Getting Around Osaka: Guide to Public Transportation

Wide cityscape of Osaka
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Osaka is a vibrant city, and getting around is far from stressful or difficult. It might be considered a metropolis, but its size is nothing compared to that of Tokyo. With a subway system that is easily manageable, quiet, and uncluttered when seen on a map or app, getting around Osaka is extremely simple. Given how picturesque the city is, and how friendly the locals are, cycling around Osaka on a bike is an absolute pleasure and a great option for getting around given Osaka’s manageable size. While walking and cycling around Osaka is fun, you’ll need public transport to truly make the most of the city, especially if you’re short on time.

How to Ride the Osaka Subway

Osaka has nine color-coded lines (eight subway lines and one people mover) and while it’s not as extensive as the Tokyo subway, it reaches right across the city. The Osaka subway will get you everywhere you need to go with regards to tourist attractions in the city center. The red Midosuji line (north to south) is the busiest and best avoided during rush hour if you don’t fancy a squeeze; it covers the most popular stations along with the green Chuo line (east to west). Every station also has a corresponding number (such as M12) which can make it easier if you’re asking for directions and don’t know how to pronounce the station! 

You can also catch the JR Osaka loop line which will take you right downtown Osaka quickly. It’s also covered by the JR Rail Pass so you won’t need to buy a separate ticket.

    • How to Pay: IC cards—one of the ten interchangeable subway cards that can be used all over Japan (such as Pasmo or Suica)—can be used and purchased in Osaka. Just top up your card at the machines (they have English guidance) and then tap your way through the gate. Otherwise, you can buy single tickets (180 to 380 yen) at the machines in every station or use one Osaka’s useful day passes. These work on the subway and buses and include:
      The Osaka Amazing Pass: This all-inclusive pass costs 2,800 yen and includes access to more than 40 of Osaka’s major attractions.
    • The Osaka Enjoy Card: This is essentially the same as the Amazing Pass without access to the attractions. It’ll cover your transport for the day for 800 yen on the weekend and 600 yen on weekdays making for a more affordable option.
    • The Kansai Thru Pass: This will be useful if you’re planning on traveling in Kyoto and Nara (or anywhere in the Kansai region) as it will cover your metro, train, and bus travel. It costs 4,400 yen for two days and 5,500 yen for three days (Adult prices).
  • Hours: Subway trains in Osaka run from 5 a.m. to midnight every day of the week.
  • Service Alerts: The HyperDia app will keep you updated on any issues on public transport and you can also check out the JR West Japan Railway website for updates.
  • Accessibility: Many of the stations in Osaka have lifts and a minimal gap between the train and the platform edge, you can check the accessibility of each station on the Japan Accessible Tourism website.

How to Ride the Osaka Buses

The buses in Osaka are extensive and will take you everywhere from the tourist attractions to the smaller, local districts. When you catch the bus in Osaka, you enter at the middle (or rear) and exit at the front and pay as you leave the bus. To get off just wait until you what your desired stop and press the bell.

You may notice bright green buses in the Umeda district; these are tourist Umegle buses and they run a circular route that will take you to around the major tourist sites including shopping and sightseeing. You can buy a day pass for the Umegle Bus for 200 yen.

  • Routes and Hours: You can check the bus stops on the Osaka metro website. Buses will run from 5 am-midnight seven days a week.

Using Taxis in Osaka

Using a taxi in Osaka is an easy option but certainly one of the most expensive ways to get around. Osaka taxi drivers always use the meter and are licensed, so you won’t have to worry about being ripped off. Taxis are particularly useful after midnight if you want to stay out for a drink as your only other options are to walk or cycle.

You’ll always find taxis outside the subway and train stations, major tourist sites, or shopping centers. It’s also fine to hail a cab on the street by sticking out your hand. You’ll be able to tell if they’re available if the light on the windshield is on and displays the 空車 sign. Alternatively, if it’s full it will display 賃走. You can also just check to see if there are people inside.

It’ll help to have your destination written in Japanese or have your map open just in case the driver doesn’t speak English. The ride will cost you 660 yen for the first 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) and then 80 yen per 296 meters. Expect to pay in cash, though some cabs will take a credit card.

Cycling in Osaka

Cycling is extremely popular in Osaka as it’s a flat city and isn’t as spread out as other cities in Japan. It’s also a great way to save money and see more of the city. Additionally, drivers and walkers are well used to accommodating people on bikes. There are also wide cycling areas downtown and along the Yodo River which is perfect on a sunny day. Bicycle rentals are available all over the city.

Getting to and From the Airport

Osaka actually has two surrounding airports: Osaka Airport and Kansai Airport. They've both got great transport links to downtown Osaka so you'll be starting your trip in no time. You won't need to reserve seats on any of the trains below.

From Osaka Airport: Your best option is to take the JR Haruka airport express train to Tennoji Station (30 minutes, 1,720 yen) or downtown Shin-Osaka station (50 minutes, 2,330 yen), If you're using the JR Pass then this trip will be included. You can also save money by taking the Nankai Rapid airport express train to Namba Station (45 minutes, 1,130 yen).

From Kansai Airport: The easiest way to get from KIX airport to downtown Osaka is on the Rapid Express Airport Train to Namba station (45 minutes, 1,130 yen).

Tips for Getting Around Osaka

  • If you want to get out of the city, there are affordable highway buses running from Osaka Station to many other towns and cities in Japan in addition to trains leaving from Shin-Osaka station.
  • It's worth noting that during holidays like Golden Week and cherry blossom season, the traffic in Osaka can be bad in the tourist areas so taking the subway will be faster during those times.
  • Up to two infants (1-5) can travel with an adult for free on Osaka buses.
  • If you don't want to take a taxi, Uber is available in Osaka.
  • You can easily use Google Maps to find your way and navigate the subway or use dedicated transport apps like HyperDia which provide routes, fares, and up-to-date times and schedules.
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