SIM Card, Flexiroam, Pocket wifi router and what else?
While Japan prides itself as being one of the most connected nations in the world, it seems that this only applies to locals. As a tourist in Japan, data appears to be always lacking or in short supply. While you can always survive on Wifi without a data plan (and Wifi can be found in most hotels and guesthouses), you are at the mercy of the hotel’s network. Once you move out of range, you will be thrown back into the stone age. Fret not you don’t have to turn on your data roaming while in Japan as there are other solutions available to keep you connected to the web during your stay. While there are a number of alternatives, bear in mind the ideal situation is for both cheap data and also unlimited mobile data.
Prepaid data-only SIM cards
Data SIM cards are available in Japan.
You can either go for IIJmio Japan Travel SIM (1GB/30 day approx 2460 Yen) or B Mobile Visitor SIM (1GB/14 days approx. 3980 Yen).
The prices are however not fantastic at close to 22 USD / 30 SGD per GB.
No youtube or music streaming unless you are willing to cough up more money to top up on your data plan. Why not consider the other options below?
Other than buying a prepaid data-only sim, you can also consider Flexiroam. I covered Flexiroam in one of my earlier post. If you have not read it, be sure to check it out!
There are two alternatives available to a Flexiroam user. He can either tap into his normal data pool or use a “local data package”.
If you read my earlier post, you will remember that Flexiroam offers a universal pool of data that can be tapped into from anywhere in the world. Flexiroam also offers packages specific to countries and has recently released a package for Japan. The prices range from USD1.60/Day (100MB) to USD6/7Days (400MB):
This appears to be a steal as you average USD15 per GB.
There is also an ongoing promotion. 50% discount if bought 2 months in advance and 25% if bought a month in advance. This will help bring down the price further if you are purchasing such a package.
As these Flexiroam packages are valid for X number of day, you may want to do multiple bookings to ensure proper data coverage across your entire trip and also benefit from the early bird promotion for these other bookings.
If you do not want to trouble yourself with these local data packages, another option is to just tap into your data pool with Flexiroam. This option is, however, more expensive at 30 USD per GB and makes it more expensive than buying a local sim card.
Pocket wifi router
For heavy duty users, the above two options may not be feasible or practical. You will burn through your data allowance and also your wallet rather quickly.
You can, however, consider turning to a pocket wifi router. These routers are small little gadgets that emit a wifi signal that your phone / laptop can tap into such that you have a mobile unlimited data wifi hotspot with you all the time. The data allowance for such routers are generally unlimited (subject maybe to a speed throttle in cases where the fair usage amount is consumed).
A quick search online reveals that it is also quite expensive. Expect to pay approximately up to USD100 for around 8-9 days of use. Service providers include (japan-wireless appears to be the cheapest but the website appears not as impressive/professional as the other two):
While more expensive than a SIM card and/or Flexiroam, the routers are more value for money as the data available is unlimited and can be tapped on by multiple users.
There is, however, a fantastic exception to this.
Changirecommends offers a very reasonably priced router (unlimited data) at just SGD5 per day with the first day rental being free. This is a bargain at SGD40/USD30 for 9 days of unlimited data coverage! This would normally benefit Singaporeans. However, I can foresee Australians visiting Japan via Singapore or even any nationality using Singapore as a travel hub benefiting from this.
Data roaming passports
I briefly touched on this in one of my earlier posts titled Cheap (Free) mobile data overseas.
Some service providers over a hybrid data roaming service. Instead of charging you separately for data roaming, such service providers over a service where in return for a monthly fee you can use your home data package overseas. . As to whether it is worth it, it depends on the options available to you.
For example, if you have access to Changirecommends’ pocket wifi, it might not make sense for you to enable such data roaming passports on your phone. The cost of enabling a passport may cost as much as just getting a pocket wifi. For example, M1’s Japan passport costs SGD25 per month. Assuming you activate this service for a month, your total cost would be SGD25 and you will be subject to the amount data you have on your home network. Why not just top it up for a pocket wifi and have unlimited data wifi?
If you, however, don’t have access to a cheap pocket wifi but have plenty of data on your home network, such passports may be a possible alternative.
So always consider your options!
I personally went for Changirecommends’ wifi router and booked one for my upcoming trip to Japan. This is definitely worth it at least in terms of pricing. If it were just for a short trip, I might consider Flexiroam’s data packages just for the sake of convenience and also to avoid the hassle of picking up and returning the router.
Let me know in the comments whether you have tried any other the above while travelling in Japan? Or if you are headed to Japan soon, whether you intend to use any of the above options to remain connected to the web.
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