Best for solo travellers 2019: Japan
Japanese culture embraces the solo traveller, and plentiful accommodation options, ease of transport and and an emphasis on traveller safety makes this one of the best destinations for first-time solo travel.
Why go in 2019
In Japan you can drink cocktails at rooftop bars or sing karaoke till dawn; dine at Michelin-starred eateries or late-night ramen spots; shop up a storm in a city of skyscrapers or explore ancient shrines and teahouses. There’s adventure, winter sports, ice festivals and cherry blossom parties. In 2018 The Post Office annual travel survey revealed Japan was becoming significantly more affordable for Brits than in recent years, and in 2019, it will be easier than ever to get there.
In April, British Airways will re-launch its flight route from Heathrow to Osaka, alongside its regular Tokyo flights. Japan will also host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic Games in 2020. As a result, there has been huge investment in hotels, making this the perfect time to find a great deal on cut-price accommodation.
Japan is known for
Tokyo, Japan’s sparkling capital, is all about city lights and skyscrapers, shiny shopping complexes, karaoke bars, buzzing arcades and the most amazing food on the planet - literally. Tokyo holds more Michelin stars than any other city in the world: in 2018, the city has 314 stars shared between 234 restaurants. That’s more than three times the number of Michelin-starred restaurants you’ll find in food-obsessed London. But if fine dining isn’t your thing, you’re still spoilt for choice - think sushi, steaming bowls of ramen, shabu shabu hotpots, miso and all things green tea.
And Tokyo’s just the start - you can explore historic temples, shrines and teahouses in Kyoto, marvel at the cloud-capped peak of Mount Fuji, visit the hilltop Himeji Castle and take in the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.
When to Go
Temperatures vary hugely throughout Japan, but in general the best time to visit is in the spring or autumn - March to May and September to November. During these months, the weather is mild and there’s lower rainfall. A popular and beautiful time to visit Japan is during cherry blossom season (generally April-May depending on the area), but this is also probably when it’s most crowded. Autumn is also a popular time, when the weather is mild and the leaves turn red, but it’s generally less crowded than spring. Avoid Golden Week, around the first week of May, when many shops and businesses come to a standstill for a week of national holidays.
Winter is the least popular time to travel to Japan, as temperatures plummet and snow is common in many areas. But the snow can make for stunning photos, and the thinner crowds mean you’re likely to find better deals and cheaper prices.
If you can handle daytime temperatures averaging zero degrees, head to Sapporo Snow Festival, a magical event and one of the biggest on Japan’s festival calendar. Held in February each year, the festival features hundreds of snow and ice sculptures, many illuminated with sparkling colourful lights.
How to get there: you can fly direct to Tokyo from London with Japan Airlines, British Airways and All Nippon Airways. Flights are around 12 hours each way.
Currency: Japanese yen. The pound is strong against the yen at the moment, at around £1 to 143 yen.
Visa: British citizens can visit Japan for up to 90 days without a visa.
Plugs: Japan uses the same plug types as the USA. Voltage in Japan is different to European voltage, so you may need a converter.
Average cost of a pint of beer: a pint can be 1000 yen, but most places sell bottles, which are usually cheaper.