My Tokyo Travel Diary ended up being pretty epic in size, so I decided to put this part into a separate post. Here are a few useful pointers for tackling a city as massive as Tokyo!
1. My #1 golden above-all-else tip: Rent a pocket wifi
Pick up and activate a pocket wifi on arrival at the airport. This provides you with wifi on the go and it will save. your. life. Up to ten people can connect to one device, but if you plan on splitting up, I’d suggest getting separate ones. I ended up paying around AUD$85 for 8 days. Worth every cent. Pro tip: ensure you get unlimited data, so you don’t have to worry about running out. (Narita Airport Wifi Rental | Haneda Airport Wifi Rental)
2. Carry a phone charger / portable battery charger with you
iPhone batteries are crap, so take a phone charger with you on the go. There are Starbucks on nearly every corner of Tokyo and you can stop by to recharge your phone whilst you grab a drink. Alternatively, you can pick up a portable phone battery charger, we got one at BIC Camera in Shinjuku with space for 2 USB’s. Winner. (Portable Dual USB Port Power Bank Charger)
3. Download the City Rail Map app for Tokyo
Having this app on hand will save you a lot of time as it has all the various Tokyo train line services combined into one app. From timetables, to route planners, station indexes and more, I found it to be the most clear and concise transport app available. On the subject of trains, try to avoid rush hour (7am-9am and 5pm-7pm) — it’s an interesting experience to say the least, the station staff literally push you onto the train! (Download the City Rail Map app here)
4. Pick up a travel card for public transport
Pick up a Suica or Pasmo card (both around ¥2400) from smartcard ticket machines at most train stations. Train fares for shuttling around central Tokyo are fairly low, between ¥160 and ¥170 (around AU$1.85) a trip, so it’s handy to top up your balance to last a few days.
5. Taxi’s are relatively affordable for shorter distances
One thing that took us a while to figure out with taxi’s — the red light means “free” and the green light means “taken”, haha. Doors open and close automatically and drivers prefer you to sit in the back.
6. Carry your passport when shopping
Most shops offer an 8% sales tax refund if you spend ¥5000 or more. You only have access to this refund if you show your passport, so save yourself some cash and keep it on you while shopping!
7. Pack comfortable walking shoes
I am putting this last because it should really be a no-brainer, but ended up being a rookie mistake on my part. Because the weather said it was going to be pretty hot everyday, I packed a few pairs of flat sandals and soon learnt after walking a daily average of 15km, shoes with no support just ain’t gonna cut it. I ended up buying a pair of trainers to wear on my final days as my ankles truly felt like they were going to snap off *face palm*.
Some final thoughts…
Getting lost in Tokyo is to be expected, so just go with the flow, you’re never too far from a train station. We got hopelessly lost one evening and by chance, happened to find one of the best restaurants of the trip so hey, embrace the craziness! Most importantly — HAVE FUN :)