JaPOON Tokyo Travel TipsJanuary 13, 2017
I miss Tokyo. We travelled there 3x already and still long to go back. Because I miss it, I will write about it instead! We have a few travel tips specific for Tokyo, all based on our experience.
I won’t talk about WHERE to go, since there are so many blogs and sites for that anyway.
HOTEL OR AIRBNB?
On our first trip, we stayed in a hotel. A 24hour front desk is comforting to a first-timer in Tokyo. Usually 3-4 star hotels around major train stations (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno etc.) will have at least one staff that speaks English.
We stayed in APA hotel Akihabara-Ekimae on our very first night in Tokyo. It was clean, but small. It’s the tiniest room we have stayed in, EVER. People over 6ft tall, beware.
Since our second trip onward, we stay in AirBnbs. It’s more affordable than a hotel, and the best way to feel like a local.
Choose a host that responds quickly to your messages. If the host does not respond in 3-4 hours I usually find another apartment. I like hosts that are truly concerned if I get lost or have problems.
Be a good guest, too. Please follow your host’s rules especially regarding cleanliness and noise levels. (Japan apartments = SUPER CLEAN, SUPER QUIET)
WHAT AREA TO STAY IN?
We like accommodations that are walking distance from major stations along the YAMANOTE LINE. Smaller stations may not have elevators/escalators, leaving you to lug your suitcases up the stairs!!!
Most major tourist attractions can be accessed through stations on the Yamanote Line anyway. (Except the theme parks.) Consider that train stations generally close at 11pm or midnight, leaving you to spend your precious yen on an EXPENSIVE taxi to get back home if you stay out too late.
Our personal choice is Akihabara because of a nice 24 hour grocery store nearby. Areas like Asakusa, Ueno, and our other favorite spots are within walking distance of Akihabara.
I also noticed accomodations around ASAKUSA station is slightly cheaper than the other major stations.
We like choosing places that require minimal transfers to and from the airport.
Asakusa has direct access to the Narita airport, but is not along the Yamanote line. This can work too.
The KEISEI NARITA SKY ACCESS EXP. train takes you directly to and from Asakusa (Tobu/Subway) station, no transfers. (Please don’t mistake it for the more expensive KEISEI SKY LINER or the KEISEI MAINLINE LTD. EXP.)
The Access Narita. (Bus) will take you from Narita Airport to Yaesu bus stop, across the street from the Tokyo main train station. It also stops at Ginza, but we’ve never tried that. Tokyo Main Station is along the Yamanote Line.
We like using The Access Narita because it’s one of the most affordable airport bus services. Very comfortable too!
We accessed Akihabara from Haneda Airport by train. Remember to CHANGE TRAINS at Shinagawa station –very important for first time Tokyo commuters! I didn’t study this very well and got us lost going to our hotel, haha!
There are also buses in Shinjuku. that go directly to and from Haneda airport.
WIFI OR DIE (ok maybe not die, but you’ll get lost ;p)
I like to reserve my wifi at least 3 months before the trip. It’s not practical to turn on your roaming/data unless it’s an emergency. Most airbnbs offer mobile wifi with their apartments, but some have data caps or the unit has a short battery life. I always get mine from www.wifi-hire.com. It hasn’t failed me yet.
KNOW THE TRAIN EXIT NEAREST TO YOUR DESTINATION
This saves time walking around, and asking people where to go (although the Japanese are glad to help!). Japan train stations, especially the BIG ones like Shinjuku, Shibuya & Tokyo are BUSY, COMPLICATED, with MANY exits. Getting out of the wrong exit might mean an extra 15-20 mins of walking around.
Find the station on google maps then zoom-in until the exits become visible.
Google maps can give most of the navigation tools you need. But I also use the app from HYPERDIA.COM. to calculate my routes and travel times. Hyperdia also shows the name of the station in Japanese characters, just in case you need to ask a local if you’re getting on the right train!
In every trip, Google maps and Japan-guide.com. are my go-to sites for basic information.
I hope this helps you plan for your trip to Japan!
*Blog originally published on January 13, 2017