THE ULTIMATE TRANSPORT GUIDE TO

Getting around OSAKA

Osaka’s a big bustling city filled with energy and excitement. Like any other big city that you’re not familiar with, getting around can seem daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going, especially when there’s likely to be a language barrier there. However, there are many transport options that you can take to get you to where you want to go. The subway (the most popular choice for travellers), JR trains, private railways, buses (not many travellers find this method useful), taxis and of course walking.

Although Osaka’s an incredibly large city, getting around Osaka is relatively easy. Osaka’s probably the easiest to get around compared to other large Japanese cities because of all the English language signs.

A little tip: When you’re exploring the roads by foot, it may help to know that the roads that run east and west end in “Dori” and the roads that run north and south end in “suji” which means “avenue”.

Useful Tips You'll Need

Before we get started on the different options of getting around Osaka, here’s some advice that I think may come in useful during your travels:

Business Cards may end up becoming your best friend

I’ll get into it a little bit later on, but you’ll find that tucking away a few business cards from your hotel may come in handy. Majority of taxi drivers know enough English to get you to your destination, but some may be better than others. If you find yourself having trouble communicating, pass them a business card, and no further questions are needed.

Keeping a small notepad and pen in your bag may aid you greatly

You’ll find that a lot of Japanese people can read English better than they can speak or understand it. Also, how you pronounce a particular place may not be how they say the place in Japanese. Writing it down may help a lot!

When asking for help, generally ask those between 20-40 years old

Not to stereotype any outside of that age range here but you’ll find that those within will be able to speak English better than older people or students.

Remember that the transport systems in Japan are very punctual

I’m used to getting to a train station, and it find it's delayed almost all the time where I live but remember, Japan is entirely different. They are VERY punctual! This means that they will leave at the exact time that it is scheduled. Make sure you arrive at the station 5 – 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to depart. When you’re about to get off the train, make sure that you’ve got all of your belongings too in time for when the doors open instead of rushing to gather your things when the train stops. The trains will not wait for you.

Transport Types in Osaka

Getting Around Osaka by Subway

The best and most popular way to get around Osaka is by subway. Two subways lines will get you almost everywhere that you need to go. These are the red Midosuji Line and the green Chuo Line.
There are a total of nine subway lines. Using the red and green line, you can explore most of the city. All lines are colour coded, and the station names are in English. This should make your travels a whole lot easier. Subway fares range from 180 yen to 370 yen for adults. For children, fares range from 90 yen to 190 yen between the ages of 6 and 11 years. Children younger than six years old ride for free.

Lines run from around 5 am to midnight every day. Click here for an English version of the Osaka tube map.

Getting Around Osaka by Train

There are several Japan Rail (JR Rail) and private trains that cross Osaka. However, these private lines wouldn’t be recommended for those who want to explore Osaka. These trains are mainly for travelling between Osaka and other regions such as the surrounding cities of Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. But with that being said, the Osaka Loop Line can be a useful transport method for sightseeing in Osaka.

The loop line is mostly used to travel from JR Osaka station and Osakajokoen, which is the nearest station to Osaka castle. If you want to ride the JR trains in Osaka, you can either buy individual tickets or use a prepaid card. More details on these cards below.

Getting Around Osaka by Bus

Buses in Osaka are just as simple to use as any other transport system however most travellers prefer to use subways and trains to get around. Most local buses charge a flat fee of 110 Yen for Children and 210 Yen for adults. If you’re the type of person that never has loose change or hates fishing through your bag for coins, the best option may be best to purchase a one-day bus pass or special tickets that allow unlimited rides in Osaka for a day (see below details on special tickets).
Despite there being no good Osaka bus map in English, it’s pretty easy to get a gist of the routes.

Getting Around Osaka by Taxi

When it comes to travelling a foreign city, I buy my tube tickets and then end up taking a taxi majority of the time. Because let’s face it, it’s a lot more convenient. It saves you the stress of having to find where you want to get to. The only problem is the cost of all the taxis that I take rakes up by the end of the trip. Luckily, taxis in Osaka are not as expensive compared to other cities. The standard fare for a regular taxi in Osaka is 660 yen for the first 2km; this equates to approximately £4.40. Medium to large taxis will cost slightly more, but you can probably make it across the city for about 2,000 yen, which is approximately £13. After the first 2km, the fare will rises 80 Yen for every 296 meters travelled.

Taxis are easy to get a hold of in Osaka. They run in three sizes. Small (kogata), medium (Chugata) and large (Ogata). A small taxi can fit four people, or five can fit into a medium or large taxi. Most train stations and bus stations have a taxi rank. However, you may find that it’s easier to wave one down in the street with your hand. Communication may not be the easiest job in a foreign place if you don’t know Japanese; however, most drivers will know enough English to understand where you want to go. It might not hurt to get a business card from the hotel too just in case you need to take a taxi back, but the driver cannot understand English.

The preferred method of payment will always be cash; however some taxis accept credit card. To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t rely on a card too much when taking a taxi as not all taxis accept it. The great thing about Osaka is tipping is not necessary. I had a moment in Japan where I tipped a guy to be nice, but he ended up running after me and giving me back the extra.

PAYING FOR TRANSPORT WITH

Special Tickets and Subway Passes

If you’re planning on exploring Osaka, it may be useful to consider using these passes:

Amazing Osaka Pass (1-day pass)

  • Unlimited rides for one day on all buses and subways in Osaka. You are also able to ride all private rail lines with this pass in and around the city but this cannot be used on JR trains.
  • One ticket costs 2,300 Yen (approximately £15). Children can use adult passes as there are no discounted tickets for children.
  • The Amazing Osaka Pass includes free admission to 20 different tourist attractions that include Umeda Sky Building and Osaka Castle.
  • You can purchase this ticket at all ticket offices in subway stations.

Amazing Osaka Pass (2-day pass)

  • Unlimited rides for two consecutive days on all buses and subways in Osaka. You are also able to ride all private rail lines with this pass in and around the city but this cannot be used on JR trains.
  • One ticket costs 3,300 Yen (approximately £22). Children can use adult passes as there are no discounted tickets for children.
  • The Amazing Osaka Pass includes free admission to 20 different tourist attractions that include Umeda Sky Building and Osaka Castle.
  • You can purchase this ticket at all ticket offices in subway stations.

Osaka Kaiyu Ticket

  • Unlimited rides for one day on all buses and subways in Osaka. Please note this ticket cannot be used on JR trains)
  • One adult ticket costs 2,550 Yen (approximately £17) and anybody that is high school age or older.
  • One children’s ticket costs 1,300 yen (approximately £9)
  • You can purchase this ticket at all ticket offices in subway stations.
  • This ticket includes free admission to Osaka Aquarium and discounted admission to 30 different attractions in Osaka.
  • The Osaka Kaiyu ticket will be great for travellers who want to visit the Osaka Aquarium.

Osaka 1 day Unlimited Subway/Bus Ticket (Osaka Enjoy Card)

  • Unlimited rides for one day on all buses and subways in Osaka.
  • One adult ticket costs 800 yen (approximately £5) on weekdays and 600 yen on weekends and holidays (approximately £4).
  • One children’s ticket costs 300 yen (approximately £2) every day for ages between 6 and 11. Children below the age of 6 are free.
  • You can purchase this ticket at all ticket offices in subway stations and Osaka subway vending machines.
  • This ticket would be great for travellers who want to explore the Osaka city for one day but don’t intend on going to many attractions.

Paying for Transport with Prepaid Cards

The easiest way to use the subway system or trains in Osaka is to use a prepaid card such as the Icoca, Suica or Pasmo. The Osaka version of the card is the Icoca card, however, the Tokyo versions (Suica and Pasmo) cards can also be used in the city for transport and be used to pay for many other things in Japan. Don’t worry about which card you buy because all three are generally used across the whole of Japan.

  • You can use the Icoca, Suica and Pasmo card for all trains, subways and buses in Osaka.
  • These cards can be used in many shops such as convenience stores.
  • You don’t need to be a resident to purchase one of these cards.
  • The Icoca card can be purchased from vending machines at JR stations. You can also buy these cards at Kansai International Airport.
  • You can purchase an Icoca card for as little as 1,000 yen (approximately £6) for both adult and children. This will include a 500 yen deposit. Before you leave Japan, you can bring the used Icoca card to a ticket office. They will refund you the 500 yen deposit, misusing a small service charge on top.
  • If you use a children’s Icoca card, they will be charged children’s fares when they use the subway, train or buses in the country.
  • Topping up your card is very easy, just use the vending machines at stations. You can top up your Suica card at JR train stations in Osaka.
  • You can use the cards to go from one place to another, however, they cannot be used to leave the region. For example, you cannot use the cards to travel from Osaka to Tokyo because you would be leaving the JR West area to go to the JR East area. However, you can use it to go from Osaka to Kyoto as you’d be staying within the JR West region.

If you’ve been to Osaka before, what are your top tips for travelling the city? Let me know in the comments below!

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