From the hustle and bustle of Shibuya in Tokyo to the historic streets of Kyoto, Japan is a dream destination for many UK nationals. However, in a country with a history of natural disasters and an expensive medical system it’s important to sort out your travel insurance before you start dreaming of ramen or bullet trains zooming past Mount Fuji.
Using travel insurance in Japan
Much like the UK, Japan has its own national healthcare system. The Japanese government boast of their first-class medical treatment , which means Japanese people are living longer and longer.
In Japan, everyone has access to healthcare regardless of pre-existing conditions or economic status. Patients can choose from any hospital nationwide.
Although it’s thought of as an expensive country to travel in, its healthcare system is not the most expensive and has prices very similar to those of Australia or Canada.
All this means that if anything happens to you on holiday in Japan, you can be guaranteed top quality medical care. Additionally, you can usually find English speaking staff in most hospitals. However, the system does mean that unless you are willing to pay upfront, or can show proof of your travel insurance, you might find it very difficult to get treatment.
It is especially important to carry your travel insurance documents with you, either in paper format - or at the minimum - a copy on your phone. Having said that, some clinics will only accept cash upfront and you will need to be reimbursed by your travel insurance provider later. Be sure to check with your provider if they will do so before you seek treatment (as long as you are not in a life-threatening medical situation).
Things you should look for when buying travel insurance for Japan
Valid in Japan: Obviously, the plan you purchase must be valid in Japan. There are no major plans that exclude Japan but you must ensure that you have appropriate worldwide cover (for annual policies), or that you state Japan if you are buying a single trip policy.
Cancellation coverage: Make sure that the policy will cover cancelled hotel reservations and plane tickets etc.
Full medical coverage and evacuation coverage: The plan should cover all potential medical expenses, including ambulance transportation which is not free in Japan.
Lost, stolen or damaged gear or luggage: Japan is one of the safest countries in the world but, as with any trip, it is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure your valuables are packed safely just in case you have an accident or your luggage is damaged or lost during the trip.
Dangerous activity coverage or exclusion: If you plan on taking part in any slightly more adventurous activities (this could include skiing in Hakuba, hiking the Kumano Kodo Trail or scuba diving off the coast of Miyako Island), make sure the policy you purchase covers these activities.
Travel insurance for Japan covering natural disasters
Natural disasters are a part of life and can hit any country. However, Japan is one of the most earthquake prone zones in the world and it's wise for travellers to consider this when they book their travel insurance policy.
According to most travel insurance policies, natural disasters are typically defined as a “flood, fire, hurricane, cyclone, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, blizzard or avalanche that is due to natural causes.” It’s worth knowing that not all policies will cover the same events, for instance, some may omit volcanic eruptions or avalanches, and it's important to note and accept those exclusions.
A perfect example of tourists caught out by a natural disaster was when the infamous Icelandic volcano erupted. Most tourists were not covered as the eruption was named an “Act of God” in their travel insurance policies however, some did cover it. Consider carefully what could potentially go wrong on your trip to Japan and check that your policy will cover it before taking it out.
The term "act of God" refers to natural phenomena which are large-scale, freak weather occurrences. It isused by insurance companies to describe events that are unpredictable. These days, most insurers choose to list exclusions in the policy wording rather than rely on a term as generic as “act of God”. In the case of Japan, it is especially important that you check whether specific exclusions or an “act of God” clause exist in your policy documents to make sure that you are covered.
If a natural disaster happens before or during your holiday and was not forecast or eventualised at the time you purchased your policy then you are usually able to claim for the following things:
- Cancellation before you’ve left: If you’ve not started your tript, benefits will be paid if the natural disaster forces you to cancel and claim for out-of-pocket expenses.
- Cancellation when already abroad: If you are within the earthquake zone you will be covered for travel and accommodation costs involved in moving you to new accommodation (if your booked accommodation is deemed uninhabitable). If your flights have been cancelled you would also be covered for any additional flight costs.
- Medical costs: Should you incur any injuries as a result of an earthquake, your provider will cover costs towards your treatment.
- Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation: In the event that you require emergency evacuation or medical treatment cannot be administered locally, you would be evacuated to the nearest medical facility. Repatriation costs would also be covered In the event of your death.
However, remember that each company and policy is different and you should read the terms and conditions carefully before you buy.
The best travel Insurance policies for travelling to Japan
We have compared prices across a random selection of travel insurance policies to give you an indication of what’s on the market. There are literally hundreds of travel insurance policies for Japan. With so much choice you can be sure that there’s one for you.
We ran some quotes for a 35-year-old travelling to Japan. We did not declare any pre-existing medical conditions or request any optional extras.
|Provider||Cost for Single Trip Policy||Cost for Annual Policy||Standard Benefits Limits|
|Coverwise (Standard Policy)||£7.25||£13.65||Medical care: £20 million
|ASDA Money (Economy Plus Policy)||£11.48||£27.98||Medical care: £10 million
|Virgin Money (Economy Policy)||£11.91||£21.49||Medical care: £15 million
|Cover for You (Emerald Policy)||£12.25||£26.50||Medical care: £15 million
|Insure and Go (Light Economy Policy)||£12.99||£18.49||Medical care: £15 million
Figures and information correct as of October 2019. For the most up to date figures, always look at your quote or policy wording.
Price should never be the deciding factor when choosing travel insurance. Here are some key considerations for Japan:
- Firstly, a policy to Japan should include a high level of medical coverage. Although Japan isn’t as expensive as countries such as the USA, it is still easy to run up a big bill.
- Secondly, make sure that your policy has a 24 hour medical assistance helpline so that you can get through to your insurer should you need medical assistance. Remember, your claim may need to be approved before you will be treated.
- Finally, don’t forget your ski insurance if you are going to be hitting the slopes at some of Japan’s premier ski resorts!
Insurance Case Study:
Maria was on her last day in Japan when she fell down some stairs and had to go to the hospital.
She contacted her insurer, Allianz Travel Insurance, on their 24 hour medical helpline. They were able to tell her which hospital to visit and reached out to their rep in Japan to contact the hospital to guarantee payment, since payment is sometimes required upfront.
When she was being treated, Allianz called her to check on her condition. They recommended paperwork she should request before being discharged to make sure that her journey continued unhindered. The doctors explained that the bone was broken. If she hadn’t been covered by travel insurance she would have faced a really big bill (or had to pay upfront). A broken arm in Japan costs about 68,000 yen (about £515!).
Travelling in Japan: good to know
No matter what type of holiday you have planned, some basic preparation is always wise. Here are some important factors to consider when planning a trip to Japan:
- Drinking Water - Access to clean water is universal in Japan and the country has strict regulations and targets which it regularly exceeds. 97% of the population receive piped water supply and the other 3% receive water from their own wells or unregulated small systems.
However, travellers often complain about the taste of the tap water in Japan. This is because it’s usually soft water (rather than hard) and can taste of chlorine, especially in the cities. If you don’t like the taste, Japan has vending machines that sell water everywhere, so you’re covered either way!
- Vaccinations - The UK government recommends visiting TravelHealthPro.co.uk for information before you travel to any country. Japan is a very safe place to travel to health-wise, and there are no certificate requirements under International Health Regulations. Some vaccinations are recommended depending on the activities you are planning and if you are heading off the beaten track.
- Visa - If you have a ‘British Citizen’ or ‘British National (Overseas)’ passport, you can visit Japan for up to 90 days without a visa. You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket.
- Emergency Services - To call an ambulance or the fire brigade in Japan, dial 119. If you need to phone the police, it’s 110. There are some operators proficient in English, but there is no guarantee they will be available. You may need to ask someone to help (hotel staff, stranger) and always keep some useful Japanese phrases on you just in case no one is around.
The UK government website has this message about bringing medicines to Japan - “The use or possession of some common prescription and over-the-counter medicines are banned under Japan’s strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law. This includes Vicks inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems, cold and flu medication containing Pseudoephedrine and even some over-the-counter painkillers like those containing codeine.”
Data and information correct as of October 2019.
All material on this page and the selectra.co.uk website is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of financial advice. Selectra.co.uk is not responsible for any consequences that might arise from your use of the information provided.