I’m on vacation this week, but I’ve left you in the capable hands of some of my favorite bloggers from past BlogHouse events. Today Chanel from CulturalXplorer shares some handy information on how to visit Tokyo.
Tokyo (東京), the capital of Japan, is a massive city with a population of over 13 million people and is the one of the most populated urban areas in the world. There is something to do for everyone in the city, especially solo travelers. Here are some tips to help you plan your first solo trip to Tokyo, Japan.
Arriving to Tokyo
When you fly into the city of Tokyo, you will arrive at one of two airports: Haneda Airport (羽田空港) or Narita International Airport (成田空港). While Narita handles most of Tokyo’s international flights, it is located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside of Tokyo; so if at all possible, see if your airline flies into Haneda Airport which is located only 14 kilometers (9 miles) outside of the city.
If you fly into Narita International Airport, you have several options for getting into the city of Tokyo, ranging from the costly Narita Express (N’EX) Train that will cost you upwards of 3,000 yen ($25 USD) one-way, to the much more affordable Keisei Bus which will cost you between 900 and 1,000 ($8 USD) yen one-way.
For information on traveling into Tokyo from Narita, read ‘Cheapest Transport to Get From Narita Airport to Tokyo’ by Tokyo Cheapo.
Traveling from Haneda to Tokyo is fast and easy, and directions for getting into the city can be found on the Japan Guide.
Getting Around Tokyo
Before traveling to Tokyo, I read a lot about the city’s public transportation system, and I can honestly say that it scared me; and that says a lot since I reside in New York City. Reading about the different rail systems in Tokyo prior to traveling there confused me and it was not until I arrived in the city that I realized how easy it actually was to get around. One additional thing that made commuting easier were all of the signs in the train stations that were written in both Japanese and English.
When I arrived to Tokyo, I was fully prepared to take on the city with a Tokyo metro app on my phone, but I found that using a small paper map that included both the metro and JR lines turned out to be much more helpful. Additionally, two things that helped me to navigate the city quite easily were the subway maps in each station along with Google Maps on my phone.
When you arrive to Tokyo, I recommend purchasing either the Suica Card or the PASMO card instead of buying individual train tickets every time you want to get on the train, which will save you time and money. Both cards do essentially the same thing; they are just issued by two different companies.
Getting Around: A Survival Guide to Transport Japanese (Tokyo Cheapo)
There is so much to do and see in Tokyo, and even though I spent five days in the city, I did not have enough time to see everything that I had planned.
In order to save money on transportation, I would recommend planning things you want to do by neighborhood. For example, if you have a goal of seeing every single themed café that Tokyo has to offer, determine what neighborhood each café is in, and see what else each of those neighborhoods has to offer.
One great thing to do in Tokyo is to go on a tour (which I personally believe are great for getting to know the layout of city, learning the history or about a unique aspect of a destination, and getting to meet other travelers).
Here is a comprehensive list of resources for exploring Tokyo:
Tokyo Cheapo 101: The Beginners Guide to Tokyo: Everything that you might want to know about Tokyo in a handy little guide (Tokyo Cheapo)
101 Free and Cheap Things to do in Tokyo: A massive guide to free and cheap things to do in Tokyo (Tokyo Cheapo)
A Beginner’s Guide to Tokyo: Curious to know about each of Tokyo’s unique neighborhoods? Check out this beginner’s guide to get you started (Travels in Translation)
10 Words You Must Know When Traveling to Japan: These words really will help you out when visiting Tokyo. Learn them. (Travels in Translation)
13 Japanese Themed Cafes That Seem Too Awesome To Be Real: If you are into the wild and funky like I am, you will certainly appreciate Tokyo’s themed Cafes (First We Feast)
Where to Sleep in Tokyo
As a solo traveler visiting Tokyo, you may be wondering what your best options are for finding an affordable place to sleep in Tokyo. There are many great options for solo travelers from capsule hotels, to hostels, to homestays, and Couchsurfing.
The most inexpensive option for staying in Tokyo is Couchsurfing, however it is important to consider when you will be traveling to the city as it may be very difficult to secure a host during a peak travel season such as Golden Week or during the sakura season. Keep in mind that Couchsurfing is not meant to be used as a free place to stay, but rather as a way to connect with locals/expats and share experiences and culture.
Homestays are similar to the Couchsurfing experience, however you have to pay for your stay. Homestays are meant to be cultural immersion experiences where you can fully learn about Japanese culture with a Japanese host family. There are a few different companies that provide Homestay experiences such as Homestay.com. To see what a Tokyo homestay is like, check out this video from travel blogger Sabrina of One Way Ticket.
Another inexpensive accommodation option in Tokyo is staying in a hostel. You can look at ratings and prices for different hostels on HostelWorld.com (booking fee applies) or HostelBookers.com (no fee).
A capsule hotel is a unique accommodation option in Tokyo in which you sleep in a little box, called a capsule. Most capsule hotels cater to men only, but a quick Google search will pull up different options for places that have beds for women. Are you wondering what the experience at a capsule hotel is like? Check out this great video by Only in Japan.
Safety in Tokyo as a Solo Traveler
Tokyo is generally a very safe city; so safe in fact that during my trip there, I saw many young children moving around the city completely alone. Statistically, there is very little crime in Japan, and most things that do happen are petty and non-violent.
Although the city is mostly safe, it is wise to take standard precautions like you would anywhere else in the world as crime does happen, although you are unlikely to be affected by it. Some areas where you probably should be on guard the most are in Roppongi, Kabuki-cho, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro.
You are more likely to get hit by a car than be a victim of crime in Tokyo as the Japanese drive on the left side of the road, so one thing that you should watch out for as a pedestrian are cars, bikes, and motorbikes.
Need somewhere to stay in Tokyo? Try these out:
Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku is a stunning hotel located right in Central Tokyo. There’s a delicious coffee bar and Italian restaurant and even a full spa on site for guests to enjoy.
If you’re looking for an experience in a hotel, the Marunouchi Hotel is a guest favorite! Located in the best part of Central Tokyo, the hotel offers guests a true vacation with 4 restaurants to choose from and even an on-site spa!
If you’re traveling solo to Tokyo like Chanel, the Centurion Ladies Hostel Ueno Park is a Females only hostel at an affordable price. The Cherry Blossoms can be seen from the hostel in Ueno Park and Tokyo’s biggest attractions are within a mile of the hotel.