There are many options when it comes to traveling to Tokyo or getting around the city. For first-timers, read through the info below so you can make the most adequate plans for your trip!
Getting in and around Tokyo can be stressful since you probably don’t speak Japanese and there are MANY transportation options for a large city. Key: be prepared to metro your way throughout the trip. It’s inexpensive and will get you anywhere. Here’s a quick breakdown:
GETTING TO TOKYO:
You’ll most likely be landing in Narita International Airport 成田空港 (NRT) situated 43 miles northeast of Tokyo. Here are different ways to get into the city from Narita:
From Narita International Airport (NRT) to Tokyo by train:
This is the fastest option. For ¥2,400, the Skyliner – Keisei Electric Railway to Nippori Station 日暮里駅 and Ueno Station 上野駅 is approximately 45 minutes. Ticket counter is located in front of customs and baggage claim exit.
For ¥2,940, East Japan Railway (JR) Company’s Narita Express Train can take you to Tokyo Station 東京駅, Shibuya Station 渋谷駅, Shinjuku Station 新宿駅, Yokohama Station 横浜駅 in about 55 minutes. You can use the JR Rail Pass (order online here) for this Narita Express train.
The cheapest option costs ¥1,000-1,200, which is the Keisei Limited Express Train, it also takes you to Nippori and Ueno Stations in 60-80 minutes.
From NRT to Tokyo by airport shuttle:
Another cheap option is to take the Super Shuttle Bus. For ¥1,000, it’ll take you to Ueno Station上野駅 and Asakusa 浅草. They have an English and Chinese website along with customer services in addition those languages and in Japanese.
From NRT to Tokyo by private cars:
This is the most luxurious option but is also the most practical if you’re traveling in groups and prefer to be transported by car. Here are a few companies we recommend:
Green Tomato: ¥43,000 for a sedan, ¥48,000 for a mini van, and ¥48,000 for a van.
Tokyo Airporter.com: ¥19,000 for a 5-seat vehicle, ¥21,000 for a 8-seat vehicle, and ¥29,000 for a 10-seat vehicle.
Airport Transfer: Has a lot of vehicle options. ¥33,500 for a Mercedez, ¥20,500 for a Lexus, ¥17,500 for a Toyota Crown, ¥18,500 for a 10-seat van…etc.
From NRT to Tokyo by bus:
The easiest option is taking the Limousine Bus. For ¥3,100, it’ll take you to most major hotels in approximately 120 minutes. They operate more than 660 routes to and from Narita Airport a day. The buses are easy to recognize as they’re massive and painted in orange.
From NRT to Tokyo by taxi:
The most expensive option is taking the taxi to the city, which includes the flat rate starting at ¥17,000-19,000 and the total cost of a ride will be more than ¥30,000.
Renting a car at NRT:
First, it must be said that driving in Tokyo is NOT recommended. For one, they drive on the right side of the road. If you’re familiar with it, beware that roads in the city are often congested, signs will be confusing if you don’t read Japanese, alleys are tiny and parking fees are extremely expensive.
Even if you’re traveling between cities and are considering renting a car, it’s not an economical option. The train system in Japan is exceedingly sophisticated and taxis are convenient if you can afford it that both outweigh the idea of renting a car.
If renting a car is still appealing to you, then check out this webpage for more information on where you can find car rental kiosks at Narita Airport.
GETTING AROUND Tokyo:
Metro and your feet! Yup.
The best way to see Tokyo is to take advantage of its extensive metro (densha) system which can take you to every pocket of the city. Literally! Once you leave a metro station, indulge in Tokyo’s small alleys, it’s a charming and cool experience as the distance between metro stops aren’t very far.
By the end of your trip, the Tokyo Metro and train system will be your best friend. This city has the world’s most comprehensive mass transit system. It reaches to almost every single part of the city, which also means, it’s VERY confusing. Carry a densha map with you at all times if you plan on taking the subway throughout your trip. But the best part is, the trains and metros are clean and safe.
The most important lines you’ll live by are JR Yamanote Line 山手線 (green) that runs in a circular loop in central Tokyo, the JR Chuo Line 中央線 (red) and the Sobu Line 総武線 (yellow) lines.
Avoid rush hours because cabins tend to overcrowd to the point where you’ll feel like a sardine and claustrophobic. Avoid speaking loudly inside the cabins, the Japanese are respectful and keep their attention to their books and phones.
Another facet to riding the densha is that trains can sometimes be delayed due to suicides. When you see these characters: 人身事故, it means that someone has taken his/her own life on the train, on the tracks or at the station and your train is most likely delayed.
Get a Suica if you’re planning on traveling for a few days in Tokyo, it’s a refillable metro card which you can swipe through at each metro gate.
Download the densha map here for iOS and for Android. It’s available in: English, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional) and Korean. NOTE: The apps are available for iOS 6 or above and Android 4.0 or above.
If you’re traveling luxuriously, or you’d like to hire a private car for a day tour, here are a few private car companies we recommend which may work well for business travelers as well:
Outech: This is perfect for business travelers but many leisures travelers have used Outech for day tours and loved their experiences. You can contact them here to get a quote, the company’s customer service will get back to you within 24 hours.
Limo Tokyo: This company offers limousines to and from the airport, as well as hourly services. For multiple days, you’ll need to indicate as such when filling out the “Limo Booking/Quote” section on the website’s homepage.
Taxis in Tokyo are exceedingly expensive, but if you’re traveling in groups it may be well worth it, especially late in the night when the metros have stopped operating.
For the first two kilometers, the meter starts at ¥710. After, the cost will rack up quickly. From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., there’s a 20% surcharge in addition to the cost of your ride. During the day, a ride from Shinjuku Station to Tokyo Station is approximately ¥3000. Your driver will most likely not speak English, so show a GPS map of where you’re going to via your phone. Or, have an address written down somewhere in Japanese writing so he knows where to go.
Although we highly recommend taking the densha (Tokyo Metro,) since the city’s Toei Buses run less often; but if you really want to take the bus, here are a few things to know:
- Buses run through 23 wards of Tokyo.
- Regardless of how far you’re traveling to, the fixed rates are: ¥200 on Toei buses and ¥210 on other buses.
- Pay when you enter the front door.
- Buses accept Japanese yen, Suica and PASMO. The cards will save you ¥100 on your next Toei Bus ride, if you take the next ride within 90 minutes of your current ride.
- Don’t expect a lot of English explanations as more Japanese elders take the bus rather than foreigners and travelers.
Flickr/Dick Thomas Johnson
You’ll definitely see many locals riding on bikes since it’s a very convenient and ecological way to traverse through small alleys. Once you’ve rented your bike (check out: Rent A Bike,) know that you can bike on the sidewalks.
Facebook/Tokyo Great Cycling Tour
Ferries & Water Bus:
For downright tourists, seeing the city from Tokyo Cruise Ship Company’s Water Bus is not a bad idea. The ferries cruise along Tokyo Bay and the Sumida River with tours guided in English and Japanese.
The Himiko Water Bus ヒミコ is a tourist attraction all on its own since the vehicle is designed by Leiji Matsumoto – the famous anime and manga series creator. The Himiko travels on the Asakusa-Odaiba Direct Line and is a sight for comic sore eyes!
How do you travel through the city of Tokyo? Let us know in the comments.