Tokyo, the Capital of the East, is a large metropolis bustling with life. The city hosts a great deal of diversity with different districts and atmosphere. From the traditional small streets to the ultra modern neighborhoods, the city is full of opportunities for anyone looking for fun, culture, shopping, food or just wanting to experience a different culture. Tokyo is now easy to visit with all major signs and transportation services translated in English. If you get lost, you will always find someone to help you out. Tokyoites are very nice. And service is world class.
Yes, it’s an expensive trip but definitely worth it to discover a whole new world. Welcome to Tokyo.
How accessible is it from Singapore?
Many companies operate direct flights to Tokyo’s 2 airports: Narita and Haneda. The flight from Singapore to Tokyo takes 7 hours. Thanks to an efficient train system, you can be at your hotel in less than an hour. Though if you have the choice prefer Haneda airport which is closer and cheaper to the city center.
The total door to door journey is 9 hours 30 minutes from (your home/office in) Singapore to your room in Tokyo.
You will need a minimum of 4 days to enjoy Tokyo. Technically you can visit Tokyo in 2 days and see the main highlights but a total of 4 days is probably a minimum given the fact you will spend a day or a night in the plane to get there and come back.
How much is this going to cost us?
Tokyo is expensive (especially in comparison to South East Asian countries).
Transport from Singapore will cost you from SGD 1700 return for 2 with a direct flight.
Accommodation wise… it’s also very expensive. Simple hotels charge from SGD 180 upwards. You can find cheaper options in the hostel or capsule hotels but overall, it’s expensive. AirBnB and the likes can be interesting alternatives.
What about the kids?
You can take your children to Tokyo. Streets and public transportation is not as child friendly as in Taipei but it’s overall good and you will have no problem going around with a stroller (but may have to carry it from time to time).
How remote and risky is it?
Japan is very safe and well equipped compared to other destinations in Asia. From roads to hospitals, everything is great. The city is super safe (well, until the next earthquake or typhoon) and infrastructures are excellent. Of course, some people are worried about the radiations following the Fukushima disaster…
When should we go?
Connections from Tokyo
Tokyo can be a standalone destination from Singapore for a long weekend. If you have more time, there are hundreds of places to visit in Japan. If you have 2 or 3 days, a classic is to add Kyoto to your itinerary (check the deal with Japanican for a combo train + hotel). There are also some options for day trips around Tokyo.
Getting from Singapore to Tokyo
To reach Tokyo from Singapore, you will need to take a 7 hour flight to Narita (NRT) or Hanida (HND) airport.
Delta, United, Singapore, Japan, have daily direct flights offering wide range of schedules and fares.
If you are flying on a budget and are OK to make a stop, your choice is even larger: Malaysia, Vietnam, & Thai Airlines and China Eastern for instance fly there (but many others as well).
Japan Airlines can be a good option if you want to take night flights and save time and hotel nights. Timings are not so good if you have young children as they are quite late in the night. Example:
Getting there: SIN to HND : Japan Airlines : 1:50 AM – 09:50AM (7h flight)
Coming back: HND to SIN: Japan Airlines 00:05 AM – 06:05 AM
Return tickets from SGD 810.
There are hundreds of possible combinations. If you can, get flights to Haneda as its closer to the city center. However, you can easily reach the city center from Nareta. It’s just longer and more expensive but still manageable.
Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares. Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight
Getting from Tokyo airports to the city center
Both airports are modern and convenient.
Haneda is closer to the city center (27 km) compared to Nareta (70km).
To reach the city center (Shibuya for instance) from Haneda you have a few options:
- By Keikyu Railways. 1 transfer, 35 minutes, 580 yen, frequent connections
- By Tokyo Monorail. 1 transfer, 40 minutes, 690 yen, frequent connections
- By Taxi. Between 5,000 and 11,000 yen depending on the destination and time of the day (there is a surcharge during late night; typically 20% between 10pm and 5am).
You will find the details on the excellent Japan guide website
To reach the city center (Shibuya for instance) from Narita you have a few options:
- By JR Narita Express Direct. 90 minutes, 1500-3390 yen, 1-2 connections per hour
- By Keisei Skyliner. 1 transfer. 65 minutes, 2670 yen, 2 connections per hour
- By Keisei Limited Express. 1 transfer, 100 minutes, 1230 yen, 3 connections per hour
A taxi would be very expensive and is not recommended.
You will find the details on the excellent Japan guide website
Where to stay in Tokyo?
This is a tough question. The city is large and there are many different districts to discover. Prices are high in the center. We decided to stay in Ebisu.
You can check accommodations on
Or book your hotel with
Another option if you prefer to stay in an apartment is to look on Travelmob. It’s a good alternative to AirBnB and a great way to find an apartment if you travel with family or friends. Some apartments are cheaper than a hotel room.
To see & to do in Tokyo
There are millions of things to do and see in Tokyo. The city is huge and full of interesting places. If you only have a few days you may want to focus your attention on some districts.
Take a look at the Japan-Guide website for more info or get an idea from your guidebook.
Something for you to keep in mind when looking for a restaurant or bar: Restaurants and bars can be located at any level of the building and not only at the ground level. This makes it difficult for you as a tourist to pick the place you want to have lunch, dinner or a drink at. But it’s definitely worth exploring options in the higher or lower floors (basements are also used to host bars and restaurants). We randomly walked into places such as: an old fasion jazz bar with a view, a absinthe bar, a lesbian reggae bar. You can count on Tokyo to surprise you.
You will need to build your own itinerary based on your preference but here is a list of few places we liked.
The fish market. You will see it mentioned in every guide book. It’s a huge market. It’s busy very early in the morning for the auction sales. However you can visit the market at a more decent hour (still in the morning) and get the se(a) the millions of fish being traded. If you are ready to wait in line for an hour or two you can get some of the best sushis in the small restaurants nearby. Good atmosphere.
Nice area with 2 main atmospheres: the business district and the red light district. Pick your time accordingly when visiting it (a business district on Sunday morning is probably not the best timing and a Tuesday morning to visit the redlight district may turn to be very boring). You can also visit Tokyo Townhall. There is a nice tiny street close to the train station where you will find dozens of yakitori restaurants. Restaurants are tiny and you will be seated on stools. Great atmosphere.
Walk down the pedestrian Takeshita Dori for some craziness. Or take Omote Sando if you need to buy a LV bag. Omote Sando hosts all the major luxury brands.
Remember that picture with people walking on a giant crossroads? Well it was taken in Shibuya. There are many malls and very busy in the evening. Good option for shopping and having drinks at night.
Welcome to geekland! This is crazy. Hundreds of IT shops and thousands of people looking for vintage games, robots, miniatures, cameras, etc. Explore the different floors and buildings.
Tokyo’s largest temple and a lot of touristic shops around.
Visit the Mori tower to enjoy the view.
More info to prepare your trip
Internet access is available in all hotels, B&B, etc. Ask if you can have a Wifipocket to have access to the internet on the move. It is a common practice in Japan and is so convenient when you need a map or itinerary.
What to pack for Tokyo
Depending on the season, the temperature can be quite cold (compared to our usual South East Asia destinations) in Tokyo (check the weather chart for more details and to adjust your clothes accordingly)
Your main bag
That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.
- Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
- Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
- Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
- Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
- Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
- Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
- Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
- Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
- Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
- Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
- Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
- Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
- Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
- Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
Your small bag
That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.
- Your passport, cash, credit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
- Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
- Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
- Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
- Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
- Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
- Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
- Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
- Camera and its protection.