Getting around Tokyo
In Tokyo, public transport is fast and effective. People are friendly and willing to help, and many signs are in English. However, several different companies run the underground, overland and bus services, making your choice of ticket at the automated machines sometimes feel like a lottery. Luckily, you can just go for the cheapest option and make up the difference at the end (either when you reach your final destination or when you realise you have to change companies).
The two principal companies running Tokyo’s public transport system, Toei Subways (www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/index.html) and Tokyo Metro (www.tokyometro.jp/en/index.html), can provide more information on travel passes and routes.
It’s easy to find a taxi in Tokyo, either on the street or at taxi ranks near main stations, though they’re not cheap. Tipping is not customary and could offend. Taxi drivers rarely speak English, so make sure you have your destination written out in Japanese.
Nihon Kotsu (tel: +81 3 5755 2336) is one of the biggest and most reliable taxi companies in Tokyo, and phone operators speak English.
Simply put, it’s not a good idea to drive around Tokyo. Public transport is excellent and taxis are reliable, whereas traffic is heavy, navigation is near impossible and parking is expensive and difficult to find.
You need both a national driving licence and an International Driving Permit to drive in Japan. The minimum age for hiring a car varies, although most places won’t rent to under-21s. The biggest car hire company, with more than 100 branches in the Tokyo area, is Nippon Rent-A-Car (tel: +81 3 6859 6234; www.nipponrentacar.co.jp).
You can often hire bicycles at suburban railway stations. Or try Rent a Bike (www.rentabike.jp).