Tokyo, Japan: A Travel Guide For First-Time Visitors

Planning a trip to Tokyo? Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned traveler, Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming with so much to see and do. Questions like where to go, how to get around, and where to stay are all part of the adventure. I’ve had some incredible experiences in Tokyo, and I’m excited to share my tips with you to make your visit truly unforgettable. Let’s make your Tokyo adventure as enjoyable and stress-free as possible!

Narita and Haneda are both excellent airports, though there are some important differences between the two. If possible, book your flight to or from Haneda Airport instead of Narita Airport. Here’s why:

  1. Proximity to Tokyo: Haneda Airport is much closer to central Tokyo than Narita Airport. This means shorter travel times and lower transportation costs to get to your accommodation or main attractions.
  2. Convenience: Haneda is well-connected by various public transport options, including trains, buses, and taxis. This makes it easier to navigate to and from the airport.
  3. Efficiency: As one of the busiest airports in Japan, Haneda is known for its efficiency and modern facilities, providing a smooth and pleasant travel experience.

Choosing Haneda can save you time and make your trip to Tokyo more convenient and enjoyable.

If you’re traveling during off-hours (12:00 AM onwards), your options for getting to central Tokyo are limited. On several of my trips to Japan, I chose to arrive late. As a solo traveler, I always preferred the limousine bus. It’s safe, comfortable, and convenient, and the ride doesn’t take too long. However, the bus will drop you off at the nearest station to your hotel, not directly at your accommodation. If you’re traveling with a group, consider hiring a private transfer, which will take you directly to your hotel for added convenience.

But if you’re flying to Narita, that’s okay too. You can still get to Tokyo easily. Aside from Narita Express, you can take the Tokyo Keisei Skyliner which will take you to Ueno station in 40-50 minutes. From Ueno, you can hop on a local train to the station nearest to your accommodation.

Getting To Central TokyoNarita (NRT)Haneda (HND)
Distance (by car)47 miles13 miles
Time (by car)1 hour 30 minutes40 minutes
Average taxi cost23,000 JPY (~215 USD)11,000 JPY (~100 USD)
Public TransitNarita Skyliner Express/Yamanote line (2,670 JPY/~25 USD)Tokyo Monorail/Yamanote line (690 JPY/~6.50 USD)
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Getting around Tokyo is easy as it is covered by an extensive network of trains and subway lines. Before you fly to Tokyo, be sure to buy a Suica card or a Pasmo as this will be your best friend throughout your stay. You can use either of the two, the only difference are the companies that sell them. Both are available in Narita and Haneda airports.

No need to buy individual tickets whenever you need to hop on train, just tap the card at the gate and you’re good to go. You can easily ‘reload’ your card credit in any train stations. Aside from trains, you can also use them for buses and other electronic purchases in convenience stores and vending machines.

TIP: Local trains in Tokyo operate only until midnight, so make sure to be at the station by 11:30 PM at the latest. If your journey involves transferring between lines, plan to arrive even earlier to ensure you make your connections. Taxis in Tokyo can be quite expensive, with fares starting around 400-700 JPY for the first two kilometers and increasing by approximately 80-90 JPY for every additional 300-400 meters.

What’s a JR Pass and do I need to get one?

Japan Rail Passes can be used on JR trains across Japan, including shinkansen (bullet trains) for 7, 14 or 21 days but that pass cannot be used for other private train lines or subways within cities. Meaning, JR passes are exclusive for JR trains only. If you’re planning to stay in Tokyo, your Suica card or pasmo is enough.

A few days of mobile roaming can see you paying astronomical amounts for data use this is why getting a Data-Only Japan SIM card is more convenient. These cards are usually good for 6-8 days and you don’t have to present any personal documents when you buy one. Plus, data is totally unlimited, so you’ll never run out. You can pre-order them online with Klook and pick them up at Narita or Haneda airports. This is ideal for solo travelers.

Tokyo Metro stations and cafes have Free WiFi, but they are still not enough convenient or comfortable. You can use it only at the designated spots and have to process the troublesome entry. Having your own WiFi device can be a godsend as you no longer have to rely on spotty public WiFi – whenever you turn on your device, you can instantly connect your phone and use the internet. Ideal for traveling with a group or tethering of multiple devices. I rented my WiFi device with Klook, and had it picked up at Haneda airport.

Google Maps is super useful when navigating around Tokyo as it will give you train schedules and routes. Japan Travel by Navitime Japan Co is another great app that you can use, especially for train travel. It displays detailed timetable and compares routes and prices.

Google MapsNaviTime
tokyo transportation app google maps 001 Tokyo, Japan: A Travel Guide For First-Time Visitors. Important Things To Remember Tokyo, Tokyo For First-Timers, Tokyo Guide For Travelers, Tokyo Travel Guide, Travel Japan, Travel Tips. Japan Travel Tipstokyo transportation app navitime 001 Tokyo, Japan: A Travel Guide For First-Time Visitors. Important Things To Remember Tokyo, Tokyo For First-Timers, Tokyo Guide For Travelers, Tokyo Travel Guide, Travel Japan, Travel Tips. Japan Travel Tips

Download Navitime on Android

Download Navititme on IOS

For first-time travelers, I highly recommend staying in hotels within walking distance of train and subway stations to save money, time, and energy. In terms of transportation convenience, Shinjuku, Ginza, and Shibuya are excellent choices. Additionally, these areas offer a great local Japanese atmosphere, numerous shopping centers, and plenty of shops and reasonably-priced restaurants, making them highly convenient locations for your stay.

I’ve always opted to stay in Kabukicho. Known as Tokyo’s vibrant entertainment district, Kabukicho is bustling with life 24/7, providing endless options for dining, shopping, and nightlife. It’s centrally located in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s major transportation hubs, making it incredibly convenient for accessing other parts of the city via trains and subways. Despite its lively atmosphere, Kabukicho also offers a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets. Additionally, staying here gives you a unique glimpse into Tokyo’s dynamic urban culture, blending modern attractions with traditional charm.

To truly experience Tokyo, you should plan to stay for at least 5 days. This duration allows you to explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods, visit key attractions such as the Tokyo Skytree, Senso-ji Temple, and Shibuya Crossing, and enjoy Tokyo’s renowned cuisine. Additionally, you’ll have time for day trips to nearby destinations like Yokohama or Nikko, enhancing your overall experience without feeling rushed.

Japan is ranked #9 in the world for Safety and Security according to the 2023 Global Peace Index. However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore common sense. Women traveling alone should exercise the same caution they would in their home countries and avoid hitchhiking alone. Having visited Tokyo three times myself, I can say I’ve never experienced any inconvenience or felt scared or threatened while walking alone.

Travel smart with SafetyWing. Enjoy worry-free adventures with reliable coverage for unexpected mishaps, including medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost belongings. With trustworthy travel insurance, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. Your safety is our priority.

Many convenience stores like 7-Eleven and post offices in Japan have ATMs that accept foreign debit and credit cards. Personally, I only had to use them twice, and I didn’t encounter any issues. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your bank before you leave to ensure that your cards will work overseas.

English is commonly used in Tokyo, with signs typically written in Japanese accompanied by English translations, and many restaurants offering English menus. Train stations often have designated staff to assist tourists with directions. However, not everyone may feel comfortable conversing in English, and some individuals may only speak limited English. To bridge any communication gaps, consider familiarizing yourself with some useful Japanese phrases for travelers. Check out our page for 20 Useful Japanese phrases to enhance your experience in Tokyo.

  • Restaurants: Do not tip
  • Train: Talking on your cell phone in the confined spaces of a train or bus is considered rude.
  • Stations: Form an orderly line and stay on the left if you’re not in a hurry.

Whether you’re eating at a restaurant or buying from a food stall in Japan, ordering food using ticket machines is common mainly because it helps improve process making it easier for the staff.

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As you plan your trip to Tokyo, we want to ensure you have all the information you need for a smooth and enjoyable experience. Do you have any specific questions or concerns about traveling to Tokyo that we haven’t addressed? Is there anything else you’d like to know before your trip? Feel free to share your thoughts or queries with us in the comments below!

tokyo travel resources 001 Tokyo, Japan: A Travel Guide For First-Time Visitors. Important Things To Remember Tokyo, Tokyo For First-Timers, Tokyo Guide For Travelers, Tokyo Travel Guide, Travel Japan, Travel Tips. Japan Travel Tips

Best Luxury Hotels: Shangri-La TokyoHyatt Regency Hotel, Andaz Tokyo, More Hotels in Tokyo
More Japan Tips: Japan Travel Guide: Language, currency, visa policy, etc.
Surviving long-haul flights: The Ultimate Survival Guide For Long-Haul Flights in Economy
Don’t forget to secure a reliable travel insurance, SafetyWing for your trip!
Are you crossing from one city to another? Book a JR Pass to make your trip a breeze.

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Tokyo, Japan: A Travel Guide for First-Time Visitors
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Polly Amora

Polly Amora is the señorita behind GoldenIslandSenorita.Net. A corporate warrior by day, and a perpetual explorer by heart. She is a lifelong learner who is very outgoing, speaks four languages, loud & outspoken, and loves to have adventures in the mountains, on the beach, and in the city. You can throw her anywhere, and she'll handle it like a pro. Ice cream and bourbon are two of her weaknesses.


  1. I am so curious about Tokyo. It’s the only Asian city that intrigues me so much. I will consider these tips when visiting it!

  2. I definitely have Tokyo in the top 5 places for me to visit as soon as possible. It is such a beautiful place and I have never been and can’t wait too!

  3. Tokyo is on my bucket list and would love to visit Japan someday soon You have shared some great travel tips, hun! I’ve bookmarked this post for future reference.

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