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Should I take yen to Tokyo or is it easy to get good exchange rates?

Goingo to Japan, arriving in Tokyo. I would like to know if I should take some Yen with me or if it is easy to get good rates to exchange Euros.

I read that ATM machines are available for Visa Electron cards, but there are bank commissions on top, so I think I have to make as less withdrawals as I can.


5 Answers

top answer by
Christopher from Melbourne

I've recently spent a bit of time in Japan and ATMs are one of the most infuriating things (amongst other particularly Japan things). Yes, there are ATMs and yes, they may take your card. The problem is that ATMs are not in plentiful supply. I lived in Osaka, a particularly large city and only had a small handful of machines within a 30 minute walk that would take my Australian ATM card. Even wandering through one of their massive shopping malls, I would only find a correct ATM after a frantic search. From what I've found, there are ATMs that will have the Visa, Plus, Maestro or Cirrus logo on it and they still will spit out my card seconds after inserting it. In the end I found 7eleven ATMs the best, but I can't comment if that will be the same for a card from Portugal. 

Exchange rates are fine - Japan isn't really a place where you'll get ripped off getting money changed. Money changers are usually fine with the Euro BUT the language barrier will make the money changing process a pain. Some places get you to fill out a lot of confusing forms. Also, money changers can be hard to find.

My suggestion:

  1. Bring some Yen with you. But not a lot. Enough to cover you for 2+ days. This will be enough time for you to find an ATM/Money changer.

    side note: If the exchange rate at home is good, bring more Yen to save your sanity. For many first timers, Tokyo is stressful over the first few days. Don't let money add to the stress.

  2. Ask your bank about fees. My bank (Citibank Australia) doesn't charge me anything for withdrawals, yet my other two banks will charge me a international withdrawal fee as well as a currency exchange fee. Oh, some ATMs charge a withdrawal fee on top of that too. A 10,000 Yen transaction suddenly could cost an extra 3,500 just because of fees!

    In the end, I lived on my Citibank ATM card and never exchanged my Australian dollars as it worked out to be the best option. If your bank doesn't have a fee-free option, maybe find a bank that does and open an account just for the holiday?

Tip: Japan is a cash society. Bank cards are rarely accepted. Everyone has wads of cash on them. Thankfully, Japan is extremely safe. Nobody gets mugged. 

Another tip: Never leave the front door without at least 5,000 Yen in your pocket. Just in case.

Look, one more tip: Get a Suica/Pasmo (smart card for transport) as cash + public transport = headache. Plus you can use your smart card to buy drinks and food on certain machines. 

Extra tip for the above tip: get a personalised Suica card. Usually called a MySuica. You'll need a Japanese phone number prior hand for the machine. Benefits of the card is that if you lose it, you can get your money back. Tourists often lose their cards in the sea of people during rush hour.

Yet another tip: If you spend big in large department stores, you can get your tax back. Make sure you have your passport on you. There is usually signage that explain where to go to cash back.

One last tip: Get a rail pass if you're leaving Tokyo. 


Oh bother. I wrote another Trippy novel again. 

4 thanks

answered by
Felix from Minneapolis

I'm surprised by Christopher Barruad's response. There are 7-11 stores all over Japan, and they all have ATMs that accept Visa, MasterCard, etc. I mean literally, 7-11s are everywhere. The ATMs at other convenience stores won't accept your card; only 7-11s specifically. And if you have any trouble finding a 7-11, the tourist maps that you can get at any major train station will often have specific icons on the map for 7-11 locations. The fees are similar if not better than what you will get at a bank or currency-exchange office. If spent 9 months altogether in Japan, in both major cities and rural towns, and I never had any problems getting yen with my credit card whenever I needed it. If you are worried, maybe bring some cashier's checks just to be safe, but it is crazy to suggest that you will have a problem with ATMs. Yes, it is true that cash is needed for nearly all basic transactions (hotels accept credit cards, btw), so do make sure to keep cash on your person. But it sounds like Christopher Barruad made things unnecessarily difficult for himself. Also, most banks have ATMs that will work for you. 

2 thanks

answered by
Trent from Perth

Hey Sergio,

I would probably take some Yen with you, just enough to pay for some food, a train or bus etc.

10'000 Yen is probably the best amount to take with you initially.

It isn't hard to exchange for Yen in Japan, just remember to try and take a Visa card with you as a lot of ATM's and shops accept Visa, and not mastercard. I only had mastercard at the time I was there and was forced to withdraw from either Citibank ATM's or international ATM's that charged a large surcharge.


1 thanks

answered by
geoff from San Francisco

I travel to Tokyo quite a bit, and I've found that bringing yen is totally unnecessary, and you won't get nearly as good an exchange rate buying yen at home, either (at least not in the US, maybe different in Portugal). When you arrive (assuming at Narita), there are ATMs from at least 3 different card networks in the JR lobby area above the train station, again, assuming you're taking the Narita express into Tokyo, you'll wind up there anyway. If in doubt, ask or just follow the crew from your flight- they usually head directly to an ATM as soon as they're off the plane. Grab enough yen for a few days (30,000 should be plenty), and off you go.

Within Tokyo, as others have noted, 7-11s are unbelievably plentiful and all have ATMs; however, my US debit card doesn't work in those; I was with European friends last time and theirs didn't either. Citibank and the post office are the 2 most reliable places to get cash, I've found. If you have a smart phone, both are easy to find on the map, though of course not as common as 7-11s.  Just search citibank, or look for the 〒 (post office) katakana on google maps-- there's at least one in every neighborhood, usually quite close to the train station.

As far as fees go, it depends on your bank, but neither the Post Office or Citibank charge me any fees, and I use an ATM card that doesn't charge international transaction fees. Both options also give a better exchange rate than the currency sellers by at least 3%.

1 thanks

answered by

7-11 stores are your best bet for withdrawing cash and they are all around in Tokyo. They have a withdrawal limit and when you add in the bank charges and the banks exchange rates, you are better off changing it in your home country.

For money exchange, I've only done it at a bank and they're a pain. They do have one exchange at the airport but the rates aren't great.

Bring enough for incidentals like food as some of the smaller restaurants do not accept cash. Most of the other stuff can be charged to the credit card including the convenience stores. 

Most importantly, if you need to be connected. You'll need to book and purchase a SIM card prior to your arrival in the country. You can search for prepaid SIM card, Japan. 

1 thanks

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