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Tokyo: 7 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting

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Tokyo is a glorious mix of old and new. It is a city that balances tradition and technology like nowhere else and is buzzing and chaotic yet somehow also ordered and calm. Tokyo is a modern city, but it still has a culture that shines bright. It is also incredibly safe, clean, and delicious and could take a lifetime to explore. This captivating city should be on every traveler's bucket list.

But before setting off to Tokyo, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about traveling to Tokyo, including:

A busy street in Tokyo is lit up by many bright signs
  • What are the costs for travelers?
  • Things to know about culture and etiquette
  • What are the top attractions?
  • How safe is it?
  • Local food and drinks
  • How good is the WiFi?
  • How long can you stay?

Ready? Here are the top 7 things you need to know before visiting Tokyo:

Fujiyoshida, Japan at Chureito Pagoda and Mt. Fuji in the spring with cherry blossoms.

Did you know… Tokyo is famous for its cherry blossoms each spring. Experts predict that this year’s bloom will arrive earlier than usual as there was a mild winter. This year, the city’s trees are expected to bloom between March 16-24. Great spots to view the trees in the city are Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, and Koishikawa Botanical Gardens.

1) Tokyo Affordability

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The currency in Tokyo is the Japanese Yen or JPY. The current exchange rate is ¥100 = $0.74 USD and $100 USD = ¥13,583.

Here are the average costs for travelers in USD:

Accommodation

Whether you are looking for a quirky character-filled hotel or a room with an ultra-sleek design, you’ll find it in Tokyo. Prices can vary quite a bit by neighborhood, so make sure you do your research to find a hotel near the areas you plan on exploring.

  • Average hotel price: One night in a popular tourist neighborhood costs about $200/night at a 3-star hotel and around $300/night at a 4-star hotel.
  • Luxury 5-star hotels: One night in a luxury 5-star hotel like the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi will cost around $1200 for a standard room and up to $9000/night for some of their luxury suites.  
  • If you're on a budget: There are plenty of good hostels to choose from in Tokyo. While there are cheaper options, a bed in a well-rated hostel in a central area will cost around $35, while private ensuite rooms start at around $100 per night.

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a busy crosswalk in Tokyo

Food

Visitors to Tokyo will find everything under the sun when it comes to dining. How much you spend is up to you.

  • A 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs around $45.
  • For a cheap meal at an inexpensive restaurant, expect to pay around $7.50.
  • A bottle of beer costs between $4 – $5, while a cappuccino is about $3.50.

Transportation

Tokyo is massive. But thanks to an efficient public transportation system traveling throughout the city is easy. The network can seem overwhelming at first, but the color-coded lines and English language signage mean that tourists can easily navigate the system.

  • Tickets for the Subway and Japanese Rail (JR) lines start at $1.25 for a single journey. Alternatively, riders can purchase 24-hour ($5.88), 48-hour ($8.80), and 72-hour ($11) passes. If you plan on taking public transit, it is recommended to purchase a Suica or PASMO IC smartcard for (a refundable) $3.70 and load it up with money. The cards allow for seamless travel on all transit lines throughout the city with the tap of a card.
  • If your travels eventually take you beyond Tokyo, be sure to get a JR Pass before your trip. The pass covers journeys on Japanese Rail both within Tokyo and throughout the rest of Japan. 7-day passes are $218.
  • A bus journey within the city costs about $1.50, or just over $5 for a day pass.
  • Taxi rates in Tokyo are expensive. Fares start at $3.50 and cost an additional $6 per mile. Uber is available but not widely used as it is fairly new to the city. Didi is the most popular rideshare app, and rates are typically comparable with taxis.
  • Some tourists choose to rent a bike to get around the city. A one-day rental typically costs between $7 and $12.
Aerial Panoramic View Of Tokyo, Japan

2) Culture And Etiquette In Tokyo

Japanese culture is complex and has a unique set of rules and behavior. If you don’t want to stick out as a rude tourist, keep the following tips in mind.

Check this list before your trip! Here are some of the major Dos and Don’ts in Tokyo.

  • DON’T blow your nose in public: this is considered rude, so find a private place to take care of your nasal business.
  • DO learn a few Japanese phrases: Locals can be shy about conversing with foreigners, so knowing a few friendly phrases can go a long way.
  • DON’T give a firm handshake: It is customary in Japan to bow when meeting or saying goodbye or thank you to someone. If someone does offer you a handshake, make it a gentle one.
  • DO take off your shoes: if you are entering a home, restaurant, temple, or museum and find a row of slippers, be sure to ditch your shoes. Use the slippers until you reach the tatami flooring, and then remove your slippers.
  • DON’T tip:  tipping is not expected in Japan
Portrait of a Happy Woman on the Streets of Tokyo

3) Top Attractions in Tokyo

Tokyo is full of incredible attractions. Here are a few of the top things to check out while exploring the city:

  • Ueno Park – home to several temples and shrines, five museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, and a zoo, Ueno Park is also a great place to see cherry blossoms in springtime.   
  • Visit The Fish Markets – Tsukiji fishmarket relocated much of its operations to Toyosu, but they are both worth a visit. Visitors to Toyosu can watch the wild tuna auctions, while many of the storied vendors surrounding the Tsukiji inner market remain and provide a gritty and authentic experience.
  • Sensoji Temple – Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. Accessed through the iconic Thunder Gate, there is also a five-story pagoda as well as the Asakusa Shrine.
Tokyo's spectacular thunder gate glows red in the dark

4) How Safe Is It For Tourists?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tokyo is consistently ranked as one of the world’s safest cities, and crimes against tourists are very low. However, there are still some things that travelers should keep in mind to stay safe and healthy:

  • Make use of the “women only” cars on the train: Female travelers, especially those traveling alone, often choose the women-only cars during rush hour to avoid any unwanted groping in crowded trains.
  • Stay alert: natural disasters are not uncommon in Japan, so have a plan for what to do in the case of an earthquake, typhoon, or tsunami.
  • Know the emergency number: Japan’s emergency assistance number is 110.
  • Watch out for tourist scams: Although they are not very common in Tokyo, it is always wise to remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • DO get travel insurance: Travel insurance can help in health emergencies as well as with covering the costs of any travel mishaps during your Tokyo trip. For 5 great options, read more here.
Busy Pedestrian Crossing Amid Skyscrapers In Tokyo, Japan

5) Local Eats And Drinks

One of the best parts of travel is checking out the local cuisine, and Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world for food; it has the most Michelin stars in the world! Don't let yourself leave Tokyo without trying at least one of the following:

Food

  • Sushi – found everywhere, from conveyer belts to Michelin-starred restaurants
  • Ramen – a flavorful broth with noodles, meat, and vegetables
  • Monjayaki – a runny savory pancake that tastes better than it looks
  • Anpan – a bread roll filled with red bean paste
  • Chanko nabe – a high-protein chicken-based stew fit for sumo wrestlers

Drink

  • Matcha – a traditional green tea with a bright, earthy taste
  • Ramune – a popular lychee-flavored soft drink
  • Amazake – a thick fermented rice drink that can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic
  • Sake – a sweet and acidic rice wine
a diner sits at an outdoor stool at a restaurant bar in Tokyo

6) How's the WiFi?

Using Ookla, an internet speed testing service, the average internet speeds in Tokyo for January 2023 were 52.30mbps download and 9mbps upload.

Tokyo International Airport Haneda Tourist Souvenir Shop Area

7) How Long Can I Stay?

Americans traveling to Japan do not need a visa for stays under 90 days. There is no digital nomad visa, but budding entrepreneurs can apply for a year-long start-up visa if they meet certain requirements.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Peter

Thursday 9th of March 2023

For transportation, be sure to get Suica or Pasmo on your Apple or Goole phone wallet. It will make the trips so much easier.

John Gladmore

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

Also, you still can't come if you are not triple-vaxxed unless you take and pass a PCR test 72 hours before flying. Sorry if you don't pass and lose out on all the money spent and time you put aside for your trip.

Tom

Friday 10th of March 2023

@John Gladmore, not only that, but most flights to Japan, as well as the airport and pretty much the whole country expects you muzzle up. Japanese wear their muzzles at all times, indoors and out.