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Train travel for dummies?

Iowa
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284 posts
53 reviews
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Train travel for dummies?

Hi everyone,

I am ready to try Japan solo. I just got back from 2 weeks in Egypt, but it was VERY inexpensive & easy to use taxi's there, so that is what I relied on.

I am much less confident with trains & buses. I'm terrible with maps/directions. I was able to get totally lost in the Paris airport hoping wrong train after wrong train :)

I want to go Osaka, Kyoto & Nara. It will be a short trip (5 days) as I plan to return again to hit Tokyo, Nikko etc.

Question: Is it really that easy to navigate airports & trains there if you are as challenged by direction as myself?,(or) Should I find a tour? ( however, I hate tours ) Anyone know the best source for maps, schedules etc for me?

I've found some websites that show the train/bus routes, but nothing to show how to get to the stations/stops. I can already see myself lost, roaming the streets dragging a bag behind me.... :)

help!

Thanks

Rebecca

Illinois
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for Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Train travel for dummies?

It's easy. Everything's well marked in English. Some train stations are huge, like miniature cities. Shinjuku station is the world's busiest.

Narita is just like any other major airport. Very efficient.

You don't need an escorted tour. Japan is quite easy to tour self-guided. A good site to research - http://www.japan-guide.com/

Train schedules and fares - www.hyperdia.com/cgi-english/hyperWeb.cgi

Depending on your final itinerary, a JR pass might be a good deal for you.

San Francisco...
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2. Re: Train travel for dummies?

The Japan National Tourism Organization can provide you with tourist maps for the major cities; you can request these on their website.

Be prepared to ask for help with directions. Trains should be easier than busses, since train stations are well marked with English signs. Check your hotel's website for a map in Japanese, so you can show it when you ask locals for directions.

tokyo
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for Tokyo
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3. Re: Train travel for dummies?

Google maps and wikimapia are good tools to use to get to know an area before you even travel to it, I use them all the time to get a good overview of a place I've never been before to "familiarize" myself with it a bit.

As for trains, in Japan most trains how have English annoucments if not displays onboard, along with signs etc, it depends on how well traveled you are on trains. But in Japan if you get really lost someone's probably going to help you, if not the Local Police Box "KOBAN" in Japan can usually be found and the Police Officers can usually help you, since they have big giant maps of the area.

It is always good to:

Have the address of the place you are going to, preferably a map as well (in Japanese) or at least the telephone number of the place you want to go (so someone can call for you if you get lost to find directions). Even for taxi's if you just have the telephone number of a (less familiar place like a small hotel) they can dial the number and get directions.

But any case, google maps , wikimapia are good sources.

Iowa
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4. Re: Train travel for dummies?

I appreciate everyone's time & reply. I will take the plunge & go solo. I will post a report on my return

Rebecca

Narooma, Australia
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5. Re: Train travel for dummies?

Hotels will also provide you with "safety" cards - for example, ask them to write a small card in Japanese saying "Please direct me to the place on my map to which I am pointing", "Please direct me to the Golden Pavillion", "Please direct me to the Aranvert Hotel, Kyoto", etc. In Kyoto and Nara, because of distance, taxis need not be expensive. Also, remember that all young Japanese learn English - even though they are often reluctant to admit it - so there is always someone who can point you in the right direction.

6. Re: Train travel for dummies?

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