Transportation in Japan

This time my travelling brings me to Japan. It is my second time in Japan, and I was planning to do more than staying in one city. Trying out the public transport that said to have a good network. I planned to travel from Tokyo to Osaka but passing by Nagoya, Takayama and Kanazawa on the way. Well I travelled in winter time, January, so there bound to be much snow. Some of my plans were cancelled or rerouted but overall I ended the journey well and I was safe and sound. Let’s talk more about how get around some cities in Japan.

  1. Train/Metro/Subway

I am impressed with the subway system in Japan, especially Tokyo. I have been to Hong Kong, South Korea or other cities that has a good subway system. This time I need a while to get used how to take the subway train. Firstly, there are more than one company that operate the train/subway in Tokyo. All stop in a certain place but different station. For example, you use a JR station to stop in Shinjuku, and the station is different than the one if I get on a Metro. Shinjuku is a big area and I get a little bit confused in which station I have to enter or get out. So, you have to remember what railway company you are using to get around easily in Tokyo. Secondly, the map of subway/metro/train is so complicated. Each railway company has a different map and it is not an easy way to get around it. Finally, I am just plain confused with where I get out from an exit.

How many railway company are there in Tokyo?

JR is the one I know the best because of its information is abundance in all the Japan travel exhibition. If I use the JR Pass then I get in and out of the train for free. However, I am not using the JR pass so I mostly buy tickets.

I am using the Metro pass which you can use between 24, 48 or 72 hours in Tokyo Metro lines.  The time I spend in Tokyo was only for 3 days so I bought the 72-hour pass. A little cheaper than if I used the JR-pass. Sometimes I have to go with a JR train and for that I use the SUICA card. This SUICA card is an electronic money that you can tap on the way in and out of the station. It is cheaper and I do not have to calculate how much I have to pay for the ticket. There are also Tobu, Keikyu, Keihan and others that I do not know.

How do you pay for tickets?

I pay metro tickets or other city trains/ subways with electronic money that is the Suica. I recharge the Suica in vending machines that you can find in the station. Sometimes I bought tickets in the vending machine. When you do this you have to be sure the price of tickets you want to buy. There are some choices in the vending machine. I mostly use Hyperdia or Navitime-Japan Travel to know the price I have to pay for my journey to a certain station.

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Google map does help

For Shinkansen or other more expensive tickets I will use credit card or debit card because I am not keen in carrying a lot of cash with me.

A pass? A suica card?

It will depend on you. You have to use a suitable pass with your itinerary so you don’t buy something that is wasted. In the JR website you can find a lot of different types of pass. For me, I use Takayama – Hokuriku Pass because I traveled itinerary includes Nagoya-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kyoto-Osaka. Remember when using the pass there is Reserved seat and Unreserved seat car in every train. Usually we can ride the unreserved car without booking but you have to queue, first come first serve. If you want to ride with the reserved seat please go to the locket to get your tickets.

A suica card will help you to go through stations from different companies. You do not have to think whether your pass can be used with that train or not. Convenient when I am tired, and do not have the energy to find the suitable station for my pass.

Limited Express Train

Wide Hida Takayama.

I travel from Nagoya to Takayama using this train. I was wandering why it was called ‘wide’ and I got answer when I entered the train. The windows of the train are really wide so we can enjoy the scenery along the way. I start using the Takayama- Hokuriku pass for this train.

  1. Aeroplane

Unfortunately, I do not have the experience in using domestic plane except the one from Osaka to Tokyo. And I bought the ticket as one package. I know of some budget airlines when I was searching for the cheapest way from Tokyo to Osaka. Those airlines are Peach Aviation, Vanilla Air (the names made me remember ice cream) and Starflyer are the ones I considered. However, I chose to travel by a night bus (Willer Express) which was at the end canceled due to heavy snow.

Using budget airlines is a choice of fast and affordable transportation to go from one city and another in Japan. From Tokyo to Osaka there are varieties of price from Y4.000 more than Y10.000 depend on the airline, the class, the time and when you book it.

  1. Shinkansen

The bullet train or Shinkansen is a transportation you can use if you travel long distance from one city to another. It is fast and has many schedules that can be adjusted with your itinerary. From Tokyo to Osaka you can travel for only 2,5 hours. You can use the All Japan JR Pass to ride this train, but not the Nozomi. The Nozomi is known as the fastest Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen and of course the most expensive one and it cannot be used with JR Pass. The experience of travelling with the Nozomi is excellent. It is a very fast (186 mph) but inside the train is very quiet and you do not feel that you are on a moving train. I will suggest travelling with the Shinkansen if you like the feel of traveling inland but it is quite expensive around Y14.000 one way.

There is an alternative called Platt Kodama which has a cheaper price from Tokyo to Osaka, around Y 10.000 one way. You can search for more information from this website, it is worthwhile to check if you want to find cheaper alternative  http://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/en/.

I traveled from Tokyo Station. It is to book and find schedule of shinkansen from this station. The bus station is also near here if you want to travel by bus instead.

  1. Bus

Bus is an alternative if you want to travel from one city to another. It is cheaper than using a Shinkansen but if you have a time constraint then don’t choose the bus. I will suggest using the night bus – you can spend the night in the bus and save some money on accommodation- and you can go to your destination. It is maybe a little bit tiring. I was ready to go on a night bus but the heavy snow caused cancelation.

Bus tickets I bought online. You can choose the type of bus you want and the time and station you prefer to depart and arrive. I choose the one near the train station. From all the bus companies I chose Willer Express because of the type of night bus they provided. From the website, there are a lot of types (photos and information are clear to my knowledge) and for early booking there is a discount.  The most important thing as a traveler, I have to know if I can put my luggage in the baggage. It will be inconvenient if I have booked and the bus do not have space for baggage. However, due to the heavy snow the bus was canceled and my money was refunded directly to my credit card. I will try it next time.

For Willer Express this website is helpful for me http://willerexpress.com/en/

Other bus that I searched was the JR Bus.

For a short distance travel, I use highway-busses. I went from Tokyo to Mount Fuji and took a bus from the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal to Lake Kawaguchiko. It takes around 2,5 hours. The price is Y1.750 one way. You can always book online, especially during high season https://highway-buses.jp/

If you want to buy directly at the expressway bus terminal in Shinjuku is quite easy to locate. For a non Japanese speaker like me, I easily get help to book my tickets. There is a interpreter that help me to talk with the person selling the tickets.

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LAMPUNG

Lampung is a province at the very east of Sumatra. It is actually very near to Jakarta the capital city of Indonesia; however, it is separated by a strait, Sunda strait to be exact. This separation makes the journey takes more time. You must rely on the ferry to take you back and fourth from Java island.

I always think that Lampung has a lot to offer. It has beautiful sceneries which located in various places. We can visit the beautiful beaches, surf in one of the famous surf spots in the world, or pass by the mountain range that gives us lots of fresh air.

The journey from Jakarta will take approximately 6 hours depending on the weather and the speed of the ferry. From Jakarta we can go by the toll road Jakarta-Merak that will take us to the entrance of Merak port. After this 1-2-hour journey we will continue by ferry, in a busy time there will be a ferry every hour. There are several companies that operate ferries in this strait, that is why we can get different types of ferries depending on our luck. The ferry journey from Merak to Bakauheni will take around 2 to 3 hours. If you cross the strait in a clear day you will see the blue sky above, and feel the heat of the sun. I suggest that you sit under the shade in a hot and clear day.

KALIANDA

After arriving in Bakauheni, we will be greeted by the terrain of Sumatera island. We can see the mountainous area from far away. At the gate of Bakauheni there is a construction of a new toll road which predicted to be finished by 2018 or 2019. It will be great help if all are completed because the journey time in Sumatera will be cut a lot. The main road to Bandar Lampung, the capital city of Lampung, is a narrow road. Along this main road we can take a detour and visit some beaches. One of the famous beaches is Kalianda. Grand Elty Lampung is one resort that is known as the gate to the Krakatoa from the Sumatera side. I like the beaches in this area because the sand is so soft and white. I like it even more when there are not a lot of people around. It feels like the beach is your own private beach.

KILUAN

Further to the west through the roads to Padangcermin and Bawang we can find Kiluan. This is place is famous for its dolphin sighting. We can find a lot of cottages and home stays around Krui. Despite the beauty of this place, the way to this place is quite difficult. Some of the roads are not well maintained. But above all it is worthwhile to drive and see the beautiful places in Kiluan and maybe you are lucky to see dolphins swimming along your boat.

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KRUI

If you take another road to the west that lead to Kota Agung, you can arrive in Krui. This place is known as a surf spot. A lot of tourists visit Krui to ride the wave of the Indian Ocean. The beach has wide sandy area with soft sand. The waves are perfect for surfing. A lot of home stays and surf camps can be a perfect place to stay during your visit. There are a lot of people from other countries visit Krui, you can meet them at the time you visit the beach. The town itself is not a big town. There are not any big shops around, but you can buy anything essential for your day to day activities in the mini market, Indomart or Alfamart. Public transportation is not really something to look for, but you can rent a motor cycle if you want to get around.

Transportation in South Korea

 

I love traveling by road and enjoying the beautiful scenery around me while experiencing the different kinds of public transport. When in Indonesia I have the privilege of driving my own car in other countries I depend on public transport and rental cars. Don’t afraid to get lost, you can always ask people around or you can use applications or websites to help you. My trip this time to South Korea I choose different kinds of public transport.

  1. SMRT (Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit) or for short Metro
  2. KTX (Korea Train Express) – Korail
  3. SRT (Super Rapid Train)
  4. Express Bus
  5. Public Bus

1. SMRT / Metro

Let’s begin with the metro. To get around Seoul I used the metro, it is the most efficient way. I pay for the tickets using the T-money, it is more convenient and you will get a KRW 100 discount. You just tap the card as usual in the entry and exit. Buying tickets are more difficult for me who do not read hangul. You can buy a T-money card in 7-11 or other mini-marts. The price of the card is KRW 2500, that is the plain one without any fancy picture, you can also top up in 7-11 or vending machine in all subway stations. When you leave South Korea you can refund the remaining credits in a 7-11 with a KRW 500 charge. Simple isn’t it.

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T-Money (transit smart card)

 

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Exit 8- Myeongdong Station

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Entry-Exit

There are 9 lines in Seoul metro and all are specified by numbers and colors. I don’t read Hangul (Korean character) so I memorize the color and number of the station. For instance, I want to travel from Myeongdong to Gyeongbokgung. I take the line 4 (blue) from Myeongdong (424) to Chungmoro (423), remember to take the side where the number get smaller to go to Chungmoro. There are always two sides in every line platform. After you reach Chungmoro (424) change to line 3 (orange) to Gyeongbokgung (327), it is about 5 stations after Chungmoro. From line 4 to Line 3 you have to walk a little, there always sign where to go so don’t worry. Don’t forget to take the correct metro line by looking at the number of the next stop above the subway door in the station.

You can see the subway map and train schedule plus the fare Subway guide It is very useful to plan your trip using the subway. Remember to know the name and number of the station you are going to stop.

2. KTX

KTX is a fast train. I have limited time in South Korea, and I want to visit as many places that I could. Gyeongju is located more than 400km from Seoul so to get there fast I chose to take the KTX. It took around 2-2,5 hours. Pretty fast for the distance. Next visit to Japan I should try the Shinkansen, I haven’t tried it last time I went there. I took the train from Seoul Station, I went there by metro and went up to where the KTX trains are. Travelling to Gyeongju I took the train to Busan, (without Zombies, fortunately) and stopped at Shigyeongju station. The station is quite new and situated outside of Gyeongju.  The ticket price is quite expensive, KRW 46,800 one way. When I checked, earlier trains are cheaper. You can buy the tickets online or buy it directly in the train station. At the ticket counter tell what station you are going to stop at. My destination was Shingyeongju so I took the train to Busan. The price also differ in what station you are stopping.

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Below is a KTX train ticket, it shows your destinantion (mine is Shingyeongju). The train number which is KTX 125 departure at 11.00, Car number 8 and the seats number.The other important thing is I know the platform where the train will leave. I asked the train staff before I enter the platforms and I make sure of it in the sign board. Unfortunately, again, I only can read the train number in the board. I should learn a little Hangeul or get myself a better translator using apps. I do have google translate apps  but sometimes I just don’t have the time to open it so I rely on my feeling.

KTX ticket

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When I arrived at Shiingyeongju I just got out of the train and followed the signs to exit the station. It is not a big station so everything was simple.

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3. SRT

The SRT is also a fast train, similar to KTX , however it stops at Suseo in Gangnam and not Seoul station. It is a newer type of train, it was launched in December 2016. I got on this train from Shigyeongju, I planned to take the bus but it was late so I went back to Seoul by the fast train, it was an expensive day trip but it was worthed. I recommend you to stay a day or two in Gyeongju because there are a lot of places to see. You can read my experience in  Gyeongju here.

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SRT and KTX line

4. Express Bus

I planned to visit Sokcho. I searched on the net that from Seoul I can use the express bus around 2,5 to 3 hours. There are two express-bus terminals in Seoul, Dong Seoul and Seoul express bus terminal. I have chosen the one in Gangnam Area because it was easier to get to. I arrived at around 10 in Seoul Metro station – Express Bus terminal Line 1. I was a little bit confused in getting to the terminal. After I asked around I found out the express bus to Sokcho is in another building. So, I went there. Just tell the locket  staff where you want to go then they will give you a ticket to your destination.

Ticket counter and Platform 18
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Bus ticket

Seoul to Sokcho 18,100 KRW one way. Time of departure: 11:30 and the most important is I have to go to platform 18 for the 11.30 bus. There are a lot of platforms so don’t get lost. The bus will arrive at the platform, remember  the time of your departure that is the bus you have to get on. It is about 3 hours bus ride to Sokcho, so enjoy the ride. I travelled during winter, snow is everywhere. The bus only stop at one place to rest and go to the toilet, it is about 15 minutes. I arrived at Sokcho at around 2 pm. Lunch time, there was a lot of restaurants near the station (Dongbu Express). You can stop by and eat, a lot of seafood in the menu, especially fish. Try it.

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5. ITX

ITX train or you can say it is a fast train but not as fast as KTX or SRT. Visiting Nami Island, one of the well known tourist attraction near Seoul. You can actually take the metro but I want to try the ITX. There are two ITX services available; ITX-Cheongchun (ITX-청춘) on Gyeongchun Line, and ITX-Saemaul (ITX-새마을) on Gyeongbu, Jungang, and Honam Line. Traveling to Nami Island I take the Gyeongchun Line that travels from Yongsan Station (seoul) to Chuncheon Station (Gangwondo).

I start the journey from Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역). From Myeongdong Station I went by the metro (blue line then change ti dark blue line in Dondaemun), stop at Cheongyangni Station and switched to ITX train. If you want to book the train before hand it will better so you can secure the seat number.You can read about booking online here.

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You can fill up the categories, My route was from Cheongyangni to Gapyeong.
  • Travel Category: Normal Type
  • Travel Type: Direct
  • Departure Date: —–
  • Departure/Arrival: Cheongyangni – Gapyeong
  • Train: ITX-Cheongchun
  • Passengers: How many adult and/or child in your group

After you push the inquiry button you will get the schedule and you can pick the time and seat number. The fare is about 4,300 Won for a seat, but 3,600 Won if standing. If the train is not full you still can get a seat in the standing area but of course it is less comfortable.You can print the booking confirmation or email it to your smartphone, don’t forget your passport because that is your identification to collect the actual tickets at the counter.

 

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However, I bought my tickets at the moment of arriving and it is quite confusing. First, because I used the metro card I have to tap so it could read that I was off the metro and getting in somewhere else. You can do this in a machine near the entrance of the ITX train, it is called the Transit Card Reader. After that, I had to buy the tickets for the ITX in another machine. The problem began here, I do not read Hangeul and it was difficult to  change the screen into English. I asked people around, and they were all very helpful. I bought two tickets and on my way to Gapyeong station, that is the station if you want to go to Nami Island.

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Train platform