Saturday, August 29, 2009

How to keep in touch while traveling in Japan?

SIM cards 'collection' from countries I often travel to. For Singapore I'm using Starhub (cheaper rates), XL for Indonesia and 3 for Australia.

Like the previous post, this one has also been sent via email to my fellow friends who will be traveling to Japan with me. Of course I have to edit some details to avoid confusion. Having worked with telecommunication companies, I feel obliged to inform them with some of my findings in this area.

Feel free to comment/advise on this article since these are just what I've researched so far.

How can one keep in touch while traveling to Japan? Can I use my mobile phone in Japan? Can I rent prepaid SIM card in Japan? Are there any alternatives?

Japan network is quite different from our country since they are using CDMA (now W-CDMA) and we are using GSM. However those who have a 3G enabled mobile phones (with functions to switch to dual mode/UMTS) are able to roam in Japan ie. Nokia N82.

Here are a few options;

1) International roaming using your 3G mobile phones

Just my 2 cents and opinion traveling in general, international roaming is VERY messy especially when you're on postpaid or if you're using Celcom cos they don't limit making/receive calls, data, etc. Balik rumah, check bill, boleh pengsan! (Come back home, check phone bills and faint) I've experienced paying about RM2k in several occasions for inter'l roaming, so for 5-day travel, just use public phone to say your hellos.

Below is how charges work for Celcom users;

Making calls in Japan and different country: RM 3.50 per minute
Making calls from Japan to Malaysia: RM 8.80 per minute
For discount (roam saver) dial *120* (country code and phone no) + # : RM 2.50 per minute
Send SMS: RM 2 per sms

This is based from my conversation with Celcom careline, for more detailed, verified info, please dial 1111 (for Celcom users) or here

I am not sure how charges work on Maxis, Digi, U-Mobile, etc though.

>>UPDATE: I ended up going on roaming via Celcom. (After all the comments) Most of my friends and family are aware I'm in Japan, so I didn't receive much calls, more sms, but hey, luckily my phone bills was okay...I forgot the exact number, but its less than RM100. Yay!

2) 3G phone rental in Japan
A few operators/phone rentals co. in Japan are offering this service; Vodafone, NTT Docomo, Softbank, PuPuRu. I'm not sure about another operator, KDDI. It seems they only offer fixed line? (telephone)

3) Rent prepaid SIM card
In my opinion, this is a better choice only to those who wants to keep in touch with people around Japan. Travelers often use this to keep in touch with their travel partners and in several occasions make international calls/sms to family and friends back home but it also depends on the operator's charge fee. Softbank provides 3G SIM card rental.


Again, for 5 days travel, in my opinion, there are other cheaper FREE = better alternative.

1) Keep in touch with family and friends using public telephone to notify safe landing or updates.
2) Skype/email/sms via internet using hotel's free internet wifi. Those who'll be bringing laptop or wifi/wlan enabled mobile phone, you're in luck. Most accomodation in Japan offer high speed internet and also computers for browsing.

If all fails, there's always google :D


  1. Haha, no la. Probably gonna get a 3G sim card when I'm there. Softbank seems like a good choice, but I'm not sure of the rates. It's 105 yen, but its excluding the calling/sms. Need to pump up more research on this. Will give you my local no as soon as I get it ok? Kalau pun I just email je. There's free wifi in my hotel

  2. My cousin just left to Japan for a study abroad program. She was doing research on her lay over in the airport and asked me to help her mom find a TracFone so that they can stay in touch. Here's how it works: Her mom has a TracFone, she has a phone she purchased in Japan. Her mom calls the Japan phone (I'm going to print out the instructions from TracFone website for her) and is able to talk to her for the same rate as a local call at no extra cost. You just need to call a number to get started...not even any activation. What a cool and convenient plan!

  3. Sounds like a sweet deal Christy. Am checking it on their website now. Just hoping that there's such thing as just loaning SIM cards instead of the whole phone. I nearly lost my own phone during my last travel. Yikes!

  4. Hi there, if your phone is unlocked and compatible with WCDMA for Japan, then why not try an international SIM card that gives you cheaper rates everywhere? this way you don't need to carry around 5 sim cards, and when making calls home, it is cheap as well. Some of them are data capable as well. In the past Ive used 'Buzzroam' and it work really well. You can even allocate different numbers from different countries to the card so that your friends at home can call you for cheap.

  5. Thanks for the suggestion, Stuart. I've checked a few reviews about Buzzroam, one of them in wirelessadvisor. Not a good review though, but then again its from one person.

  6. You're welcome, Priya. This is quite an old article, if you have any other questions do let me know.

    I have just recently traveled to Tokyo last month and the local host has provided me with wifi-wimax powered dongle, which help me tremendously in googling, navigating and keeping up-to-date to social medias.

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