Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting to and around Tokyo

Airfare from Singapore to Tokyo

Being the usual cheapo when it comes to airfare, I'd normally fly to Tokyo on Northwest Airline http://www.nwa.com/sg/en/home.html. Depending on your travel period, NWA usually has some airfare promotions (normally during Nov-Mar period). Recently, the promotional fare to Tokyo was just less than SGD600!

As with most american airlines, do not expect high inflight service standards! The inflight food and entertainment is pretty decent nevertheless. But you'll have to pay for alcohol if you want some.

Occasionally, Cathay and Thai Airways would also offer special fares to Tokyo but with connections in Hong Kong and Bangkok respectively. I find the inflight food on Cathay/Thai Airways much more appetising though.

Getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo

In many countries, we are used to taking the cab from the airport. But DO NOT...I repeat, DO NOT take the cab from Narita to Tokyo...unless you have too much money or your company is picking up the tab. An ex-colleague of mine once told me that they didn't know and took a cab from the airport....they got a shock of their life when the fare came up to SGD300+!

There are many more affordable options to get to Tokyo from the airport... which one to choose will depend on your budget, whether or not you mind a longer travelling time...as well as ease/convenience of travel mode.

I'll list down the transport options from the most to the least expensive:

- Airport Limousine bus


- Narita Express (NEX)


- Keisei Skyliner


- JR Sobu (Rapid)

- Keisei Ltd Express http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/keisei_us/html/o_express.html

If you don't mind travelling on a normal commuter train that makes numerous stops (hence taking a longer time to reach Tokyo)....and probably having to stand with your luggages in tow....choosing the JR Rapid or Keisei Ltd over NEX/limo bus will save you around JPY1700+ (approx. SGD29+).

I'd normally use NEX or the limo bus as I'd be feeling very tired after the long flight. Only on a few occasions that I used the Keisei Ltd. However, this cheapo has found out that there are ways to save on NEX or the limo bus!

NEX+Suica http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/

Usual fare on NEX to Tokyo is approx JPY3,000. If you were to buy the NEX+Suica package for JPY3,500, your NEX fare will only be JPY1,500 as the stored value for your Suica card is already JPY2,000!

Limo Bus+Metropass http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/guide/faretype.html ; http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/ticket/narita.html

Usual fare on the limo bus is approx JPY3,000. The limo bus+metropass package will cost JPY3,100. Original price of a 1day open metropass is JPY600. So you already save JPY500. The 1day metropass will allow you unlimited rides on the Tokyo metro for a day.

Skyliner+Metropass http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/metropass/index.html ; http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/ticket/narita.html

Normal price for skyliner+1day metropass is JPY2,520 and JPY2,900 for a 2-day metropass. The promotional prices are JPY2,100 & JPY2,480 respectively. So your savings are JPY420 for both.

Traveling within Tokyo

1 or 2 day Metropass http://www.tokyometro.jp/global/en/ticket/narita.html

If you think you'll be travelling on the Tokyo Metro a lot, you can purchase the 1 or 2 day Metropass at Narita Airport (the passes are ONLY AVAILABLE at Narita Airport). 1 day pass is JPY600 and 2 day pass is JPY980.

JR Pass http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html

This is like the mother of all passes! It allows you unlimited ride on all JR Group Railways - limited express trains, express trains, rapid or local trains, including NEX and the Shinkasen (except on "NOZOMI" trains). It even allows you to ride on certain JR buses and ferries. This pass can only be purchased by foreign tourists under the entry status of "temporary visitor" and available only outside of Japan from an authorized sales office or agent in your home country. Refer to this website for a listing of the authorized sales offices in Singapore http://www.jnto.org.sg/jprailpass.html

The JR pass ain't cheap at JPY28,300 (~SGD480+) for a 7-day Ordinary pass and JPY45,100 (SGD767+) for a 14-day pass (green passes are more expensive). If you are mostly just travelling within a particular city i.e. Tokyo, then there's no need for the JR pass. But say if you are making long distance rail trips i.e. Tokyo <--> Kyoto, then the JR pass is worth the investment because a normal return fare on the shinkasen for such long distance travel would already cost more than the fare of the JR pass.

Depending on where you are planning to travel to, there are also other regional passes that you can purchase http://www.japanrail.com/JR_regionalrailpass.html. If you are travelling during the school holidays, you can also consider buying the Seishun 18 pass http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html

One very useful online tool that I swear by is the HYPERDIA digital time-table. If you were to type in your starting point and destination, select your travel date/time/type of seat/train type...it will be able to generate a list of all the possible rail courses that you can take and it will also list down all the connections if any http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi-english/hyperWeb.cgi


If you need maps to plan for your Japan trip, do visit the Japan National Tourism Organization (Singapore Office) @ 16 Raffles Quay, #15-09, Hong Leong Building, Singapore 048581 http://www.jnto.org.sg/default.asp

Another good place to pick up maps is from the Tourist Information counters at Narita Airport - located at the arrival halls at both Terminal 1 and 2.

If you are my friend, I have tonnes of good maps that you can borrow.

You'll definitely need a good rail map to get around Tokyo effortlessly- ideally one that shows the Metro and JR lines. If you are travelling out of the city to the outskirts, you would probably need a greater Tokyo rail map as well. You can obtain such rail maps at tourist information counters, train stations as well as online:

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