Tag Archive for: trains

While the rail network that spreads across Sri Lanka covers some of the most important destinations, it is still very limited in connections between the main touristic spots.

We initially decided to travel from Elle to Arugam Bay but due to hustle of finding a convenient route in terms of travel time and expenses, we felt more pleased by the idea to travel to the northeast coast and visit on the way the architectural wonders in the heart of the country.

Our plan was to continue going north following the railway network, which meant returning to Kandy, where we reserved more time to explore the city, as we didn’t have a proper chance to do so during our first stop here. Read more about our time in Kandy.

An interesting aspect about trains in Sri Lanka is the difficulty to get a seat. Reserved seats (available for first and second class only) are most of the time sold out and unreserved tickets usually “reserve” travelers the chance to taste the authentic experience of being trapped and squished for hours between luggage and people. We had an uncomfortable experience when traveling from Colombo to Kandy. It was interesting and somehow fun in the beginning, but three hours later we knew it wasn’t something we wanted to try again soon.

Dambulla in northern-center of Sri Lanka

After failing to get reserved seats for the train to Trincomalee, we took a morning bus to Dambulla, a small city but an important access gate to almost any place in the country through a complex network of buses that uses the city as one of the main connection points.

We spent only three days in Dambulla and decided to use the last hours of the arrival day to visit the famous cave temple (also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla) situated at the entrance in the city. We were part of the last group of visitors allowed to climb the stairs of the temple, shortly before sunset, which we found very convenient and pleasant in the absence of the larger groups. When visiting Buddhist temples, a proper dress code must be followed. I was wearing shorts that day, which is not accepted at the entrance in any temple, but the person at the gate was kind enough to borrow me a scarf to cover my legs… the gesture was nice, although a pink scarf didn’t really reflect my preferences in choosing colors to wear.



The temple includes a series of chambers, which represent divisions of a bigger cave filled with statues of Buddha. At the end of our visit, we were rewarded with a spectacular view from the height of the rock on top of which the temple is placed while the golden light of the last hour of the day left its last traces on the sky.



We returned to the city, searching for a place to dine and planned to get an early sleep as we wanted to catch the sunrise on the top of the Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya.

The Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

At hour arrival in Dambulla, a friendly tuk-tuk driver offered us a tempting cheap ride to our accommodation in return for the chance to propose us a sunrise tour to Sigiriya and back, which we happily accepted. We agreed on a price of 15000 rupees, which we could have easily negotiated, but given the early departure and the distance to cover, we thought it was a fair price to pay.



At 4 o’clock in the morning the tuk-tuk driver picked us up in front of the hostel and we drove for more than 20 km in complete darkness till the entrance of the rock temple, where we were asked to pay an entrance fee of 500 rupees. A few other people arrived at the same time and together we started climbing up the stairs to the top of the rock. The Pidurangala Rock is less impressive than the Lion Rock, but surely less touristic, which made it our choice for a spectacular sunrise spot. The hike to the top is less than 30 minutes long and, while not very difficult, we advise wearing proper shoes as some parts are harder to climb and in the presence of humidity it can be very slippery.

The sunrise at the top was truly spectacular and the view over the surroundings beautiful to experience. And to make the journey more complete, after the return at parking space, our driver took us to the shore of the lake in the vicinity of the two rocks, from where we could watch their reflection of the water.



We returned to Dambulla in time for a late breakfast and a long nap after.

On the third day we were planning to visit more of the Ancient city of Sigiriya and extend our day-tour with a visit of Polonnaruwa, but in the following morning we realized how tiring the last days through the country have been  and how much our energy levels dropped, so we turned our plans of exploring the surroundings into plans to rest and recover. Polonnaruwa will have to wait until our future visit to Sri Lanka.

A direct bus from Dambulla to Trincomalee brought us a day later to the seaside on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, a country so small in size but so rich in experiences.

See more pictures from Dambulla and Sigiriya here.

During our trip in Sri Lanka we visited many beautiful places, but Ella was one of our top highlights. We spent only 4 nights there, which we thought was enough to explore the surroundings, but if time had allowed us, we would have stayed for sure much longer.


Ella (or Elle as the locals call it), has approximately 45.000 residents and is located at 1000m altitude, being surrounded by beautiful and infinite fields of tea plantations. We loved it from the moment we arrived there. Although Ella can be reached in different ways, by private or public transportation, most tourists arrive by train from Kandy, mostly after the trip with the train has been so much advertised due to the beautiful landscapes that can be seen on the way. We were curious to find out what all the fuss is about, so we bought train tickets for what we hoped would be a beautiful experience. And it was!


During the 6 hours long ride we could admire wide green tea plantations, villages and waterfalls. Unfortunately, getting tickets for this trip can be a very challenging experience and being trapped in a crowded carriage with no possibility to look outside is for sure nobody‘s desire. Many travelers mentioned that people go off and on the train often, mainly locals that travel short distances, so it is very possible to get a seat even if you were unlucky to find only 2nd or 3rd class tickets.


Where to stay

At the arrival in Ella, there is no need to worry about transportation. As in most places in Sri Lanka, tuk-tuks will be waiting outside the station to bring you to the accommodation. But, as most of the accommodations are located in the immediate vicinity, walking to your hostel or hotel is as easy as taking a tuk-tuk, but obviously cheaper.



The main part of Ella offers countless accommodation options, but we thought that it might be a good idea to spend the first night closer to the tee fields, at the Backpackers Paradise camp, where, for more than a reasonable price, we got to wake up in a comfy tent overlooking a small tea plantation. The host was very friendly and made our stay truly special.


Where to eat?

There are many restaurants and bars in Ella. The food is relatively expensive in comparison to Kandy or Colombo. We went always to small local restaurants and ate mainly vegetarian food, but we could definitely feel that we were in a touristic place. For those that don’t always feel the need to be in a fancy place and care also about their budget, you should know that there is a supermarket in the touristic area, which has a small restaurant inside where they serve fresh rice and curry at a reasonable price.

Anywhere in Ella, you will find fruits and vegetables and every Wednesday, there is a small market along the Ella Passara road where locals sell fresh food. Western food is also largely available.

Street food was our favorite. Rotis, samosas, fried Daal made it on our menu quite often, especially when we went for hikes and wanted to have a snack with us. A big tasty Roti with potatoes and a spicy filling can be purchased for as little as 50 – 100 lkr (less than 50 cents).

What to do in Ella?

Ella has many nice spots to explore. It is a hiker‘s paradise, be it either an experienced hiker or a regular tourist eager to conquer the Little Adam’s Peak or the Ella Rock.



We climbed both of them. The hikes were easy and pleasant and we were rewarded with spectacular views.

Little Adam’s Peak is more accessible, but it felt less crowded. What we enjoyed observing was the interest of the locals in maintaining the mountain clean and make it pleasant for everyone to climb it.


Ella Rock felt a bit more challenging due to the many routes leading to the top, but there are always villagers around willing to guide you (in return for a small fee, of course). For many locals, it became a sort of business guiding tourists to the top of the giant rock. Some tourists reported that they have been sent in wrong directions in order to find themselves lost after and later to be „saved“ by friendly locals that helped them find the way back. We found all the routes marked on our mobile app Maps.Me, so we declined any help and found the way easily.


Other highlights of our stay were visiting the Nine Arch Bridge and one of the Tea Factories in the area, where we learned about the process of producing quality tea and tasted from different types of tea.


Interested in visiting Ella? Find more inspiration in our gallery.

We finally arrived in Sri Lanka. We got our visa extension and were already excited about exploring this beautiful country. So, after spending only one night in Colombo, we went straight to the train station early in the following morning. A local bus took us from our accommodation to the Fort (the city center in Colombo) where we planned to board the train to Kandy.

If you want to book a train seat in Sri Lanka you need to be fast and plan it way in advance. As we usually travel spontaneously, we could only buy tickets for the second or third class. The third class is usually very crowded and we knew that we might not get a seat in the second class either, but we were optimistic until we saw the train….

Train Ride from Colombo to Kandy

I have never seen a train that was so full, not even in India. It was incredible how many people were inside: students, workers, businessmen, backpackers, families and, of course, a lot of luggage. As we left very early at 06.00am, we arrived in Kandy around 10.00am and could go directly to explore the city.

We really wanted to do the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella two days later, so we decided to ask directly at the train station if there were seats available. We did not want to have the same experience again, mostly for the reason that the train ride this time would take around 7.00 hours. Unfortunately, we were not lucky and our mood was a bit down when thinking about the upcoming train ride that we expected to be a highlight of our stay in Sri Lanka.

Kandy City

Like in most cities in Sri Lanka, life happens around the clock tower: buses, dogs, food sellers, Tuk-Tuks. Everything and everybody is rushing.



We got caught by the vibe of Sri Lanka and enjoyed the new experience to the maximum, located in central Sri Lanka and is surrounded by mountains and tea plantations. We started our sightseeing in the same morning, after our arrival, and explored the local market and walked around the Kandy Lake, passing the famous Buddhist temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa). At the lake, we could admire different kinds of birds.

Our best place to eat was Hela Bojun Hala, a little food market that has several branches in Sri Lanka and where they serve a variety of Sri Lankan dishes and sweets for very low prices. We found it to be the best opportunity to try local foods.


Lucky moment

On our way back to the Hostel we decided to go back to the train station as we have read about a Luxury Train going to Ella (or Elle how they say in Sri Lanka). We did not consider this option earlier because we thought we could not afford it anyway and we wanted to have an authentic experience by traveling with the regular train.

We came at the right moment. The counter was about to close when we asked about the availability. There were still 4 available places, only that the train would leave the following morning at 6.00am. The price was the same as for the normal 1st class, which was much higher compared to 2nd or 3rd classes but we would have had a guaranteed seat. The only problem was that we suddenly had to change our plan and stay one day less in Kandy.

We decided to book the tickets and did not regret it. We found out that this train runs only during the weekend and is an additional train, as also many locals take the ride to Ella, especially on weekends.

So we said goodbye to Kandy, but only for a short time, as we would return there soon. Here you will reach the article for our second stay in Kandy.

It was late in the afternoon when we left Xining behind, embarking on a 20 hours train ride to Lhasa, through the spectacular and wild landscapes of the Tibetan plateau. During old times, traveling to the “Roof of the World” was always a long journey, but after communist China took over these lands a massive project started being implemented across the vast plateau, including the construction of a highway that stretches all the way through the Himalayan Mountains till the border with Nepal.



The most convenient option among foreign visitors that travel from mainland China to Lhasa is the train, which reserves also more chances to admire the beautiful landscape offered by the tall white peaks of the mountains.

Tibet Travel Permit

An important detail to mention about visiting Tibet is that foreign visitors are not allowed into the plateau if they are not part of a tour. Special permits have to be organized at least 20 days in advance by the mountaineering association in Tibet and a guide must accompany visitors in every day of their stay. For the ones that plan to visit only Lhasa, they can explore the streets of the city outside the tour’s schedule, as long as they don’t leave Lhasa.

We contacted a Tibetan agency right after our arrival in Hong Kong when we were told that our stay in China would be limited to 30 days. Being on the roof of the world was a dream that came true (and I guess that whoever watched the movie “Seven Years in Tibet” felt a desire to experience one day being in this place themselves). Miriam’s enthusiasm was as big as mine when we started planning our trip to Lhasa. Once we got the confirmation from the agency, we booked our train tickets (which sell out fast, so book in advance!) and planned the rest of our trip through China.

The train across the Himalayan Mountains

Three weeks later we boarded a very crowded overnight train from Xining, where we spent two days in order to acclimatize easier to the high altitudes once we would arrive in the Himalayas. We found only standard hard seats on the train because all sleepers were already booked, so we joined other passengers in a carriage more crowded with luggage than with people. It felt like one of the longest rides we ever experienced due to the lack of comfort, but we had many chances to forget about it whenever the view out of the window was able to catch our attention.

We crossed a gigantic sea of sand in which a few little traditional Tibetan houses were the only proof that once humanity took over these mountains. Thousands of yaks (large domesticated wild oxen with shaggy hair) were also part of the landscape. We found out later how much these animals are integrated into the Tibetan tradition and lifestyle.



The sunrise in the morning prior to our arrival was extremely beautiful when the light reflection in one of the lakes brought the shapes of the mountains to life and revealed spots of color in this apparently infinite valley. Each hour that brought us closer to Lhasa lifted up our excitement and the impression when we arrived met all our expectations about how the city would feel like.

We received a copy of our permits for Tibet via email from the agency that we booked the tour with. It is important to keep a copy of it as the ticket for the train to Lhasa cannot be obtained without. The same rule applies at the arrival, where Chinese authorities will collect passports in order to verify that all visitors are in the possession of a valid permit.

Lhasa – the ancient city

Outside the station our guide welcomed us in the typical Tibetan way, offering us traditional ceremonial scarfs, called khatas. Tibetan khatas are usually white and made out of silk. The white color symbolizes purity and compassion of the giver, but yellow-golden scarves are also used. The guide drove us to our accommodation, a beautiful hotel in the old town of Lhasa.

After the Chinese invaded the Tibetan territories in 1949 and later officially integrated them as part of the newly declared People’s Republic of China, Tibet went through major changes starting from the years when the Chinese Cultural Revolution took place till recent times. Modern buildings brought contrast in the architecture of the ancient plateau and foreign brands found their way into the local stores.



The western part of Lhasa is inhabited mostly by Chinese Han people and it is more modern and busy. The old town of Lhasa instead is still profoundly traditional and its architecture continues to reflect the authenticity of the Tibetan lifestyle and the impact of the Buddhist religion on the history and social development of these lands.

The location of our hotel allowed us to lose ourselves on the narrow streets of this ancient labyrinth of tiny houses and temples. While the day of our arrival felt still challenging from the perspective of our efforts to adapt to the new altitude, soon after we were able to explore the neighborhood and understand the particularities of life in the capital of Tibet.

Religion and tradition

From all factors, religion had probably the strongest impact on the way people lived their lives over the centuries. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the destruction of more than 6000 monasteries, the religion has been constantly under threat for many years. But nowadays, despite the tumultuous events of the past decades, Buddhism and Tibetan tradition continue to be strong and evident. Tibetans are still proudly wearing their traditional clothes while walking on the crowded streets or while engaging in koras (a type of pilgrimage consisting of a clockwise circumambulation of sacred sites or objects).



The streets were filled with fruits and vegetables stands, butcheries serving yak meat and restaurants inviting passers-by to try the local food and a cup of delicious butter tea.


It all felt like suddenly traveling back in time and life seemed peaceful and beautiful. But the appearance is not reflecting the whole truth about the situation in Tibet. The constant presence of Chinese soldiers shows that tensions still exist. Though, politics remains a taboo subject and tourists are advised to temper their curiosity when engaging in sensitive conversations.


The Drepung and Sera monasteries

It was only the third day of our stay in Lhasa when our guide picked us up from the hotel. The first day is usually reserved for acclimatizing to the high altitude. It is also advised not to take any shower on the first day due to the risk of dehydration. Instead, plenty of water should be consumed, as well as fruits to supply the body with necessary vitamins. Another problem of being at high altitudes is the thin air that might make breathing harder, but oxygen supplies are usually available.

We were a group of 8 people sharing a minivan that brought us around Lhasa, guided by Jigme, our wonderful guide from Tibet Vista. The first stop of the trip was the Drepung Monastery, the largest in Tibet. Apart from a beautiful view over the entire city and a chance to explore the interiors, including their gigantic kitchen, the Monastery offers a deeper understating of religious practices and traditions. And there is no other better way to understand Tibetan Buddhism than by watching monks debating, which is what we did later in the courtyard of the Sera Monastery. The experience was unique and, luckily for us, visitors were allowed to witness it.


We’ve also seen the largest wall painting of Buddha and detailed sand mandalas and we visited a religious text printing house.



The day ended back at the hotel, where we all ate dinner together and had a chance to get to know each other better. The oldest member of our group was Margrit, an adventurous lady that, despite being in her 80s, still ventures out to explore the world.

The Potala Palace

The next day our guide led us on the streets of old Lhasa, to see pilgrims on the Barkhor Street and prayers spinning wheels on a circuit around the Jokhang temple. The afternoon was reserved for visiting the most important landmark in Tibet, the famous Potala Palace. Beautiful and impressive from the outside, the former home of the Dalai Lama hides ancient scripts and secrets, together with magnificent Stupas that are hosting the mummified bodies of some of the previous Dalai Lamas. The most famous is the one of the 13th Dalai Lama, containing more than 590 kilograms of gold and being embedded with 100,000 pearls and precious stones.

The palace has more than 1000 rooms, but only a few are open to tourists and pilgrims. Taking pictures is not allowed inside the palace or any of the monasteries. After a late lunch, we went to the park of “Tibet Peaceful Liberation Monument” (the name does not really describe the real historic facts), located in front of the Potala Palace, from where we could witness the sunset over its mysterious walls.


We walked back to the hotel for our last dinner, before getting ready to say goodbye to Lhasa. The following days would take us on top of the Himalayan Mountains, through the wildest and the most spectacular landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau. Read more about it here.

One of our highlights in China was the visit at the National Park in Zhangjiajie. The 264 km2 park is located in the south of China, in the region of Hunan and holds several world records.

But before we arrived in Zhangjiajie, along with the excitement we also had to show a bit of patience, as we left Guilin by train (# D2945) and continued our journey to Liuzhou.

How to book train tickets in China?

As a foreign traveler, there are various ways to purchase tickets:

  • The easiest way: you go to the station and buy your ticket at the ticket office. Tourists can not buy tickets at the vending machine, only at the ticket office by presenting a valid passport.
    Disadvantage: As many people buy their tickets ahead of time, trains or preferred seats/classes can be already booked and who likes to spend several hours on a train standing?
  • The other option is to reserve tickets on the Internet. For this purpose, we used the website: ctrip.com. Also here we had to provide a valid document. Once you have specified your departure station and destination, you get a list of trains from which you can choose.
    Disadvantage: reservation fees are 3 euro per train and the original tickets must be picked up at any train station at the ticket office.



When booking trains you will come across the following terms:

Hard Seat: These are normal seats and not very comfortable on older trains, especially when many people travel with a lot of luggage. We would only recommend them on short distances or high-speed trains.

Hard Sleeper: Great for long journeys. Hard sleepers are bunk beds, mostly 3 on top of each other and 6 per compartment. “Compartment” is not the right term because the wagons have no doors. On the ticket, you can see which compartment you have and for the exact bed you need to check the online reservation (lower, middle or upper). Also, the crew will offer help if needed.



Soft Sleeper: (we did not use them in China) Same system as the Hard Sleepers but compartments have doors for a little more privacy and there are only 4 beds per compartment.

All trains have toilets (some trains are equipped also with Western toilets) and hot water. We usually took coffee or tea with us, as well as fruits or pastries before we got on the train. However, there is also the possibility to buy snacks or drinks on the train.



Are we at the airport?

Riding a train in China is almost like taking a plane. The stations are similar to airports. The controls are not as strict, but tickets and luggage are checked several times. Basically, these checks are all the same. Upon entering the station, tickets and ID are checked. Sometimes there is an extra counter for foreign documents. Then the baggage will be examined. Sometimes the ticket is checked twice before entering the tracks. The ticket must be well kept, as there is another control on arrival at the final station.


Information about tracks and entrances to the trains is partially printed on the ticket, otherwise you can see it on the information board.



From Guilin to Liuzhou

Upon our arrival in Liuzhou, we had to show improvisational skills, since the station from which our connecting train was leaving was situated in another district. Liuzhou is home to more than 3.5 million inhabitants and tourists are rarely seen here, therefore no words with familiar alphabet will be found.


Why didn’t we take the train from the same station?

Simple answer: There was none! The station in Liuzhou was being rebuilt so all long-distance trains were going from Liujiiang.
On the internet, we read that we could take buses 16, 27, 59, 68 and 90 to Liuzhou Railway Middle School and then change to bus no.10, which was going to Liujiiang. We have tried this version and have finally arrived at the destination, but it took quite a while to find the way. Nobody could speak English here and our offline translator also let us down.

Since our train left late in the evening, we decided to spend some time in the city center of Liuzhou, and later came across the easier way to get to Liujiiang.


The best way from Liuzhou station to Liujiiang with bus 99

If you leave Liuzhou Station, cross the road and wait for Bus 99, which will take you directly to Liujiiang. A ticket costs a few cents and the journey takes about 40 minutes.

Travel tip: In China, we always used the offline maps of Maps.me before we visited a city. (Google Apps are blocked here). We always use the maps to see if we are really going in the right direction.

The train from Liujiiang took us to Zhangjiajie, where we had a wonderful stay.

If you want to see photos of our time in China then click here?

The train system in Japan is enormous. In 2015, the route network connected over 27,311 km. That means you can reach almost every place in the country by train. Japanese trains are almost never late, unless there is a serious problem. For example, when we experienced a fire on the tracks it took only 10 minutes for the problem to be solved. Japanese stations are totally organized, even at rush hour, when thousands of people go to work or back home. At these times, there is additional staff who coordinate the crowds and show to lost tourists (like we were sometimes :) ) the direction.



As soon as you arrive at the track, you join the row marked on the ground. At some stations the arrival of the train is announced by a bird sound. First, passengers get off and then you can get on the train. If you have not managed to get on the train then do not worry, the next one will be coming in a few minutes. We have never waited more than 5 minutes. Most stations and subway stations have a free wifi connection and Google Maps makes finding the connections super easy. There are also the apps MetroMan and Visit Tokyo, which can be used as an offline alternative in Tokyo and other big cities.

In addition to the regular trains and JR Lines, there are subways in some cities and, of course, the Shinkansen express trains that connect the major cities within a few hours.


How do I know which train is going in which direction?

On the tracks there are signs showing in which direction the trains go. In the train itself, the announcements are usually made in Japanese and English and the number of the station is called, so you can not miss the exit. In addition, the stations are marked with lights showing the exits of the train. If you board the wrong train, just get out and take the next one back. As mentioned above, the trains are coming regularly.



Where can I buy tickets?

As a foreign visitor, you can buy a Japan Rail Pass via the Internet before arriving in Japan. The pass is available for 7, 14 or 21 days. The website http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/ offers all the necessary information regarding this subject. You should first calculate whether it is worth it for you or not. In our case it would have been more expensive.



Tickets can be bought at the station at the ticket machines, at the ticket windows (Midori No Madoguchi) or on the internet. The handling of the machines is self-explained and available in English. When buying tickets to stations in the immediate vicinity, just look at the board with the route network to see the price (price is always at the respective station for adults and children). Te board always hangs directly over the machine. The Payment is done in cash and the machines also give back notes, if you just just don’t have change at hand.

If you are in the area for a longer time or go regularly with the trains, a Suica Card or Pasmo card is a better option to consider. These prepaid cards are particularly convenient and save time when buying tickets. Instead of inserting the ticket at the light barrier, you put the card on the reader and it deducts the necessary amount automatically.
Tickets can be booked on the same day, but Shinkansen trains are often fully booked, so it is recommended to book long trips in advance.


How are the tickets checked?

The tickets are checked both when entering and exiting the tracks. The exit is marked with a light barrier which indicates if you have bought the right ticket. During our 4 week journey, we were only once checked for our ticket on the train, but it happened when we accidentally entered the first-class carriage. The controller was very nice and showed us the way to the right compartment.

Conclusion: train travel in Japan is super light and comfortable, although not always cheap. It is also very entertaining. In the trains or stations, there is a lot to discover. The train system is just another thing that made us understand that Japan is simply a different world.

Would you like to see some pictures of Japan? Click here. 

Japan, land of the rising sun. In this incredible country, we spent 1 month and sometimes we were really surprised how the world runs over there. We have summarized a few interesting facts. Some things are probably new for you too.

Fact #1

The first thing we noticed at the airport was the Japanese toilets. In Japan, the hygiene aspect is very high, therefore you can always find clean toilets.


The toilets are not only clean, but they also make you “clean”. Most toilet seats have a bidet with various functions and integrated seat heating, which can be controlled via an operating system. Often you will also find a sink above the water cistern.

These systems are Eco-friendly and the water used to wash your hands will be used in the next rinse. These toilets are “Western-style” toilets. There are also the “Japanese style” WCs, which have only a hole in the floor, but they are still clean and always with the instruction to throw the toilet paper in the toilet and not in the bin.

In addition, there is often a “rinse-sound” button, which should provide more privacy. When leaving public toilets, space remains environmental friendly: there is always only cold water for washing your hands, sometimes soap, but never dry towels, from time to time you will find a hand dryer.

Fact #2

Japan, land of technology and progress ?! Not, when it comes to payments. In Japan, mostly everything is paid in cash,  often there is not even the option to pay by credit card. So while in Japan, make sure you always have enough cash and change with you, as in some buses, for example, drivers can not change. But finding an ATM is not difficult. Most convenience stores (Seven Eleven or Lawson) have an ATM. Moreover, Japan is very safe, so with a lot of cash in your purse, it is not very dangerous. But please do not lose the purse.

Fact #3

The third fact remains technical. The train system in Japan is enormous. You can reach everything by train and Japanese trains are hardly late. Japan has the fastest and most modern trains, so-called Bullettrains, but these are not cheap. As a foreign visitor, you can buy a Rail Pass,  which you can use to get cheap train rides. But you should first calculate whether it is worth doing so. In our case it would have been more expensive. We often took buses that took a long time but were a lot cheaper. Bus connections can be found, for example, at japanbuslines.com, hyperdia.com, willerexpress.com, kosokubus.com (under the last page we always found our connections).



Within the cities, we have always been traveling with Metro or JR Line. The train system deserves its own article and we have summarized everything for you. You can find the link here.

Fact #4

Japanese are incredibly polite people. So many times people asked to assist or to help us when we were in need. Many Japanese speak English, but even if they do not, they have done everything they could to help or to guide us. Right on our first evening we were invited by strangers to eat with them (here you can find the article about it) and we only have met nice people. We also learned that hardly any critic is expressed in Japan.

Japanese also know how to line up. Very often you can see long queues in front of restaurants or cafes. This does not necessarily mean there is something special going on, it can be that the restaurant is just full. But the Japanese line up without complaining and they will wait patiently for their call.


Fact #5

“Everything is cute in Japan”. No matter where you look, you will be bombarded by bears, kitties or other “cute” creatures. Advertising, clothing, handbags, mobile phone cases, warnings, food, packaging and much more can be found in bright colors or with some imprints. We even saw a Hello Kitty fire extinguisher.

Fact #6

A special feature in Japanese houses is the tatami. It is a mat made of rice straw, usually used in the sleeping area or in the dining room. These traditional rooms are called Washitsu. I personally like this style very much. It is important to never walk with shoes on a tatami floor because it is very sensitive. Generally, it is very inappropriate to enter a house with shoes and this also applies to some restaurants. When you sleep on these tatami floors, a kind of mattress is rolled out, the so-called futons (the Japanese word for blanket) to provide a comfortable bed. At first we were skeptical, but we slept very well in the hostels with tatami beds and also at our host’s place during our Workaway project where we found the same setup.


Fact #7

This curiosity is about a very serious topic. Japan is hit by more than 400 earthquakes every year. You can find many escape routes leading to a safe zone. Just in the month when we were in Japan, there were 35 earthquakes. We did have the feeling that the earth would shake, but we were never really sure.


Fakt #8

In some areas, especially in the countryside, you can find bottles of water in the corners of many houses, garden entrances or around plants. At first, we thought that maybe the water was being delivered here or is provided for dogs, but after some research we realized we were wrong. These bottles serve as a deterrent to animals. Especially against cats or dogs, the light reflection of the water shall fear them away in order to not urinate on the plants or house walls.

Fact #9

The last fact is probably the oddest thing. Our host Rio told us during our Workaway project that Christmas is usually celebrated with the girlfriend or boyfriend. There is no big party and gifts are rarely being given, not even to kids. The food served for Christmas comes from KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Yes, you read it right, it’s so typical that you even have to make reservations at the fast-food chain to get your fried chicken on Christmas Eve.

Do you want to see some pictures from our journey in Japan? Click here.