How to Check Transport Fares in Japan

Buses and trains are the two most commonly used short-distance transportation methods for travelers in Japan.
Generally, you will have more opportunities to use buses in regional cities and trains (including subways) in major cities. Since fares vary depending on the area, route, and distance traveled, we often see tourists confused in front of fare charts and fare tables. In this article, we will introduce the basic method of checking fares for these two modes of transportation.

Bus fares

There are two types of bus fares: fixed fares and distance-based fares.

Fixed fares

For buses with a fixed fare system, you will often pay the fare when you board. The fare, indicated as “xx(number) yen(/円),” is displayed at the bus stop, so it is recommended to have the exact amount of money ready before boarding. Among the buses operating in Tokyo, specifically, those that run through the city center (Toei buses, often colored yellow-green), the fare is a fixed amount of 210 yen (as of June 2023). Additionally, community buses (local government-operated buses limited to specific regions) and loop buses in tourist areas often have a fixed fare set between 100 yen and 200 yen.

*The amount and conditions for children’s fares vary depending on the bus company. In many cases, children’s fares apply to those aged 6 to 12, and they are charged half of the adult fare. Children up to 5 years old often ride for free. (If there is a fraction of less than 10 yen when calculating half the adult fare, it will be rounded up.)

Distance-based fares

When boarding, take a small piece of paper from the machine near the door. The paper will have a number written on it. Once the bus departs from the bus stop before your intended stop, refer to the fare chart displayed near the driver to check the fare written within the box corresponding to the number on your paper.
When you get off, put the fare and the paper into the box installed next to the driver’s seat.

Next to the bus driver’s seat, there are buses that have a change machine for 1000 yen bills, while others don’t have a change machine and instead, if you put money into the fare box, you will receive change after deducting the fare. It varies depending on the bus company and operating area, so it is recommended to always have plenty of coins ready before boarding the bus.
*Bus change machines usually only accept 1000 yen bills and often cannot accept 2000 yen bills, 5000 yen bills, or 10000 yen bills.

Train and subway fares

It is common to display fares along with a route map above the ticket vending machine.
In many railway companies, the station you are currently at is distinguished from other stations using colors like red or bold fonts. You find your destination station on the route map and check the number written on the station. That number represents the price of the ticket you should purchase.

Sometimes, station names may not have English translations, as shown in the image above.
In such cases, you can switch the ticket vending machine’s display to English and input the name of your destination station to check the fare amount.

Too complicated…? Don’t worry! There’s “Suica” for you!

Let’s prepare an IC card such as Suica. Check out this article for instructions on how to purchase it.

How to Buy and Use Suica (Prepaid contactless smart IC card)

*Currently, the provision of blank Suica cards has been temporarily suspended due to a global semiconductor shortage. (Since June 8, 2023)

Some railway companies set slightly lower fares for IC cards like Suica, so there are benefits to using them.
The remaining balance is displayed when passing through the ticket gates, and if you’re unsure whether you have enough deposits, you can check the amount and add money using the Fare Adjustment Machine located before exiting the gate.

Suica can be used as a cashless payment card at convenience stores and other stores throughout Japan.
Stores where Suica is accepted

However, note that there are some regional railways and buses that do not accept Suica. When traveling to rural areas, it is important to check with tourist information centers to confirm if the local transportation system is compatible with Suica.

Is Uber Taxi popular in Japan?

Let me get straight to the point: Uber Taxi is not popular in Japan. There are various reasons for this. Since there are many taxi available near major train stations, landmarks, and commercial facilities, that makes Uber Taxi unnecessary here. Additionally, due to legal reasons, Uber Taxi has not gained popularity in Japan.

When taking a taxi in Japan, it is common to either go to a train station, landmark, or catch a taxi on the street. Alternatively, you can arrange for a taxi through hotels, restaurants, commercial facilities, etc.
I have never heard of someone’s story of being ripped off by Japanese taxis, however, you should keep in mind that taxi fares here are relatively high compared to other countries. If taxi fares in your country are low, you might be surprised by the Japanese taxi fares.

The fare for Japanese taxis consists of a base fare of 500 yen (for approximately 1 kilometer [0.6 miles]) and an additional fare based on distance (100 yen per 255 meters [0.15 miles]) when traveling over 1 kilometer. Additionally, if the taxi’s speed decreases due to traffic lights or traffic jams, an additional 10 yen is added every 95 seconds. In addition to the base fare and distance-based fare, additional charges apply when a taxi is arranged to pick you up, when using expressways, during late-night or early morning hours (from 10 pm to 5 am), or when the driver waits for you while you make a stop at a restroom or a store, etc.
As a rough estimate, for a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) ride, the fare would be around 4,000 to 5,000 yen. Keep in mind that the specific fare rules may vary slightly depending on the region, so it’s best to consider this as a general guideline.

It’s important to note that tipping is NOT customary in Japan. There is NO need to give a tip even when the driver helps you with your luggage from the car trunk. 

I hope the information shared today will be helpful for your trip to Japan. Enjoy your journey! May you encounter wonderful landscapes and delicious food!

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Things to Prepare Before Coming to Japan

How to Buy and Use Suica (Prepaid contactless smart IC card)

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