Getting Around in Tokyo

An excellent public transport system offers the best means of getting around in Tokyo. There is a dense network of interconnected rail and subway lines as well as extensive bus routes, so getting anywhere in the city is easy, although navigating the system can be confusing for new arrivals.

Public transport can be extremely crowded during rush hour. But luckily for female commuters, the Japan Railways (JR), train and subway lines all have women-only carts, making travel safer and more comfortable for women and children.


Public transport in Tokyo

Trains

Tokyo’s railway system is the most popular means of getting around the city. There is an extensive rail network, which is mostly operated by JR East, alongside a number of other privately operated lines. The circular Yamanote Line is the main rail line in the city and serves most major stations within the city limits. 

Station names are usually marked in both Japanese and English, which makes it easier for expats still learning their way around the city. Trains are usually very punctual and offer an efficient service.

Subway

Tokyo’s subway system is extensive and very efficient, with some lines operated by Tokyo Metro and others by Toei Subway. Stations are coded with a letter (representing the line) and a number (representing the station), with the actual lines being colour-coded. Route maps and fare charts are available in English at each station, while tickets are available at ticket vending machines, most of which also have English modes.

The subway system operates within the Yamanote Line, and also extends beyond the city limits with direct connections to other private train lines, making it a very convenient mode of transport in Tokyo.

Buses

Bus services are not as frequent as trains, but are convenient if needing to reach parts of Tokyo not accessible by rail. Buses are also convenient for long-distance services outside of Tokyo. There are a number of different bus operators in Tokyo, with Toei buses being the most prominent.


Taxis in Tokyo

Taxis in Tokyo are plentiful but are an expensive option. They are quite useful if travelling late at night when most other public transport options cease operating. Taxi drivers rarely speak English so it’s a good idea to have one’s destination written in Japanese for the driver. It is not necessary to tip the driver. Taxi doors open and close automatically so don’t attempt to operate the door manually – something that may take a while to get used to.


Driving in Tokyo

Owing to the city’s excellent public transport system, it is unlikely that expats will require a car for getting around in Tokyo. If anything, it can be more of a hassle to drive in Tokyo; navigating the city in a car can be especially difficult due to heavy traffic congestion and the confusing mass of narrow streets, which are not always clearly marked.


Cycling in Tokyo

Although cycling is popular in Tokyo, amenities for cyclists are not extensive and traffic congestion can add to the danger. Many cyclists simply ride along the sidewalk as cycle lanes are not common in the city – so pedestrians should watch where they are going as accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists are common in Tokyo.

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