5 Tips for First-Time Travelers to Tokyo


With the 2020 Olympics already set for Tokyo, it’s current stock as a tourist destination is at an all-time high. Indeed, the country’s own tourism agency claimed that April 2019 broke records with 2.9 million visits from overseas residents throughout Japan. If the idea of traveling to Tokyo is starting to appeal to you, as well, then you should go and visit with as much preparation as you possibly can. Here are just five tips if you’re going to Tokyo for the first time:

Plan Ahead but Take It Slow

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with the huge amount of places to visit and things to do in Tokyo. What’s more, it can be easy to get lost in certain areas of the metropolis. Compounding this is the fact that the Japanese language can be very difficult to learn for westerners, with few Japanese people conversely being fluent in English.

With these factors combined, you’ll want to prepare as much as you can before you get on the plane. Important preparations include having an organized daily itinerary and a planned route for the places you want to visit. And once you’re there, don’t feel pressured to follow every point to the beat. Allow yourself to go on detours and maybe even cancel some stops if that’s what it takes to have a fun time in Tokyo.

Get a Pocket WiFi

Tokyo has a well-developed infrastructure that allows for free WiFi as long as you’re in main train stations or even traveling along some major train lines. However, over-reliance on these connections can leave you in the dark once you exit the stations and go into the streets.

Make sure you get a Haneda or Narita WiFi rental the moment you land so you can stay online wherever you go. Since Google Maps also doesn’t allow the downloading of Japanese areas, this makes your commutes easier—as well as sending updates back home to loved ones more convenient.

Be Mindful of Local Customs and Proper Etiquette

Despite many aspects of Japanese culture like video games and anime being well-known worldwide, the core aspects of their culture are still very different from the West’s.Indeed, Japan has a rigidly structured culture, with proper manners drilled into everyone as early as childhood. They can be hard to learn in a short span of time, but this is why locals can tend to be forgiving of outsiders.

Still, though most Japanese people will excuse gaffes from tourists, there are still some definite don’ts that you should always keep in mind. Some important ones to remember off-hand are to avoid eating while walking in public, refrain from leaving tips, and don’t make noise while traveling by train.

Ensure Easy Access to Cash

You’ll be surprised to find out how even some local establishments allow card transactions. However, you’ll still want enough cash if you’re going for a more authentic Japanese travel experience. Indeed, a lot of mom-and-pop establishments and stores still deal solely by cash. Some chains like McDonald’s also typically only accept payments in cash. But don’t worry, there are also lots of ATMs scattered around Tokyo in case you run out more. Just remember that Japanese banks deduct an extra amount for foreign currencies. Also, it might be safest to call your bank before your trip to activate withdrawals in foreign territories.

Check Out Your Local Convenience Stores

It may be tempting to use the many famed vending machines scattered all around urban Japan. But don’t get too carried away with the novelty. Items purchased through machines tend to have a higher price than those sold in the local konbini or convenience store. What’s more, Japanese convenience stores have a great variety of products for sale, compared with those from other countries. You can practically live off whatever you can buy in your local convenience store and be able to buy things you may have forgotten back home or lost along the way.

Don’t worry about being able to do everything on your first visit. Even if you stay for a week, you’ll likely not be able to experience everything you can in Japan’s bustling capital. But with the above important tips in mind, you’re sure to have a more fun and worry-free time as a first-time Tokyo traveler.


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