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Tips for Planning Your First Solo Trip to Tokyo, Japan

I’m on vacation this week, but I’ve left you in the capable hands of some of my favorite bloggers from past BlogHouse events. Today Chanel from CulturalXplorer shares some handy information on how to visit Tokyo.

Tokyo (東京), the capital of Japan, is a massive city with a population of over 13 million people and is the one of the most populated urban areas in the world. There is something to do for everyone in the city, especially solo travelers.

Arriving to Tokyo

When you fly into the city of Tokyo, you will arrive at one of two airports: Haneda Airport (羽田空港) or Narita International Airport (成田空港). While Narita handles most of Tokyo’s international flights, it is located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside of Tokyo; so if at all possible, see if your airline flies into Haneda Airport which is located only 14 kilometers (9 miles) outside of the city.

If you fly into Narita International Airport, you have several options for getting into the city of Tokyo, ranging from the costly Narita Express (N’EX) Train that will cost you upwards of 3,000 yen ($25 USD) one-way, to the much more affordable Keisei Bus which will cost you between 900 and 1,000 ($8 USD) yen one-way.

For information on traveling into Tokyo from Narita, read ‘Cheapest Transport to Get From Narita Airport to Tokyo’ by Tokyo Cheapo.

Traveling from Haneda to Tokyo is fast and easy, and directions for getting into the city can be found on the Japan Guide.

 Getting Around Tokyo

Before traveling to Tokyo, I read a lot about the city’s public transportation system, and I can honestly say that it scared me; and that says a lot since I reside in New York City. Reading about the different rail systems in Tokyo prior to traveling there confused me and it was not until I arrived in the city that I realized how easy it actually was to get around. One additional thing that made commuting easier were all of the signs in the train stations that were written in both Japanese and English.

When I arrived to Tokyo, I was fully prepared to take on the city with a Tokyo metro app on my phone, but I found that using a small paper map that included both the metro and JR lines turned out to be much more helpful. Additionally, two things that helped me to navigate the city quite easily were the subway maps in each station along with Google Maps on my phone.

When you arrive to Tokyo, I recommend purchasing either the Suica Card or the PASMO card instead of buying individual train tickets every time you want to get on the train, which will save you time and money. Both cards do essentially the same thing; they are just issued by two different companies.

Additional Resource:

Getting Around: A Survival Guide to Transport Japanese (Tokyo Cheapo)

Exploring Tokyo

There is so much to do and see in Tokyo, and even though I spent five days in the city, I did not have enough time to see everything that I had planned.

In order to save money on transportation, I would recommend planning things you want to do by neighborhood. For example, if you have a goal of seeing every single themed café that Tokyo has to offer, determine what neighborhood each café is in, and see what else each of those neighborhoods has to offer.

One great thing to do in Tokyo is to go on a tour (which I personally believe are great for getting to know the layout of city, learning the history or about a unique aspect of a destination, and getting to meet other travelers).

Here is a comprehensive list of resources for exploring Tokyo:

Tokyo Cheapo 101: The Beginners Guide to Tokyo: Everything that you might want to know about Tokyo in a handy little guide (Tokyo Cheapo)

101 Free and Cheap Things to do in Tokyo: A massive guide to free and cheap things to do in Tokyo (Tokyo Cheapo)

Tokyo Free Guide: A Japanese tour guide will lead you around an area of your choosing for free! Check out this review by the Contented Traveller (The Planet D)

A Beginner’s Guide to Tokyo: Curious to know about each of Tokyo’s unique neighborhoods? Check out this beginner’s guide to get you started (Travels in Translation)

10 Words You Must Know When Traveling to Japan: These words really will help you out when visiting Tokyo. Learn them. (Travels in Translation)

13 Japanese Themed Cafes That Seem Too Awesome To Be Real: If you are into the wild and funky like I am, you will certainly appreciate Tokyo’s themed Cafes (First We Feast)

Where to Sleep in Tokyo 

As a solo traveler visiting Tokyo, you may be wondering what your best options are for finding an affordable place to sleep in Tokyo. There are many great options for solo travelers from capsule hotels, to hostels, to homestays, and Couchsurfing.

The most inexpensive option for staying in Tokyo is Couchsurfing, however it is important to consider when you will be traveling to the city as it may be very difficult to secure a host during a peak travel season such as Golden Week or during the sakura season. Keep in mind that Couchsurfing is not meant to be used as a free place to stay, but rather as a way to connect with locals/expats and share experiences and culture. Here is a post I wrote about How Couchsurfing Changed My Life.

Homestays are similar to the Couchsurfing experience, however you have to pay for your stay. Homestays are meant to be cultural immersion experiences where you can fully learn about Japanese culture with a Japanese host family. There are a few different companies that provide Homestay experiences such as Homestay.com. To see what a Tokyo homestay is like, check out this video from travel blogger Sabrina of One Way Ticket.

Another inexpensive accommodation option in Tokyo is staying in a hostel. You can look at ratings and prices for different hostels on HostelWorld.com (booking fee applies) or HostelBookers.com (no fee).

A capsule hotel is a unique accommodation option in Tokyo in which you sleep in a little box, called a capsule. Most capsule hotels cater to men only, but a quick Google search will pull up different options for places that have beds for women. Are you wondering what the experience at a capsule hotel is like? Check out this great video by Only in Japan.

Safety in Tokyo as a Solo Traveler 

Tokyo is generally a very safe city; so safe in fact that during my trip there, I saw many young children moving around the city completely alone. Statistically, there is very little crime in Japan, and most things that do happen are petty and non-violent.

Although the city is mostly safe, it is wise to take standard precautions like you would anywhere else in the world as crime does happen, although you are unlikely to be affected by it. Some areas where you probably should be on guard the most are in Roppongi, Kabuki-cho, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro.

You are more likely to get hit by a car than be a victim of crime in Tokyo as the Japanese drive on the left side of the road, so one thing that you should watch out for as a pedestrian are cars, bikes, and motorbikes.

 

48 Responses to Tips for Planning Your First Solo Trip to Tokyo, Japan

  1. Allison May 8, 2015 at 11:32 AM #

    I found it incredibly hard to socialize in Japan as a solo traveler. I’m glad you had a more enjoyable time than I did. Thanks for sharing!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 30, 2015 at 8:16 AM #

      I hope the next time you return you are able to meet more people Allison. Thanks for reading 😀

    • leahleah90 June 20, 2016 at 1:31 AM #

      That’s what I’m worried about going as a solo traveler. Not being able to understand signs or people

      • Steph June 20, 2016 at 3:18 PM #

        Socializing is tough but almost all the signs in public places were in both Japanese and English so I never had a problem with that.

  2. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown May 8, 2015 at 1:36 PM #

    Great tips! When I went to Japan, thankfully I had Japanese friends guiding me around. I would have been very overwhelmed without that! I did find the transportation easier to get around on than I thought. Getting a JR pass (outside of the country before your trip) is a good way to save $$ if you plan on moving around a lot!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 30, 2015 at 8:18 AM #

      Thank you for reading Rika 😀 I also was surprised at how much easier it was to travel around than I thought and it certainly is good to have Japanese friends to help navigate the city!

  3. Traveling Rockhopper May 10, 2015 at 4:21 PM #

    Great tips!

  4. jenniferdstevens May 10, 2015 at 9:35 PM #

    Love Tokyo and LOVE Couchsurfing!!! So crucial in a place like Japan.

  5. Mima Isono May 12, 2015 at 7:23 AM #

    Glad that you like Tokyo. It’s world’s safest city. Get Suica instead of JR Pass if you plan to stay in Tokyo only. JR Pass cannot be used for many subway lines inside Tokyo. But do get JR Pass if you plan to visit some other cities in Japan, it’s really worth paying.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 30, 2015 at 8:21 AM #

      Yes, Tokyo was wonderful Mima and thanks for sharing that tip 😀 Staying in Tokyo only, I found the Suica card to be perfect for getting around!

  6. Alicia Leow May 13, 2015 at 5:27 AM #

    I’m currently travelling solo in Japan 😀 I think its easier to travel around tokyo than in the other areas, just because its the capital.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 30, 2015 at 8:25 AM #

      I have yet to explore other parts of Japan as a solo traveler (my first trip was with two friends) but I would be interested to see what my experience would be like in other parts of the country Alicia. Safe travels 😀

  7. Nancy May 15, 2015 at 1:33 PM #

    Tokyo is the most attractive city of the world. I have never been there. But I know about this city. It is a safety place. I have a plan to come here.

  8. Rashaad May 26, 2015 at 8:11 AM #

    I once spent a year working in Yokohama and I would usually have a blast exploring Shibuya!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 30, 2015 at 8:27 AM #

      Yokohama is one place that I wish I would have made it to Rashaad! Definitely planning to visit on my next trip to the city 😀

  9. manwithvanchasecross June 5, 2015 at 7:42 AM #

    Tokyo is amazing city and your tips are pretty handy! I’ve been there once so far and everything went well. But I can say that only because I prepared myself very well – read a lot of information just like you and when time’s come I was feeling great!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer June 8, 2015 at 12:03 PM #

      Thanks for reading and I am glad that you found the tips to be handy! I also think that it is great to have at least some knowledge of a place before visiting 😀

  10. Beth Williams July 10, 2015 at 12:40 PM #

    Wow, thanks for mentioning me! I was JUST now alerted about the ping.

    Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world and it would take me a life time to properly explore it. It’s one of those places I just can’t get enough of visiting. I hope this helps to inspire others to give it a visit as well. 🙂

  11. Nicolenskjj July 15, 2015 at 2:39 PM #

    Is there a place that you could recommend that attracts backpackers in Tokyo?

  12. angela August 11, 2015 at 9:49 PM #

    Do your have any recommendation for accommodation for solo traveler? I would like travel from Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto

    • Steph August 12, 2015 at 11:15 AM #

      Japan is very safe and easy to travel solo! It was one of my first solo trips. The biggest issue is keeping costs down when alone, so I recommend hostels and finding new friends to dine with.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer February 9, 2016 at 12:54 AM #

      It depends on if you want to meet people (maybe go for a hostel/couchsurfing), if you want solitude (go for a hotel), or if you want to try something unique (try a capsule hotel)! 😀

  13. Billie Vaughn November 25, 2015 at 7:44 AM #

    I am a solo traveler too. The best trip is when you don`t have other people to distract you from the energy of beautiful places. I am going to visit Japan next month. Thank you for sharing such an interesting information. Best regards!

  14. Cyrus November 30, 2015 at 3:08 PM #

    Hi!

    I’m planning a solo trip to Japan in February 2016. Do you recommend arriving in the morning or in the evening?

    Thank you!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer February 9, 2016 at 12:52 AM #

      Hey there – not sure if you are in Japan yet but I prefer to arrive to destinations in the morning 😀

  15. Miski December 3, 2015 at 9:18 PM #

    Thank you for your post it made me feel like I am capable of traveling to Japan alone with no worries. I really appreciate it 🙂

  16. the travelogue (by Anna & Vanessa) January 18, 2016 at 6:10 AM #

    Hey! Your blogposts comes in handy cause I’m flying to Japan at the end of March. Have already read a lot about it and I’m SO looking forward to it! Can’t wait 🙂 and the best: it’s cherry blossom season (emoji with heart-eyes!).
    Love, Anna & Vanessa

  17. Laraloopsie February 20, 2016 at 5:37 AM #

    hello, love your blog. i will be traveling solo in japan for this year’s sakura season,for the first week of april to be exact. you kinda alleviate the fear that im feeling about going solo. i would love to meet new people, can you suggest any hostels in particular? i booked for a capsule through booking.com but now i realized i want to stay in a room. have a good day!

  18. Jeff March 4, 2016 at 6:30 PM #

    Hi Laraloopsie, I’m in exactly the same boat! I’m travelling solo to Japan beginning of April for Sakura/Hanami season. Like you, I’d love to meet people whilst there. (I’ve been to Japan once before for a short visit and appreciate it isn’t always easy) If you would like to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. Take care

    • Laraloopsie March 5, 2016 at 10:08 AM #

      i just read your reply just now. This is my first time in Japan so I’m excited and a bit scared at the same time, My plan is to go on a tokyo-osaka-kyoto trip.How about you?

      • Jeff March 25, 2016 at 3:04 PM #

        Hi, oops only seeing your reply now! I’m doing Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

  19. Mark March 12, 2016 at 8:24 AM #

    Hi,

    I’m coming to Toyko next week but my friend has pulled out of the trip so it’s now a solo adventure (my first).
    Great links to useful resources, thanks.
    My question is how easy is it to drive in and around Tokyo?
    p.s I’m from the UK so driving on the left is natural to me but following the road signs is my main worry.

    Thanks,

    Mark

    • literarypirate March 12, 2016 at 7:23 PM #

      Mark I would defiitely not recommend driving in Tokyo. It’s an enormous city and very confusing! Plus Tokyo has one of the best public transportation systems in the wold and can easily get you anywhere you need to go.

  20. texiandoc March 18, 2016 at 6:04 PM #

    My 20 year-old daughter is planning to go to Tokyo solo within the next several months. She’s never traveled alone. What other tips or hints would you pass along?

  21. Tina May 14, 2016 at 1:28 PM #

    Thanks for sharing this post! It really helps ease the anxiety of traveling to Japan for the first time.

  22. Glenn May 18, 2016 at 8:51 AM #

    I’m travelling to Japan solo in June 2016 for 12 days starting in Nagoya then to Koyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo. I’m a 60 year old Australian male. If anyone is wants to meet up to say Hi.

  23. Glenn May 18, 2016 at 9:01 AM #

    I just realised this is a 20 something site. My mistake, I thought it was just for everyone.

  24. Julie May 24, 2016 at 1:04 AM #

    Oh thank you so much for this information! Tokyo seems to be a very reassuring city 🙂

  25. Lisa Brady July 20, 2016 at 2:15 AM #

    My 19 yr old daughter is traveling to Japan on her own, although we live in California, she is departing from Vietnam where she has spent the summer. Any input would help quell the nerves on this single mama! Kee is going for 3-4 days, then heading back to US.
    Kind Regards,
    Lisa

  26. Kirk martenson October 20, 2016 at 6:19 AM #

    I would like to find a guide to walk me through a night in tokyo. Any advice on where to begin would be appreciated

  27. Kirk martenson October 20, 2016 at 6:21 AM #

    Mostly musical adventure

  28. Paris Lasia January 4, 2017 at 7:22 AM #

    Will be travelling to Japan and staying in Tokyo for 12 days. I am travelling solo and it’s my first time to Japan.
    I am excited and scared to explore the city on my own.
    I don’t have an itinerary but have a list of the districts in Tokyo I want to visit and some things to do and see.
    I am 23yo female from Australia, if anyone has advice travelling solo in Tokyo would be awesome.
    I know it’s going to be still quiet cold.
    Thank you 🙂

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