FAQFrequently Asked Questions
1. ABOUT PACSET AND PURCHASING A TOUR (PRICING, TOUR DETAILS, FLIGHTS, ETC.)
Do I need a passport in order to sign-up?
Not at all! As long as you receive your passport by the sign-up deadline, you can sign-up without one. You DO need a passport in order to travel, so make sure you get one! Visit this page for more information regarding passports.
Are your prices listed per person or for two people? You mention double occupancy, it’s kind of confusing!
Prices listed are for per person. We mention double occupancy because it costs you less to room with a roommate! Single occupancy rooms cost extra, therefore we do not base our prices on a single occupancy room and have it available as an option.
Do I need to know any Japanese to go?
Nope! You can enjoy the tour without knowing any Japanese. While knowing some of the language can certainly assist in finding certain items or foods, most of our participants don’t speak the language and still have a great time. The tour guide is on hand to assist as much as possible, and our guidebook includes helpful phrases and kanji for the hotel, food, etc. There is English at all of the train stations, and if you are riding the JR, they also announce stops in English. Some workers can also understand English. If you are worried, then feel free to pick up a phrasebook for your trip!
I’m traveling alone, is that okay?
Of course! On average, about 40% of the group are solo travelers. This does vary from tour to tour, but our groups are generally welcoming. We do our best to provide a friendly environment. 🙂
Can I extend my tour or combine tours?
Absolutely! Many participants choose to arrive earlier or extend their stay in Japan. Should two tours also be close in dates, you are welcome to combine the tours into one. Please let us know upon sign-up the dates of your desired extension and budget, and we’ll help make arrangements.
Can I join just part of a tour or arrange my own accommodations?
No. Most tour companies don’t allow this, and we’ve tried to do this in the past on numerous occasions. Each time we’ve tried this, it’s ended up as the subject of complaints on tour feedback forms. The bottom line: it simply doesn’t work. Trying to include a new person for just part of the time is a huge logistical hassle, causes complicated problems with pricing, and upsets our suppliers. Staying in a hotel or inn that is different from the accommodations provided for the tour is not allowed for the same reasons; we need to have everyone at our designated accommodations so that we can keep the group organized. If you have questions about this policy, please don’t hesitate to ask us.
What are your tours like?
A mix of guided tours and free time to explore certain areas. In other words, there’s structure – but there’s also a lot of freedom. Visit this page if it’s your first time here, along with our tour itineraries, or watch videos of previous tours on YouTube.
Where do your tours depart from?
Most of our tours depart from Los Angeles unless otherwise noted. The majority of our participants fly into Los Angeles to meet up with us. We can also assist with flights to LA, where we usually meet at a set time and place within the airport.
What is Land Only?
Land Only is for participants who wish to arrange their own flight and meet us in Japan. This makes sense for most participants joining us from outside of the United States. The Land Only price therefore does not include airfare.
Does the tour price include food?
Unless otherwise noted, most tour prices do not include meals. One of the reasons for this is that it’s difficult to plan group meals at the tastier local establishments. Another reason is that everyone has different tastes and dietary concerns, so to preserve harmony we do not arrange meals ahead of time. Not only that, each participant has a different budget, so they can seek out meals accordingly instead of being restricted to pay a certain amount. Guides will always be available to offer suggestions and directions to delicious restaurants.
How many people have to sign up for a tour to go?
Typically a minimum of 10 participants is required, but we always work with our customers to operate a tour if we can. When we get 10 people on any tour, we consider the tour confirmed and booking continues until the tour is full. The maximum number of participants varies with each tour, but is usually around 30 people.
What happens if a tour doesn’t go, and when will I find out?
We do our best to update you about 2-4 weeks before the sign-up deadline if a tour doesn’t have enough participants. If it doesn’t go, we then give you the option of putting your deposit/payments towards another tour or receiving a refund.
When will next year’s or 20XX year’s tours be released? Where can I get info on newly released tours?
We are releasing our tours farther in advance now! To keep up-to-date about which tours are available, please sign up for exclusive tour updates here.
What is your payment plan all about?
Let’s be honest – travel costs a LOT, especially international travel. So, we give our customers the chance to pay for tours in monthly installments. There is no extra charge for this service at this time*, but the following rules and restrictions apply:
- All payments are due by the 20th of each month and will be billed to you via e-mail on the 10th.
- If payments are late and you do not notify PacSet of the delay by phone or e-mail, an overdue payment fee of 10% the payment amount (amount of the single payment, not the whole tour) will be automatically charged.
- Customers that opt for the payment plan and stop making payments for a tour that is confirmed will not receive a refund of their deposit, even if a deposit refund is available under the general PacSet refund terms.
*While there is no extra charge for monthly payments, a small fee is incurred to monthly payments to account for credit card fees (usually $5-$15 total). If you have any questions about the payment plan, please don’t hesitate to e-mail or call us!
For the payment plan, can I pay more than the stated amount each month?
Certainly! Just let us know how much you would like to pay each month so we can send the appropriate invoice.
When is final payment due?
Full tour payment is due by the posted sign-up deadline, or about a month before departure for payment plans. Due to booking requirements set by the airlines, hotels, and the law, there are no exceptions to this rule.
How do hotel room assignments work? Can I choose who I room with?
All tours are based on double occupancy. If you wish to room with someone in particular, no problem! Make sure to let us know, and we’ll take care of it. Otherwise, we will match roommates as best as we can. All roommates will be the same gender, unless otherwise specified by you. Prefer to room alone? No problem either, but keep in mind single occupancy rooms cost a bit more.
Is it possible to get a room for three people or more?
Sadly, no. The majority of hotels only offer single rooms (one person) or double rooms. Double rooms either come with one full bed or two twin beds. Hotels do not offer cots and cannot accommodate a third person, plus hotel rooms are smaller so there isn’t space!
It’s 6 months before the tour! Why don’t you have the flight times for the tour yet?!?!
While we do set dates for tours in advance and hold seats on multiple carriers, we are usually unable to confirm the departure times for our tour flight until about 3-5 months before we depart. If you’ve never traveled overseas before, that might sound pretty crazy – but it is a reality of the business. Here’s why: Airlines usually don’t announce the more reasonable fares until 3-5 months before the dates of travel. Even if we have a huge group, we hold seats – but we don’t book anything until fares get lower. This keeps prices low and ensures that we are able to accommodate a group of any size. Plus, if we did book everything a year in advance, we would have to move our signup deadlines to more than 6 months before the actual tour (which is crazy) and charge almost 1,000 dollars more for every tour. If we did that, we wouldn’t really be following our mission as a “low cost” tour provider! If you are worried about the price of your domestic connecting flight, don’t – industry insiders have said again and again that it’s best to purchase domestic connecting flights closer to the dates of travel. The best prices you’ll get 9 months before the tour won’t be nearly as good as the ones you’ll get about 2-3 months out.
Do you guys do private or custom tours?
This is tricky – it depends on our schedule and the number of people that will be joining on said tour. Please shoot us a direct message or e-mail if you would like to explore the option of a private tour, but keep in mind that there will be a minimum number of guests going on the tour for it to take off.
Anything else I should know about touring with PacSet?
Please read the policy, along with rules in the section below. Oh, and the other thing you need to know is that you will have lots of fun on these tours. Like, TONS of fun. We mean it. ^_~
2. INSURANCE, RULES, AND RESTRICTIONS
What is your cancellation/refund policy?
Our full policy is actually on our Policy Page, which we ask that you PLEASE READ. Generally you will be unable to receive a full refund if you cancel after the sign-up/payment deadline. All refunds are subject to a $20 or 3.5% handling fee. We also recommend looking into travel insurance for better coverage on sudden cancellations and other potential issues.
What kind of forms do I need to fill out to go on a tour?
Not that many actually! When you sign up, we will ask you to sign a paper that says 1) you understand the rules and restrictions mentioned on our policy page, 2) that you either have purchased travel insurance or decided not to, 3) that you agree to be responsible for timely payments. Submit that form, along with a scan of your passport’s photo page (or a state/province-issued ID card if you don’t have a passport yet), and you’re all set.
What’s this about travel insurance?
Travel insurance helps take care of you if you fall seriously ill on tour, or if a serious problem occurs on tour that necessitates a change in plans. We make every effort to deal with problems that come up on tour (we have experience with that!), but do be aware that if you don’t buy insurance and fall ill/need to return home because of a death in the family or other tragedy/etc., those charges will be your responsibility. We recommend using Travel Guard‘s basic plan, please check their website for quotes and information.
So, what do I need to travel anyways?
You’ll need a passport – that’s it! If you’re coming from the US, Canada, or Mexico, there’s no visa requirement. However, if you’re coming from somewhere else, you might want to contact us first to make sure you don’t need anything extra. Visit this page for more passport information. You’ll also need enough funds for your meals while on tour – we recommend budgeting $50 a day.
What is a photo/video waiver and why do I have to fill it out?
Unlike huge travel companies, PacSet develops much of its PR materials and such in house. As such, we occasionally include photos or video from tours for these purposes. Since we value your right to privacy, we give you the option to “opt out” of all photography and video, or simply request that the photos not be used in advertising (but can still appear on our Facebook photo page). If you have any concerns, just ask us. ^_^
I’m under 18 years of age, does that mean I can’t go to Japan?
We don’t have an age restriction for our tours – in fact, we’ve led groups of students to Japan many times! We do require a signed permission form from a parent or guardian if you are under 18; otherwise, you are more than welcome to join a tour!
I don’t live in California, or even in the United States. Can I still join a tour?
The answer for this is almost always, YES! We provide Land Only options for the majority of our tours, meaning that you pay less for a tour but are required to arrange and book your own flights to Japan. Those who book their own flights can meet us at the airport in Japan or at the first hotel, depending on the situation.
3. PREPARING TO TOUR (BUDGETING, PACKING, MEDICATION, FOOD, ETC.)
How should I prepare for the tour?
A few good rules of thumb:
- Sleep on the plane ride to Japan. Even if you think it’s impossible to sleep, even if you’ve never slept on a flight before, you will want to at least attempt a nap on the flight over. Otherwise, your body will hate you when you arrive in Japan. Trust me.
- On that same note: take vitamins (especially C!) while traveling and drink lots of water. It’ll help TONS.
- Pack wisely. If you’re planning on buying lots of stuff, leave room in your suitcase. If your tour involves a lot of cross-country traveling and multiple destinations, pack light and ship a bag of stuff to the airport ahead of time if you need to.
Another note about health…
When people travel abroad, they sometimes rediscover old allergies that they thought went away. Even if you think you’ll be okay, if you have any allergy history, bring some medicine you can take just in case.
Can I bring my medicine/prescriptions into Japan?
In most cases, yes. As long as you have a copy of the prescription and you only have enough medication for your own use, you are good to go. However, some medications are limited (or banned) by Japanese law.
If you use medications involving a syringe (epi-pen, insulin, etc.) or you use a CPAP machine, you will need to apply for an import certificate (“Yakkan Shoumei”) before entering Japan. Likewise, if you will be bringing any limited narcotics (morphine, codeine, oxycodone, pethidine, hydrocodone) into Japan, you will need to apply for permission. PacSet can supply you with all the forms you’ll need for these purposes; just ask. Please make sure to apply for these forms at least a month before the tour.
Finally: import of any hard drugs, cannabis (marijuana), ephedrine, or pseudo-ephedrine (found in the old version of Sudafed and other over-the-counter sinus medicines) is prohibited in all cases. PacSet does NOT accept responsibility for care of your medicines and cannot be held liable if you are denied entry into Japan. We recommend reading this page for more information, and contacting your local Consulate directly if you’re unsure.
I’m allergic to…/Have dietary restrictions…/Don’t like to eat…
Don’t worry – we’ll do our best to accommodate you! Whether it’s something you’re allergic to, or a particular food that you don’t like to eat, PLEASE tell us. We want to be able to help you, no matter how small you think it may be. For example, if you don’t care for fish or pork, that’s important to know. IF YOU ARE VEGAN, we’ll assist where we can but we cannot fully accommodate you. It will be up to you to research what you can and can’t eat, and we highly recommend you read this page for suggestions. We send out food surveys before the tour, so you can wait until you receive the survey to let us know about your food likes and dislikes!
As a vegetarian, will I have a lot of food options? What about as a vegan?
While it’s easier to accommodate vegetarians than vegans, please keep in mind that options are limited. We may not always be in an area where vegetarian restaurants exist, but you should be able to find something at the market, convenience store, and some restaurants. Items like vegetarian ramen and avocado sushi don’t really exist. It will be up to you to do the research on where to go and what to eat, and you may not always be able to join the group for meals. If you’re vegan, we recommend checking out this site.
Cash or credit?
Most of the time, cash. You’ll want to bring some traveler’s checks to change into cash (for some reason, Japanese banks give you MORE when you exchange traveler’s checks).
Another note on this one: If you bring a credit card and/or debit card to Japan, you must let your bank know you are traveling abroad. If not, they’re likely to lock your account for security purposes (since thieves usually try using numbers they steal in other countries). Also, if you need extra cash on the fly, all Japanese post offices and Seven Eleven stores have ATMs that can take foreign debit cards. Note that hours are limited for post office ATMs.
Another another note: Visa Travel Money “debit cards” and other pre-paid debit cards DO NOT work in Japan and have failed on some of our customers while on tour. Your bank may say that they will work, but likelihood is that they will NOT so please don’t take that chance.
So what SHOULD I bring for money?
Bring some traveler’s checks for exchange at the airport in Japan, and/or your debit card if you wish to withdraw from the ATM. We understand that it’s becoming more difficult to obtain traveler’s checks, we cover that in pre-departure e-mails.
Where can I find traveler’s checks, and what if I can’t get them?
Typically your bank offers traveler’s checks, but we understand it’s becoming harder to obtain. Try using the American Express locator to purchase traveler’s checks. Compare the pros and cons of buying yen from your bank, bringing cash to exchange at the airport, or bringing your debit card to withdraw cash from the airport ATM.
When should I be at the airport?
We will tell you when you should be at the airport in pre-departure e-mails. Typically you should be at the airport 2 hours before your departure time. You don’t want to miss your flight!
What happens if I miss my flight?
Get in touch with the airline to see what your options are. We highly recommend choosing one of their suggested options, even if it means delaying your tour by 24 hours. Of course, also let us know what’s going on!
How much should I budget?
How much you spend on stuff is all up to you! Some of our guests spend next to nothing, while others have been known to clear out entire stores – it’s really a matter of preference. Let us know in advance what you are seeking to buy, and we’ll give you a more specific number to reference.
For food, we recommend about $50USD/day for all meals and snacks along the way. We try to eat inexpensively on tour because the cheap hole in the wall places are amazing. Some meals on your tour may be included; please refer to your itinerary.
Why can’t we receive a PDF of the tour guidebook before the tour?
The guidebook is intended for use as 1) a reference to be used during the tour and 2) a souvenir of your trip. It also includes a bunch of stuff we worked on for months. As such, it is available only in paper form only – sorry! ;_; Please note that all the materials and information you will need to know before you depart will be provided via e-mail in the forms of e-mails, comics, maps/KML files and/or videos.
What are some of the things we can’t bring to Japan?
Basically, weapons and drugs – in other words, guns, giant knives, ammunition, and illegal drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. PacSet Tours is NOT responsible or liable for any trouble you may get in for breaking Japanese law.
Google told me that the dollar is worth THIS much yen, but no one will sell yen to me for that rate. What gives?
Banks and other businesses that exchange money need to make money too, which is why the rate you get won’t be as cheap as the actual market rate. The only people who can get the exact market rate for dollars to yen are usually billionaires and high-level bank executives. If that doesn’t sound like you, your best option is to take the best rate available. We can certainly sympathize – we have to deal with the same icky rates too!
DUDE I heard that Japan is, like, REALLY HIGH TECH… there’s wi-fi everywhere, right?
No. I know it’s hard to believe, but if you are planning to hop from hotspot to hotspot in Japan, you’re going to end up very disappointed.
Japan’s wi-fi infrastructure is, sadly, not what it is in the USA. Most wi-fi is subscription only, and hotels still ask people to connect their machines to the net with LAN cables – no, seriously. Keeping that in mind, you’ll want to make sure you have a jack for LAN on your computer (if you bring it). If you cannot go without wi-fi, we suggest renting a wi-fi cell router for pickup at the airport. You can reserve them in advance.
They are working on adding more free wi-fi hotspots though, so please read this page for more information on where they exist and how to access it.
So…what about cellphones?
Those can be reserved too. You can also rent a SIM card for some phones, or use your home provider – just be warned that most cell companies will charge you tons for the privilege.
One of the places you can rent a SIM card or cellphone from is Softbank, which you will pickup at the airport. Reserve this at least a few days before your trip, and let us know if you need assistance!
Can we do laundry on tour? I need clean clothes!
Absolutely! Most of our hotels offer full laundry service, so dry cleaning and wash/fold service is available. However, if you just want to use a Coin Laundromat and save some cash, we do have listings of laundry places. On tours of 8 nights or less, we will have maps and directions on hand for people that wish to wash their stuff. For longer tours, we will organize a “laundry night” if our guests request it.
Important: if you need to visit a Coin Laundromat on tour, please let us know as early as possible so we can make the proper arrangements.
Can I wear my cosplay?
We would recommend you don’t unless we are specifically attending an event where cosplay is allowed. Sadly, wearing costumes is not common, and you might not be allowed to enter certain places!
Can I wear a bathing suit to the hot spring?
No, sorry. This is a big no-no is Japanese bathing etiquette. Our guidebooks provide the proper procedure of undressing and cleansing for the baths, so we will prepare you accordingly. We promise that once you get over the nakedness factor, it really is a wonderful experience!
Where are all of the weird vending machines…?
Weird vending machines aren’t everywhere, and may only be available in very specific areas. Vending machines for panties are actually illegal!
Isn’t Japan just like what I see on TV and/or anime?
While some things are true, take what you’ve seen with a huge grain of salt. Leave all expectations behind so you can experience the real Japan, which is a lot more fun than watching it on TV!
Can you get me tickets to this concert/show/etc.?
Yes and no. If you need a ticket to any kind of museum, most conventions, and other non-concerts, we can usually help. However, for concerts, no. Concert tickets in Japan are sold in a way that requires multiple employees to go to multiple ticket outlets and make multiple phone calls all at one specific moment, with no guarantee that the tickets will even be available. Until the ticket companies abandon this narrow-minded practice, we cannot get those tickets. Sorry!
Ghibli Museum Tickets – We will do our best to accommodate any Ghibli Museum requests that come in at least 4 months before the tour starts, but please note that we are not authorized to purchase these tickets ourselves, and so availability will depend on our third-party provider.