Highlights of Japan & China
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 800-766-2645. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Verify your passport: In order to enter China, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date of at least six months after the date of re-entry. A Visa is also required - see the Visa Information section below.
- Join the Facebook group: Join your private Facebook group now! It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. Call us at 800-766-2645 if you’re having trouble joining.
- Request a roommate:: Double check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Personalize your trip: Travel Insurance is not available for purchase on tour, and the price of Optional Excursions increases after departure. We suggest logging in to your Online Account now to add these items.
- Call your bank: Let your bank and credit card company know of your travel plans so you can withdraw cash and use your debit/credit cards abroad. Otherwise, you risk your account being blocked.
A Visa is required for all U.S. Travelers going to China, but no Visa is required for travel to Japan. It is your responsibility to apply for this visa and obtain all necessary travel documents before you board your flight from the United States. EF Ultimate Break will not complete this process for you, but we’ve provided additional information below regarding this application process:
- U.S. and Canadian passport holders must obtain a visa in advance in order to enter China. Your Tour Consultant will contact you at approximately 70 days before departure with instructions on how to apply for the China Visa. Note that obtaining a Chinese visa will be an additional cost.
- The visa application process can take anywhere between 2-4 weeks or longer to complete so be sure to start this process well in advance
- We recommend having at least two blank passport pages for entry stamps.
- If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact the Chinese consulate (and Hong Kong's consulate if you are traveling on the tour extension) for specific entry requirements.
Vaccinations and Health Precautions
When traveling to an exotic destination, vaccinations or health precautions other than your routine vaccinations may be required or recommended. Consult your primary care physician or local travel clinic at least 60 days prior to departure for the most up-to-date recommendations or requirements by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). While you're in China, keep these additional tips in mind to stay healthy:
- Drink bottled water only, avoid tap water even when brushing your teeth
- Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they're cooked, washed, or you can peel them (like a banana)
- Bring a small first aid kit that may include antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, etc,
- If you have daily medication, make sure you have enough for each day of the tour plus some, in case of delays
- Depending on season and weather patterns, air pollution in some locations may be problematic for travelers with a history of respiratory problems. Based on your health history, please discuss any precautions with your healthcare provider prior to departure.
Pack Like a Pro
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (recommended 27" x 21" x 14”), but note that years of customer feedback tells us the lighter you pack, the better; Aim for one piece of luggage no more than 30lbs, plus a smaller backpack or purse for carry-on. Note that your internal flight may not permit luggage heavier than 30lbs. See more packing tips below to help you become a professional carry-on traveler:
- A light jacket or rain-wear
- A shawl or layer to use when visiting temples or other religious sites where bare shoulders / legs are not permitted
- A sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers is for long days of sightseeing
- Waterproof shoes or sandals, a swimsuit, sunscreen, and insect repellent for outdoor activities.
- 1-2 pairs pants, shorts, or skirt
- 1-2 long skirts or dresses for female travelers
- 2-3 shirts / t-shirts
- 1 dressier outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat (optional)
- Reusable water bottle
- Toilet paper (toilet paper is not always available in public bathrooms)
- A small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Phone or camera
- Passport, Visa
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
- Adapter / Converter – type “A”, “C”, “I”, or universal. Looks like two flat pins, two rounded pins, or three flat pins at an angle
Note: When visiting temples or religious sites, you must have appropriate clothing that covers your shoulders and falls below the knee. For monasteries, public baths, hot springs, and gyms, your tattoos MUST be covered as they are forbidden. If you have tattoos, bring gauze or band aids to cover them.
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. You can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
- If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
Pro Tip: Travel from the U.S. to Asia is a lengthy process (20 – 30+ hours travel time total), so prepare for your long flight. Download movies ahead of time, bring that book you’ve been meaning to read, and get as much sleep as possible! When flying, we suggest getting up to stretch every so often, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!
Arriving in Beijing
Congratulations! You’ve landed in one of the world’s most ancient, yet populated cities. Beijing is the capital city of China, and is home to over 20 million people and world-famous sites like the Forbidden City. 20 MILLION! FORBIDDEN CITY! We can’t wait for you to dive in. Before you do arrive, your Tour Director or Trip Consultant will communicate on Facebook or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group! Once you arrive in Beijing it will be mid-late afternoon.
Meet Your Tour Director and Fellow Travelers
Your Tour Director will also tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them. Concerned about international cellular data and staying in touch with your group? Check out “Phones and Electronics” further down in this guide.
Phone, Internet, and Electronics
We recommend purchasing an international data plan from your cell phone provider for this trip. The most common options are the Travel Pass with Verizon, or use a personal hot spot with your carrier. See more details about connectivity while in Asia:
- Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, though some charges may apply. There is no Wi-Fi on any of the motor coaches.
- Internet access in China is strictly regulated by the Chinese government, and a number of censorship laws restrict which sites can be accessed from within the country. You may be unable to visit websites such as Google, Facebook, or other email servers. To learn more about which websites may be inaccessible in China, visit blockedinchina.net
- For your cell phone and any other electronics you bring abroad, you will also need a converter/adapter. Finally, remember that WiFi is not available in the safari vehicles; more reason to take in the views around you!
Note: You should use types “A”, “C”, or “I”, adapter/converters on this tour. These types look like two flat pins, two rounded pins, or three flat pins at an angle on this tour. A staff favorite for all travel is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com)
On The Ground
Money and Tipping
The local currencies in China and Japan are the Yuan and the Yen. Or, if you want to get technical, renminbi (the people’s currency) is the official currency in China, and the Yuan is the basic unit of the renmibi; the two names are often used interchangeably. Read on for more must-knows about money and tipping on your trip!
- When exchanging money before the trip, better rates are usually found overseas, but it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive.
- Cash is king in Japan and China, but you should take debit and credit cards with you, which can be used to withdraw cash at local banks as needed.
- You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks Cirrus and Plus, but be wary of fees
- Budget around $60-$80 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities
- Tipping at restaurants or for taxis is not customary, but we do recommend tipping your Tour Directors and Local Guides. We recommend tipping your China Tour Director $28 - $42, and your Japan Tour Director $28-$42 at the end of each portion of the trip. For local guides, you should tip $1-$2 at the end of each experience.
Note: Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
Getting from A to B
Transfers between cities and countries are via private bus, or local airlines and bullet trains. These transfers can take anywhere between 2-6 hours. You’ll also receive a public transportation pass in most major cities where necessary. Transportation in cities that offer no pass may require more walking. Prepare to walk between 4-8 miles per day, especially when sightseeing.
Note: The rail network in Japan is over 150 lines over 5,000 kilometers, and it is a strict place. Out of respect, try to be quiet and considerate when using public transportation. This means no talking on cell phones, and no food or drink.
Optimize Your Free Time
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account for available add ons.
As you prepare to spend time in a new culture, here are some expert tips to help you understand the ins and outs of Asia, and feel like a true local:
- #BeHumble: The Japanese are simultaneously the most proud and the most humble people. Humility is a core principle in Japan, and there is a deep respect for elders, superiors, and order. You’ll notice this in locals bowing, customer service, or even lack of confrontation.
- Crowd control: The cities you visit in China and Japan are highly populated, and therefore can feel crowded to the average American. Locals are accustomed to smaller personal space, so don’t be surprised if you’re nudged around when in crowded areas.
- Spitting: Locals in China do not use handkerchiefs or tissues, so instead they’ll spit freely. It can be shocking to see as a visitor, but remember that they feel the same way when they see Americans using tissues!
- Navigating: There are no street names in Japan, so an address in Japan starts with the city, then the ward, then a specific area of the ward, then finally ends with the block number. Try to orient yourself with landmarks and asking for directions!
- Bargaining: Haggle for everything in the markets! Pro tip: Request a price that is half of what the vendor initially asks. After that, it’s just back and forth until you’re happy with a price!
- Paparazzi: Especially if you have light skin or blonde hair be prepared for a lot of cameras in your face while in China. Some locals may also reach out to touch you - this is because many foreign visitors appear as “exotic” to locals in China
- Restaurants: Some restaurants in Japan may turn you away because you are foreign. This is usually because they are either worried about making a mistake, or, pure exclusivity and needing an introduction from a trusted patron to get in.
- Smog: It’s real and it’s a significant problem in China - on bad days the air can be equal to smoking 40 cigarettes. We recommend wearing an air pollution mask like many of the locals do.
- Bathrooms: In China, you’ll experience squat toilets, and in Japan you’ll use extremely high-tech toilets. There’s really no in-between! Expect to see no toilet paper except in your hotel room in China, which is why we recommend you BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper)!
Wine and Dine
Dining in China and Japan is very different than in the U.S.. Prepare to experience some of China’s eight cuisines, and step into the gastronomical paradise that is Japan. Read on for tips, tricks, and delicacies you must try.
- Street Food: In China or Japan, you have to try the street food. Try to find stands with long lines - that means it’s delicious, AND safe to eat.
- Sweet & Sour Pork: Pork is extremely common in China, so try it in sweet & sour form for a tasty blend!
- Wontons: A popular treat in the winter solstice originating during the Tang Dynasty, wontons are similar to pork or shrip dumplings and typically served in soup, or deep fried.
- Dumplings: These lil’ dumplings are more than 1,800 years young, making them a traditional and popular treat, especially in Northern China. Try them boiled, steamed, or fried!
- Peking Duck: Famous in Beijing, Peking duck is considered one of China’s national dishes and is popular for its thin and crispy skin. Try it with pancakes, sweet bean sauce, or soy + garlic.
- Noodles: Noodles are a popular base in Japan, similar to rice in China. Soba noodles are buckwheat flour noodles with soy sauce or sugar sauce. Udon noodles are kneaded wheat flour with similar toppings as soba, but a much thicker, firmer density than soba!
- Shabushabu: Sometimes known as “Hot Pot” - this is a dish where you boil your own meat and vegetables in a flavored broth and eat as you cook! Try adding some udon noodles to the dish to kick it up a notch too.
- Onigiri: A boiled rice ball typically dried plum, salmon, or cod roe all wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed. You can find these everywhere and take them to go. And you should.
- Sushi: Heard of it? In Japan, try a kaitenzushi (conveyer belt sushi restaurant) for some cheap, yet delicious, sushi options. Just 100 yen per plate!
- Tempura: Tempura is a dish where veggies, seafood, or other ingredients are dipped and fried in a flour & egg batter. Served with dipping sauce, guaranteed deliciousness.
- Ramen: Consider Ramen in Japan a significant upgrade from your 99 cent college ramen noodle days. Try this noodle soup dish with a chicken, beef, or seafood broth, noodles, veggies, spices, and usually an egg!
Note: Chopsticks are a staple of Asian cuisine and culture. Attempting to use chopsticks instead of western cutlery will earn you some respect with the locals, but be wary of using chopsticks to point at someone, poke at food, or play them like musical instruments - these are all signs of disrespect.
Speak the Language
The official language of China is Standard Mandarin, and in Japan it’s Japanese. While it may feel awkward at first, attempting the local language goes a long way when navigating a city and interacting with people. Practice these basic phrases to get started:
- Hello: C = nǐ hǎo. J = kon’nichiwa.
- Goodbye: C = Zàijiàn. J = sayanara.
- Please: C = Qǐng. J = onegai shimasu.
- Thank you: C = xiè xie. J = arigato.
- Pardon me: C = jiè guò yī xià. J = sumimasen.
- Yes: C = Shì. J = hai.
- No: C = Bù sh. J = iie.
- Cheers: C = Gānbēi. J = kampai
Health and Safety
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. But, it’s equally important for you to maintain your health and safety while abroad. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, drink plenty of water, get sleep when you can, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi, and always have cash on hand.
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.