reason, the majority of Australian phones will not work in Japan. However, some phones may be able to roam and connect to the country’s various 3G networks.

Here are some of the rates offered by a few of Australia’s biggest phone providers:

  • Optus: Customers on selected Optus plans are able to pre-purchase Optus Travel Packs for $10 per day. These are for Zone 1 countries only, and thankfully, this includes Japan. Here, people can get standard unlimited minutes and SMS, as well as 100MB of data.
  • Telstra: This major Australian phone provider offers a similar deal to that of Optus. Their International Day Pass is also $10 and provides 200MB of data per day as well as calls and texts to and from other countries.
  • Vodafone: Vodafone offers $5 roaming in 60 countries, including Japan. This gives customers the chance to use their Australian plan whilst abroad for an extra $5 charge per day for up to 90 days in the calendar year.
  • Virgin: Japan is one of the countries listed in Virgin’s Zone 1 category, meaning that customers can buy a roaming data pack for their Japan trip. Prices begin at $30, which gives 500MB (as well as SMS and calls), and finish at $85, with 3MB of data and the same call and SMS benefits available. All packs expire within 30 days of activation.

While roaming is an option, it’s important to note that these costs may be significantly higher than purchasing a local SIM card.

Staying connected in Japan doesn’t need to be difficult.

What are the best value SIM cards in Japan?

Here are some of the best SIM cards and deals on offer in Japan:

1. JTB

If you’re especially prepared for your trip to Japan, choose to purchase a SIM card from JTB. Whether you pop into their Sydney or Melbourne office to purchase, or choose to have it mailed to your home before departure, customers can have their SIM on hand before arriving in Japan. The SIM costs $49 and is specifically designed for data communication. For 31 days, people can use 4GB of data whilst in Japan. Activation instructions are sent with the SIM, making setup extremely easy.

2. NTT DoCoMo

As the mobile provider with the most customers in Japan, you can bet that NTT DoCoMo has got visitors covered when it comes to SIM cards. Their Japan Welcome SIM lasts for 15 days from activation and comes in three options for travellers:

  • Plan S costs 1,080JPY (AU$12.95) and is ideal for those only needing light usage.
  • Plan M is the most popular plan, costing 1,836JPY (AU$22.01) for 500MB and 100MB of bonus use.
  • Plan L is for those needing more data. Costing 2,376JPY (AU$28.48), visitors can enjoy 1GB of data, as well as 200MB of bonus use.

3. b-mobile

Offering 5GB for 21 days, b-mobile’s prepaid visitor SIM is a great option for those needing a little more data.  However, it is one of the pricier options, costing 3,480JPY (AU$41.69).

To make use of these SIM cards, phones must be unlocked and additional registration may be required upon purchase, so always take your passport for identification.

If you’re after fast and unlimited access wherever you are in Japan, a pocket Wi-Fi device could be the perfect option instead. These are available to rent (usually for five day periods) from most airports, and can even be delivered to your hotel. The pocket Wi-Fi can connect up to 10 devices at a time and supports all variations. While prices may vary, Japan Rail Pass states that devices cost around $65.

What are the best places to purchase SIM cards?

As briefly mentioned, it is possible to get some SIM cards delivered before departure or to your hotel upon arrival. However, it’s also extremely easy to pick up major SIM cards at most airports. There’s also the option to pick SIM cards up from larger electronic stores such as Bic Camera Kyoto.

From phone stores to airports, there are plenty of places to pick up a Japanese SIM card.

What is the network coverage like in Japan?

Generally speaking, network coverage in Japan is relatively good, especially across the larger phone providers such as NTT. However, this coverage is stronger in main city areas and tends to dissipate the more rural you travel.

Is there free Wi-Fi throughout Japan?

Many hotels and ryokans offer free Wi-Fi to staying guests, however this varies from place to place. Visitors may also find free Wi-Fi at hotspots around major cities, however these are for customers of the specific phone provider only. Starbucks offer free Wi-Fi for paying guests, allowing people to go online at various stores around the country. However, when accessing public Wi-Fi, only use a trusted VPN provider to ensure your information stays private and secure.

Note: Information is update to date as for June 11th, 2018.


Author

TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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