Tokyo Travel Tips
In June 2015, I finally took the trip of my dreams to Japan. I’ve had a school girl crush on the Land of the Rising Sun for years. It’s the mecca of Hello Kitty, ramen, vending machine canned coffee, extreme rush hour and home to 13.5 million people. My Japanese adventure was everything I hoped it would be (and so much more), but had I done my research beforehand, I would have known a few tips and tricks that would have made it so much smoother and more comfortable.
So without further ado, here are my top 5 Tokyo Travel Tips for having a great time and not messing up your vacation in Japan.
1. Comfortable, Stylish Walking Shoes
I’m a die hard lover of Chuck Taylors with their bold colors, white laces and classic style. My Converse are rad, but…we clocked about 20,000 steps hustling and bustling around Tokyo and by the end of the 3rd night, my feet were killing me. Fortunately for me, Okinawan sake is a powerful pain killer and after a few rounds at dinner, I was able to finish off the night by exploring the area around the Tokyo Tower despite my blistered toes.
We walked everywhere, visiting shrines, exploring alleyways and markets and of course, the famed Harajuku fashion area on Takeshita Street.
I spent quality some time in Japanese drug stores looking for bandaids and blister protection. We clocked at least 10 miles across the city one day. I highly recommend bringing only comfortable shoes and alternate wearing a pair every other day. And pack bandaids.
And by the way, along with those stylish, comfy shoes, remember to only bring high quality cushioned socks. You’ll be taking off your shoes a lot in Japan when you enter a home or particular restaurant areas and you’ll bring much dishonor upon your family if you show up in dingy gray gym socks full of holes. 😉
2. Cash. Cash. And a Little More Cash.
I brought about 200 US dollars worth of yen, thinking that would be plenty since I’d just use my credit card for incidentals throughout Japan. I mean, Tokyo is one of the most modern cities in the world, right? Well…in some respects it’s the epitome of modern, but it’s also a cash only city. I burned through my cash since I had to use it unexpectedly for train fare, meals, entrance fees and for settling up with my travel partners (we also used PayPal between us to transfer money for settling the bigger hotel bills). I would have been more comfortable with $400-$500 in cash.
Hotels take credit cards including accepting them at their restaurants and gift shops, but it was a surprise that I needed to use up my valuable yen so quickly. I partially blame my fascination with Japanese vending machines and my need to pop in my coins every couple hours for a coffee or tea.
Tokyo is also one of the safest cities in the world, so don’t worry about having cash and your passport in your wallet. And…how about a cute and organized place to put that cash? I personally have the “File and Fly” organizer (the one in black below). It’s super cheap and I love that it gives me labels to help keep me organized if I get flustered when boarding a plane and trying to get situated once I find my seat.
3. Internet Connectivity! Pocket Wi-Fi or Pre-Paid SIM Card
Get a local SIM card (usually a prepaid or pay-as-you-go for between $20-$50 at T-Mobile, Vodafone, etc., with a few GBs of data that you can top up as-needed) everywhere you go so you can always be online and never stress about what you’re missing. Don’t leave the store until you have the phone in your hands with working Internet.
- Nippon.com provides extensive information on connectivity if you want to maximize free Wi-Fi available to travelers and tourists including offers from rail lines, airlines, hotels and more. Personally, the next time I go, I’ll just get the SIM card or pocket Wi-Fi so connectivity isn’t left up to chance and I don’t have to fumble about each time trying to connect and risk malware on my phone.
- WAAttention (a Singapore-based Japanese lifestyle magazine) has a breakdown of SIM cards to use for tourists including a recommendation of SIM cards that don’t require online connectivity to activate.
- Japan-Guide has a forum where users frequently discuss WIFI versus SIM cards in Japan, including where to get them, which providers are the most reliable and the cost.
- Trip Advisor’s forum provides reviews of actual experiences here: from mobile Wi-Fi not delivered to the first hotel as promised, to simply not working, to the perfectly functional and highly recommended.
4. Google Maps (in English)
5. My Own Personal Walking Tour Guide
And when in doubt, get a guidebook (or two) from Amazon. I own the Japanese Slanguage book which like me, is both hilarious and actually really helpful.
Okay, so I gave you my Tokyo travel tips, now we need your tips for your favorite city. Which city are you going to storm through like Godzilla through Tokyo? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget your comfy walking shoes! 🙂