International Travel Tours
That long weekend or school break is approaching and you've decided to spend that time in another country far-removed from Japanese shores in a place you've always wanted to visit. Now comes the age-old question of, "Plan it by yourself?" or "Join a tour?" To debunk a popular myth, hoofing it by yourself isn't ALWAYS the cheapest or most convenient solution. Particularly if you visit countries in Asia where the locals' grasp of English is poor to nonexistant, or where safety may be a concern, it's often best to go with a tour group.
Now I don't mean for you to join a Japanese tour-- Japanese tours from JTB or related agencies are rather over-priced and have you staying in tourist-centric areas where you'll miss the flavor of the country you're visiting (not to mention everything will be in Japanese). What I DO suggest is sticking to a tour comapny that offers small-group backpacking-type adventures. These tours are affordable (due to budget lodging and local transportation methods like public overnight trains), come with local guides who can guide you to the places where the locals hang-out, and have a great mix of scripted-included activities and free time for you to explore on your own. I have throughly enjoyed these small travel groups and meeting the people on it.
The following list of tour companies was compiled based on Ehimites' personal experiences and recommendations. All specialize in the small-group tours, some with varying levels of comfort (and thus price). All of the tours listed cover only the in-country fees (lodging, trasnportation, activities, etc.) and does not include any international flights or arrangements for Visas.
An Ehimite favorite! Intrepid is based out of Australia, though I have met people from pretty much everywhere on it (there was even an occasion where I met a Japanese tourist traveling as part of our group). The tours fall into three basic categories: Basic, Comfort, Original. Basic pacakges are very cheap, but usually don't include activity fees. Comfort is very expensive and features more upscale hotels and more included activities. Orignal gives you the most bang for your buck-- featuring a good mix of scripted activities, free-time, and a good price to boot. All departures are guaranteed.
Pretty much identical to Intrepid. I have also traveled with this company and found there was very little difference between it and Intrepid. In fact, they share almost idetical itineraries and lodging choices to Inrepid tours. Gap's version of Intrepid's "orignal" tour is the "classic" tour. All departures are guaranteed unless otherwise noted. Gap is based out of Canada.
Small Group and Family Adventures.
Small Group and Family Adventures.
Trekking and Adventure Holidays.
If you go with one of the tour comapanies listed above, they will probably ask that you provide proof of travel insurance. Only accident and rescue coverage is required, but it might be a good idea to get additional insurance to cover your belongings or cancelation fees.
JET Overseas Accident Insurance
Our JET accident insurance DOES cover the basic overseas health and rescue fees required by most tour companies. The link above will take you directly to the online version of the overseas section of our JET Accident Insurance Policy Guide hosted by the JET Programme main site. I would advise you print out a copy of the necessary sections, note your policy number (which is determined by when you arrived in Japan), and make a copy of the beneficiary form you had to sign when you first arrived in Japan. If you do not have a copy of the beneficiary form, you can ask your supervisor for it. (While chances are you will only need your policy number, it's a good idea to carry this paperwork with you just in case... failure to provide the necessary documentation will result in being unable to participate in your tour!)
Other Travel Insurance
If you would like additional insurance to cover your belongings and unfortunate airfare cancelation fees, you can get additional insurance from most of Japan's travel agencies. If you bought your international airfare ticket through either No. 1 Travel or HIS, then it's easiest to go through them for the necessary travel insurance. Expect to pay at least a minimun of 6,000 yen for the most basic insurance coverage.