"A developed country isn't a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation." -Gustavo Petro

During a trip abroad to a foreign country, besides spending money on lodging, food, cultural activities, and souvenirs to bring back home, a large part of the budget is often reserved for transport the means to move from one place to another.

Prices for public transportation greatly vary according to the country being visited; nevertheless, its usually not as cheap as one would like, especially when visiting developed countries.

Tokyo is no exception since getting to Tokyo is already a cost and the money spent on public transportation rises faster than one might like.

Despite having one of the most advanced public transportation systems in the world, the price paid in Tokyo to get from point A to point B is more expensive than most tourists would like. Therefore, to minimise costs while travelling on a budget, visitors are encouraged to spend some time walking and not spend too much money on metro fare.

Without further ado, in today's article, Superprof has the purpose of educating curious ones about the means of transportation available around Tokyo and how much everything costs. Are you ready to ride a bullet train yet? We sure hope so!

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Arriving in Tokyo by Plane

taking a flight to Japan
Flights leave daily from London to Tokyo. (Source: pixabay)

As a UK citizen, you are quite well aware of the fact that Japan is far away! A long plane ride awaits you if you are planning to go to the land of the rising sun. The plane ride is approximately 12 hours, and that does not include any stopovers which take longer.

The time difference from the UK to Japan is also quite a killer and needs to be adapted to since Japan is currently eight hours ahead of London time.

Deciding upon your arrival time needs to be done before the airline ticket is bought. Arriving in the evening can be a brilliant idea since you have the night to rest and recover from some of the effects of jet lag.

One of the most important aspects of when it comes to purchasing a return airline ticket is the price. Airfares are continually rising and falling; therefore, the amount of a card may much depend on the time of year, date booked, arrival airport, the time of takeoff, the airline company, and the amount of time spent in a foreign country.

Therefore, it is essential to state that if you decide to leave the UK for Asia, especially Japan, in the summer or spring months, book your ticket well in advance, before Christmas if you can to receive an optimal price. 

Airlines regularly offer interesting promotions for other periods of the year when there are less tourists. 

For example, a scheduled flight leaving from London to Tokyo for a week during the summer months that are booked without previous anticipation may cost between £800-£1400 depending on the company and the scheduled stopovers. However, on the other hand, the same trip length during December will cost about half the price, between £450 to £700!

Prices need to be compared for quite a long time before finding the correct flight at the right price. However, if you find the perfect trip, jump on it quickly before it flies away!

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Metro, Buses, and Taxis in Tokyo

If you've ever travelled in the cities of Buenos Aires, New York, or Paris, you are quite familiar with the fact that the metro is the cheapest mode of transportation. Even if the cost of metro trips in Tokyo may be higher than other international cities, the practicality of using the train in Japan's capital cannot be disputed; the efficiency is insane!

The Japanese chikatetsu, based in Tokyo, also called metro, is managed by two companies: Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway.

In Tokyo, there are 13 lines of the underground network that allow all visitors to successfully navigate the world's largest city.

For many westerners, especially those based in large cities such as London or Toronto, understanding train maps are commonplace. For example, we know that a distinct colour characterises each line.

Both companies of the Tokyo metro system offer specific rates that cannot be negotiated even if you're a tourist. 

The Tokyo Subway Ticket, which is only for tourists, costs ¥ 800 (approx. £6) and can be used on both metro lines, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway, for a period of 24 hours. 

On the other hand, for those who want to travel through Tokyo for 48 hours on public transportation, the adult pass costs ¥ 1,200, about £9, and for 72 hours visitors can pay ¥ 1,500, about £11 for unlimited usage.

For some individuals, the metro passes may seem expensive in comparison to ones in their country of origin; however, concerning the overall prices of transportation in Tokyo, it's quite affordable and advantageous.

The Tokyo Subway Ticket can be purchased at Haneda or Narita Airport, various hotels across the city, and other certified distributors. 

It is essential to state that a bus can always be used to move around the city of Tokyo. Toei Bus sells day passes for ¥ 500 (£3.50), which is cheaper than the metro but remember it is a lot slower since it is a bus!

Another mode of transportation that is readily available in Tokyo is taxis; they take you directly where you want to go at the time most convenient for you. Many reputable companies are entirely safe; nevertheless, many visitors like to use Japan Taxi or Uber.

It is important to state that Uber is still quite new to Japan's capital and the rates are not yet competitive enough. 

We highly recommend using Japan Taxi since it lists over 100 companies offering more than 20,000 cars in the Greater Tokyo Area. 

When using a taxi, the flat rate is ¥ 410 for the first kilometre and then ¥ 80 for every 230 meters. The final price of taking a cab can be quite high, especially if you have a long way to go. For example, if visitors take a taxi from Haneda Airport to the fashionable district of Shinjuku, it costs between ¥ 6900 and 7700 or about £50-55 for a 25-minute ride; that's quite a chunk of change!

Short distance taxi rides are more affordable and do save time in comparison to the bus or metro; nonetheless, we still highly recommended taking public transportation when visiting Tokyo.

Where to stay while touring Tokyo?

Using Trains While Visiting Tokyo

Japan Rail
The high-speed trains in Japan are a revelation. (Source: pixabay)

In Japan, the train is not an alternative to the metro or tube; the subway or is a secondary alternative to the train!

It is necessary to understand that the city of Tokyo is not the same size as Paris or London; with a total area of 2188 km², it is much larger than any European city or even New York for that matter. Therefore, to travel through the immense distances, it is normal for Japanese people to use fast and long-distance modes of transport.

A high-speed train network allows Tokyo natives and visitors to navigate through the world's most populous city without any issues. The following is a brief list of the central districts of the capital that high-speed trains service:

  • Shibuya,
  • Shinjuku,
  • Akihabara
  • Asakusa,
  • Harajuku
  • Roppongi,
  • Ikebukuro
  • Odaiba,
  • Ginza
  • Ryogoku,
  • Nakano
  • Ueno.

Practical, fast, and relatively inexpensive, the high-speed trains that travel through Tokyo are some of the most efficient in the world. The first company that owes these fantastic trains is JR (Japan Rail), which has 36 lines throughout Tokyo.

For tourists to take the train with the JR company, the right pass has to be purchased ahead of time and used. For example, the Japan Rail Pass costs tourists about £215 to use all JR trains for an unlimited period of 7 days.

If you do not plan to use the train very often within Tokyo and to visit other cities, the Japan Rail Pass is not very advantageous. 

It is essential to state that the Japanese Rail Pass is mainly reserved for JR lines. Beware that on certain occasions you could accidentally use another company. 

With lightning speed operation, unparalleled quality, and unmatched cleanliness, the Shinkansen or other train company lines will allow you to travel from one place to another within Tokyo quickly. The prices of short-term trips are not very high and sometimes more affordable and efficient than the metro. For example, a one-way train ticket from Shinjuku to Shibuya will cost only about £1!

Tokyo has some of the busiest train stations in the world, such as Shibuya or Ikebukuro; however, Shinjuku is the most used and makes the others seem calm and quiet. 

Since Tokyo is a public transportation giant, there are also other intriguing modes of transport such as monorails and trams. Nevertheless, it is essential to state that these transportation methods are not easy on the wallet. Seriously, there is so much choice as to how to get around in the city of Tokyo it's insane!

Before concluding this section, it's important to state that if you are going to use public transportation in Tokyo frequently, we highly recommended the Pasmo or Suica card that can both be compared as an electronic wallet that allows you to pay for trips and get 5% discounts on fares. The Pasmo or Suica cards can be purchased in select stations.

What needs to be visited while in Tokyo?

A Few Tips to Have a Successful Trip Exploring Japan's Capital

from one place to another
There are certain unofficial rules that need to be followed when taking the metro in Tokyo. (Source: pixabay)

There are a few simple tips that may help all individuals successfully use public transportation while exploring Tokyo.

Firstly, taking many distinct forms of public transport to reach your final destination may be exhausting and expensive since the price of each fare rises quite quickly.

Secondly, for short distances, the metro is your best bet since it is efficient and affordable. However, it is essential to state the metro does take longer than the train since it stops at various stations along the way. Also, during peak times, the subway is crowded and takes a long time to reach your final stop. The decision is yours to choose between the subway, taxi, or train: do you prefer saving money or time?

More advice refers to how one should behave when taking public transportation in Tokyo since all over Japan there are rules enforced to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not speak loudly,
  • Do not make phone calls while riding the train or metro,
  • Leave room for people in need such as the elderly and infirm,
  • Walk left, the same way that the Japanese drive,
  • Follow the queue and do not try to cut in line,
  • Put your bags on the overhead grills to make space for your legs.

Another useful thing to know is that whether you are riding the train, metro, bus, trams, or monorails, transport stops working at night in the city of Tokyo. Certain parts of Tokyo indeed never sleep, but don't count on public transportation to take you back to your hostel after a night of drinking; hire a taxi!

If you're a tourist and have time, try not to take the metro during peak hours to avoid being squashed or crushed into the cars; these moments may occur in the morning when folks are headed to work or in the evening when Tokyo natives are returning home. Also, be careful to respect the metro cars that are reserved for women only in the front and the back during busy times.

You may also be wondering if it is possible to rent and drive a car while staying in Tokyo; the answer is yes! However, foreign drivers are only entitled to a temporary validation of your driving license because it is not recognised in Japan. Drivers can apply for a permit by presenting their original driver's license and paying approximately £60.

Finally, it is essential to state that using a bike as a mode of transport is entirely feasible in Tokyo and is a great way to explore a neighbourhood or district thoroughly. 

Dear readers, you now have all the necessary information about choosing a mode of transport while in Tokyo thanks to today's article; we hope you enjoy the adventure of a lifetime!

Is it necessary to speak Japanese while touring Tokyo?

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