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Getting Around Tokyo

The best way to get around Tokyo is the subway. This extensive, efficient network will take you anywhere in the city as quickly as possible. The subway also connects to Tokyo's two major airports – Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND). The bus system is even more pervasive than the subway; however, it's subject to traffic delays and usually confuses travelers who don't know Japanese. The city is too massive to be covered on foot, but you should stroll through the individual neighborhoods to enjoy Tokyo's hustle and bustle. Taking a taxi can get costly, but will be necessary when the subway is closed late at night and early in the morning. And if you don't want to hail in the middle of Tokyo's chaos, the city has Uber.

On FootWalking around Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming. The collage of street signs and neon lights induces an exhilarating (and exhausting) feeling that visitors either love or hate. While there are so many distractions, pedestrians also have to stay focused on navigating the streets. Convoluted thoroughfares streak amorphous neighborhoods that repeatedly confuse visitors. If you get lost, the best bet is to find the nearest subway station and situate yourself using a subway map.

At first glance, Tokyo's metro system may be overwhelming for travelers. There are numerous color-coded lines that run throughout the city, with subway stops marked by an individual letter and number. If you can believe it, it's one of the easier maps of Tokyo to comprehend. Every informational sign posted both in and outside of metro stations as well as in the metro cars are in both Japanese and English. You can also select the language of metro ticket machines to English.

Subway lines in Tokyo are color coded, have their own name and are abbreviated by the first letter of their name at stations. For example, if you see the letter G posted inside and outside of a subway station, this indicates that the Ginza line is serviced at this subway station. You may also notice a number following the letter. This indicates where on the line the station is. For example, if you see G 12 posted inside and outside the subway station you're in, that means this station services the Ginza Line and that the subway station you're currently at is the 12th stop on the Ginza line. There are often multiple lines that service one subway station. When inside the subway station, there are multiple signs with arrows to direct you to where you need to go. When getting onto a subway car, make sure to let passengers off first, then enter. It's important to know that the metro becomes notoriously crowded during rush hour (rush hour starts at the first train of the day until 9:30 a.m.). To the point where station handlers push patrons further into the car if they are blocking the doors from closing. Women-only cars are available during rush hour.

Fares are based on the distance you travel, and the base rate is 170 yen (about $1.50). If you know you'll be using the metro a lot, purchase a visitor's ticket or PASMO card. Visitor tickets allow for unlimited metro rides and Toei subway lines for 24 hours ($7), 48 hours ($11) and 72 hours ($14). If you'll be in Tokyo for longer, consider the rechargeable PASMO card. Travelers can purchase credit in thousand increments of yen (1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 3,000 yen, etc.). It's important to know that two companies operate Tokyo's subway system. Tokyo Metro is private while the Toei subways are run by the government. They are both pretty much interchangeable. Tickets from the metro work on the Toei and fares similar. Aside from ownership, the main difference between the metro and Toei is that they operate different lines in the mass subway system. 


Flat out: Tokyo buses are confusing. First, you have to understand there are two different types of buses. If you hop on a "front-boarding" bus (type 1), you'll pay a flat fare as you step on. If you catch a "rear-boarding" bus (type 2), you enter from the rear, receive a ticket and pay once you reach your destination. The fare for your particular ticket will be posted on the electric signboard at the front. You'll insert your ticket and your money into the machine at the front of the bus. But, you'll have to figure out which bus to take, which the Tokyo Tourism Board admits would be complicated for visitors. Our ultimate suggestion: Don't take a bus unless advised or accompanied by a local. The price for a one-day Toei bus pass is 500 yen for adults ($4.60) and 250 yen for children ($2.30). If you do take a bus, it's best to have exact change; the money changer accepts only coins and 1,000 yen bills.


During the day, taxis are not a cost- or time-effective option. They will get caught up in the web of Tokyo traffic, and the meter will run while you sit there getting more and more frustrated. You can flag them on the street or snag one at a hotel or train station. The flag drop rate is 410 yen (about $3.50) for the first half-mile traveled, and each additional .14 miles costs 80 yen (about 70 cents). Plus, rates increase by 20 percent starting at 10 p.m. then up to 30 percent between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Taxis in Tokyo are available when the red light on the car's windshield is illuminated, or if a sign on the top of a car is illuminated. Not all taxis accept credit cards. Window stickers or a sign atop the taxi indicates whether or not the car accepts cards. Oftentimes, if the taxis do accept cards, there is a minimum the rider must reach to be able to use their card. Make sure to ask the taxi driver before getting into the taxi if there is a credit card minimum. The ride-hailing app Uber also operates here.

CarRenting a car in Tokyo should be out of the question. Not only would it be an expensive mistake, but you'll also have a splitting headache from the never-ending streets, ever-present traffic and non-existent parking. That said, if you absolutely, positively need a vehicle, you'll find rental places at both of Tokyo's major airports.

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