We had such a great time this past weekend in Tokyo! I can’t wait to share all of the interesting things we ate and got to experience, but first I want to share some of the things that will make any trip to Tokyo just a little bit easier.
There are two main airports for Tokyo. Haneda Airport, is the closer of the two. Narita Airport, is farther away, but from my experience they offer more flights and oftentimes tickets can be quite a bit cheaper.
For this trip, we opted for a more comfortable flight on Asiana Airlines flying into Narita. Our roundtrip tickets were in the mid $200s, but we were able to check a bag and have assigned seats. There are many other carriers (including quite a few budget airlines) that fly from Seoul to Tokyo and prices can be as low as $100 roundtrip (from Seoul).
One of the great things about Japan is that you are authorized a 90 day stay upon landing. So no visa worries for United States Citizens.
Keep in mind that Narita Airport has Terminal 1 and Terminal 2/3. To see which terminal your airline is in, go here.
2. Money ($1 is equal to about ¥101)
Cash is king in Tokyo, so make sure to plan on carrying it around with you at all times. Even large coffee shops and Daiso did not take credit cards!!! This was surprising to us and a huge difference from the US and even South Korea, where we hardly ever have to carry cash.
If you bring cash to exchange, I would advise to exchange it at the airport as currency exchanges are not on every corner like in some countries. Additionally, keep in mind that if you don’t make it to a money exchange in the airport and you arrive on a weekend, the banks are not open Saturday and Sunday and exchanges may not be open until 10 AM.
It is just as easy to just bring your debit card, but don’t forget to call your bank to let them know you’ll be travelling! It is very simple to withdraw from one of the 7-11 ATM machines that are located all over the airport and all around the city. We ended up having to use the ATM because we needed to catch the last train from the airport, and didn’t have time to exchange the money we brought. Then the next morning, nothing was open or nearby for us to exchange our money. Keep in mind that although withdrawing from the ATM is convenient, we were charged a $5.00 ATM fee on top of the 3% foreign transaction fee by our bank, the ATM however did not charge an additional fee.
This is what the 7 Bank ATM machines look like.
Even if you pack light, you may not want to lug your backpack with you if you arrive before you can check in, or you have to check out and your flight isn’t till much later. One of the things that we ended up taking advantage of in Tokyo was the abundance of lockers at most major stations (Tokyo Skytree, Shibuya, Akihabara, etc) and even sight seeing locations. The lockers ranged from ¥300 for a small locker (could probably fit 2 regular size backpacks) to ¥700 for a large locker (could fit a roll on carry on luggage, duffel bag and maybe some smaller bags). And some of the lockers said you could keep your items there for 3 days!
We ended up using the lockers on our last day and they made the whole logistics of sight seeing on that last day a million times better.
4. At Narita Airport
When we arrived at Immigration, the line was a little long, but not too crazy. Customs actually was the part that took longer than expected because the agent wanted to check our passport for the departure stamps from Korea.
5. Traveling from Narita to Tokyo
There are tons of options for getting into the city center from Narita Airport. I opted for the N’EX as the stop we wanted was one of their main stops and also the roundtrip ticket was only ¥4,000.
When we entered into the airport, we saw that the train ticket counter was closed (the photo below was taken on our way back out of Narita Airport), however there were signs for another ticket counter by the tracks.
We followed the well-marked signs for the train (which led us underground) and there were signs for JR, Keisei, and Keikyu lines. If you want to utilize the N’EX, check their timetables to ensure that it is running when you want to take it. You can see the timetables here:
Our goal was to catch the last N’EX train at 9:44 pm, so we followed the JR signs. We waited in line and told them we wanted roundtrip tickets for N’EX and they asked to see our passports (as the special ¥4000 rate is only good for foreigners). Tickets were provided to us with a car and seat number and then an additional open ticket was provided for each passenger. The open ticket could be exchanged when we were ready to head home and was valid for the next 14 days. I’m happy to report that we made the 9:44 PM train with about 3 minutes to spare!
The ride on the N’EX was good and the cars pretty clean, but it was bumpy compared to the A’REX in Seoul (I have definitely become spoiled). We departed Terminal 1 of Narita and arrived at Shinjuku station at 11:01 PM. We were then able to use our pass to take the JR Yamanote line to get us to Shin-Okubo station at no extra charge.
There are even locks on the train for your luggage so you can be sure that your belongings stay put. Honestly Tokyo is pretty safe though.
If you are interested in others ways to get to Tokyo, from Narita or Haneda Airports, here is a guide I found while we were there.
6. Public Transportation
So as I mentioned earlier, there are multiple companies who run trains in Tokyo. This makes for a very confusing situation as trying to interpret the subway map is akin to looking at a child’s work of art.
You can find the subway map here.
So first things first, if you plan on really packing a ton into one day, you can get the Tokyo One-Day Free Ticket. This allows you free travel on 6 of the public transportation systems in Tokyo (JR, Tokyo Metro, Toei Metro, Toei Bus, Toei Street Card, and the Nippori-Toneri Liner). This sounds great, but this Free Ticket will cost you ¥1,590 per adult and ¥800 per child on one Calendar Day.
The most places we visited was 6 stops in one day and we didn’t not even break ¥1,000, so to me, unless you are going to be go go go all day, the Free Ticket won’t be the most cost effective.
What I would recommend is that you just get a Suica Card (JR Rail Product) or a Pasmo Card. The cards basically are the same, but just sold by different companies.
Even though they are sold by different companies, it allows you to use the card on any of the lines in Tokyo (no matter the operator). The card only costs ¥500 (which is refundable) and allows you to preload money onto the card. It makes it way easier than stopping each time to buy a new ticket and the fare just automatically deducts from it. The cost of each ride varies based on how far you are going.
Here are the screen by screen instructions on how to buy your Pasmo card.
JR also provides a video on how to purchase the Suica card from the machine here.
So here we are on the train inside Tokyo!
There are definitely a lot of people who use the subway system, so be prepared to have people invade your bubble!
Overall Tokyo was easy to navigate and the people were friendly and helpful to foreigners. In my next couple of posts I will share with you some of the exciting things we got to experience and hope this will post will help get you started on planning your own trip to Tokyo!