Japan is one of the safest places on the planet to travel to. It has one of the lowest rates of violent crimes, has extremely safe forms of transport for its citizens and visitors, and is very accepting of travellers from virtually anywhere on Earth.
In fact, Japan ranks ninth in the world for its peace score in the Global Peace Index 2018, four spots ahead of Australia. It’s also Australia’s seventh favourite international destination, with more than 430,000 Australians visiting Japan in 2017-18.
All that being said, nowhere on Earth is 100% safe. Sure, you’re unlikely to encounter theft in Japan, but it still happens from time to time. Additionally, you still need to ensure you’re protected in the event you get sick, you miss a flight, or your luggage ends up in the Bermuda Triangle.
Yes, you can never guarantee an incident-free trip when you travel, but you can account for this by taking out travel insurance. Here’s what you need to know about getting covered for your trip to Nippon.
Do I need travel insurance for Japan?
We believe that you should always take out travel insurance, no matter your destination. It’s impossible to predict what may happen when on holidays; perhaps you fall and sustain an injury, or eat some questionable food and end up sick in the hospital. As well as medical costs, travel insurance can cover you for cancelled travel plans and lost or stolen luggage.
With the right policy, travel insurance can help you out of these situations and more. What’s more, the Australian government can’t help you in every situation you may find yourself in overseas, so it’s essential to have more than one option for help should something happen to you.
What should my travel insurance policy for Japan include?
As we mentioned above, skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports are some of Japan’s best tourist attractions. Although extreme and winter sports are usually excluded from travel insurance policies, some insurers do offer cover for these as an optional extra. The little extra you pay in premiums for this cover is offset by the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re covered for any accidents that might occur.
In addition, if you would prefer to drive around the country rather than fly or take the train, you should consider a travel policy that will help cover the rental car excess in the event of a crash/theft. A policy that covers medical costs would also be a smart purchase.
In particular, though, keep in mind the following information when deciding on which travel insurance policy to take out.
Japan travel insurance: exclusions and what to watch out for
Travel insurance is a wonderful thing, but it can’t cover everything under the sun. That’s why it’s important to read and fully understand what your policy does and doesn’t cover before purchasing. Exclusions may differ from insurer to insurer, but here’s a list of some commons ones you might find in your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
- Illegal activities. If your claim results from an incident where you knowingly doing something reckless, high-risk or unlawful, it will likely be rejected by your insurer.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. You may find some insurers will cover a medical condition you had prior to departing on your holiday as an optional extra (for a higher premium).
- Intoxication. If you were drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident you were claiming for, your claim will likely be rejected.
- Travelling against government warnings. As we mentioned above, your travel insurance may not cover you if you enter a region with an active warning from Smartraveller.
- Extreme and winter sports. Pertinent to Japan is the exclusion of claims resulting from extreme and winter sports, as these are deemed high-risk activities.
Watch out for these dangers in Japan
- Natural disasters.Earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, volcanic eruptions from Kuchinoerabu-jima. Can you do anything about them? Not really. But an important rule for ensuring your insurance covers you is to not venture into any regions with active travel warnings. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will issue such warnings on the Smartraveller website. If something happens after you’ve already travelled into the area, you shouldn’t have any problems making a travel insurance claim, provided the policy covers such an event.
- Because of several nuclear meltdowns, the Australian government advises Australians to stay away from certain regions of Japan. As of 2019, this included the area near Fukushima Dai-chi power plant.
- Theft & crime. As we already mentioned, Japan has a low rate of crime. Does this mean you shouldn’t worry about it? Absolutely Keep a close eye on your belongings when in public places, be wary of your drinks when out at night, and travel with others wherever possible (safety in numbers).
- Hospitals. Not only can treatment in Japanese hospitals be quite expensive, these hospitals may also refuse care if you’re unable to provide proof that the costs of treatment can be paid for. This makes for a compelling argument for taking out travel insurance, where the cost of your treatment – no matter how serious the condition – may be paid for on your behalf.
- Vaccinations. Japan reportedly has a few endemic diseases – including Japanese encephalitis, measles and rubella – so it’s probably a good idea to consult your GP at least eight weeks before you depart about any vaccinations you may require.
Emergency services are available by calling 110 (for police) and 119 (for ambulance and fire)
You may not necessarily think of Japan when you think of wild activities that get the blood pumping, but it’s actually a fantastic part of the world to do so.
- Skiing & Snowboarding.Japan has some of the best ski fields in the world – hands down. If you’re going to take the trip to Nagano and start carving up the powder, you’d be wise to check out ski or snow sports cover as an additional extra to your travel insurance policy. This will cover you for injuries encountered on the slopes, as well as things like lost passes and cancellations of tours.
- Drifting school. This island nation has quite the love of racing cars. One form that’s really taken off is ‘drifting’, where you slide your car around corners…fast. You can even take drifting classes to learn trade secrets, but make sure you’re using an accredited school, and you follow your instructor’s advice. If you don’t, you risk not being covered in the event of a claim. Japan travel insurance exclusions and what to watch out for
Top travel tips for Japan
1. Mind your manners
Japanese etiquette is quite different to Australia’s. While you’re travelling, be respectful of this culture, and enjoy partaking in it!
- When riding trains, watch your body odour, don’t talk on the phone (keep your voice down in general), and don’t smoke inside the cabin.
- Walking around in your shoes inside homes, restaurants, or even temples is considered bad manners.
- Eating etiquette. Eating sushi with your hands is fine, but use chopsticks to transport it to your plate if you’re sharing a meal with someone else. Also, do not stick your chopsticks upright in your rice.
- Public displays of affection are not forbidden, but they may make others uncomfortable.
2. Be aware of alcohol restrictions
The legal drinking age in Japan is 20, the blood alcohol limit for drivers is zero, and it’s even illegal to be a passenger in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. Be sure to follow these rules, as any claim for an incident in which you’re intoxicated could be rejected.
3. Carry cash
You may find that many shops and other services only accept payment by cash, although most hotels accept the major credit cards. You can find ATMs at banks, convenience stores, and 7-Elevens. However, these may not accept all foreign cards, so you should check with your bank whether your credit card can be used in Japan.
4. Watch out for the weather
Typhoon season lasts from May to November each year and can bring torrential rain, flooding and landslides. This season is then followed by winter – which in Japan means heavy snow and freezing temperatures – and conditions during winter can change very quickly.
You can stay up to date with the weather through the Japan Meteorological Agency. Smartraveller also has details of English-speaking services for tourists to contact.
Compare travel insurance for Japan
If you’re heading to Japan soon but haven’t sorted your travel insurance, now’s a great time to do so! Our travel insurance comparison service is a quick, easy way to search, compare and choose from a selection of policies for your trip to Japan. Otherwise, you can look through our guide to travel insurance by destination if you’re flying elsewhere.
Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Peace Index 2018: Measuring Peace in a Complex World,
Sydney, June 2018. Available from: http://visionofhumanity.org/reports (accessed 12 April 2019).
Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Consular State of Play 2017-18, September 2018.
Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Japan. Published on Smartraveller.gov.au. Sourced April 2019.