Thanks to plenty of options, getting around in Osaka is fairly easy, despite the city's large size. Trains and subways are the best and most comprehensive forms of public transport, though the sheer number of routes available can be dizzying. While taxis are fast and reliable, they are expensive.
Public transport in Osaka
Nine colour-coded lines make up the subway system in Osaka. Each station has a name as well as an alphanumeric code. This can significantly ease pronunciation issues. It's easy to see that 'M14', for example, is much less of a tongue-twister than 'Nishinakajimaminamigata'. The subway runs from 5am to midnight every day of the week. Taking the subway at peak travel times can be chaotic due to overcrowding.
There are five train lines in use in Osaka, including a shinkasen (bullet-train) line. These connect Osaka to surrounding regions, and are a good way to travel around the greater Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area.
The bus service in Osaka is comprehensive and convenient. Many bus stops are adjacent to railway stations, making transferring easy. The bus is boarded in the rear or centre and passengers exit through the front of the bus, paying the fare as they leave. Each trip is charged at a flat rate.
Taxis in Osaka
All taxis in Osaka are regulated and use meters with standardised pricing. Though expensive, taxis are a useful option to have, especially when the subway is closed for the night or if one's destination isn't close to a train station or bus stop. Taxis can be found in taxi ranks around the city or can be hailed from the street. An occupied taxi will display a red light on the windscreen.
Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are available in Osaka and are a useful alternative to regular taxis.
Driving in Osaka
Expats wanting to drive in Osaka will initially need an international driver's permit. This allows them to start driving on arrival in Japan. To get a local licence, residents must first have their licence from home officially translated into Japanese. After making an appointment at the nearest Japanese Driving Centre, the licence translation is submitted along with a number of other documents, such as proof of residence. Once these documents have been processed, expats from certain countries will be granted a local licence immediately, while others will have to first pass written and practical tests before their licence is issued.
Cycling and walking in Osaka
Though Osaka is large, the landscape is generally flat, making walking and cycling a pleasant way to get around within certain areas. Both are popular pursuits among locals. For longer distances, alternative modes of transport like the subway or bus are recommended.
►Learn more about getting around nationally with Transport and Driving in Japan
Are you an expat living in Osaka?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Osaka. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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