30 May, 2016

Tokyo Travel Tips part 1

Internet access is more important than phone now. Decide how you're going to get it before you go. I bought this prepaid data SIM from U Mobile, from a seller in Singapore.
It's about SGD50, lasts 7 days with 200 MB a day. Above 200 MB, they reduce your speed. The speed isn't that great to begin with. Oh if you're using this, the instructions for setting the APN are wrong, I think "Umobile" is supposed to be "umobile" somewhere. Ideally you should use these with a 3G/WiFi/modem/MiFi (there isn't an official name for this type of device) device like the Huawei E5151. Or you can use it in a spare phone with tethering, or a dual-SIM phone if you have one.
Alternatives: buy one at the airport, you can even rent the MiFi device from them. You'll probably get faster access this way, I saw WiMax (their equivalent of 4G) devices on sale in Japan. Lots of shopping centres have free Wi-Fi.

Familiarise yourself with their money. Did you know Japan only has 3 denominations of banknote? ¥1000, ¥5000 and ¥10000. They make up for this with one of the highest value coins in the world, ¥500, which is worth about USD5. Coins come in ¥1, 5, 10, 50 (which is smaller than ¥5!), 100, 500.

I watched this on the plane, but you can watch it here first in case your plane doesn't have it:
It's a series of ~7 minute long travel videos introducing most famous parts of Tokyo like Ginza, Akihabara, Harajuku, the Sky Tree, Shinjuku... Now of course they can't cover every single thing to see in each of those areas in 7 minutes, they usually focus on 3 experiences for each location. But they give some good ideas.

And you know, the usual. Set up roaming, enable your cards for overseas use, change money, buy travel insurance, etc.

Highly recommended things to do:
  • Get your data SIM/devices if you haven't
  • Buy a pasmo card. This is their stored value contactless card used for public transport, like every major city in the world has. Tokyo actually has several competing cards (suica is another), each cheaper on certain train networks. So you could save a bit if you do your homework. Yes you can get a refund at the airport when you leave so don't worry about topping up too much. Yes you can use the card to pay at certain vending machines or 7-11, but cash is more reliably accepted.
  • Get the travel passes for unlimited travel, if you're planning to.

Also recommended:
There are lots of interesting shops in the public area, before the security checkpoint. If you have time, buy their "Tokyo Banana" and other souvenir snacks:
To sample during your holiday, decide which is your favourite, then buy them again as gifts when you return to the airport.

Check out the shop "Smith":
They sell things like bags, wallets, stationery, accessories... if you like this shop, you'll love Tokyo. There are shops like this everywhere. http://www.delfonics.com/en-shoplist.html

It's a huge temple in the city. If you're going, IT'S BEST TO APPROACH FROM THE HARAJUKU STATION. Harajuku is much nearer and there are MUCH MUCH more things to see starting right from the station, compared to walking from say Yoyogi. Personally I wouldn't mind giving this a miss though, it's basically a walk in a forest, then a courtyard and a few buildings. Maybe if you explore the temple buildings and museum there's more to see.

to be continued...

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