If you enjoy interesting history and unique culture, there’s no better country to visit than Japan. What’s not to love? Aside from being very accessible, there’s amazing food, friendly people, and stunning destinations to visit. Moreover, Japan is very clean and totally safe for solo travelers. Last year, I traveled alone in Tokyo and had a blast. Are you thinking about traveling solo in Japan? Here some tips that might help you out.
1. Plan your itinerary ahead of time
Japan is a pretty popular place for tourists, so activities and tours fill up quickly. Be sure to plan the main to-dos on your itinerary well in advance, including flights and train tickets. It’s critical that you have a rough outline of your travel plans before you go so that you don’t miss out on anything there.
2. Choose your accommodation wisely
For solo travelers especially, it’s important to choose a place to stay that’s central to many of the main attractions. Although Tokyo is pretty safe, taxis are expensive, so be sure that your accommodations are close to a metro stop for easy access around the city.
One of the most unique places to stay in Japan is in a capsule hotel. If you’re wondering what that is, you can probably guess by the name. Capsule hotels are tiny, hostel-style capsules that are fully enclosed. Think of them as micro-sized hotel rooms. As a solo traveler, you’re especially well-suited for a capsule hotel, since it’s the right amount of space for one person.
3. Make sure you always have cash on hand
Although Japan as a country is very advanced, most local vendors, shops, and restaurants still operate on cash systems. Be sure that you have an adequate amount of cash to last your entire trip, and then some in case of impulsive splurges or small emergencies.
4. If you want sushi, hit the conveyor belts
Conveyor sushi joints are popular in Japan, and are the perfect compromise for a solo traveler who wants to splurge a bit. These types of restaurants enable you to eat as much (or as little) as you want, and only pay for what you ate. If you want to save some money, try and stay away from the main areas and find some more “hole in the wall” type places. It’s an experience that’s definitely worth trying!
5. Or, if you’re on a budget, hit up 7-Eleven
7-Eleven in Japan isn’t quite the same as it is in other countries. In Japan’s chain convenience stores, you can find delicious boxed meals, rice cakes, desserts, and more. Also, this is the cheapest place to eat in the country! If you’re hoping to save money in the country, cut down on meal costs by eating 1-2 of your daily meals at 7-Eleven. Instead of spending $15-25 USD per meal for a sit-down restaurant, you’ll spend closer to $3!
6. Travel by public transportation
Tokyo has an incredible metro system – in fact, it’s one of the best in the world. You can purchase a 24-hour pass for the metro to get around the city. It’s super easy to use, and the metro maps all have Latin alphabet translations for easier understanding.
7. For spectacular views, head to the Tokyo City Hall
As one of the tallest buildings in the city, the Tokyo City Hall boasts stunning city views, especially at night. The best part of it all is that it’s totally free to visit! When you arrive at City Hall, you’ll see signs for an elevator to take you to the 52nd floor. From there, you can see panoramic views of the entire wide expanse of Tokyo. Head there just before sunset for some spectacular views to walk around and view the different city views, or if you’re feeling like splurging, grab a drink at the bar on the observation deck.
8. Don’t be overwhelmed by Japanese toilets
Japanese toilets often look like this:
Yeah, kinda overwhelming, right? Don’t worry though, the flush mechanism works basically the same way as any other toilet…
9. Learn a few Japanese phrases
It always helps to know a few phrases in the local language, especially if you’re traveling alone. Traveling solo in Tokyo is no different. Be sure to know at least a couple of words to show some politeness and make it easier to get around.
- Hello: Konnichiwa
- Goodbye: Sayonara
- Thank you: Arigato gozaimas
- Help me please: Tasukete kudasai
10. Research Japanese etiquette beforehand
As with any foreign country, some of the traditional etiquette in Japan is different than in other parts of the world. Be sure to dress conservatively and pay attention to what the locals do. A few things to note are:
- Remove your shoes when entering any home, unless otherwise noted. This applies to certain hotels, hostels, and restaurants as well.
- Bow when you first meet someone.
- Do not hand money directly to someone else. If handing a business card or another type of card, do so with both hands.
- Be careful how you deal with chopsticks. Don’t point them at people, stick them directly into your rice bowl, or pass food from one set of chopsticks to another.
- Tipping is not expected in Japan.
11. Need help? Just ask a local
The locals in Tokyo are extremely friendly and polite. If you’re lost or confused or simply need directions, just ask! Unless they do not speak English, the locals are usually more than happy to help tourists out with anything.
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Featured image by Toomore Chiang