This consists of domestic flights, bullet trains, railways, buses, ferries, trams and taxis. Each of these transportation has its pros and cons in terms of travel time and the cost.
Firstly, let’s talk about domestic flights. This is a recommended option especially if you are travelling between regions that are a distance apart. Besides that, it is sometimes the cheaper alternative compared to bullet trains (or shinkansen). Airlines such as JAL and ANA offer special fares for foreign visitors to Japan and because of this, long-haul domestic flights are usually quite popular and might get sold out at times. However, do take note that some of these airfares have to be brought before coming to Japan, so you have to find out how to purchase it in advance. Other than JAL and ANA, another airline worth checking out is Peach, which offers low-cost flights.
Secondly, bullet trains, railways, subways, and buses are the most common means to travel around at almost anywhere in Japan. Among the companies that own the train and bus lines are Japan Railway (or also known as JR) and other private companies. JR is a recommended choice as it has the most extensive network coverage in Japan, for example, the JR Rail Pass. Although this pass is usually only available to be purchased outside Japan, now it can be purchased in the country for a limited time (until March 2018).
When you want to travel using the train, shinkansen, or subway, you can always buy tickets from the station’s vending machine. However, to do this every time you are at the station will actually take time. So if a fuss-free travel is what you are looking for, my advice is to get an IC integrated prepaid card. These cards can be bought at designated locations at about ￥2000, but do take note that different cards are sold at different regions in Japan. You can find out about the type of cards available and where you can get them by clicking here. Do take note that for shinkansen, the only line that accepts payment from IC card is the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen line.
Thirdly, you can take a cab if you need to go to your destination straightaway. Do take note that cabs in Japan automatically open its doors, so stand a little out of away so the door won’t hit you. Cabs are recommended when you are travelling in a small group, or when you need to get to your lodgings late at night. Besides that, do take note that cabs are expensive so weigh your options beforehand.
Fourthly, the ferry is another mode of transport especially when you are travelling to an island. The local Japanese uses the ferry to travel between the four main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku). Do take note that ticket reservations are required for weekends and public holidays. If you are travelling to Miyajima, JR has a Miyajima ferry line there so you can make payment using your IC card.
Renting a car is a recommended option especially if you are travelling to rural areas that are not easily accessible by public transport. Even though Japan has extensive train network that can bring you to many places, please bear in mind that this might not be the case outside cities.
Because of this, it is always better is to find out beforehand how accessible and frequent are the public transport is in the area you will be visiting. One of the advantages that you can look forward to if you rent a vehicle is that you don’t have to worry much about transporting luggage, making your travel easier especially for family and friends.
In general, the cost of rental depends on the type of vehicle, it’s size (sub-compact, compact, mid-sized, etc), and the rental period. Before you rent a car, do double check if your home country issues an international driving permit (IDP) that is recognised in Japan, before applying for one.
Besides car rental, you can also check out bicycle rental if you will be travelling in the city. This is an inexpensive method to explore within a short distance and you can also avoid the hustle and bustle of taking the train. On top of that, Japan is a bicycle-friendly country so it’s not difficult to find a parking space, but places such as the train station fill up pretty quickly.
If you are going to Tokyo, you can check out Tokyobike Rentals Yanaka, which was highlighted in our article. Besides that, bicycle rental shops can usually be found around train stations so keep an eye out for these shops. Some area charge as low as ￥200 for a 24 hours rental period.
In a nutshell, both public transportation and renting a transport has its pros and cons. So when it comes to planning your trip, it is best to tailor it to fit your time and budget. All in all, enjoy yourselves in Japan!