Should I still travel to Japan?
To date, Japan has reported more than 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (excluding the more than 700 people from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive) and has been placed on a level 2 alert by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since Feb. 19.
A level 2 alert suggests travelers “practice enhanced precautions” and recommends older adults and those with chronic medical conditions to consider postponing nonessential travel. Most other countries also have travel advisories in place for their citizens, some at higher levels of precaution than the U.S. Check the latest information from your government before you travel.
The Japanese government is taking increasingly strong measures to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. However, while its spread has caused some disruption, most services relevant to travelers are running as usual.
Due to a fall in international and domestic tourism, many areas of Japan are seeing a significant decline in visitors and some areas may be emptier than usual. A group of shopkeepers in Kyoto recently began an “empty tourism” campaign encouraging people to visit while it’s receiving lower-than-usual visitor numbers.
There is some risk that if the spread of the coronavirus escalates you may have to rearrange travel plans at short notice, or even be put in quarantine before returning, or when you return, home. Before traveling to Japan, make sure you have an extended supply (legally up to one-month’s worth) of any medicines/essentials that might not be available to purchase here.
Can I still travel to Japan?
This largely depends on where you’ll be flying from and which countries you’ve visited in the last few days. Japan is currently only limiting entry from a very small number of countries/areas.
Until further notice, the following people will be denied entry to Japan, except in special circumstances:
Foreign nationals who have visited Daegu City or Cheongdo County in South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province within 14 days of arrival in Japan.
Foreign nationals who have visited Hubei Province or Zhejiang Province within 14 days of arrival in Japan, or who have a Chinese passport issued by Hubei Province or Zhejiang Province.
For the most up to date information on travel restrictions, visit the Japan National Tourism Organization’s website.
Some countries are now denying entry to non-nationals who have visited Japan within 14 days of travel to that country. If you plan to travel to other countries after visiting Japan, make sure you check relevant government websites for the latest information on restricted travel.
What precautions should I take to avoid coronavirus when traveling?
The World Health Organization’s advice for reducing the chances of catching coronavirus is the same as for other respiratory viral infections such as the common cold and influenza.
Thoroughly wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (about the length of two verses of “Happy Birthday”). If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth before you have washed your hands.
Maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from anyone who is coughing, sneezing or might have other symptoms of coronavirus.
Are attractions/museums/venues/restaurants still open as usual?
Due to coronavirus, many large-scale attractions have shut down temporarily including Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan.
Large-scale sporting events such as J. League, baseball and sumo fixtures are also postponing their fixtures or continuing without audiences.
Many music venues, art galleries and other public spaces have also canceled or postponed events and exhibitions until further notice. If you have tickets for a particular event, contact venues or ticket sellers in advance to confirm that it is continuing as usual and to find out what you should do in the case of postponement or cancelation.
Restaurants are seeing a downturn in the number of customers and may have unusual opening times. Confirm bookings or opening times before visiting.
Will I have any problems as a foreign tourist in Japan?
There have been some reports of localized discrimination against non-Japanese people in the country in the wake of coronavirus, particularly against those perceived to be from China. However, the vast majority of visitors to Japan have no problems.
Do I need to bring masks/toilet paper/hand sanitizer on my trip?
Masks are effective at preventing you from spreading coronavirus to others if you have it but will not block the transmission of the virus from others to you. Most stores are reporting shortages of masks, so it’s best to bring a supply with you if you feel more comfortable wearing a mask.
Though toilet paper has sold out at some stores in Japan, there is no shortage, and all accommodations should be well equipped should you need it.
The World Health Organization recommends washing hands and using hand sanitizer frequently to reduce transmission of the disease. Hand sanitizer is in short supply at many stores in Japan. To be effective, hand sanitizer should have an alcohol content of at least 60 percent.
Is my airline still flying to Japan?
A drop in demand for travel to Japan has seen some airlines suspending or consolidating routes into the country. United Airlines recently canceled its Los Angeles to Narita flights, though its Los Angeles to Haneda route is still operating. Many regional flights between Asian countries have been canceled.
If you have already booked flights, check with your airline regularly to keep up to date with changes. If you are considering booking flights, check the flight status with the airline before you purchase tickets.
Is my travel insurance still valid if I travel to Japan?
Exact details will depend on your travel insurance company, and you should contact them before departing for Japan.
Policies that have been booked in advance of the coronavirus outbreak may still be valid, though many insurance providers will not cover losses imposed by government-imposed restrictions on travel.
If your government has specifically advised against travel to Japan, many insurers will not reimburse claims made if you decide to travel against that advice.
If I cancel my trip preemptively, will I get my money back?
Many insurance policies do not cover expenses incurred due to a fear of getting sick or a fear of travel. If you cancel bookings such as your flight or your hotel preemptively, you may not be reimbursed for these costs.
Airlines ANA and JAL are an exception here, and are offering refunds to passengers canceling due to the coronavirus outbreak for domestic and international flights in and to Japan scheduled through March 19.
If you cancel following a new government advisory that warns against travel to Japan, you may be able to make a claim, depending on your policy. Check with your travel insurance provider for specific details.
What do I do if I get placed in quarantine or under lockdown while traveling in Japan?
No protocols exist for this, but you should try to contact your country’s local embassy or consulate as soon as possible to let them know of your situation. After the Chinese city of Wuhan was placed under quarantine, some countries provided repatriation flights for their citizens organized through the local embassy or consulate. If you are from the U.S., you can pre-register your travel plans with local embassies and consulates with STEP.
In the meantime, follow any instructions from local authorities and do your best to reduce any potential exposure to the disease.
What should I do if I think I have symptoms of coronavirus while in Japan?
The Japanese government is currently advising those with symptoms of the coronavirus to self-isolate to limit the virus’ spread. Symptoms include fever, coughing and a sore throat.
The Japan National Tourism Organization is running a dedicated chatbot for those in need of assistance. Those in urgent need should call the Japan Visitor Hotline for immediate assistance at 050-3816-2787.
At all times follow the World Health Organization’s advice regarding health. Minimize your contact with other people as much as possible, wear a mask to prevent spreading the infection and wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.