If you want to have your mind blown and outlook on life changed, pack your bags and head to Tokyo. Japan’s biggest city is packed 24/7 with the energy that’ll leave you invigorated for life and after having just done that myself, I’ve come up with some tips that will make your visit easier as well.
I’m not sure how they do it but Japanese people are very punctual. All trains run on time like clockwork, bookings are strongly suggested, and everyone is always super polite and in their best form.
For some of the activities I wanted to do, I conveniently booked ahead through Voyagin, which included a kimono rental in Kyoto and tickets to Robot Restaurant in Tokyo. I’m so glad I did, because it meant that I had avoided disappointment (Anthony Bourdain called the Robot Restaurant the “greatest show on earth”) and got a really great deal too. The show was so much fun to watch and was previously recommended to me a lot by others – so if you’re interested as well, feel free to click here for 34% off Robot Restaurant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Japan’s healthcare system as 10 out of 190 countries. And although that is really, really good, there have been many instances of hospitals turning away foreign patients who needed care, even some with life-threatening conditions.
Wherever you adventure in the world, I’ve learned that travel insurance is so important – no matter how short or long your trip is. During my time in Japan, my partner and I unfortunately crossed paths with Typhoon Jebi, which was the strongest typhoon in 25 years. Thankfully we weren’t hurt and only had to rearrange accommodation in our packed itinerary. In such a stressful time, we felt assured that if anything more happened, Worldcare Insurance would be there to help with any eligible costs we came across. I have arranged Worldcare Travel Insurance for the last two years of my travels and they have been consistently supportive and easy to deal with. You can use ‘TheTravelKid10’ to save some $$$.
Tokyo is home to just under 10 million people, so as a result the public transport has become so modern and efficient that it is able to get you from A to Z in half the time you’d imagine.
As soon as you arrive, get a suica card .This is a prepaid smart card that will allow you to use most public transport (metro, trains, buses, monorail) in Japan. The card also functions as an electronic wallet. You can make small purchases on trains, in vending machines, convenience stores and restaurants that displaying the the suica logo. It can also be used to pay for taxis and lockers at stations. Another great benefit is that you can keep your Suica card for future travel because it will remain valid for 10 years.
Etiquette on transportation is important in Japan, so when you are traveling, keep your phone on silent and don’t answer calls. If you are sitting down, be ready to give up your seat to young children, pregnant women, elderly people, and the disabled. In Tokyo, these courtesies aren’t just polite, they are actually the law.
For such a massive city, I was surprised to find that public rubbish bins are incredibly rare and littering was considered unusual.
Because bins are so rare, putting rubbish in your bag to take home to dispose of is actually considered the norm. I put a plastic bag in my purse before I went out everyday so that I could use it to tuck rubbish away until I got home.
Also, I recommend bringing a small tissue pack and hand sanitation gel everywhere to help keep things fresh.
I know it’s a first world millennial problem, but I was super surprised that very few places offer free wi-fi.
I definitely recommend getting your portable pocket Wi-Fi device at the airport or before you try to get around the city. I used “Wi-Ho! Prepaid SIM for visitors to Japan” which I found to be worth the price and had solid connection wherever I went. Having good wi-fi made using the transportation system and communicating with the locals a lot easier too.
Cash is king
I came across a few restaurants, fast food joints and establishments that still accepted cash only. Although that wasn’t an issue as I generally always travel with cash, this is more to just help you avoid those awkward moments!
The only cash-dispensing ATM’s you will find are in 7-Eleven stores, and they dispense a minimum of $100 USD (but in Japanese yen). These ATMs allow you to withdraw cash by credit and debit cards issued outside of Japan, including Visa, Plus, Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, and JCB cards and provide an English menu. These 7-Eleven ATMS are considered the easiest to work, and costs you pay will depend on your own bank, as there’s usually no fee to use the ATM itself. Also, not all ATMs are online 24/7—so draw during the daytime to be safe.
Japan as a nation doesn’t speak much English, so it’s good to learn a few basic words to communicate as it does go a long way. The farther you are from the centre of the city, the more likely you are to need translation help.
There are voice translation and mobile apps which I reckon are definitely worth downloading such as Google Translate, iTranslate Voice, Translator Speak and Trip Lingo and Papago. The farther you are from the centre of the city, the more likely you are to need translation help.
And that rounds it off, all my tips to make your Tokyo trip run smoother so that you can have the best time ever. Have fun and stay safe! Let me know how you go. x