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Find travel insurance cover for Japan
Travelling to Japan? Find travel insurance for your next trip.
From the world-famous cherry blossoms to the white fields of fresh powder, Japan is fast becoming a must-see destination for Kiwis who appreciate the vibrant mix of culture offered by the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether you’re headed for the bright lights of the Tokyo metropolis or to Kyoto to see the temples of the emperors, it’s wise to have more than your omamori good luck charm as the safeguard for your travel.
Do I need travel insurance for Japan?
Although Japan is only a 10-hour flight from New Zealand, if you’re left stranded after a cancelled flight or worse, hospitalised because of an unexpected accident, it can seem like a world away. Although these situations are unlikely, it still pays to plan ahead with comprehensive travel insurance.
Japan: Before you go
- How safe is Japan for New Zealand travellers?
- How much does travel insurance cost?
- Six steps to choosing the right cover for Japan
- Am I covered for earthquakes in Japan?
- Will travel insurance cover radiation?
- Cover for skiing and snowboarding in Japan
- Will I be covered if I contract rabies in Japan?
- Making a medical claim in Japan
How safe is Japan for New Zealand travellers?
While Japan is regarded as one of the safer holiday destinations for international travellers due to its welcoming and polite culture, this doesn’t mean it is entirely safe. Key safety concerns include:
Earthquakes and natural disasters
The bright lights of neon-sign clad cities aren’t the only things that are active all year round in Japan. The islands of Japan lie in an area aptly known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. As many as 1,500 earthquakes occur each year, and while the majority are minor and won’t disrupt your day-to-day travels, it’s best to be prepared.
Risk of radiation
While most of Japan is fairly safe from radiation, there are certain areas that have had serious radiation scares in recent times. Radiation is a major health concern, and can result in cancellations and disruptions to your trip.
High cost of health care
While you’ll be glad to know that Japan’s health care is of high standard, you won’t be so happy to find out that the costs can run equally as high, especially if you require hospitalisation or major surgeries as a foreigner. Japanese clinics and hospitals have also been reported to be wary of treating foreign patients without any proof of their travel insurance. By having proof of your travel insurance, which includes medical care expenses, you’ll have peace of mind as you explore all that Japan has to offer.
For those who are into snow spots, Japan is known as a popular skiing and snow sport destination. This does mean you need to take care, as skiing and snowboarding can increase your chances of being injured. With regions such as Hokkaido and Nagano becoming ever more popular, a comprehensive Japan travel insurance with the option of being covered for snow sports and related essentials such as lost ski passes, resort closures and unlimited medical expenses is a must.
- Where in Japan are you going? If you are planning on travelling to areas affected by recent radiation, some policies may exclude your cover.
- How many times will you visit Japan this year? Decide on single trip or annual multi-trip cover.
- What activities in Japan will you take part in? If you plan on snowboarding at Hakuba make sure you have a travel insurance policy with cover for snow activities.
- Are you taking valuable items? Consider extra cover for your GoPro or DSLR camera.
- Do you have any medical conditions? Make you declare any pre-existing medical conditions and pay for any extra cover if it is not automatically included in your policy.
- Do you prefer paying more upfront or when you have to claim? Look at both the price of the policy and excess required for claims and decide what is more important for you.
As earthquakes are natural disasters, most comprehensive travel insurance policies would cover trip disruptions or cancellations – provided you booked your trip and insurance prior to the earthquake and the disruption is unforeseen and beyond your control. In this case, the insurer would normally reimburse you for any costs not refunded by your carrier or accommodation provider (up to the benefit limits).
The exception to this would be if you travelled to an area of Japan that was subject to government warnings not to travel there, due to the threat of an imminent earthquake or immediately after an earthquake has occurred. In this case, you would probably not be covered.
Severe radiation occurred a few years ago: will I be covered this time around?
Claims arising from nuclear reaction, radiation or radioactive contamination are generally not covered in most travel insurance policies. Along with war and insurrection, nuclear events are generally considered an exclusion for most cover benefits including medical evacuations.
When you are covered:
- You may be covered for disruptions or cancellations due to the fact that the nuclear contamination that is the result of natural disasters (earthquake and tsunami), which are normally covered by travel insurance. In this case, your insurer would probably have reimbursed you for costs not refunded by your carrier or accommodation provider.
Circumstances in which you would not have been covered include:
- If you cancelled your trip due to fear of radioactive contamination, rather than because your flights and accommodation were directly affected by the disaster.
- If you ignored government warnings not to travel to affected zones after the disaster (Area 3 near the Fukushima power plant in particular).
- If you booked your trip after the disaster occurred, when cancellations and disruptions would be considered highly likely.
How do I get cover for skiing and snowboarding in Japan?
Check if your travel insurance policy includes snow cover. This will mean you are covered for regular skiing within a Japanese park or resort. If not, you may be able to add snow cover as an option.
Typical coverage you can expect at the snow
If I go off-piste for the full Japanese powder experience, can I still get cover?
If you wish to partake in off-piste skiing or snowboarding (outside the boundaries of a park or resort), you will need to follow these guidelines:
|General requirements||Typical Exclusions|
Some general guidelines to follow when skiing or snowboarding to ensure you are covered by your policy include not endangering others, adapting your speed to your ability and the prevailing conditions and observing the basic rules of snow etiquette.
Will I be covered if I contract rabies in Japan?
Although the risk of rabies is low in Japanese cities, it may be higher in rural areas where there are stray dogs and native monkeys. Rabies is spread by a bite or saliva from an infected animal. Treatment with rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) can be painful and costly.
The golden rule is not to pat these animals, even if they are part of a tourist attraction. If you are planning to stay in an area of Japan where rabies is prevalent, consider having a pre-exposure rabies vaccination before leaving New Zealand. While pre-trip vaccinations are not usually covered by travel insurance, not having the recommended shots may jeopardise your cover while overseas, so they are worth the cost, which may be redeemable if you have private health insurance.
Considerations when making medical claims in Japan
- Get a comprehensive policy. Serious medical care, long-term hospitalisation or surgery can be very expensive in Japan, so make sure you have a travel insurance policy with unlimited medical, hospital and dental cover. And check that it also covers ambulance and emergency evacuation.
- Be ready to pay up front and hold on to all bills. When making a claim, some policies may require you to contact a call centre in New Zealand for an assessment of your medical problem and others may require you to pay medical costs upfront and claim them back later. If you have such a policy, make sure you keep all documentation to verify your claim.
- Have travel insurance documents and certificates ready. And finally, be sure to bring your insurance certificate with you when seeking medical treatment, as Japan has a national health insurance system and health practitioners are often reluctant to treat foreign patients without proof of insurance.
Remember to always contact your insurance in the case of an emergency. Here are some useful contacts you can also use in Japan if need be:
- Police: 110
- Ambulance/Fire: 119
- Japan Helpline: 0570 000 911
- Locate a Doctor Service: Use this to locate an English-speaking doctor. Contact hours: 9am–5pm, Monday–Friday firstname.lastname@example.org
- Emergency interpreting service: +81 (0)3 5285 8185
- Tokyo English-speaking police: +81 (0)3 3501 0110
- New Zealand Embassies and Consulates: Contact details and locations are shown below.
The legal system in Japan is conservative by New Zealand standards. Capital punishment is still present for crimes such as murder, and police have more power to arrest you on the suspicion of criminal activity.
The New Zealand Government has your back if you need help, but only if you abide by the country’s laws and don’t put yourself or others in danger when abroad. Here’s what you need to know to avoid being arrested and potentially jailed in Japan.
- Harsher sentencing. The death penalty is present for crimes such as murder. Sentences for less serious crimes include lengthy imprisonment, hard labour, hefty fines or deportation.
- Zero drug tolerance. You can be charged if trace amounts of illegal drugs are found in your system. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the drugs on you. Police carry out random searches and testing in clubs and bars.
- Watch where you smoke. In parts of Tokyo and other cities, smoking in some public places is banned. You can be issued an on-the-spot fine if you’re caught.
- You have to be older to drink. You must be 20 years or older to drink alcohol. The blood-alcohol limit when driving is zero. It’s also a crime for a passenger to allow someone under the influence to drive.
- Family law is different. If you’re divorced, there is no shared custody, and only one parent has rights over a child. It is illegal to remove your child from Japan without full custody. You should contact the Attorney-General’s Department in New Zealand if you need assistance with this matter.
- What happens if you’re caught working illegally? Make sure you have the correct visa before arriving and working in Japan. If you do not, you could be arrested, jailed or deported.
- Deportation to New Zealand. You could be deported and tried for crimes relative to laws on home soil. Offences include money laundering, bribery and terrorism.
- On the streets, you must be aware that police have greater powers. They can stop, search and seize, or detain you at their own discretion.
- If you’re detained. You could be held in custody for up to 23 days, without charge. This could last weeks or up to two or three months during an investigation or legal proceedings.
- Police interviews. They could last several hours, and could be recorded in writing rather than electronically. Police have the right to question you without your lawyer present.
It’s important to carry the proper documentation when you visit Japan to avoid being arrested for identification checks.
Yen is the only currency accepted in Japan, so you will need to exchange your New Zealand dollars either prior to leaving New Zealand at a bank or currency exchange or once in Japan, at a post office, bank or licensed money changer (particularly at international airports). Exchange rates will vary, but are generally competitive.
Payment methods in Japan vary, depending on the amounts involved. Cash is preferred for smaller transactions such as smaller shops, tourist attractions, taxis, buses, trams, vending machines and lockers. Also the further from major centres you travel, the more cash is favoured.
Other methods of payment include ATMs (at post offices and 7 Eleven stores), travellers cheques (not always accepted) and credit/debit cards, which are accepted by most department stores, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and large retail stores.
Basic Japanese etiquette
Japanese etiquette may be a little different to what you are used to in New Zealand, so here are some things you would do well to know (and possibly avoid):
- Don’t express anger or aggression, as these traits are equated with losing face.
- Stick to neutral subjects in conversation and respect others’ privacy.
- If you don’t know the person well, address them using their last name with the honorific “san”.
- Punctuality is expected, so be on time for appointments.
- Bow in greeting unless a handshake is offered.
- Dress casually but not immodestly and remove your shoes when entering temples.
- Thank your host. Always bring your host a small gift when invited to dinner.
- When eating with chopsticks, do not use the end that has been in your mouth to pick up food from shared dishes.
- Never refuse a drink, which is considered rude, nurse it instead.
- Make sure you have meishi (business cards) when doing business in Japan
General coverage that travel insurance offers
So you’ve planned an eye-opening trip to Japan and looking for some quality travel insurance. But where do you start? With so many policies out there it can seem like an overwhelming task. Each travel insurance policy will differ in the amount of cover it provides but some common features include:
- Cancellation fees and lost deposits. If unexpected circumstances such as sickness, accidents or natural disasters prevent you from travelling, you can be covered for cancellation fees and lost deposits on prepaid travel arrangements.
- Overseas medical and dental expenses. If you become sick or injured during your trip, you’ll be able to escape the often extremely high costs of overseas medical bills with cover for medical, hospital, surgical, nursing and emergency dental treatment. Some insurers also include ambulance cover, emergency medical evacuations, a hospital cash allowance if you’re hospitalised for more than 48 hours and an offer to relay messages to family.
- Additional expenses. This covers the additional accommodation and travel expenses caused by your health problems, such as sickness, injury or death. If you are hospitalised or require a medical evacuation, this may also cover your travelling partner or relative’s accommodation and travel expenses so they can stay close to you.
- Luggage and personal effects. It’s not uncommon for luggage and personal effects to be lost, stolen or damaged during travels. Luckily, you’ll be covered for the costs of replacing or repairing your items.
- Delayed luggage allowance. It can be frustrating when your luggage is nowhere to be found after a long flight. If your luggage is delayed for more than a nominated time period – usually about 12 hours – you’ll be covered for the costs of purchasing essential items of clothing and other personal items in the meantime.
- Travel delay. It’s also not uncommon for delays to happen. If your journey is disrupted for reasons beyond your control for more than the specified number of hours in your policy, you’ll be covered for additional meals and accommodation expenses.
- Disability or loss of income. This is a benefit payable if you are unable to work after you return home because of an injury you had on your trip or because you sustained a permanent disability within 12 months from an injury you had on your trip.
- Accidental death. This benefit is payable if you pass away within 12 months because of an accidental bodily injury that you sustained during your trip.
- Personal liability. If you cause bodily harm or damage to someone else’s property and have a claim made against you, you can be covered for legal liability, including legal expenses.
- Rental car insurance excess. You rented a car but it got stolen, crashed, damaged or you got sick and couldn’t return the vehicle? Not a worry – you’ll be covered for the car excess payable on your rental car insurance.
General exclusions: When won’t I be paid?
Of course, having travel insurance for Japan doesn’t mean that you are covered for absolutely everything under the sun. Your travel insurance Japan claim will typically not be paid if:
- You ignored the travel warning advisories from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and travelled to a region that had a DO NOT TRAVEL warning.
- You were irresponsible such as acting up while under the influence of alcohol or leaving your luggage without supervision in a public place.
- You were under the influence of drugs other than those prescribed by a medical practitioner and taken accordingly.
- You’re claiming for a pre-existing medical condition that you didn’t tell your insurer about when you first applied for your Japan travel insurance.
- You acted illegally or unlawfully.
- You were participating in high-risk adventure sports or activities.
- It relates to self-inflicted harm, including suicide.
- It relates to acts of war, rebellion or terrorism.
While you may think that none of these apply to you, remember that these are just general guidelines and that your chosen Japan travel insurance brand may have other specific exclusions. Be sure to read your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) in full to be aware of all exclusions before you commit to purchase.
Commonly asked questions about travel insurance for Japan
Japan is a truly multifaceted country with so much to offer, from the experience of boiling onsens in the snow to the liveliness of its megacities, the breathtaking architecture of royal temples and the delicacy of their cuisines and ceremonies. Whatever experience you go looking for in Japan, be smart and take out travel insurance to protect you against all possible scenarios.