First time travelling to Japan? Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Trying to figure out if you should opt for a group tour or solo trip in Japan? Here’s everything you need to know!

Whether it’s Japan or any other foreign destination, getting your bearings and adapting to the local scene can be quite the rollercoaster (but also exhilarating!). You might not feel entirely ready to take on your next adventure solo. That’s where guided tours can step in and become your new best buddy. Tour guides can help alleviate some of the stress of planning your trip to Japan, ensuring you tick off all the must-sees while you’re here.

Joining a Group Tour in Japan

Group tour or solo trip in Japan: Find out which one suits you best

Joining a group tour can have its pros and cons; it all depends on what you’re looking to get out of visiting Japan as a tourist.

Advantages of Joining a Group Tour in Japan

Travelling in Japan Advantages of joining a group tour in Japan

The first advantage of travelling on a guided tour is that you won’t need to develop a detailed travel itinerary. Tour guides will have their itineraries ready, so you can be assured that you’ll visit and experience all the iconic locations, local dishes, traditions, and activities Japan offers, including hidden gems! Sometimes, you won’t even need to worry about what to pack as a travel agency can send you a list of all the necessary clothes and items you’ll need throughout your travels.

Another advantage is that you can gain knowledge from someone local to the area. With a local guide, you’ll discover and learn tons of interesting facts and history behind the places you visit. That sounds much easier and fun than finding yourself getting lost in translation with a language app, doesn’t it? Not only that, but sometimes the information you see online may not be accurate, leading to a lot of misinformation about Japan and its culture. This won’t be a problem while on a guided tour, with the correct information delivered clearly and concisely.

Finally, tour guides can adjust to all types of travellers, whether you have children or are accompanied by an elderly family member. The tour leader/instructor can adapt to you and your group’s needs and is willing to travel at your own pace and even explain certain aspects in more straightforward terms if you have your little ones with you.

However, you must keep in mind that group tours do have certain drawbacks.

Disadvantages of Joining a Group Tour in Japan

Travelling in Japan Disadvantages of joining a group tour in Japan

The first downside is that being part of a guided tour can be quite expensive. For instance, a one-day visit to Tokyo can cost around £150-£250, with tours outside of Tokyo exceeding these rates.

Moreover, despite the wide variety of tour guides available, you may end up with one who doesn’t meet your expectations. This could sour what could have been a positive experience. So, be sure to do your research and find a guide that best suits your needs and bucket-list destinations.

Lastly, if you’re not keen on walking a lot or not accustomed to it, and if you’d prefer to avoid using public transportation or need more privacy, then perhaps a guided tour may not be the best fit for you. Additionally, unfortunately, you won’t have the opportunity to visit locations privately, and tours may prove more challenging than expected if you’re not used to walking a lot regularly.

Travelling Solo in Japan

Travelling in Japan Solo travelling in Japan

An alternative is to embark on a solo trip and craft your own customised/private adventure in Japan. A solo trip is recommended for more flexible, independent individuals who value privacy. Like opting for a guided tour or solo trip in Japan, however, this comes with its perks and downsides.

Advantages of Solo Travelling in Japan

Travelling in Japan Advantages of solo travelling in Japan

Travelling by yourself grants you more freedom with where you travel in Japan. Alongside this, you may come across some untapped treasure locations you might not have seen while on a group tour. You can also take your time to visit different local shops and explore smaller back alleys. With this freedom, you’re not restricted to anyone else’s itinerary and can discover Japan at your own pace.

You will also find you have the opportunity to choose the perfect accommodation for your needs. This would usually be included in a package deal with tour guides, meaning you may be placed in less than favourable housing during your time in Japan. But this worry is eradicated with solo travelling as you can choose from a wide variety of homes, from capsule hotels to luxury hotels; the choice is yours and yours alone.

Similarly, when travelling solo, you have the freedom to decide what to eat and, in turn, can try some local meals and authentic Japanese dishes. On a group tour, meals will tend to be at restaurants chosen by the guide for their appeal to other travellers and their familiarity with international customers instead of their culinary authenticity. On the other hand, when it comes to solo travel, whether you want to visit a small ramen shop or a yakiniku restaurant, you’ll be spoilt for choice while travelling alone.

Disadvantages of Solo Travelling Japan

Travelling in Japan Disadvantages of solo travelling Japan

One of the luxuries of opting for a group tour is that you won’t have to deal with the headache of planning everything and booking accommodation, as the group tour organisers will handle this. These essential tasks can be time-consuming and sometimes stressful, especially when you don’t know the local language of the place you’re visiting. Guided tour organisers will make your trip easier; once you’ve chosen your agency of choice, you can sit back and relax, knowing everything is being sorted for you with no hassle on your end.

When travelling solo, you’ll be solely responsible for carrying your luggage, which seems fine until you want to travel between cities or the countryside. If you’ve brought a lot of luggage, you may find it difficult to haul it along with you from city to city, and when you reach the countryside, public luggage lockers are hard to come by, so make sure you pack lightly. An alternative is that you can book a luggage carrier service to transport your belongings from one place to another. However, this service may not be available in every city, and the prices differ from company to company.

Regarding communication, travelling solo in Japan can be more challenging if you don’t speak Japanese, especially in rural areas. The language barrier is a real issue, but you’ll also find that many Japanese locals will be more than happy to help you during your travels. You can also download some language translation applications on your phone to, for example, be able to read the menu at local restaurants. This hassle will be negated if you’re with a tour guide as they can translate for you and provide clear information about locations and other details that may not be found on websites or direction signs.

Joining Experiences in Japan

Travelling in Japan Joining Experiences in Japan

For those undecided on whether to join a group tour or embark on a solo trip in Japan, a unique day experience may be just what you need; with a wide range to choose from, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest. Again, these can come with pros and cons, which we’ve helpfully listed below.

Advantages of Joining Experiences in Japan

Travelling in Japan Advantages of joining experiences in Japan

Day experiences offer a broad range of activities. You may find sushi-making workshops or traditional tea ceremonies; there’s always something for everyone and their preferences. You’re bound to find at least one unique experience or activity that you’ll love, or at least one that you’ve never tried before.

Whether you’re undecided about a guided tour or solo travel, this is the perfect compromise as these experiences will only last a day, and if you decide it’s not for you, then you have the rest of your trip to travel solo.

Disadvantages of Joining Experiences in Japan

Travelling in Japan Disadvantages of joining experiences in Japan

You may find that you enjoy one of these daily experiences and that you may want to try more. However, with so much to see and do in Japan, repeating the same activity may not be ideal for experiencing all Japan has to offer. Indeed, day experiences are usually short, especially if you have a huge bucket list of things you want to do, eat, and experience in Japan. In that case, it may not be a long-term solution for you.

Not only that, but day experiences can become very expensive very quickly, with consecutive day experiences totalling more than what it would cost for a group tour. Along with this, it can be tricky to re-book the same activity twice as first-timers may be put at the top of the waiting list.

Finding Your Ideal Journey to Japan: Tips and Support

Deciding on the perfect way to travel to Japan can be difficult, but hopefully, this article has helped you make the right decision based on your personal needs and wishes. The most important thing is to do your research regardless of your decision. You can always reach out to us here at @flipguidejapan on any one of our social media channels, and we would be happy to help!