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What's the best ticket for Tokyo transportation?

Kaori S.

by Kaori S.

(70 reviews)
Last updated : Mar 03, 20246 min read

Transportation

I’m often asked  “What is the most efficient way to get around Tokyo by public transportation?”  

As a Tokyo local guide, the answer differs depends on your preferences and your itinerary in Japan.  I'd like to introduce the basic knowlege about Tokyo transportation and useful tips for travelers in this article. (Updated Aug 6, 2023)

3 diffrenet major transportation networks in Tokyo

 

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At first, Tokyo has mainly 3 different transportation networks, making it difficult for tourists to understand the system as a whole. 

  1.  JR (Japan Railways)   - JR operates mainly ground trains and Shinkansen bullet trains throughout Japan.

  2.  Two Metros  - Tokyo’s main subway lines are actually run by 2 different companies.
    ・Tokyo Metro (Private company Line)
    ・Toei Meto (Toei=Tokyo Metropolitan government Line)

  3.  Other Plivate Lines - Examples : Keisei Line for Narita Airport, Keikyu Line for Haneda airport, Yurikamome Line for Odaiba Bay area and more.

5 tips for travelers - which one to fit you?

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(1) The most reasonable (but requires knowledge) - Tokyo Subway Ticket

Tokyo Subway Ticket  (24H / 48H / 72H)is recommended for people who want the most reasonable way. 
https://www.tokyometro.jp/tst/en/index.html
Best value for visitors, needs passport for purchase, offering unlimited ride during the limited  hours. Recommended for those who stay in hotel near Metro stations.
Advanteges : 
・The most reasonable with unlimited ride for a certain duration of time.
Disadvantages : 
・Only for 2 metro lines in Tokyo Metropolitan district. Not available for JR and other private lines. (However, most major spots are covered by these 2 metro company lines.) 
・Need to understand the differences between metros and other lines in Tokyo.
・Will need to buy tickets for trains not covered by 2 metros. 
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(2) The easiest - Welcome Suica (or PASMO PASSPORT) *As of 2024 Mar 3rd, purchase of Welcome Suica is available only at the Haneda Airport (No more Narita Airport since Dec 18,2023) due to shortage of semi-conductors. Once you get into the city, no way to get Welcome Suica. 

If you use Narita Airport, get PASMO PASSPORT!

If you use Haneda Airport, Make sure to get either of Welcome Suica or PASMO PASSPORT. 

Welcome Suica for travelersis recommended for people who want the easiest. 
https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/welcomesuica/welcomesuica.html
Expire after 28days. This is new service for short-stay travelers since Sep 2019.
Advantages : 
・No deposit on purchase (unlike normal SUICA).
・No need to return.
・No need for understainding the whole transportaion system. 
・Available for most major lines and buses in other major cities as well by just tapping the card. 
・Can be used  at some convenience stores and some vending machines(drinks).
Disadvantages : 
・Expire 28 days after the purchase. (You can bring it back as a souvenir.)
・No refund (unlike normal SUICA).  
・Better to spend remaining e-money at available shops such as convenience stores before leaving Japan. 

PASMO PASSPORT *Still available to purchase at the airports and major stations in Tokyo. But conditions may change at a sudden. 
Similar to Welcome Suica. Issued by Tokyo Metro with cute Sanrio character design. Disadvantage is issuing fee of 500JPY. For Kitty lovers, recommended as good souvenior. As of March 3rd 2024,  they are waiving 500 yen issuing fee due to current suspension of other transportation cards. Please check official PASMO PASSPORT website for the latest conditions. 

 

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(3) For repeaters -  normal SUICA or PASMO *As of 2024 Mar 3rd, sales of Suica and Pasmo has been suspended due to shortage of semi-conductor for unknown period. Travelers are suggested to get Welcome Suica or PASMO PASSPORT for traveler at the airport. (see above)

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● (normal)  SUICA or PASMO 
Most Tokyoites use either one for daily use.  Those are recommended those who are sure to come back to Japan. SUICA is issued by JR East, PASMO is by Tokyo metro. Same function. (ICOKA is JR west) 
Advantages : 
・Available for most major lines and buses in other major cities as well by just tapping the card. 
・Can be used  at some convenience stores and some vending machines (drinks).
・Refundable.(When you return it, deposit and remaining e-money will be refunded.)
・Expire date is 10 years from the last use of the card. 
Disadvantages : 
・Needs deposit (¥500)on purchase.
・You need to return it at certain ticket counters to get money back when you don't need it anymore. 
・After 10 years no use, SUICA will be expired but can be issued again or refunded with handling charge. PASMO will be expired automatically without refund.

 

(4) 【NEW!!】Mobile SUICA - Recommended for smartphone user adults

If you have smartphone to use in Japan, the most convenient! But not available for children fare. 
Advantages : 
・No deposit required. You can just install app and charge money. 
Disadvantages : 
・Each person needs a smartphone to use. 
・There are some smartphones not available. (Check their official website.)
・Children fare (under 12, half price of adult)  is not available. 

 

(5) How about JR-pass?

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One more often asked question is “Can I get around Tokyo by JR-pass?” 

Some travelers seem to think that they can get around Tokyo easily by JR-pass without paying extra. Unfortunately it’s not happening here. As I mentioned above, Tokyo has 3 transportation networks, JR, 2 metros and other private lines. JR-pass is only for JR trains. Not available for metros nor other private lines.

Actually 2 metros cover more detailed sightseeing spots than JR, including Asakusa and Tsukiji Market.  We take more metros than JR trains for general sightseeing in Tokyo. Your JR-pass will be useful when you visit the places where JR covers in Tokyo.

 

Now,  ready for a new adventure?

My private Tokyo tours might help you understand  these systems so that you can get around Japan more freely!  Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
Tokyo Highligts for first timers
Eastern Tokyo Highlights
Western Tokyo Highlights
Tokyo One-day as you like

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Kaori S.

Kaori S.

4.97 / 5
(70 reviews)

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