Travel Like a Tokyoite
Welcome to Tokyo, where the rush of the people is almost like the endless lines of traffic, high speed shinkansen (bullet trains), and the roar of the chikatetsu (subway). Surprisingly, Tokyo’s public transport isn’t cheap. Learn from a local and make use of the various discounts, tricks, and tips to ensure you get the most budget friendly transport deals Tokyo has to offer.
Discount Train Tickets & Passes
When I first got to Japan, I was lucky enough to have connections who taught a secret that often goes unmentioned to travelers. That would be the existence of discount train passes. No, I’m not talking about commuter passes, even though those are useful for people living in Japan for 3 months or more.
Allow me to introduce the JR Rail Pass (also known as the free pass) and the Tokyo Metro Day Pass. Here’s the breakdown:
Tokyo Metro Passes [Website] – useable with any Tokyo Metro or Toei Subway line.
1 day (24-hour) – Adult: 800 yen; Child: 400 yen
2 day (48-hour) – Adult 1200 yen; Child 600 yen
3 day (72-hour) – Adult 1500 yen; Child 750 yen
Obtainable at any Japanese travel agency (JTB, Kinki, Nippori, Nishitetsu, JALPAK, etc) and hotels affiliated with Narita and Haneda airports. In order to get this deal through the aforementioned sources, you may need to include it as an extra in a travel package. Otherwise, you can also receive these tickets at any Tokyo Metro Ticket counter.
JR TOKYO Wide Pass [Website] – useable with any Japan Rail line. Depending on the type of pass you receive (as there’s more than this one), it will not be restricted to a single region but anywhere there is a JR line.
Note: These aren’t limited to Japan-only sales. Most of them must be ordered online and received at the airport. JR station customer service can also help you select a pass that suits your needs.
For adults, it ticket costs 10,000 yen. For children, it’s 5,000 yen. It is valid for 3 days and is good for unlimited rides throughout all of Kanto, not just Tokyo. During the winter, these tickets even extend to ski resorts.
If you’re not interested in these JR passes, there are others that even people living in Tokyo for extended periods can make use of, like round trip routes to and from Mt. Fuji, for example.
Now, let’s say you want to be able to swipe through the train or bus ticket scanner instead of holding onto a stub. Or you might be like me, who doesn’t remember where the ticket’s been stored. For 500 yen, you can get a PASMO or SUICA reloadable card that will automatically update your remaining balance whenever you use it at the train station, a vending machine, the konbini, on the bus, or anywhere PASMO and SUICA is accepted.
Both are very useful, but I recommend SUICA. PASMO cannot be used everywhere, because some places don’t have subway lines! SUICA, however, has never given me an issue.
Bus Tickets & Passes
First, a word of caution: always check the timetable and route of the bus you want to take. If you think the bus is early or late, it’s most likely not the correct bus. When you board the bus, there is usually a IC Card reader (Suica and PASMO) or a fare collection box. Some buses also require you to push a button when nearing your destination so the driver knows to stop and let you off. In other words, don’t fall asleep.
The pros of using a bus is that there might be places where trains don’t operate or attractions you can’t reach by foot. Sometimes trains get held up by weather or accidents. Buses are very dependable.
Here’s a list of some favorite bus lines and the attached ticket price:
- Toei Bus – covers the 23 wards of Tokyo, including Tama. Price for Adults: 210 yen.
- Tokyo Shitamachi Bus (Sightseeing) – Runs from Ueno to Kinshicho, giving you access to Asakusa and Skytree. Price: Adult 210 yen.
- Free Shuttle Bus – runs on a cycle of 10 to 20 minutes based on traffic. Operating 365 days of the year from 10:00-20:00. Owned by Hinomaru Limousine. Did I mention it’s FREE?
Tokyoites love their bicycles. Cheap, fast, and convenient travel at its finest. If you want to truly travel like a local, considering renting from some of these top-rated shops in the main attractions areas:
- Rent-a-Bike (rentabike.jp)
There’s multiple shops with rentable bikes, some ranging from 200 yen a day to 600 yen for 3 days (depending on location and regulations). The owner of the main shop speaks English, so you can even get some inside scoop about the best places to go biking.
- Pillar Café, Shibuya
Here’s a cool one. If you spend 500 yen on a drink or a meal at the café, you get a free hour on a rental bike. The more you spend on your food bill, the more free time you get on your bike to burn off the calories! You can also take a shower here, which is great if you’re backpacking.
- Jitensha Sharing (Bike Sharing)
This is called the “community cycle” system, and while the main hub is in Minato-ku, there are various docking ports throughout the metropolitan area. You pay with a credit card or IC card. For 1 day, without a membership, it’s 1500 yen, which isn’t bad.
Traveling through Tokyo doesn’t need to be expensive when you know the tricks used by locals and savvy backpackers. If you need to get someplace quick, take a bus. Otherwise, riding a bike through Tokyo will add layers of excitement and enjoyment to your trip. Happy travels!