Today I bring to you a Guest Post by an avid reader of my blog, Claire, from Traveltio!
She’s a world traveler, having been to 3 continents, 16 countries, and 38 cities!
She writes about her experiences and adventures in her blog at http://traveltio.com/about-me/, so if you are an avid traveler as well, I recommend you to read her enthusiastic articles!
This time, she offered to write a post about Tokyo! More particularly, the most common traps a tourist can face in this giant city!
You’ve been to North and South America, wandered your way through Europe and even managed to hop on a few ships around the Caribbean, but there’s just one destination you’ve been dying to visit: Tokyo.
The food, the culture and the bustle of the city have called your name for years, and the pull has been strong, even if you don’t speak the language. But you’ve finally done it — you’ve booked a flight, downloaded a great app to help you get around despite the language barrier, and even learned all the things you shouldn’t do as a visitor in Japan.
But while you’re dying to get out there and experience all the country has to offer, you don’t want your whole trip to center around the tourist zones. You want to see the sights, but also experience life like a local and maybe even save some money along the way.
And I have good news for you: I’ve put together a list of the nine biggest tourist traps in Tokyo to help you do just that.
1. Exchanging money at the airport (or other major transportation hubs)
It may seem like the easiest option to just exchange some money as soon as you arrive in Japan, but doing so at airports and major train stations can cost you a lot of money without you realizing it. These areas often have ridiculously high exchange rates and fees, and they often deal with people who don’t know any better.
Do some research into good places in the city to exchange some money (not people on the street who will offer to do it for you), and change some out before you leave your home country so you already have some money on hand when you arrive.
2. Visiting a cat cafe
It may be tempting to visit a cat cafe while you’re in Tokyo — where else can you play with cats while sipping a coffee or beer? — but these places are big tourist traps. They often overcharge for whatever drinks and snacks they offer, and they aren’t always the cleanest spots either.
Many of the cafe owners also don’t take great care of their cats (too many animals kept in cages and in a small place), so while the novelty of it may interest you, it’s typically better to not support them.
3. Staying on the ground floor
Aside from being one of the largest cities in the world population-wise, Tokyo is also a pretty expensive place (as most cities are). Real estate in the city can be pretty pricey, with businesses getting sucked into paying more for prime locations, like on street level.
For this reason, a lot of these establishments charge more money for their goods and services (they have to in order to cover their costs), so try venturing upstairs, and you’ll likely find places with slightly lower prices.
4. Venturing out in Roppongi
It’s been one of the main nightlife centers in the city for years, but venturing out in Roppongi takes some preparation and know-how. You can certainly find a number of great bars and clubs in the area, but if you aren’t careful, you can wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.
The area isn’t all bad — in fact it’s a great center for office, entertainment shopping and dining real estate. But there have been numerous tales of spiked drinks, stolen money and less-than-ideal situations.
5. Taking a taxi
Public transportation in any new city can be a bit overwhelming, especially in one as busy as Tokyo. But if you rely on taxis to get you everywhere you need to go, you may be unpleasantly surprised at how expensive they can be.
Public transport is the fastest and easiest way to get around the city, just be sure to avoid the morning rush hour times (7:30-9 a.m.) if possible. You can even buy a prepaid transport card that works for the trains, subways and buses.
6. Only trying out the Michelin-starred restaurants
Japan may be home to a surprisingly large number of Michelin-starred fine dining options (or maybe that part isn’t so surprising), but if you only head to those spots, you’ll be spending a pretty penny on food every day. That’s not to say you should check out one or two, but don’t discount the street food you can find in Tokyo!
I’ve heard all the same stories about street food experiences gone wrong (and even lived a few of them, unfortunately), but the street food in Tokyo is some of the best around. When in doubt, ask a local — they’ll be more than happy to point out their favorite stops for ramen and yakitori.
7. Paying international roaming fees
Most people travelling outside their home country don’t realize there’s another way to use their phones without being tethered to wifi or paying exorbitant roaming charges. But take it from someone who’s been all over the world and back — there’s a much simpler, and cheaper, way to go.
All you have to do is install a local SIM card when you arrive in your destination, and you can share those vacation photos, call your friends and search for the best sushi restaurant on the go without stressing over how much each text or GB of data is costing you. Just unlock your phone, buy a local SIM at a convenience store, and you’re all set!
8. Spending money and time at Tokyo Tower
While the landmark was modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and can be an okay viewing point to see the city from, it’s turned into quite the tourist trap since the 1980s. You’ll wind up spending more money than necessary for a less than stellar view.
Instead, head to the Mori Tower and its 52nd floor observation deck, the Tokyo City View. You’ll get an open-air, 360-degree view of the city, and on a clear day you can even see Mount Fuji off in the distance and still get Tokyo Tower in your photos.
9. Shopping in Asakusa
Asakusa is a popular tourist spot for anyone visiting Tokyo, mostly due to the Asakusa Kannon Temple (also called Senso-ji). While the temple is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, lingering in the area to eat and shop can be a mistake.
Shopping in this district is notoriously pricey, and you’ll be better off finding souvenirs for family and friends at smaller, mom-and-pop stores dotted along alleys and quiet streets. Plus, you’ll be supporting smaller local business too!
Now that you’ve done some research and read up on what to experience and what to avoid while you’re in the Land of the Rising Sun, all that’s left is to pack a bag and get out there! Embrace the culture and don’t be afraid to try new things — and don’t forget to take a million picture while you’re there!