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Tips to enjoy Universal Studios Japan (USJ) without an Express Pass

Tips to enjoy Universal Studios Japan (USJ) without an Express Pass 

Editor's note: for Muggle edition, casual stuff: 'obvious fiction - all good fun - nothing to worry about. Hope you enjoy it!'

I am a proud Slytherin, and me liking the Harry Potter series is no secret, even within my team at work so obviously I’m bound to share something Harry Potter-related here!

In Japan, there’s Universal Studios in Osaka, and this is where it gets magical – you get to walk right into Hogsmeade in Universal Studios Japan!

Universal Studios Japan (or what we always call USJ) is so popular, that this place is full of visitors every single day! It’s nothing like Universal Studios Singapore as it gives a totally different experience, so visiting USJ is basically on every (probably mostly Asian) Potterhead’s bucket list!

Like all other Universal Studios, there are bound the be Express Pass for you to save lots of time in the world of muggles. But what if you wanted to keep your muggle currency for something else?

No worries! This is the exact guide you need without an Express Pass. I’ll write another post on using Express Pass next time (because let’s be honest – you would want to spend another day in USJ. A single visit is never enough.)

Tip #1: Pre-purchase your entrance ticket

Time will not slow down when something unpleasant lies ahead.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As the saying goes, time is gold. If you wouldn’t want to experience a 3-hour queue outside USJ, purchase your tickets from H.I.S. Travel Malaysia before you depart to Japan!

The ticket purchased from H.I.S. Travel Malaysia is an e-ticket. There’s QR code that is printed on the ticket and you can scan and enter the park right away. Time-saving indeed.

Tip #2: Don’t stay too far away!

Being in a foreign land you are bound to stay in an accommodation that you are not familiar in terms of language and getting around, but no worries! The team from H.I.S. Travel can help you with giving advises when you require it!

Generally, the team in H.I.S. Travel will recommended to stay around Namba, Osaka/ Umeda, Shin-Imamiya. All less than 30 minutes by train to USJ. In muggle currency it would be around 180~200 JPY in the land of the rising sun. That’s like less than half a dozen Sickles.

If you are looking for great recommendations and ease of bookings, the team in H.I.S. Travel is ready to help you through your purchase to make your experience a lot smoother.

Tip #3: No dilly-dally. Utilize time. Strategize.

You can eat your breakfast when you queue, but not not queuing – especially for entering and waiting for rides. Get away for a split second and you’ll see a loooooooooooong line of muggles (possibly also wizards, you’ll never know) queuing.

The theme park opens at different times of the day, depending on USJ’s calendar. Sometimes 8.30, sometimes 9, or even from evening until end of the following day from 31 December until 1 January every year. (Partying is necessary for people in the muggle world, after all) It is important to check the official calendar on USJ’s website.

It is completely fine to arrive at 6.30 in the morning but you got to get in the queue because short after you will see the long line behind you. Even if USJ opens hours later, this is the time where your strategy game starts – open up a map and decide where to go, and how to expect from an unknown world. If you have done your homework prior visiting Japan, kudos to you! Bring that sandwich or rice ball with you, sit down while being in queue, and enjoy.

Tip #4: Be disciplined, then run for your life!

Wanted that view where there are nothing that looked like crowds in front of you? Get your entrance tickets ready for scanning, then RUN! There are many entry gates, but if this is your first time visiting USJ, we just wanted to let you know that if you don’t have an Express Pass but would absolutely enter the wizarding world, then grab your area entry ticket near Jaws!

Well, another option is to just run straight into the Harry Potter area through a ‘shortcut’ on the right side upon entry. As soon as you enter you can take photos and do lots of things – but we recommend checking out Hogwarts first. If you arrive early, the queue wouldn’t take hours – took us just a short while. Enjoy your ride in the castle! If luck is good, you might be able to ride again without an Express pass.

Tip #5: Enjoy the rides first, pictures come later

This tip is more of an extension from #4 but seriously. If you don’t have an Express Pass, prioritize to get into the rides first. You would never want to experience queuing for another 3 hours for a single ride. Trust me.

If you’re a Potterhead, prioritize the rides of Harry Potter for yourself first, then you can take all the photos you want because it wouldn’t be easy to get back into the area as there are timed tickets handed out (which is why people run for the machine at Jaws). You can play everything else later. If you need more days, 2-day tickets are available!

After coming out from Hogwarts, enjoy to the fullest! Hogsmeade has everything you need to take your magical photos, just be amazed, enjoy all the little magical detail here!

Though if you managed to get a ticket to come back in the evening, stay! The atmosphere is different at night time, and staying around Hogwarts will certainly give you a memorable experience in your lifetime.

Tip #6: Utilize the Single Rider Lane

Best part about traveling solo is to enjoy all the time you have for yourself. Although you can also use the single rider lane even you go in groups, chances are you will be separated with your group when you use a single rider lane – but the line moves pretty fast so you get to save queuing time compared to groups! The staff will slot you into whichever space that is empty.

Tip #7: Butterbeer indoors!

I suppose you’ve figured how much I dislike queues if you have managed to read this far, and this tip is the same.

There are actually different places to buy butterbeer – and the one outdoors is always crowded. If you want the full enjoyment, go for their cafe by the lake, sit and enjoy the view!

Tip #8: Lawson is your budget-friendly friend

Though I always recommend you to try something that you wanted to try at least once, but if you are super tight on budget and would prefer to splurge on merchandises rather than food, head to Lawson! There is one in USJ City. Buy a couple of stuff and put it in your bag, eat them (discreetly) when you’re hungry – but seriously who gets multiple chances to visit USJ multiple times so might as well as spending more on the fancier stuff in USJ!

Other Tips

  1. Visiting Japan during Spring/ Rainy season/ Autumn? You might face drizzles. So bring raincoats! You really wouldn’t want to get drenched.
  2. You can try on the Hogwarts robes in the store, but make sure to be a decent person and hang them back nicely – it’s a display item.
  3. There’s a photobooth near the Hogwarts Express, if you wanted the photo to be printed out, it’s 2,500 JPY but you can wear the robe and pose with a wand. You can also get a photo on your phone for free, but it’s with the clock nearby Hogwarts Express instead.
  4. There’s the wand that is interactive and you can test how good you did for your charms class here! If you are getting the wands of main characters they’ll be 4,900 JPY, and 4,500 JPY for supporting roles. You will be given a map and instructions to find the locations! I’ll make another post next time!
  5. Try Butterbeer in both hot and cold. They feel different but both are so good. p/s: Did you know that butterbeer in the movies are hot? 🍺

So, that’s all of the tips I’d like to provide!

If you find my article helpful, consider purchasing your USJ ticket (and Express Pass, and other stuff for Japan) from us at H.I.S. Travel Malaysia!

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