The Tokyo Railway system is a fast, clean and efficient means of transport going around Tokyo. It can be confusing at first, especially during rush hour when the stations can get very crowded, but one can easily learn the system after a few days of using it as a mode of transport.
Some tips that helped us during our trip:
- There are several railway companies operating within and outside of Tokyo. Each has its own trains, lines and ticketing machines, but many lines intersect or stop at the same stations around Tokyo.
- The major companies to remember within Tokyo are the Metro (2 kinds: Tokyo Metro and Toei Metro group) and the JR Railway. Each have their own maps, so it will be very handy to either download both maps onto your mobile phone/gadget or just ask for a copy from each company at their booths.
- Ticketing machines have an English language option but do not display the names of the stations for you to choose from, unlike in other cities like Hongkong or Seoul. Only the fares are displayed and you have to determine how much your fare is by checking the large signboards above the machines. The signboards show either the names of all the stations available for that company ONLY or their map with the corresponding fares per station. Not all signboards have an English translation (especially for JR Railways) so in such cases, it would be best to just go to an agent near the turnstiles and show them the station you need to go to on your map. Then ask them how much you need to pay.
- Some might think it would be easier to just stick to one company when traveling from one area to another, but some of the routes take longer; so changing from one company to another to find a shorter and faster route can also be done.
- When transferring to a different railway company, however, a new ticket needs to be purchased at the station where you need to change lines/companies.
- In case you paid the wrong amount for your ticket, there are fare adjustment machines at the stations where you can adjust your fare and get a new ticket.
- Again, it's always easier to just go to a railway agent and ask for the best route to a certain place, and how much you need to pay for. Don't worry... They are very polite, helpful and can speak English (most of the time).
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