We were blessed to have spent six days in Tokyo. It was so fun travelling to a place both of us haven’t been to before. Since a lot of people on my Facebook news feed seems like they’re going to Japan within the year, allow me to share with you our top three Tokyo essentials. ?
#1: Japan SIM Card
We initially wanted to rent a pocket wifi from here in Manila, but by the time we finally decided to, there wasn’t any stock left in the different travel agencies that we called. We then had the option of renting a pocket wifi from the internet and pick it up at the Narita airport, but we ended up deciding to see what’s at the airport and rent from there.
Upon arrival at the airport, Pao surveyed the different stalls, and when he found the cheapest offer, he talked with the sales person who happened to be half Japanese, half Filipina. Pao’s idea was brilliant. We ended up buying a Japan SIM card that’s good only for data (aka mobile internet; not for call/text), valid for 15 days. We were spending a few more days outside Tokyo for a total of 11 days in Japan, so the validity period was perfect for us.
Pocket wifi rentals would have cost us P300 to P700 per day or about $7 to $16 per day, which for 11 days would have cost us at least P3,300 or $77. The SIM card only cost us JPY 2,890, which was equivalent to P1,200 or $27.
Besides the savings, it was more convenient to just use Pao’s phone which had longer battery life than a pocket wifi, and we just have one device to charge with our power bank, if needed.
One important thing to note: you need to have a phone that’s not locked to a particular network. If you got your phone from Globe, Sun, or Smart, the Japan SIM card will not work on your phone and you’re left with renting a pocket wifi. If so, I recommend renting from a travel agency here in Manila versus on the net or at the airport.
#2: Tokyo Metro Unlimited Pass
Whether or not you’re getting a JR Pass like we did, it’s still worth getting the unlimited subway pass because you’ll still end up using the Metro and Toei lines (not JR-owned) for most of your going around if you’re staying in accommodations not near a JR station. Purchase this at the airport.
As of this writing, instead of 1, 2, or 3-day passes, they now offer 24, 48, and 72-hour passes. Same price but basically, instead of expiring after 3 days from first day of use, it will expire 72 hours after first time use, which is way better!
Here’s the link to the pricing and details of these passes. One train ride without the unlimited pass will cost at least JPY 170 (if you’re going down at the next stop) and you’ll probably ride at least 3 times a day and the distance won’t just be one station apart.
#3: Google Maps
Obviously, Google Maps! Millenial or not, it’s very easy to use. You’ll know how to go from one place to another, and you’ll even know how much it will cost. Pair it with your Japan SIM card, and the probability of getting lost gets lost. In all our 11 days in Japan, I can recall only 2 times when it didn’t pin to the correct destination, and most likely it was because we had the wrong address given to us. If this happens to you, just ask around! Train officials were very nice and friendly, and one time they were even prepared with a printed map and he highlighted the walk route we had to take.
UPDATE April 22, 2016:
#4 IC Card
Why did I miss this in my initial post!?! IC stands for integrated circuit… in other words, a smart card, and you will need one per person. You use it like a debit card: you load it through the machines at the train stations, and then you tap it as you enter the train platforms (if your Tokyo Metro unlimited has expired already, or when using a train that your unli pass does not cover, such as the Yamanote Line going to Odaiba).
You can get it at ticket machines or counters at train stations, for JPY500 (refundable deposit) plus your initial load amount of about JPY1,500. If you’re always going around, you’ll definitely use up that JPY1,500 per person in train rides. No worries if you don’t, because you can also use it in paying at restaurants and even shops. If you have money left in the card, you can use it to pay your last-minute purchases at the airport. After the initial loading, you can choose how much yen you want to reload it with.
There are different carriers of IC cards, but you can use any card pretty much anywhere in Japan.
If you have friends who have been to Japan and they kept their IC cards, you can just borrow their cards for your trip like we did and load it at the airport train station. ?
So there! I hope this helps you with your upcoming Tokyo trip. ?