Tokyo is a highly populated, dense metropolis of approximately 845 square miles that I had the pleasure to briefly explore in May. When traveling to Tokyo, it is best to do the following ahead of time:
- Download the Google Translate app to help you with menus, directions and outdoor vending machines, and learn some basic Japanese phrases such as “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me” and “I don’t understand”. Very few people speak English, especially off the beaten path.
- Plan to spend a LOT of ¥en as many places (including taxis, train station kiosks, and local restaurants) do not take credit cards!
- Your best bet is to get Yen ahead of time through your bank or via Travelex super convenient as 45 minute wait times at the airport are likely. Travelex will even buy back your yen with a pre-paid return envelope upon returning home. Keep in mind banks and Travelex do not buy back coins (only bills) so use up your coins – a ¥500 coin is equivalent to a $5 U.S. bill! ¥en is so absolutely lovely you almost don’t want to spend it! But… you will.
- Wifi is spotty and not available in many locations. Here’s a brill concept… have a pocket wifi delivered to your hotel! Once fully charged it will run up to 12 hours and you have wifi everywhere you go in the city – they will deliver to most hotels (mine was there upon check-in) and give you a prepaid return envelope to give to the hotel concierge upon checkout. Stick the small device in your purse or pocket for continuous wifi. Super duper convenient!
- Bring printed copies of the addresses of your hotel and places you plan to or think you might visit along with printed photos. These will be helpful when asking for directions!
- Work on your pantomiming skills. Many Japanese will humor you by watching and attempting to figure out what you need/are trying to convey and others will flat out ignore your antics. Either way, you’ll get a slight workout.
- Plan to use public transportation from the Narita airport (Skyliner train) and around the city as taxis are very expensive, drivers speak little or no English, and they don’t accept credit cards. Skyliner will run from Narita to Nippori where you can then buy a transfer (with yen only) to get you nearest to your hotel. Friendly airport transportation information folks will help you find the best route to get to your hotel.
- Have a plan in place before you arrive as Tokyo is one very expansive and expensive city!