You should purchase travel insurance before coming to Japan. Of course, you want a policy that covers medical care. But, your policy should also cover things like hotel/plane ticket cancellation, lost luggage, and damaged or stolen gear (theft is rare in Japan, but it does happen).
Medical Care In Japan For Foreigners
The main reason to buy travel insurance is to cover the cost of medical care in the event of an illness or accident in Japan. While medical care is not particularly expensive in Japan (at least in comparison to places like the USA), costs can really add up in the event of a serious accident or illness. If you need longer-term care, surgery or lots of tests, the final price tag can be very high indeed. Having a good insurance policy can save you a huge amount.
Proof Of Insurance Required
Probably the best reason to have a valid travel insurance policy is so that you can show the policy to a hospital or clinic if you need care. Japanese citizens and residents are covered by Japan’s national health system, so when a tourist turns up, some hospitals and clinics might wonder how they will be paid. Unfortunately, a few foreigners have been turned away by hospitals or clinics that were not sure about how they would be paid. Being able to produce an insurance card will allay their fears and make it much more likely that you will receive the care you need.
What To Look For in a Travel Insurance Policy
When you buy a travel insurance, check the following:
- Valid in Japan: Obviously, your plan must be valid in Japan. The good news is that we know of no major plans that exclude Japan.
- Cancellation coverage: Your plan should cover cancelled hotel reservations and plane tickets etc.
- Full medical coverage and evacuation coverage: Your plan should cover all potential medical expenses (after the deductible or excess). This includes, but is not limited to, ambulances, both in- and outpatient care, hospitalization and, if necessary, evacuation to your home country.
- Lost, stolen or damaged gear or luggage: Theft is incredibly rare in Japan, but it has been known to happen. Damage is a more likely possibility. Make you're your plan covers both theft and damage, which is especially important if you’re traveling with cameras or computers.
- Dangerous activity coverage or exclusion: Japan is a great place for adventure sports like diving, mountaineering, skiing or rock climbing. If you intend to do sports like these in Japan, make sure you’re covered.
- Proof of insurance: The plan you buy should provide some form of hardcopy proof of insurance. As mentioned above, if you seek care at a hospital or clinic, having a physical insurance card can make the difference between admission and rejection.
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals. Check my guides to arriving at Narita Airport and at Haneda Airport.
- If you're visiting more than one city, you might save money with a Japan Rail Pass – see if it's worth it for you
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world