BEFORE YOU BOOK ANY HOTEL, READ THIS BLOG FULLY!
Deciding which location or which hotel, home, etc. to stay in can be pretty difficult for first time travelers. However, hopefully my tips can help your decision making.
Regardless of which city you decide to stay in, there are many factors that you should consider before booking a place simply because it is cheap. Many cheaper hotels, Airbnbs, hostels, etc. are usually (capsule hotels are often an exception) out of the way of public transport or inner city. This can pose as an extra grievance or problem especially when you have to lug around your baggage/luggage.
Important Factors to consider before booking a place!
No matter which major city you are in, ask yourself:
- Is the location near a JR or Metro station, or other means of public transport?
- This is absolutely something you need to consider!
- Renting a car can be difficult in Japan- you need to have an international driving permit ahead of time issued from your home country. Otherwise, you can’t rent one.
- Driving in big cities like Tokyo can also be a pain with limited parking availability, difficulty navigating backroads, and more, so I just suggest using their very convenient and cheap public transportation.
- Renting a car is more preferable if you plan on being in the rural areas
- How far should a JR or Metro station be from my place of choosing?
- In my opinion, choosing a place that is within 5-10 mins max of walking distance to public transport is preferable
- One reason why I say this is because many back/smaller roads and sidewalks do not often have nice smooth surfaces. They often have very rocky surfaces and rolling baggage around has shown to be not only difficult, but sometimes breaks the wheels if baggage is super heavy or non-durable. Even nice hotels can be in the area of these rocky surfaces.
- Use google maps to determine walking time and distance of a station to your place of stay.
2 Other Important Factors
- IS THERE A PLACE YOU CAN DO LAUNDRY!!!
- Please also consider this factor before booking your stay.
- Some have washer/dryer in the room for free, others have coin laundry, and some don’t.
- Look for a laundromat nearby if yours don’t have a place to do laundry.
- Many airbnbs do not have a washer/dryer option, so look for a place with a laundromat nearby (best option).
- Others have a washer only and then clothes pins to hang/air dry your clothes- this can pose as a problem for heavy duty clothes as they start to smell like mildew if not dried properly.
- Check in the app or website if there is a washer/dryer option in the room. THEN VERIFY with the owner that the dryer is a separate unit and one that produces heat to dry and not just a washer that wrings the clothes until most of the water is out of the clothes.
- Some places have a washer that wrings clothes and then a shower/bathroom that closes off where you can also hang clothes to dry and use a function to generate high heat in the room to dry clothes
- Warning: Even if the room you have has a washer and dryer unit, it is not often like the ones in the West. These units for Airbnb rooms are often cheap. Meaning the washer is small and you have to wait do multiple loads, and the dryer is weak and takes hours to dry your clothes. Laundromats often have better dryers so I recommend doing that instead and do multiple loads at once.
- To save a little money/time, you can use the washer unit in your room and then go to a laundromat to just dry clothes.
- Most hostels I have seen have coin laundry in the building and instructions in English to help you out.
- Timing and amount of luggage
- Many hotels/hostels will hold your bags until check in time; so there is an advantage to booking these.
- Airbnbs- you can’t leave your luggage ahead of time unless you had previous arrangements with the owner. In this case, you can go to many of the JR stations that have baggage/luggage lockers you can rent for the day. Otherwise, you can go to one of the bigger JR stations and drop off your bag at a Travel service center for a cheap fee. I will discuss where you can drop off bags at which station in another blog post.
3. JR PASS
- What is it and are you eligible to get one?
- This pass allows you to use any JR rail system for free (7, 14, or 21 days) including booking bullet trains for free!
- Unfortunately if your visa upon entering this country says something other than ‘temporary visitor,’ you cannot get one!
- This includes work visas, LONG TERM student visas (more than 90 days), Etc.
- ALSO PAY ATTENTION TO JAPAN’S VISA REQUIREMENTS TO ENTER THE COUNTRY
- Why you should get one if you are just traveling to multiple cities.
- The JR pass is perfect for foreign travelers!
- It saves more money ONLY if you plan to be moving around to multiple cities
- A shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto for example can cost about 150 USD ONE WAY
- So if you are making round trips via shinkansen (bullet train), or using it more than once, it’s best to buy a JR PASS
- If you plan only to stay in one city during your time in Japan, then I do not recommend getting the pass
- It’s cheaper to use whatever public transportation available in that city
- Getting the pass may change where you book your stay and when you want to go from city to city in order to efficiently use the JR PASS
If you decide to buy the pass, visit https://www.jrpass.com/ to learn how to use it and WHEN to buy it.
In all honesty, I only buy/activate the JR pass if I know I will be using the shinkansen more frequently. For example, I bought a 7 day pass once. Activated it on the day I booked a shinkansen going from Tokyo to Kyoto (stayed 3 days), Kyoto to Hiroshima (1 day), and then booked another shinkansen to get to Odawara to get to Hakone (stayed 2 days). Then booked another shinkansen to get to Yokohama (1 day), and then took the regular JR line back to Tokyo. Basically I booked 4 shinkansen trips and that would have totaled to be about 500 USD. The JR pass saved me over 250 dollars to spend elsewhere.
Picking between an Airbnb, Hotel, or Hostel:
- Picking a hotel:
- This has its perks: often easy gps location to navigate to, holding luggage, helpful staff who speak English.
- There is wifi in the rooms
- Many hotels are close to stations, however the cheaper hotels are often outside the city so commutes are longer.
- For cheaper hotel searches: I like to use Expedia or Google booking
- There are also capsule hotels and hostels that show up on Expedia as well if you are looking for even cheaper options
- Capsule hotels are pretty cheap as well if you want to experience one
- They are often segregated by gender and often 1 person per unit
- Many capsule hotels are near stations and in the inner city if you want to easily explore the night life
- Hostels are pretty cheap and if you don’t mind bathing and sleeping in the same room with strangers.
- However, many English speakers book hostels if that increases your level of comfort.
- Many hostels only have wifi in the lobby and staff are helpful with any problems or concerns
- If you want a mini home for your stay then this is for you.
- You can find very cheap airbnbs near the inner city and near transportation stations.
- Just be aware of the factors I mentioned above.
- The downside: you can’t get help very often or quickly if you have trouble navigating to the place, getting into the place, and reading instructions to things like the washer/dryer, shower, etc.
- It is important to communicate with the host/owner ahead of time to ensure you have proper directions/instructions to everything!
- It also doesn’t hurt to ask politely if you can ask your host to label important functions in the house.
- A small perk to an Airbnb is that past travelers leave things like umbrellas, sauces for cooking, detergent, soap, etc. which you can use at your leisure.
In the next blogs I will dive further into how to use certain appliances and any other extra relevant information when you are in a home/Airbnb.
As many people go to Tokyo, here is a map of where you should be looking for a place to stay in order to have good easy access to the many unique parts of the Tokyo (which I will also later blog about the different areas you can enjoy visiting).