The bus routes in Tokyo will take you almost anywhere you want to go. There are the local buses, the highway buses and of course, the Airport Limousine bus to choose from.
For a first timer, however, it can all get a little confusing. Below you'll find the basic essentials needed for getting around on a Tokyo bus. We've also included links to the various companies if you decide to try this and need further information.
The bus routes in Tokyo city are divided into East Tokyo and West Tokyo. The Toei bus company operates in the East and the Keio bus company runs the Western routes. As a general rule, buses tend to be more expensive than Tokyo train routes so, if you are on a budget, work out which one is best value for you.
It is possible to pay for your journey when you get on the bus either by cash or by using a pre-paid bus card that is available in bus stations and, in most cases, also from the driver.
If you pay in cash, put your coins or note into the machine in front of the driver and the machine will return any change owed to you.
If you use the paper pre-paid card, put your card in the same slot that people put in notes. It automatically deducts the amount of your journey from your total credit.
Other options are the Suica card or Pasmo rail card that can be used on buses and trains. You swipe these on the panel next to where people put in their cash and again, the machine automatically deducts your fare from your balance.
Bus stops in the city center will usually have major destinations marked in English as well as Japanese. However, the further you get from the center, the less likely you are to find this luxury.
When you want to get off, there are buzzers all along the body of the bus and you just have to push one to alert the driver that your stop is coming up. Normally the doors in the middle of the bus will open for people to get off.
For further details about the Toei bus routes in Tokyo, follow the link.
Unfortunately, we are not aware of any English information sites for the Keio service in the West. If this changes, or if you know of any relevant resources, please share it and we'll update the page with the info.
You can use this route to go and see the Grand Sumo Tournament, to check out the backstreets of Ueno, or to see Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. For more information about this Toei bus option, visit their Shitamachi route and bus guide.
If you are travelling long distance then, unlike the local bus routes, you can save money by using the highway bus. On average it is around 20% - 50% cheaper than the train. If you want to use this option then you will need to book ahead, especially if you are going to be traveling at popular times of year.
You can book your tickets through travel agents in advance. Ask at home before leaving whether they can help you with this. Otherwise you can book in the major bus terminals in Tokyo. The Japan Rail Pass is only valid for a few of the highway bus routes.
Check with JR to see if the bus routes in Tokyo you want to follow are covered.
Last but not least, have a good phrasebook with you just in case you need some extra help!
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