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Getting Around in Tokyo


Taxis in Tokyo both cruise and wait at taxi stands. The red light on the dashboard, visible through the windshield, means the taxi is free.

While clean and reliable, taxis can be expensive during the day due to the city's slow-moving traffic. At night, traffic is normally lighter and when trains, subways and buses have shut down (generally around midnight), taxis may be the only transportation available. However, please note that unlike New York, Tokyo is most definitely a city that does sleep, and taxis late in the evening can be few and far between.

Fares are ¥710 for the first two kilometers; ¥90 for each additional 288 meters or per 110 seconds when doing under 10km/h in the heavy traffic; between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., fares increase by 20 per cent or 10 per cent if the fare totals over 9,000 yen. If the taxi takes the expressway, the passenger pays the tolls.

Taxi doors are automated and are opened and closed by the driver, so you should not try and pull them open nor push them closed. No tips are expected. Since few drivers speak English, it is best to have your destination written in Japanese, along with a map, if available. If you are traveling to a well-known destination a hotel, for example simply saying the name slowly will be sufficient. If you wish to try speaking Japanese to your driver, you might say: Hotel (XYZ) onegai shimasu.


Tokyo’s metro system is quick, inexpensive and easy to use. Subways start around 5 a.m. and run frequently (as often as every two to three minutes, depending on the line) until just after midnight. Personal and material safety is virtually assured on public transit in Tokyo.

The names of stations in central Tokyo are written in romaji (Latin letters) underneath the Japanese characters and furthermore all stations are numbered. Directional signage usually also includes English. It is wise to carry a subway map with you.

Brightly colored ticket machines, located near the wickets, dispense tickets and some also change ¥1000 bills. A ticket is required for entry and exit, so as you enter, be sure to retrieve it as it passes through the automated turnstile. Fare depends on distance traveled; if in doubt, buy the cheapest ticket (¥160 for most subways) and then let the ticket taker request the balance when you arrive at your destination. You must insert your ticket in the turnstile as you exit (and it will not come back out).

Wall maps show the stops, and platform signs in romaji give the station name and usually show the subway's last and next stops. Subway lines are consistently color-coded (e.g. all signs and maps for the Ginza line are golden-yellow), and the cars are the same color. Transfers are marked on platform pillars, generally in romaji and also by color. Maps near and behind the ticket gate will help travelers choose the appropriate exit (e.g. B-1 or A-4).


Buses generally connect major stations. However, unless you know the right bus number and exactly where you are going, it is usually easier to get around by taxi or the subway.




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