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A Guide to Tokyo
Know Before You Go
- Practice subway etiquette. In Tokyo, it's considered rude not to have your phone on silent or answer calls. You'll also be expected to give up your seat for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled.
- Keep a plastic bag in your bag. Public garbage cans are rare, so you'll need something to put your trash in until you find a place to throw it away.
- Download a translation app. While there are a few English speakers in the main tourist areas, you'll need some help once you venture farther than the city centre.
- Use a bilingual map. It will make getting directions from people on the street that much easier.
- Keep to the left. In Japan, people walk and drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you're using public stairways and escalators, stick to the left side, so you don't disturb foot traffic.
- Tipping isn't expected in Japan. In fact, if you leave money on the table or try to pay extra, it can be considered an insult.
Getting Around Tokyo
Hit the pavements. If you want to get a better sense of your bearings and discover a few hidden spots, don't be scared to walk around the city.
But once you're tired, you can use Tokyo's extensive public transport system to get back to your hotel.
The metro runs throughout the city. There are maps and signs in English, and the ticket booths also have an English option, making the system easy to use for travellers. Fares are based on the distance travelled and start with a base rate of JPY 170. If you're going to be using the metro a lot, buy the PASMO card and get unlimited rides for three days for USD 14.
Buses are an affordable option but can be confusing to first-time travellers in Tokyo. If you catch a "front boarding" bus, you'll pay a flat rate, but if you hop on one that boards from the rear, you'll pay once you reach your destination. You can also get a day pass for JPY 250.
If you're in a rush, avoid taking a taxi. The cabs will get caught in the city's gridlocked traffic, and you'll be charged for each minute you sit there. But if you need to use one, you can either flag a driver down from the street or use a ride-sharing app like Uber.
Don't rent a car while in Tokyo. The parking is expensive, and you'll spend more time in traffic than at your final destination.
When is The Best Time to Visit Tokyo?
The best time to visit Tokyo is during its two shoulder seasons. From March to April and September to November, the city's temperatures are comfortable, and there are fewer crowds at the top attractions. You'll also be in time for the changing of the seasons, and see Tokyo transformed by the beautiful autumn foliage and pink cherry blossom trees.
If you want to save as much money as possible, plan your trip between the winter months. From December to February, the room rates drop, and you'll have better luck finding deals on airfare. But keep in mind that prices will skyrocket around New Year, and most of the city's museums are closed before and after the holiday.
Tokyo's high season is from June to August. The temperatures are hot, humidity is high, and the streets are filled with tourists. If you don't mind the crowds, you'll be in time for the Asakusa Samba Festival and the Sumida River Fireworks show.
Airports in Tokyo
Tokyo International Airport Airport
Tokyo Airport (Haneda Airport) is one of two airports that serve the city. It's a hub for Japan's two major domestic airlines and is the third busiest airport in Asia and the fourth in the world.
Getting to and from Tokyo International Airport
Take the monorail. There is a route that runs from the airport to Hamamatsucho Station. It runs from 5:12 a.m. to 0:10 a.m. and costs JPY 490 per person.
Hop on board the train. Keikyu Railways connects the airport to Shinagawa Station. A single trip will cost about JPY 400, and the train operates from 5:30 a.m. with the last departure from the airport at 0:01 a.m.
If you don't want to take public transportation, you can grab a taxi from the airport. A ride into the CBD should set you back JPY 5,000 to 11,000 depending on the time of day.
Narita International Airport
Narita International Airport is Tokyo's second international airport. It's the second busiest in Japan and is a hub for Japan Airways and Jetstar.
Getting to and from Narita International Airport
Take the JR Narita Express. It takes 60 minutes to reach the CBD and costs JPY 3,000. The train leaves the airport every 30 minutes, and you can also purchase a roundtrip ticket for only JPY 4,000.
Another option is the Sobu Line. It's slower than the JR Express with a total journey time of 90 minutes but cheaper with tickets only costing JPY 1,320.
The airport also has an affordable shuttle bus. There are three departures every hour and tickets cost as little as JPY 900 per person.
Taxis are also available but are an expensive way to get around. A trip from the airport will cost you JPY 20,000, and it will take 60-90 minutes to reach central Tokyo.