Tokyo is one of the best destinations for solo travellers. It is unique, full of life, and has some of the most delicious food on the planet. There are, however, a few important things you need to know before travelling to Tokyo alone.
Japan is full of customs and etiquette. It is sometimes like being transported to a different world, and you have no idea what you did to offend someone.
The last thing you want to do when travelling to Tokyo alone is not be prepared and end up embarrassing yourself.
I’ve been to Tokyo a number of times as a solo traveller. I’m going to share everything I’ve learned along the way, so you can better plan your solo trip to Tokyo.
It is an amazing city and is a very welcoming city for solo travellers.
Even if you’re not an experienced solo traveller, you’ll be able to travel alone in Tokyo just fine!
1. You Need Pocket Wifi
Tokyo has terrible public wifi. It is basically impossible to find free public wifi anywhere in the city.
That’s because everybody carries wifi eggs, and there isn’t a need for businesses to provide complimentary wifi to guests.
That means it is essential for tourists visiting Tokyo have a plan how they are going to access the internet while out and about in Tokyo.
Because you’re going to need it!
Hotels and Airbnbs basically always offer guests free wifi, so you don’t need to worry about that.
You do, however, need to worry about how you’re going to access the internet while you’re away from your accommodation.
You’re going to need to access the internet when you’re travelling alone in Tokyo.
At a minimum, you’ll need access to Google maps to help navigate the city.
There is a pretty good chance you’ll get lost at least once or twice while you’re in Tokyo!
I highly recommend you rent pocket wifi while you’re in Tokyo. It gives you access to the internet no matter where you are.
It is a life saver for people travelling alone to Tokyo and (in my mind) is an essential expense to add to your Tokyo budget.
I’ve used Ninja Wifi a number of times in Tokyo and have had a great experience each time.
It is the most affordable pocket wifi company I’ve been able to find in Japan, but it is still more expensive than renting pocket wifi in neighbouring countries like South Korea and Taiwan.
Alternatively, if you’re a regular traveller, you can look into purchasing a Skyroam device and having wifi no matter where in the world you are!
But, no matter what you choose, you need a plan on how you’ll access the internet in Tokyo before you leave.
The Importance of Internet Safety
It is extremely important to be safe when using the internet- especially when you’re travelling!
You put your online information and data at risk of being stolen and sold when you use public wifi networks.
It isn’t an issue when you’re using a wifi egg because they are protected and secure.
But, you’ll rely on hotel/Airbnb wifi when you’re at your accommodation.
Your wifi egg has to charge!
When you’re connected to unsecured public wifi networks like hotels and cafés, you’re leaving yourself and your private information at risk.
The only way you can stay safe and protect yourself when using public wifi networks is by installing a VPN on all your devices.
And, yes, that includes public wifi networks that have a password because anybody can get the password and access the wifi network.
A VPN essentially puts a forcefield around your devices that keeps prying eyes out.
It makes using public wifi networks as safe as using your home internet where you’re the only person who knows the password.
My Favourite VPN
I’ve used a lot of different VPNs over my years of travel, and let me tell you that a lot of them suck.
They slow down your device to a snail’s pace, and they are very frustrating to use.
Oftentimes I ended up turning off my VPN and exposing myself to potential threats because I got so frustrated using the VPNs I was using at the time.
That all changed when I discovered NordVPN.
It is the fastest VPN on the market, which is why I recommend it to my fellow travel lovers.
I’ve been using NordVPN for years and have never had an issue with it slowing down my devices.
That’s a huge thing to consider when you’re choosing a VPN to travel with!
Plus Nord is super affordable!
You can protect up to six devices for less than the price of a Starbuck’s latte per month.
My motto is that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect your online data by installing a VPN on all your devices!
Seriously! At the prices offered by Nord, there is no excuse not to protect yourself!
2. Eating Alone is Perfectly Normal
A lot of people are nervous about eating alone when they travel. Especially if it is their first solo trip.
Lucky for you, that is not something you have to worry about when travelling to Tokyo alone.
It is super common for people to eat alone in Japan.
In fact, there are a number of restaurants where you don’t need to interact with a single human when you’re there.
You order at a vending machine, sit in a stall for one, and place your order ticket at the front of your stall.
An employee takes your ticket and returns with your food!
Zero human interaction required at all!
There are also a number of sushi restaurants where the food is on a conveyor belt. You select what you want without speaking to a server.
After you’re done, you place your plates in the designated area, and your bill is based on the number of plates you eat.
So, if eating alone is something you’re nervous about, there is no better place to visit alone than Japan. And especially Tokyo.
Even in restaurants where you need to interact with humans, nobody cares that you’re eating alone.
It is one of the best parts of Japan in my opinion!
Tips for eating alone at restaurants
3. Research a Lot Before Your Trip
This is my biggest regret from my first solo trip to Tokyo.
I’m not a huge planner when I travel and normally plan a trip the day I arrive in a city or country.
That is a huge mistake.
Especially when you’re travelling alone to Tokyo.
There is a lot to see and do in Tokyo, and you can easily miss out on the best attractions if you wing your trip like I did.
I highly recommend you do some serious research before your solo trip to Tokyo.
You should figure out some of the best places to eat (because there are a lot!), what attractions you want to visit, and where you want to go shopping.
Just looking at a map when you arrive is not going to cut it.
I know some of you reading this may think duh of course everybody researches a trip before they go, but that isn’t always the case.
Especially for experienced or long-term travellers.
But, your research will pay off in the long run on your solo trip to Tokyo!
It can be overwhelming if you just show up without a plan. So don’t do that!
You don’t want to miss out on some of the unique and incredible things Tokyo has to offer because you didn’t feel the need to do some pre-departure reading!
But I think you’re already on the right track since you’re reading this article!
4. Google Maps is Your Best Friend
In a lot of Asian countries, Google maps is useless. But that isn’t the case in Tokyo!
Google maps will quickly become your best friend during your Tokyo trip.
It gives you way more information than in other countries and makes navigating around Tokyo a breeze.
My favourite part of Google maps in Tokyo is that it tells you what platform your metro train is leaving from.
It even tells you the best car number to get in to make your transfer as quick and smooth as possible!
It is seriously a life saver for solo travellers.
Especially introverted solo travellers like me who hate asking strangers for help!
Google maps in Tokyo is even great for when you’re walking. It is super sophisticated and easily navigates you through any narrow streets and alleyways you encounter.
If I’m being honest, the Google maps platform in Japan is the best I’ve ever used. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to catch up.
As a solo traveller, knowing the Google maps has my back takes a lot of the stress out of travelling.
I know the app is going to get me where I want to be without me being lost for an extended period of time.
It is one of those little things that makes travelling alone in Tokyo an enjoyable experience.
5. Learn Local Japanese Customs
Japan has a culture built on traditions and respect.
You’re going to want to know the basics of Japanese culture before you arrive in Tokyo, so you don’t accidentally offend anybody.
There are rules around bowing, public transportation, eating, and almost every aspect of life.
There are even rules around how to properly give and receive money!
As a tourist and visitor to Tokyo, you’re not expected to know every rule and custom in Japan.
But, there are few that you absolutely need to know.
The most important of them is how to behave on public transportation.
Here are some of my top tips to help you avoid getting scolded while using public transportation in Tokyo:
- Be quiet. Don’t talk to your friends or on your phone.
- Wait your turn. A nice, organized queue forms when people are waiting for the metro. Stand in the queue and wait your turn to get on the metro.
- Offer up your seat to older people, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
- Do not sit in designated seating areas. Each train has designated seats for older or disabled people. Don’t sit in them even if you’re the only person on the train.
- Women’s only car means women’s only car! Don’t board that car if you’re not a female-identifying person.
There are tons of other customs and rules in Japan, but public transportation rules are extremely important.
Most people will let tourists get away with not knowing a lot of the other customs, but that is not the case when it comes to public transportation.
You will get death stares and perhaps even be scolded by someone if you’re being too out of line.
6. Always Have Cash on Hand
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Tokyo, but you still want to have some cash on hands at all time.
Especially when travelling to Tokyo alone. You don’t have anybody to bum some change off of if you need it!
You’ll need cash to pay for metro/bus tickets (if you don’t get a transit pass), purchases as super small stores alone the side of the street, and to indulge in all the incredible street food in Tokyo.
You don’t need a ton of cash, but you 100% need some.
I suggest having at least 2,000 yen in cash on you at all times. Having 3,000 is even better!
You’ll thank me for this tip when you pass by a street food stall that only accepts cash!
7. Plan Your Days Wisely
Tokyo is a huge city. Bigger than you might think.
You need to plan your days wisely or else you’ll spend hours on public transportation getting from one sight to the next.
This is a waste of time and money!
As best you can, you should try to plan your days, so you’re doing things that are in a similar area to one another at the same time.
This is even more important when you’re travelling alone to Tokyo because you don’t have anybody to keep you company when you’re in transit.
No matter how well you plan your day, you’ll have to rely on the metro to get around most of the time.
My biggest recommendation is to plan your itinerary to allow for the fewest number of metro transfers as possible.
If you can plan a route where you don’t have to transfer metro lines, that is outstanding!
One transfer is fine and not a big deal, but once you have to transfer two or more times, the time really starts getting away from you.
You lose a lot of time in your day when you have to spend an hour on the metro to get from one place to another.
And that’s not being dramatic!
There have been multiple instances where it has taken me over 60 minutes to get from one place to another in Tokyo.
I told you it is a huge city!
8. Beware of Japanese Only Restaurants
There are some restaurants in Tokyo where only Japanese people are allowed to eat.
They can be hard (nearly impossible) to spot, so you may stumble into a few of them when you’re travelling alone in Tokyo.
They are normally aren’t in major tourist hubs and are normally smaller restaurants where the chairs are out on the street.
If you stumble on one, just politely apologize and leave.
Some tourists are offended that they aren’t able to eat at certain restaurants and make a fuss.
Don’t be that person!
Every restaurant has the right to serve (and not serve) anybody they want.
Tokyo natives deal with a lot of tourists all year around, so it totally makes sense that sometimes they just want to be away from the tourists and enjoy a meal with their fellow Japanese people.
Simply find another place to eat. There are countless amazing restaurants all over Tokyo.
Overcome your fear of solo travel
9. No Matter Where You Stay, it is Expensive
Tokyo has a reputation for being expensive, but it was less expensive than I anticipated.
That is except for accommodation!
No matter what type of accommodation you choose or where in Tokyo you stay, it is going to be more than an average price.
Certainly way more than every other country in Asia!
This is super important information for you to know when travelling alone to Tokyo.
You’re 100% responsible for paying for your accommodation. If you’re on a super tight budget, Tokyo may not be the right choice for you.
Of course, there are places that are less expensive than others.
Capsule hotels are a great option but will still run you $50USD per night or more.
Airbnb is another great option. You can often find some reasonably priced listing.
However, that is becoming more and more difficult as the Japanese government tightens Airbnb restrictions and fewer and fewer people are posting listings.
But, no matter where you choose to stay, you need to have a healthy accommodation budget.
It will by far be the most expensive part of your trip.
The good news is that the food and sightseeing costs are less than you think.
It isn’t dirt cheap, but Tokyo isn’t nearly as expensive as it is made out to be.
10. Visit Tokyo Disney Resort
I’ll admit that this probably seems like an odd tip to give people travelling to Tokyo alone, but hear me out!
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are always ranked as some of the best theme parks in the world.
Most people are nervous about visiting Disney parks alone, but trust me when I say there is nothing weird about it.
If you enjoy theme parks in the slightest, visiting Tokyo Disney Resort is an essential thing to do in Tokyo!
Even if you’re not a huge theme park fan, Tokyo Disney Resort is an incredible experience.
Japanese people take the parks seriously, and you’ll see people walking around with dozens of stuffed animals pinned to their backpacks.
Couples and groups of friends in matching outfits, and some of the most unique theme park attractions ever made.
Tokyo Disneyland is extremely busy all year around so be sure you have a FASTPASS strategy to get the most out of your day.
And if you’re anything like me and love all things Disney, be sure to bring a considerable souvenir budget!
You’ll get sucked in and want to buy everything they offer.
Buying Tokyo Disney Resort tickets isn’t as straightforward as you think. Check out this guide before you go!
I hope this article showed you the travelling alone to Tokyo is very doable. It is even a trip that someone with no solo travel experience can take!
Tokyo is like nowhere else on the planet, and it is worth experiencing once in your life.
Although (controversial opinion warning), I still think Seoul is better than Tokyo.
Keep the tips in this post in the back of your mind, and you’ll have no trouble exploring Tokyo alone.
It may even be the trip of a lifetime!