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Tokyo Public Transportation

Subway and Rail
Tokyo has a massive public transportation system that is used by most residents of the city.  It’s so large that it’s easy to get confused when you first start using it.  Part of the confusion is because there are different rail lines within the city.

Trains generally fun from 5 am to 1 am.  There are 5-10 minutes between trains normally, but during rush hours trains come every 3 minutes.  It’s best to avoid riding the trains during this time if you can help it, because things can be very crowded.

Nearly all of the lines can be paid for with rechargeable smart cards.  The cards are loaded with money, and then it is deducted as you ride the train.  The cards are tapped on the turnstiles as you enter and exit.  There are also one day and holiday passes that offer unlimited travel for that time period.  They are good for tourists, but generally not for those who ride the trains often.  You can also buy tickets for individual rides, but it can be hard to figure out exactly how much a trip is going to cost.

Tokyo Transfer Guide

The Tokyo Transfer Guide will help you plan out trips on trains and subways, including giving fare information.

Buses are useful in the few areas that don’t have good subway coverage.  They usually accept the same prepaid cards the subway does, so as long as you keep that with you, you should be fine.  The subway is almost always a better option if you can use that instead.

Taxi’s are useful if you have small group or if you’ve missed your last train.  They do tack on a 20% surcharge for late night rides between 10 pm and 5 am.  They are not unreasonable expensive, but drivers often won’t speak English or know where non-mainstream destinations are.  If you have a business card from the place you’re heading, most taxi’s have sat nav devices, so they can just punch in the address and you’re off.  The doors on the taxi’s are operated by the driver, so let them open and shut them for you.

It’s pretty common for locals to get around on bikes.  The city doesn’t have good bike lanes, so if you’re going to ride, get up on the sidewalks.  The city can be hilly, though, so you might get to your destination sweaty.

Water Bus

The Water Bus is a good way to relax on see Tokyo’s skyline, but there are other, faster ways to get around.