sim card vs pocket wifi japan
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SIM Card vs Pocket WiFi Japan Explained 2023

I’m visiting Tokyo soon and have been doing research on whether to get a SIM card vs pocket WiFi japan for my upcoming trip. I want to be able to use maps, translate languages, access travel apps, and share photos during my time in Japan. But should I get a SIM card or rent a pocket WiFi device? And how does pocket wifi or sim card work in japan? This article will compare the pros and cons of each so you can decide which is best for your travel needs.

sim card vs pocket wifi japan

Do I really need a pocket wifi in Japan? Do i need a sim card or pocket wifi japan?

Honestly, from most of my travels I didn’t need a sim or pocket wifi if the language spoken is widely English, but in a country where I don’t understand the language sim card and pocket wifi is the way to go. It’s way more convenient from my own experience of using one in Italy. It made driving in Italy so much more easy and convenient.

Here are some reasons why it’s still recommended to get a SIM card or pocket WiFi (Updated with E-sim Card) in Japan rather than relying on free WiFi:

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  • Public WiFi in Japan can be hit-or-miss. Speeds are often quite slow and connectivity unreliable. A personal SIM or WiFi ensures fast, consistent speeds.
  • Free WiFi may require a Japanese phone number or email verification, which you won’t have as a foreign tourist. SIM/WiFi plans are designed for travelers.
  • WiFi spots may not be available everywhere you want to go, like transit stations or rural destinations. SIM/WiFi keep you connected anywhere.
  • You’ll burn through battery having to constantly turn WiFi on/off to find networks. SIM or WiFi allow leaving mobile data always on.
  • Public WiFi networks can pose security risks for things like banking or sensitive logins. Your own connection is more secure.
  • If you have no cellular data, you can’t access maps/navigation, travel apps, or translations if you lose WiFi signal. Big hassle.
  • You may end up spending more on WiFi cafes/restaurants than just getting a reasonably priced SIM or WiFi rental.
  • Having your own connection allows you to share photos, access info, and stay in contact whenever needed. Don’t be restricted.

Key Differences Between SIM Cards and Pocket WiFi in Japan

What is a SIM Card/ Esim Card?

A SIM card is a small chip that you insert into your phone that allows your phone to access a cellular network and have internet connection when traveling. When traveling internationally, you can purchase a local prepaid SIM card for your destination which will provide data and cellular service through a local carrier. Without having to worry about international roaming with your service provider. 

With the new support of ESIM cards on the new iphones, this is even a more convenient option. As you can sign up on your device and online without having to physically purchase a sim card for your phone. If your Phone supports this, find out how and where to get an E-sim card for your Iphone/phone here.

Sim card vs pocket wifi Japan

Pros of sim card:

  • Only need to carry your phone
  • Easy to set up
  • Generally cheaper than pocket WiFi

Cons:

  • Limited data amounts (usually 1-3 GB/day)
  • Your phone must be unlocked
  • Need a SIM-compatible phone
A Mobile Phone with Sim and Memory Card on Yellow Surface sim card vs pocket wifi japan

What is Pocket WiFi?

A japan Pocket WiFi router device provide WiFi internet access through cellular networks, just like your phone. But instead of inserting a SIM card into your phone, the SIM card goes into the pocket WiFi to create a WiFi hotspot. You can then connect multiple devices like your phone, tablet, and laptop to the pocket WiFi network.

Sim card or pocket wifi Japan

Pros: pocket wifi

  • Share connection with multiple devices
  • Unlimited data options available
  • No need for SIM compatible phone

Cons:

  • Must charge battery and carry around an additional gadget
  • Rental costs tend to be higher than SIM cards

note: pocket wifi do have sim cards in them and some have cloud sim cards like the one I have. I have the option to put a sim card in it or use the service providers cloud sim card. 

Comparing Plans: japan SIM Card vs Pocket WiFi

When deciding between a SIM card or pocket WiFi, one of the biggest considerations is comparing the data plans available.

SIM cards generally offer more limited data amounts per day, usually 1-3 GB. This is enough for basics like maps, transit apps and light web browsing. But travelers who plan to stream a lot of video/music or use data-heavy apps may run out.

Pocket WiFi rental companies often offer unlimited data plans which provide peace of mind for heavy data users. However, some providers will slow down data speeds after a certain threshold is reached. Be sure to read the fine print so you know if unlimited really means unlimited high-speed data.

Both SIM cards and pocket WiFi plans charge based on number of days used. Shorter trips tend to be more economical with SIM cards while longer stays get more value from unlimited pocket WiFi.

When comparing providers, check not just data amounts but also network coverage and speeds. Avoid patchy networks or throttled speeds. Reliable connectivity is key.

sim card vs pocket wifi japan

Where to Get japan SIM Card or Pocket WiFi in Japan

If you decide to go the SIM card route, you can purchase in Japan at electronics stores like Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera.

The easiest option though is to order online ahead of your trip. Companies like klook or get your guide offer convenient online orders of Japanese SIM cards shipped to your hotel or airport pickup.

#1 SIM CARD TOP pICK
A Mobile Phone with Sim and Memory Card on Yellow Surface sim card vs pocket wifi japan

Japan Sim Card

  • pick up at the airport
  • 5 star reviews

For pocket WiFi, there are numerous rental companies serving Japan. Options like Japan Wireless, Japan Wifi Rental and Global Advanced Comm offer online reservations. You can have the WiFi hotspot shipped to your accommodation or airport. Rental days are flexible in case your trip length changes.

#1 TOP pICK
sim card vs pocket wifi japan

Japan Pocket Wifi Device

  • Rental
  • 5 star reviews
  • pick up at aiport/hotel

I recommend booking either a SIM card or pocket WiFi at least 2 weeks in advance to allow time for shipping. Ordering online and early takes the hassle out of sorting this out once you arrive in Japan.

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Key Factors to Consider When Choosing SIM vs WiFi

Deciding between getting a SIM card or renting pocket WiFi depends on several key factors:

Do You Have an Unlocked Phone?

SIM cards only work with unlocked phones from your carrier. If you have a locked phone, pocket WiFi is your best connectivity option. With WiFi rental, it doesn’t matter if your devices are locked.

How Many Devices Do You Need to Connect?

If you’re traveling solo and only need to connect 1 device (your phone), a SIM card makes sense. But if you’re with family or traveling with multiple devices like tablets/laptops, pocket WiFi allows you to connect them all.

What’s Your Data Usage?

If you primarily use maps/messaging and light web browsing, a 3 GB SIM card may suffice. But if you plan to stream a lot of video, music, or use data-heavy apps, unlimited pocket WiFi ensures you won’t run out of data.

What Areas Will You Visit?

Check coverage maps to ensure your SIM or WiFi provider has strong coverage everywhere you plan to travel. Avoid patchy networks or throttled speeds. Reliable connectivity is a must.

How Long Are You Staying?

For shorter trips under a week, a daily SIM card plan is likely more affordable. But for long term stays of several weeks or months, an unlimited data pocket WiFi rental provides the best value.

What’s Your Budget?

SIM cards tend to be cheaper for shorter trips while pocket WiFi has better value for long term stays. But prices can vary widely, so compare total costs between providers.

Tips for Using  japan pocket wifi vs sim card in Japan

Activate SIM Card Early

If you get a SIM card, test it and make sure it’s activated as soon as you arrive. Don’t wait until you’re out sightseeing to set it up. Troubleshoot any issues in the hotel where you have WiFi as backup.

Charge Devices Fully

Both SIM cards and pocket WiFi rely on battery life. Keep your phone, hotspot, backup battery packs fully charged each night. Bring your own charging cables too.

Carry Backup Batteries/Chargers

To avoid losing connectivity if batteries deplete, carry external chargers or rechargeable battery packs to recharge on the go.

Download Offline Maps/Translators

Apps like Google Maps allow offline downloads of maps/directions. Download offline language translation packs too. Then you can still navigate and translate even without data.

Enable Auto Sync Selectively

To conserve data on your SIM or pocket WiFi, disable auto sync for things like photos. Sync selectively when you have a strong WiFi connection. Streaming and large uploads eat up data quickly.

Contact Provider for Help

Don’t struggle with connectivity issues. Reach out to your SIM card or pocket WiFi provider for troubleshooting help. Many offer customer support through online chat, email or phone.

The Bottom Line: SIM or WiFi for Japan Travel?

Ultimately, whether a SIM card or pocket WiFi is best comes down to your specific travel needs and preferences.

If you’ll be primarily using maps and messaging with 1 device, japan wifi card or SIM cards offer an affordable and convenient option for connectivity in Japan. Leading providers like Klook or Get Your Guide make ordering online easy.

For travelers needing to connect multiple devices with heavy data usage, japan pocket WiFi sim card  wifi device rentals provide flexible unlimited data plans. Reliable providers like Klook or Get Your Guide allow booking online and deliver/pickup at the airport or hotel. 

What I recommend: You can also opt to purchase a pocket wifi device like i did. If you travel internationally at least once a year it’s absolutely worth it to save time and money in the long run to have a pocket wifi of your own. The one I purchased was this one on Amazon and it is easy and light to travel with and makes getting connected online a breeze and less stressful. I can pay as I go not having to worry about purchasing another sim card if I run out of data.

Whichever you choose, order your SIM or data card WiFi hotspot device at least 2 weeks before your Japan trip. Having connectivity sorted out beforehand means you can focus on enjoying your time in Japan once you arrive! Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m happy to provide suggestions to help make the most of your upcoming travels in Japan!

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