From how to get around the city to where to eat and which places to visit to avoid mass tourism

It is undeniable that Tokyo has become one of the essential destinations for any traveller over the last decade. Tokyo, the city of contrasts, was meticulously described in Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation.

Its unique blend of tradition and modernity has made it one of the top 5 urban destinations for travellers in recent years. And to make sure you don’t end up like the character in the film, here are 10 essential tips to help you get the most out of your visit.

1. The best time to visit Tokyo

In Tokyo, the seasons change quite dramatically. In spring, you can enjoy the explosion of colour and the blossoming of the cherry trees. And in autumn, the city is flooded with ochre shades.

2. The language

In the Japanese capital you can be completely independent with English as your base. We always recommend that you learn a few words in the local language, you will get a smile in return. If you don’t speak English, you can use any translation application. We recommend the conversation feature of Google Translate.

3. Cultural costumes

The lack of rubbish bins will catch your eye, yet Tokyo is one of the cleanest cities in the world. Respect is one of the maxims of Japanese culture. We advise you to bring a bag to carry your waste until you find a bin or arrive at your accommodation.

4. How many days will I need?

It depends on whether you are just visiting Tokyo or also want to see places like Kamakura. In any case, we recommend at least 5 days.

5. The currency

The currency is the Japanese yen (¥). You don’t need to bring change. There are bureaux de change at both airports. You can also withdraw cash from ATMs or pay by card.

6. Public transport

The subway network is extensive and connects virtually every corner of the city. It consists of several lines and the stations are clearly signposted in Japanese and English. It is a quick and convenient way to get around Tokyo. We recommend that you buy a transport card such as the Suica or Pasmo card, which are rechargeable cards for the subway, trains and buses. They can be topped up on transport, in some shops and from vending machines.

7. Prices

It could be said that no capital is cheap. Tokyo is no exception. Below are some examples with current approximate prices.

Metro fares: About €1.50 ($1.70) for a single ticket.

Public transport day pass: Around €7 to €15 ($8 to $17).

A meal in a budget restaurant: Between €8 and €15 ($9 and $18) per meal per person.

Coffee in a coffee shop: Approximately €3.50 to €5 ($4 to $6) for a cup of coffee.

Taxi (one way): Approximately €6 to €8 ($7 to $9).

Admission to a museum: Between €10 and €20 ($11 and $23) per person.

8. Souvenirs

What kind of souvenirs can you buy that will fit in your suitcase?

Lack of space in your suitcase is always a problem. That’s why we usually buy small souvenirs that are easy to carry. At The Free Tour Shop, which promotes local products, we recommend handicrafts such as a Maneki-Neko (Japanese lucky cat). If you run out of space in your suitcase, you can buy souvenirs online, such as some of our Tokyo products.

9. Eat

Tokyo has a huge variety of local food. We suggest you try the small street stalls and restaurants specialising in ramen or sushi. If you opt for ramen, we recommend Shōyu Ramen, which is considered to be the most representative of Japanese flavours. In the Shinjuku district you can find one of the best ramen restaurants in Tokyo, the Menya Musashi restaurant.

10. What to visit?

The amount of things to do and see in Tokyo is overwhelming. That’s why we recommend you start with a Free Tour, such as our Essential Free Tour or Fish Market Free Tour. With a Free Tour guide, you will not only learn about the history of the city you are visiting, but also how to continue your journey and other activities that can be tailored to your tastes. There is nothing like a personal recommendation.

group of people standing

Explore Shibuya Free Tour

people walking on street near brown and red building during daytime

Asakusa Free Tour

The best panoramic photography?

Perhaps one of the best places to get one of the best panoramic views of Tokyo is from Mount Takao. If the sky is clear, you can also photograph Mount Fuji.

And if you want to capture the Tokyo skyline, Odaiba is the place to go, especially at dusk. Don’t miss out on the panoramic views from the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree.

And also...

  • Explore traditional neighbourhoods such as Asakusa and Yanaka to immerse yourself in authentic Japanese culture.
  • Immerse yourself in the modernity of Shibuya and Shinjuku, two of Tokyo’s most cosmopolitan districts.
  • Enjoy the tranquillity of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a green oasis in the middle of the bustling city.
  • Explore the cultural richness of the Tokyo National Museum and the Mori Art Museum, home to fascinating works of art.
  • Soak up history at Senso-ji Temple, the oldest in Tokyo, and the Meiji Shrine, surrounded by a beautiful forest.
  • Venture out for unique experiences, such as sitting in a themed cafe or enjoying the lively nightlife in Roppongi.
  • Immerse yourself in Japanese pop culture by exploring manga and anime shops in places like Akihabara.
  • Respect local customs, such as bowing and keeping quiet in public places, to help you integrate into Tokyo life.
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