Osaka is the third-largest city in Japan and the centrepiece of its second-biggest metropolitan area. But despite its size, getting around Osaka is simple. The city is home to an efficient public transportation system. However you plan your Osaka itinerary, fitting everything in is a breeze.
For travellers, the easiest way to travel around Osaka is by subway or train. Visiting the top Osaka attractions, you’re rarely far from a subway stop or a train station. Of course, there are other modes of transport, too, including buses, taxis, and even river cruises.
Ready to plan your trip to Osaka? Scoot around with ease with this complete guide on how to get around Osaka…
How to get around Osaka by public transportation
Like most Japanese cities, Osaka has an efficient and well-run public transport system. Transportation in Osaka is dominated by the subway system. As long as you can make your way through the sometimes confusing subway stations, the metro is by far the best way of getting around Osaka.
The subway stations are vast and include shopping areas and restaurants. The system covers almost every part of the city. In true Japanese fashion, trains are always on time.
Travel between Osaka and other cities in Kansai, including Kyoto, is also simple. Ground rail services cover all the major routes. Both Japan Rail (JR) and private railways operate tracks in & around the city.
Buses, trams, taxis, and bicycles are also readily available. These alternative modes of transport form an essential part of the Osaka’s transportation system.
Osaka transportation cards & passes
For using public transportation in Osaka, a variety of passes are available. They’ll entitle you to either discounted travel or simple convenience. Options include:
- Day Passes – These passes offer unlimited use of buses and subways for a single day. There are several different passes available:
- The Osaka Amazing Pass – This pass is valid for private rail lines. It doesn’t, however, include Japan Rail lines such as the Osaka Loop Line. It also offers free entry to 35 of Osaka’s top tourist attractions. The cost of this pass is ¥2500.
- The Osaka Enjoy Card – At ¥800 on weekdays and ¥600 on weekends for adults, this pass is less expensive than the Amazing Pass. It’s the best choice if you don’t need free entry to any tourist attractions.
- Osaka Kaiyu Ticket – This pass combines free transport with free admission to Osaka Aquarium. It also offers discounts at over 30 of the top tourist attractions in Osaka. The ticket costs ¥2,550 per adult
- The Kansai Thru Pass – This pass covers subways, trains, and buses throughout the Kansai province. It costs ¥4,000 for two days or ¥5,200 for three. It’s a great choice if you want to explore beyond the city centre.
- Multiple Ride Card and the Rainbow Card – These prepaid cards are available at subway stations. It allows for travel on buses, trams, and subways. The fare is deducted when you travel.
- ICOCA – These electronic prepaid cards are used on the JR West Line. They allow you through the automated gates of subways and stations. They’re also useful for purchasing goods at participating stores. They don’t save you money but are convenient.
- JR West Kansai Pass – This pass is designed specifically for foreign tourists in the Kansai region. It provides unlimited access to various buses and trains over a 2- to 4-day period. For undertaking some of the best Osaka day trips, it’s a great choice.
Trains and subways
Trains & metros are, without a doubt, the best way to travel around Osaka. It’s best to avoid travelling at peak times, though. It can get chaotic when the subway stations are crowded with commuters.
The subway system in Osaka comprises eight metro lines. Two of these lines service most of the city. The Midosuji Line runs north to south. On maps, it’s indicated in red. The Chuo Line runs east to west. It’s labelled as green on metro maps.
All lines are colour coded. Most signs at the stations are in English. You should have no problem finding your way around on Osaka transportation.
A subway fare will set you back ¥180 to ¥370, depending on how far you are travelling. If you are unsure about the ticket price for your destination, take the cheapest ticket you can find. You can top it up at the fare adjustment machine at your destination.
Tickets can be bought outside subway stations. They’re valid for all nine subways. Trains run from 5 am to midnight every day of the week.
Outside of subway lines, you’ll also find the Osaka Loop Line. The train line circles the city centre. It’s owned by Japan Rail, which runs most of the above-ground rail system in Osaka. There are also several privately-owned railway companies servicing the city.
Osaka makes a great base for exploring the wider surrounding area. The efficient train system runs between most of the main cities & towns in this part of Japan. From Osaka, you can easily hit up destinations like Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, or Kurashiki without a fuss.
Buses & trams
The tram service in Osaka has been active for a hundred years. It offers a nostalgic way to see some of the city’s older historic sites.
While Osaka has an efficient bus service, the subway system is more convenient and less expensive. Buses in the city centre charge ¥210 for adults. The easiest way to pay your fare is with a prepaid card.
Bright green Umegle tourist buses run through Umeda between eight in the morning and eight at night. They leave the bus station every half hour to explore the city centre.
Taxis in Osaka are plentiful but more expensive than other forms of transportation. If you like to party late into the night, you may have no choice but to use a taxi as the subways stop operating at midnight.
Easy to hail, taxis displaying a red light are available. They offer a reliable service but be aware most of the taxi drivers do not speak English.
Cycling is a great way to get around Osaka. The city is relatively flat, and there are plenty of places to find rental bikes. Osaka has wide cycling areas downtown and along the tranquil Yodo River. It also has many pleasant parks that include cycling lanes.
Travelling by bike is perfect for keeping fit while exploring the city. In the open air, you’ll also enjoy the sounds & smells of this busy city. It’ll be an interesting & immersive urban experience.
A river cruise through Osaka takes you past many points of interest in the city. Several operators launch cruises along Osaka’s rivers and bays. This popular mode of transportation on the water is also known as river buses.
A day trip or an evening cruise could take you from the sea to Osaka Castle, famous for its interesting history and tranquil gardens. Visit during Osaka’s cherry blossom season for an extra treat.
Or treat yourself to an evening of tranquil music and gourmet food as you glide across the surface of the water. There’s even an amphibious bus here navigating both land and water.