For first time travelers to Asia, Japan and Thailand are top destinations on the list. There, you can get close to Eastern culture and enjoy a relaxed holiday atmosphere.
In Japan you can see beautiful geishas in kimonos, spectacular Mount Fuji, stay at a traditional ryokan (inn) with an onsen (hot spring bath) and sample delicious food. In Thailand, you can have a close encounter with elephants, relaxing on the fabulous islands of Phuket, and experience a flourishing floating market.
In this article, we are going to look at how to plan your first tour of Japan and Thailand.
1. What to See in Japan and Thailand?
Both Japan and Thailand have fascinating attractions and unique experiences that are suitable for a big trip (family vacation, anniversary, birthday...).
Top Things to Do in Japan:
- Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are must-see cities for a first trip to Japan.
1) Experience the perfect blend of history and modernity in Tokyo: visit Sensoji Temple to feel the vibe of the Edo Period (1603–1867), make sushi at a local home, meet your children’s interest in anime or spend a happy day in Disneyland, have a close-up visit to the spectacular Mount Fuji, and have a day trip to Hakone for onsen bathing.
2) Immerse yourself in the strong traditional atmosphere of Kyoto: see beautiful geishas and have an afternoon tea with them, visit shrines with a venerated vibe, try on kimonos for a memorable family photo, stay in ryokan traditional Japanese accommodation, and feed friendly deer in Nara.
3) In the prosperous port city of Osaka, you can sample street food like takoyaki (octopus ball), make cup noodles based on your preferences at Cup Noodle Museum and enjoy family time in Universal Studios.
Suggested reading: How to Plan Your First Time Trip to Japan
Top Things to Do in Thailand:
- Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket are top cities for first time trip in Thailand.
1) Feel the combination of Buddhist tradition and lively modern times in Bangkok: explore the vibrant night markets with a tuk-tuk ride, taste delicious Thai food, get an insight into a bygone way of life in the floating markets, take a Chao Phraya River cruise to take in the charming night views, and have a nice romantic meal in a rooftop restaurant.
2) Chiang Mai is the most popular northern destination in Thailand, where you can have a close encounter with elephants, enjoy the surrounding countryside by bike, and participate in a Thai cooking class with your family. If you visit in November, don’t miss the romantic Yi Peng Lantern Festival.
3) Visit at least one wonderful Thai island: Phuket is loved by families for its exciting activities and family-friendly hotels, while Koh Samui is perfect for couples with its luxury resorts and romantic vibe. It's better to go to the islands during the dry season, so we suggest you visit Koh Samui from January to August and go to Phuket from December to April.
Contact our travel expert who will design a fulfilling, personalized trip based on the length of your holiday, preferences, and interests.
Suggested reading: How to Plan Your First Trip to Thailand
98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+
Wonderful 10 day trip in Japan!!!
Well planned trip by Alisa . Everything was well scheduled, guides and drivers were excellent!! The cars were extremely comfortable and the hotel she chose for us was beautiful!! Enjoyed planning with her she was very professional and always offered other choices.More
Lianne Stone, May 2023
11 days trip to Japan
I am planning my trip to Japan in November with Sharon's help and she has provided amazing customer service.She is very responsive and put together very quickly an incredible plan for 11 days in Japan. She provided recommendations and made changes based on our interests and budget. She also provided information about visa restrictions and the best way to get tickets for transportation services. Thanks so much Sharon, looking forward to this trip!More
LE, May 2023
Hi Cathy! I just want to thank you for making our Japan trip so much fun & memorable! We loved everything that you had scheduled for us! All the guides and drivers were great & punctual! We love Japan so much that we’re planning to go back next year to different part of Japan! We’ll definitely contact Asia Highlights for our trip again! SereneMore
Serene Storslett, May 2023
Quick, easy and detailed service
Alisa was our advisor from Asia highlights and she prepared for us a wonderful 28 day trip to Japan, taking into consideration our needs and desire not to be traveling everyday and to have a mixture of slow and busy days. We've not yet taken our trip, but very much looking forward to it Thank you Alisa for the quick response and wonderful itineraryMore
Lynette Whittle, Apr 2023
Sharon Huang did an excellent job in planningour 15 day Cherry Blossom Japan tour. Shewas available during our trip to answer our questions and readily agreed to the itinerary changes.Everything was arranged - accommodation,breakfast, guide, car, entrance fees and train tickets. The guides were knowledgeable, and managed the tour very efficiently. The drivers were punctual and very patient. We visited must see places in and near Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. We also got to experience Japanese Tea ceremony, Sushi making, Sake tasting, shopping etc.We highly recommend Asia Highlights for your travel needs.More
Madhu, Apr 2023
I organized a trip to Japan for my
I organized a trip to Japan for my parents who don’t speak English and Alisa was so amazing helping make an itinerary for them. They needed a Spanish guide and she coordinated everything so they wouldn’t have any trouble when they got there. She was so patient changing and adjusting the itinerary to their needs and wants, it’s been a total pleasure working with her and she always responds promptly to any question I have. I definitely recommend this company and if you can ask to work with Alisa.More
Luisa, Apr 2023
Trip to Japan. I have had the pleasure to book with…
For the reasons above, I decided to book again with Asia highlights for our trip to Japan this year in September. Until now it’s been a pleasure dealing with Albee Ning. She was so efficient and pleasant in adjusting our itinerary. Whenever I had any questions I could count on her to answer promptly. I am very lucky to have her as our organiser for our future trip to Japan. I have had the pleasure to book with Asia Highlights when we went to China in 2018. We were extremely satisfied with the exceptional services rendered by our organiser, Robert Hui and private guide William.More
Mrs Cristina Hidalgo Loris, Apr 2023
Albee Ning and Asia Highlights - wonderful to work with.
I and my daughter planned a trip to China and Japan. We worked with Albee Ning who was fantastic in developing a itinerary based on our desires and needs. She was extremely responsive, taking into account all of our requests and worked closely with us, it wasn't just selecting from one of several pre-developed itineraries. We decided to postpone the trip until next year and received the guaranteed refund, minus a small deposit on next years trip. We look forward to working with her again on next years trip and trips in the future. We highly recommend Asia Highlights and Albee NingMore
Nancy K, Apr 2023
Handcrafted tour of Japan by Asia Highlights
My initial inquiry to this company (based in China) was answered in under 10 hours by an amazing travel consultant, named Alisa. She is such a professional in the ways she conducts herself and serves her clients. Alisa is a great communicator and listener. She is very open to requests for additional experiences which require research on her part to arrange. Alisa also provides very detailed information about each experience, location, guides, private car transfers, trains, hotels. This approach is very appealing since detailed communication is so useful and important to me. Alisa also makes the process simple and easy to follow. Answered tons of questions and created the perfect tour for us. We are looking forward to this once in a lifetime visit to Japan and are so grateful we have had the chance to work with Alisa at Asia Highlights!More
Laurie Lee, Feb 2023
Great Overall Experience
Our guide in Tokyo, Fuki, was outstanding. We saw things we would never have otherwise seen, if Fuki had not been there.More
Todd Hankinson, Dec 2022
Plenty of options and personalized tours as needed
Monica Mo was very helpful from the beginning after I enquired about my travel plans to Japan. She listened with understanding and took careful notes and clarified things to make sure she got everything.More
Ginybel Belgira, Sep 2022
Asia Highlights especially Ms. Kanae Chida superb
Asia Highlights and particularly our Tokyo guide, Ms. Kanae Chida, were the best. When Kanae met us, she asked for details of what we wished to see and she constructed an outstanding combination of visits for the day.More
Geoff Rayner-Canham, May 2019
I have arranged a 27 day tour of China, Japan and Hong Kong China
Peggie's English is impeccable and she uses lots of nuances which usually only a native English speaker would know. I have found her very prompt in responding to emails and her knowledge is terrific.More
Ailsa West, Jul 2018
Very professional, great customer service
We travelled to Japan this May (2018). We had contacted Asia Highlights to organise our trip for us. Miss Peggie Lyoo was very helpful, super-friendly, very professional and very prompt with all her replies!More
Tibor Marton, May 2018
Great job!! We had an amazing vacation to Japan. We will use Asian highlights for all of our trips to AsiaMore
Joe, May 2018
In addition, I want to specifically mention the guides provided in certain locations. Rum, in Siem Reap, made the most memorable experience possible. His positivity was contagious - even when it felt like 1000 degrees and we were tired. He brought it all to life, and created a couple days of Ankor Wat, etc. that we will never forget! He heard my daughter's request for specific Cambodian food, and changed our itinerary to go to a village and eat at a locally known shop. He brought the dessert she asked about to us in the car! Overall, he and his driver "Lucky" were a reason to go to Siem Reap. In addition, the other guides (minus one which was switched out immediately) were stupendous. Mon in Bangkok was friendly and provided a great day there; Eak in Chiang Mai gave us a world-class food-tour and day touring the city and its surrounding temples with lots of laughs; Tommy in Hanoi kept us from getting killed in the traffic and gave a stupendous food and architecture/history tour - so very friendly and funny; the fishing village tour in Hoi An, as well as the side-car tour in Saigon, were both unforgettable! Thank you Sharon, and Asia Highlights. Would definitely use again for future trips!More
Teri Simpson, Apr 2023
Cambodia and Vietnam adventure!
Our guide in Cambodia, Meas Darapolaith (Pol), was absolutely amazing. He was knowledgeable, friendly and so helpful. His English was excellent and he shared important insights about history and the magnificent sites we visited. We highly recommend him!More
Jennifer Roth Krieger, Apr 2023
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE…
My daughter and I wanted to discover SE Asia. Being the first in that region, we wanted to use a tour service company. We ended up using Asia Highlights. From the beginning we were impressed with their services. We left home with of mind because all the pre-travel arrangements were taking care and communicate to us efficiently. All our questions were answered promptly. Once in the countries, we were welcome by our excellent tour guides. Everything was taking care for us. We did not have one issue. They selected the right tours guides for us, they were highly knowledgeable and so much attentive to our needs. We had Dhat in Vietnam and Borin in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I highly recommend Asia Highlights. I came back home so much rested, and with plenty of wonderful pictures and memories. I will definitely use Asia Highlights again for my next trip to Asia.More
Isabelle Dessaux, Apr 2023
Fabulous tour and guide in Cambodia
We have been touring Cambodia, guided by Borin ( and driver 007) for the last 2 days. What a fabulous experience! Borin has been a wonderful guide, the best so far in Southeast Asia, explaining the history and culture of Cambodia through his tours of the temples in and around Angkor, as well as the Landmine museum. He has answered all our questions, made sure we were comfortable, and that we have had great food. 007 made sure we always had enough water and cool towels for our face/neck.We highly recommend Borin as a tour guide for Cambodia!!More
Monica, Mar 2023
Best Travel Service for Asia Travel
Alisa Liu was in charge of making the arrangements and she helped us from the start to make all of the arrangements and also helped us when we had questions and requested some adjustments. Her service is of the highest professional level. We are 100% confident that our trip will be perfect. We’re also 100% confident that, if anything comes up during our trip, that Alisa will be there to guide us through and take care of us. We won’t even consider using another agency for travel around Asia and we would like to have Alisa work for us again.More
Leo Pospichal, Mar 2023
2. How Much Does It Cost to Tour Japan and Thailand?
A private tour in Thailand is an affordable luxury, about US$200–250 per day per person. The cost in Japan is double than of Thailand. Prices can double again during cherry blossom season and Christmas, so we suggest that you book flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance during this period.
Ryokans are a worth a night’s stay to try out traditional Japanese accommodation. They cost around US$300–450 per night, and floating houses in Thailand cost US$150–300 per night.
Direct flights from Tokyo or Osaka to Bangkok takes about six hours and cost between US$400-900.
We promise you a 100% refund of any payments made to Asia Highlights up to 3 weeks before departure (details⇒).
3. When Is the Best Time to Travel to Japan and Thailand?
The best time to visit both Japan and Thailand is March, early April and November, when the two countries are at their most comfortable times weatherwise, with less rain and suitable temperatures. Christmas and New Year is the busiest period in both countries, so you’re suggested to book flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance for this period.
April to May is a transitional time in both countries. You can see cherry blossoms in Japan as temperatures warm in spring, and have fun at the Water-Sprinkling Festival in Thailand in the mid-April hot time before the wet season comes. >>> How to Plan a Japan Cherry Blossom Trip
It's hot and rainy from June to August, but it needn't affect your trip. In Japan, there are plenty of air-conditioned facilities offering urban/cultural experiences, and rain often falls in the afternoon in Thailand, leaving plenty of opportunity to dodge the rain with touring.
September and October are rainiest, but only when typhoons land, in Japan, which otherwise is pleasantly warm/mild. Meanwhile, the typhoon season also strikes in Thailand, bringing harder but less frequent downpours, while hot/warm conditions prevail.
December to February is the warm, dry season and best time to visit Thailand. In Japan, it’s cold, but you can go skiing and see snowy scenery in the north. >>> How to Plan a Family Ski Holiday in Japan
4. How Long to Spend in Japan and Thailand?
A memorable trip with all the must-sees in both countries takes at least 2 weeks: 7–9 days in Japan and 7–10 days in Thailand.
We recommend that an ideal route should be from hardest to easiest. Japan is a culturally-rich country that requires more of your engagement, while Thailand is a good place to relax more after Japan. Below is a classic Japan-Thailand itinerary for your inspiration.
- Days 1–3 Tokyo, Japan (samurai, anime, making sushi, Asakusa old district...)
- Days 4–6 Kyoto (geisha, ryokan, feed deer in Nara, sample sake...)
- Day 7 Osaka and fly to Bangkok in Thailand
- Days 8–10 Bangkok (Wat Pho, Grand Palace, floating market...)
- Days 11–13 Chiang Mai (Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Thai cooking class, food tour)
- Days 14–16 Phuket beach time and departure
Let us help you plan your trip! Contact us and we will create a trip based on your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.
Suggested reading: How Long Should You Spend in Japan
5. Do I Need a Visa for a Japan and Thailand Trip?
Nationals of many countries are exempt from needing a visa to enter Japan and Thailand, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Most travelers can stay in Japan without a visa for 90 days and in Thailand for 30 days.
The Japanese government has required all travelers to complete the entry express clearance by filling out the information on the online Visit Japan Web (VJW). It may take you one hour or more to complete the procedure. To save time waiting for customs clearance at the airport, we suggest completing the procedures at least 6 hours to 2 weeks before the scheduled arrival time of the flight in Japan.
Click on Visit Japan Web to fill in the information. One account can be used to fill in the information for up to 10 family members.
Touring Japan and Thailand with Asia Highlights
A private guided tour is a good way to maximize your time, taking away the worry out of planning a trip and giving you a smooth, stress-free, and enjoyable trip.
Our travel consultants can create a trip that fits your schedule and focuses on your preferences and interests. Not only they can find right hotels for you, no matter whether you’re traveling as a family or a couple, but also they can respond to any questions you have about the trip quickly and help you deal with emergencies effectively.
You are promised a 100% refund of any payments made to Asia Highlights for cancelations up to 3 weeks before departure (details⇒).
Contact us to have a wonderful trip.
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
Get Inspired with Our Sample Itineraries
At Asia Highlights, we create your kind of journey — your dates, your destinations, at your pace. You can have any trip tailor made for your travel.