When you think about getting around Tokyo it can seem like a huge headache for the first time visitor. With approximately 35 million people traveling in and out of the city every day, the prospect of joining them gets... ummm... stressful! So many questions to ask. When's the best time of day to travel? Can I read the signs or are they all in Japanese? What happens if I get lost?! What's the best way to pay for my tickets?
Our getting around Tokyo section will share the upsides and downsides of the different ways of getting from A to B. We'll also give you the information you need to be able to use your chosen mode of transport. It's not as hard as it might first seem. You just need someone to talk you through it : ) Check out the areas below so you know what to do when you first arrive in Japan. It's a pretty chunky section so don't rush. Bookmark the page and come back when you need to.
On my first day in Tokyo I was picked up at Narita airport by a colleague at my new company. Remember, I'd just come off a long haul flight. Well, we proceeded to catch the train into Tokyo and she took me straight to the place I was going to work (4 changes of train and 2.5 hours). I said hello to all my new workmates and then the next thing was to go to my new home.
The same lady came with me to my home station (2 more train changes) and then proceeded to get us lost finding my apartment! A kindly policeman helped us out in the end. Everything was ok except... I started work the next day and had to make my own way back to the school we'd just left. To this day I'm still amazed I managed to pull this off without having to call for help. I hope in this section we can make your first experience of getting around Tokyo a lot less stressful than mine!
Just before we get started, here's the kind of situation we want to help you avoid. Many thanks to Roberto Drebes for sending us this video and allowing us to share it with you here. If you're interested in knowing more about Roberto, please visit his blog The City Of Blinding Lights (in Spanish).
If you're landing at Tokyo international airport you could be in a for a bit of a surprise if you're not prepared. The airport is not actually in Tokyo which means you're going to need to plan your way into the city. Step 1 of our getting around Tokyo section looks at the different ways you can do this. Some are easier than others : ) When you're done it's time for a closer look at the Tokyo train system in all its glory.
The Tokyo train network is massive and complicated... at least it may seem so the first time you try to use it. It's actually an amazingly efficient and affordable way of getting around Tokyo and saves you the hassle of trying to drive through a city you don't know! This section covers the different lines and the train passes you can buy as well as our personal tips on when are the best times of day to travel.
You're going to need some good Japan maps for your adventures in Tokyo. This is where you'll find your train maps so you know what lines to catch to take you where you want to go. There's also city maps and road maps for those of you who do want to take on the challenge of driving in Tokyo. Take a look and get the ones you need. Add them to your Tokyo travel planner so you've got everything in one place.
Bullet train tours and shinkansen rides are for those of you who want to do a little more than getting around Tokyo. This amazing train can get you from Tokyo to Kyoto in around 4 hours and is most definitely a particularly Japanese experience. We love the shinkansen. We hope you will too : )
If you're wanting to find out about Tokyo car rental or how to use a Tokyo taxi, step 5 is where you'll find your answers. If you do want to hire a car there are some items you're going to have to pack in your suitcase to be eligible. As for the taxis, we cover costs, etiquette, and how to close the door. Yes you read that right!
Step 6 looks at the bus routes in Tokyo and what you need to do when you're catching a bus. Buses are something we don't use that often as we kind of like the trains, but there are times when it's necessary to catch them. It's not difficult, you just need to know how it works.
The final checkpoint on stage 3 of our getting around Tokyo section is a look at the most local forms of transport... your legs! Cycling in Tokyo is a great way to see the city and be able to start and stop at your own pace. Whether you're on a bike or enjoying a walk in the backstreets, we think this is the best way to catch those special moments you'll never find in a guide book! Those moments you just can't plan for.
Once you're done it's time to think about any special tours you want to do while you're in Japan. We've already looked at the festivals (yes we love them!) but there's also some more fixed events you might want to try. Head on over to our Tokyo tours section and choose the ones you want to do. Have fun planning : )
P.S. We don't try to know everything about Tokyo. It's just not possible! What we do do though is share our favorite bits of the city and give you our geniune personal experience of what we like. Remember KISS... keep it safe and simple ; )
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Article written by Honor Dargan.
Wouldn't you love to find a guidebook that is just for first-time visitors to Tokyo. Find those all important things that only a local would know like: what to expect at the airport, what Japanese is most useful for a traveler to know, what packing tips are specific for Tokyo, what should you do in an emergency, the basics of using the trains, and much more. Head over to Taming Tokyo today and judge for yourself.
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