Okinawa, Japan (Things to know before you go)

Okinawa is made up of multiple islands located in the southernmost prefecture of Japan,  Due to it’s location, Okinawa enjoys pretty temperate weather year round and consequently is known for being a great beach getaway. Aside from the great weather and the beaches, it is also very conveniently located for those of us in the Northern Pacific. After hearing some good things about “Oki” from friend and having already visited Jeju and Guam, we thought we should take a long weekend and see what Okinawa was all about!

1. Flights

We booked flights to the main island of Okinawa on Jin Air from Seoul (ICN) to Okinawa (OKA). Jin Air is definitely considered a budget airline, but I was pleasantly surprised how nice the experience was, the only slight negative thing was the long lines at check in. Other than that, the seats were about what you would expect with a budget airline, they allow 1 carry on bag and 1 checked bag (up to 15 kg – which is impressive!), and we even got a snack on the short flight over (a tuna and mayo samgak gimbap and a bun).

There are many airlines that fly from Seoul to Okinawa including Asiana, Eastar Jet, Korean Air, Peach Airlines, etc and sometimes you can get insanely cheap fares on the budget airlines, like $20 each way! So definitely keep your eyes peeled on the airline websites for those special fares.

I will tell you that we tried going to Okinawa last February on Peach Airlines and never made it out of Korea. There was some slight fog, and even though other airlines were taking off and landing, the Peach Airlines pilot refused to land the plane, thus forcing the plane to return back to Okinawa. We were very disappointed, but I’m sure the people on the plane were even more so. We were so happy when the plane took off this time!

2. Visas

United States Citizens are authorized a 90 day stay upon landing.

3. At Naha Airport

The immigration process was pretty quick and efficient, we did not wait very long.

4. Rental Car

In my opinion, if you are going to explore more than just Naha, you will need a rental car. To drive in Japan, you will require an International Driver’s Permit (IDP), this can be easily obtained through AAA back in the states, and you can find the instructions here.

We booked a Category I vehicle (K0G Suzuki WagonR) through Times Rental Car which was 19,200¥ ($172.42) for 4 days. I would definitely recommend checking the usual Hotwire, Priceline, to compare rates. Times Rental just happened to be the most cost effective for us. The car we got was a small box car, which comfortably fit 4, but didn’t really have too much “trunk” space, it was a tight fit getting 2 rolling carryons and 2 backpacks to fit in addition to 4 people.

To get to the rental car agency, you will go towards the exit doors, and there should be someone there with the sign of your rental car company, check in with them and they will give you a number and then tell you where to wait for your shuttle bus (for us it was by Station #1). Then it is a quick ride to the car rental agency and to get your paperwork completed, again, don’t forget your IDP, or you will NOT be driving a car.
Most cars in Japan come with a GPS and I would highly recommend it. Most of the GPS utilize map codes or phone numbers, so you don’t have to struggle with address. A quick google search resulted in the map codes for any of the locations we were visiting.

Finally, gas was not too bad, we drove around a considerable bit and we only had to fill up once before we turned the car back in, our total bill was 2,750¥ ($25.58)

5. Money

As of (06/19/2017) $1 is equal to about 111¥)

We were able to use our credit card somewhat (Hotels, FamilyMart, Lawsons, etc), but as I mentioned in my Tokyo post, cash is king, and I think that is the case all across Japan. I would make sure that you have cash at all times, as most restaurants just won’t take credit card. It was easy to exchange cash at the airport and the rate was pretty decent.

Also, if you are driving, be sure to have cash on hand for the tolls, which ranged from 590¥ to 1020¥ for us.

6. Cell Phone

Getting a sim card for your cell phone was about the same or a little bit more than getting a Portable Wi-Fi device.

A SIM with 3.2 GB of data was 5,500¥ vs Portable Wi-Fi with unlimited data for 4 days was 5,184¥ (including insurance and tax).

The only thing I would caution is to make sure you don’t lose the Wi-Fi device, as they will charge you 50,000¥!!

7. Discounted attractions

If you are planning on going to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, I would recommend picking up your tickets in advance at any FamilyMart or Lawsons, which offers a discount off the regular price (1,660¥ vs 1,800¥). But note that they only accept cash for these discounted tickets.

Next week we will share some of the things we did while in Okinawa!

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