I was a nervous wreck to travel internationally for the first time. We decided to travel to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan for our honeymoon. Why big cities instead of some tropical beach or romantic European getaway? Just to be different, I guess. Well, also because Japan is prized for its technology, and we’re nerds.
I did some, but not enough research before booking these nonrefundable tickets. That’s why I’m here to write this post. I feel the need to emphasize the fact that you really should do thorough research before traveling. There are so many aspects that I didn’t even think of until after buying the tickets. Let’s go through a few of these.
Weather: Sure, I looked up the average temperature for that time of year. But what I failed to look at was the actual season and weather patterns. Come to find out, we traveled to Japan during typhoon season, yay! Though quite an adventure, it was not the greatest hiking miles up a mountain (Fushimi-Inari Shrine) during a torrential downpour.
Money: Don’t just research the currency used and the exchange rate. Research whether debit/credit cards are widely used, and if cash withdrawal is readily available. For example, Japan is an extremely cash based society, and almost no place took a card. I found that it was actually cheaper to get cash out of an ATM (at 7/11 or the post office IN Japan) than at the airport or a bank here.
Culture: It always useful to learn some of the language, but please don’t forget to research the major customs. In Japan, there are many hotels that are men only and also even some major trains that only allow women in some cars during certain hours. Apparently there are also even some hand gestures and greetings that Americans use that are found offensive there. Showing Google Maps to the taxi drivers was helpful, but not every single time. We actually got kicked out of a taxi in Kyoto for not speaking Japanese and had to walk miles back to our hotel in the dark.
Technology: We have become so dependent on technology and readily available internet that we forget other societies can be behind on this. From all the hype about technology in Tokyo, I would have never guessed that WiFi is not widespread there. Almost no public places offer free WiFi, and you have to rent (a rather pricey) pocket WiFi device if you need internet while traveling there. I actually found it cheaper to use an international data plan through my cell provider, though data ran out quickly each day and had to be used sparingly.
Getting around: Even if you want to be spontaneous, do your research on traveling within a foreign country first. We were planning on getting our international driver’s permits, but after doing more research decided against this. Traffic in Japan can be insane and especially scary if you are also learning to drive on the opposite side of the car and the road at the same time. Since we were mostly staying in major cities, we decided to stick to trains and taxis instead as they are cheap and took us everywhere we need to go. The bullet train, or Shinkansen, was AWESOME going from Tokyo to Kyoto. It is very comfortable (and fast) though extremely pricey. We got up to 173 mph and got to see Mt. Fuji out the window.
Food: It was great that pretty much every single Japanese menu has pictures. Even most restaurants have replicas of the dishes they offer before you walk in. Sadly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the traditional food, but Taco Bell in Japan is awesome! They serve beer. Be wary of some of the ramen. The raw egg is supposed to cook in the hot broth, but we ate at the top of a chilly mountain, and it didn’t. Slime central. At least the view was amazing.
Luggage: You will do A LOT of walking. You will also want to bring home A LOT of souvenirs, and the clothing there is awesome. We brought minimal outfits and just did a lot of shopping. I highly recommend very lightweight but tough luggage. We went with a couple different sizes of It luggage. It worked out great (no pun intended)!
Places to stay: We did a mix of AirBNB and expensive hotels (gotta splurge a little on your honeymoon). All of our hosts were AMAZING, both at the AirBNBs and the hotels. In Tokyo, we stayed at the Palace hotel for a couple nights. I was ready to move in and never wanted to leave. Best breakfast buffet EVER. Shoot me a message or comment for more info on our AirBNB hosts, and I will be happy to share! Below is the view from one of our AirBNBs and from the Palace hotel (I bet you can figure out which is which).
Shibuya: This is busiest pedestrian crossing in the WORLD, and we decided to go and stay at an AirBNB here on Halloween. It was INSANE. We saw some pretty crazy things. One picture is the header. Here is a few more to give you a glimpse:
Supreme Stores: There are three REAL Supreme stores in Tokyo. Everything you buy at the actual store is pretty cheap. Unfortunately, other local shops buy everything as soon as it comes in and sell something that would have originally cost $20 for $1,000’s. All that’s really ever left in the actual shops are socks, stickers, and maybe a couple skate decks if you’re lucky.
Kyoto: is absolutely breath taking. GO THERE. This is where you go to see all of the temples and shrines and traditional Japanese culture. Fushimi-Inari was my favorite shrine. Be warned: the trek to the top is brutal, and most don’t make it all the way. We did. In a typhoon. Just saying.
Questions or comments? Email me or leave a comment below!