30 tips for first time travellers to Japan

So you're traveling to Japan! Lucky you - such a fabulous country, absolutely unique culture, fascinating language and amazing natural beauty. Before you leave, check out our 30 tips for first time travelers to Japan - it's good to know the dos and don'ts firsthand.

1. Bow to greet a person; bend your body 15 degrees for ward for a casual bow. When you meet elders, bow deeply from your waist.

2. Before eating a meal and after finishing it, be sure to thank your host for the meal and their company with a small bow. This is considered good table manners.

3. Get Suica cards to travel the subway, metro, Japan Rail and also to pay for items in convenience stores. You can load them up with Yen as you go along.

4. Don't use your cell phones on trains and buses. Don't talk to anyone on public transport either. People usually sleep, read or listen to music quietly.

5. Drive and walk on the left side - it's the opposite driving direction when compared to the US. Park on the left and use the left side of escalators and elevators.

6.Food is expensive, so best to avoid restaurants and Starbucks. Rather, buy bread, spreads, rice cakes and noodles from small local shops, as these are less expensive.

7.When you finish eating at a bar, put your bowl up on the counter with your glass and wipe down the counter in front of you with a damp towel.

8. Water is safe to drink - whether it is tap water or bottled water. You can refill at any public fountain without worry.

9. Buy a map that indicates the names of destinations both in Japanese and in English. Carry a Japanese to English translation book to manage small phrases.

10. Carry tissues or hand towels with you - most of the public bathrooms don't have hand-drying facilities, unless you want to use the toilet roll.

11. Carry at least 10,000-20,000 yen in cash with you. Most Japanese ATM machines don't accept foreign cards. Also many establishments don't accept credit cards.

12. Always carry a notepad with you along with a pen or pencil. You may need to write down what you want, or even draw it if someone doesn't understand you

13. Write down the full address of your hotel or destination to show someone in case you're lost. Get it written in Japanese as well.

14. When you're ready to pay your bill at a restaurants, cross your forefingers together to form an 'X'. The waiter will come to you with your check.

15. When you want to point towards someone or something, point with your open hand. Pointing at anything with your forefinger is considered rude.

16. Don't tip anyone; even waiters will be offended if you do so. Other than in the Roppongi area, tipping is considered unacceptable.

17.Public transportation is available only till midnight; if you're stranded after midnight, wait for it to resume at 5 A.M. Avoid expensive taxis.

18. When entering a Japanese house, place your outdoor shoes at the doorway. Wear the slippers your host provides.

19. Remove your house slippers when you enter a room that is covered with tatami flooring. You can step on tatami mats with your bare or socked feet.

20.When you visit the toilet at somebody's home, wear special toilet slippers. Do not wear house slippers in the toilet.

21. When you visit a Japanese temple, throw a coin into the offering box and fold your hands in prayer. Burn incense and wave your hand to extinguish the flame; don't blow on it.

22. Take photos only in areas where they're permitted. Watch the signs, and ask locals if you're not sure. Don't offend by taking pictures inside temples.

23. If you're not sure what to order at a restaurant, indicate one of the plastic food replicas that are displayed near the front of the restaurant.

24. If the restaurant waiters don't lead you to a table, it means you can sit anywhere. Wait for a few moments for them to lead you otherwise.

25. In a traditional Japanese restaurant, take your shoes off at the entrance and kneel at the low Japanese table. Wear nice socks.

26. During formal traditional meals or tea ceremonies, men can sit cross-legged while women must fold their legs neatly under their hips.

27. You can give your host, business partner or friend a gift while meeting, parting or during a special occasion. Make sure you pack it in simple brown paper.

28. While exchanging cards, stand up, bow slightly and hold your card facing the others with the fingertips of both hands.

29. When you receive someone's visiting card, be sure to examine it with pleasure and carefully place it in your wallet. Don't shove it in your back pocket.

30. Do not blow your nose in public; try to discreetly wipe your nose or just snort or sniff to control your cold if you have one.

The writer, Steve, is a guest blogger and skydiving enthusiast. He's made a name of himself contributing posts on travel and adventure to hundreds of blogs around the world , including FlipKey.

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