The Best Ways to Get Around in Osaka


Photo by kenmainr on Flickr

Any time you visit a foreign country you are bound to face the “stranger in a strange land” learning curve. This is especially true if you don’t speak a lick of the language, leaving you hoping that you can find someone who speaks your language, or else relying on your bumbling attempts to form recognizable sentences from a book of common words and phrases.

But on top of that you’ll likely face additional stresses, like food items that you can’t identify and geographic regions that you aren’t at all familiar with. In terms of the cuisine, you may be better off not knowing what you’re eating, since nearly every country and culture has different ideas about what constitutes food (much less good food). But when it comes to getting around and seeing the sights, there are tons of options to consider. And the ease of use you prefer and the amount of money you’re willing to spend could help to determine which is right for you when you travel to Osaka, Japan.

Osaka street

Photo by Christopher Chan on Flickr

Many westerners are used to renting a car once they arrive at a travel destination so that they have total freedom to come and go as they please. And while this is certainly an option in Osaka, it may not be the best one for a couple of reasons. First, it is going to be fairly expensive, especially if you have a large group or you want a western style of car (rather than the compact vehicles that most native drivers prefer).

Second, it can be difficult for foreigners to drive in Japan. For one thing, the roads are quite narrow, but you also don’t know the particular rules and guidelines that are in operation (as with any foreign country). That said, major roadways often have signs in multiple languages (including English), so you should be more or less able to navigate. And if you are with other adults willing to split the cost, it will certainly be more cost-effective. Just remember that you’ll also have to pay tolls on the expressways (although this shouldn’t affect you if you stay in Osaka).

Osaka train

Photo by JanneM on Flickr

Another option that many people seem to prefer is utilizing the rail and bus systems, which are extensive and well-known for punctuality. Your best bet here is to purchase some kind of all-inclusive pass for the duration of your stay rather than trying to figure out tickets every time you want to go somewhere. It may be a bit pricy, but ultimately it will likely cost you less than most other options.

The only real difficulty here will be trying to figure out how to get where you’re going since train and bus schedules are most often posted in Japanese (in Kanji, no less). Also, you may have difficulty locating the correct bus to get on even if you know which one you’re supposed to take as they aren’t identified by a number system. Finally, trains and buses often close down for the night (around midnight in most cases) and won’t run again until early morning (5-6 am), which could leave you stranded if you’re not careful.

Of course, you could always pay to have someone more knowledgeable shuttle you around. There are tons of bus tours available to foreigners, and you can generally find information on them at airports and major train stations (or from your concierge). You might also hire a guide, although this option is terribly expensive. And if you’re just going out for the night, you could always hire a premier limousine or use taxis, although these types of transportation are also quite expensive. It is possible to find your way around Osaka when you visit, despite the challenges that any traveler faces while in a foreign country. And luckily, Japan is one nation that provides plenty of desirable transportation options to choose from.

3 Responses to “The Best Ways to Get Around in Osaka”

  1. Taro  on November 3rd, 2012

    I didn’t know that the station maps in Osaka don’t have alphabet notation, but Tokyo has it, so come and enjoy the capital, too.

    For a long distant trip, “the highway bus” which runs through “expressway” is very affordable.

    By boarding on a “Yakou Bus” – the highway bus at night service, you can save the budget for lodging.

    It spreads all along this archipelago, do try to use it and enjoy your stay.

  2. Valmert  on August 23rd, 2014

    Thank you for the article!

    As a suggestion, rather than talking about premier limousines, I think nearly all the readers would benefit more from a discussion of how to get around on foot.

  3. Travis  on August 23rd, 2014

    I found that checking out Google maps street view and getting a feel for the buildings I would see and pass, really helped for finding places in Osaka. Of course I still got lost a fair bit but as long as you can make it to a subway stop, you’ll be fine.

    Next time I visit I hope to have a SIM card for my phone so that I can have Google maps with me. I think that will be a tremendous help for getting around.

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