Nara is not a big city and it is very easy to get around. Most of the key areas like the central area around the two stations, Nara Park, and Naramachi are fairly close together and can be visited on foot. Outlying areas that are not so walkable can always be reached by bus or by train. However, sometimes you might be in a hurry or just feeling tired, and if you have two or more passengers to share the bill, a taxi makes perfect sense. The base fare for a small taxi in Nara is 660 yen for the first 1.5 kilometers and then an additional 90 yen every 307 meters after that.
Taxi Types & Fares
There are three basic sizes of taxi: small (kogata 小型), medium (chugata 中型) and large (ogata 大型). Fares will go up according to the size of the taxi. A small kogata taxi is the standard size and big enough for four people, but if you have more in your group you will need a bigger taxi. You should also be aware that taxi fares can differ slightly between different companies and that taxi companies in Nara charge a 20% surcharge between 22.00 and 5.00 am the next morning.
Where & How to Get a Taxi
You can find taxi ranks on the east and west sides of JR Nara Station, but as the main exit is on the east side that is where you will find the most taxis. At Kintetsu Nara Station the taxi rank is outside the west exit of the station building. At these taxi ranks, the taxis line up and customers board them in the order they become available. This means that you cannot choose a taxi company when boarding at a taxi rank. However, this shouldn’t be a problem as most taxi drivers are very reliable. At other locations you can simply hail a taxi on the street. You usually don’t have to wait for very long before a taxi appears. If there is a green light in the passenger’s side window, then the taxi is already occupied. If there is a red light, then the taxi is available. At night, a light on the roof of the taxi also shows that the taxi is vacant. When you see a vacant taxi, simply raise your hand as you would in your home country.
How To Use a Japanese Taxi
- Most Japanese taxi drivers cannot speak English, so prepare a map to your destination or have the address written down in Japanese. With the address the driver can easily use the taxi’s GPS system to find the location.
- The rear doors of Japanese taxi cabs open and close automatically, so you don’t need to open and close them yourself. In fact it is better if you don’t.
- All Japanese taxis have meters, and most taxi drivers are honest. You generally don’t need to worry about a Japanese taxi driver trying to cheat you.
- Tipping is very unnecessary in Japan. It is best if you simply pay the fare shown on the meter. If you try to tip the driver, you will probably just embarrass or confuse him.
- Many taxi companies accept credit cards. However, some taxis still do not take card payments, so it is a good idea to have some cash ready just in case. If you wish to pay with a credit card, you should check with the driver that your card is acceptable before the journey begins.
Nara Taxi Companies
Below are three of the most reputable taxi companies in Nara. In general there are no special foreign language taxi services in Nara. However, some taxi drivers may have some English language ability.
Nara Kintetsu (奈良近鉄) is the biggest taxi company in Nara with a reputation for polite and reliable service. This company accepts the following international credit cards: VISA, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, Diners Club International, and Nicos.
Japanese Website: http://www.narakintaxi.co.jp/
Yamato Kotsu (大和交通) is another big taxi company in Nara. This company accepts the following credit cards: VISA, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, and Diners Club International.
Japanese Website: http://www.yamatokotsu.co.jp/
Hattori Taxi (服部タクシー) are notable for having a large number of energy efficient Prius Plug-in Hybrid cars. They also have some English and Chinese speaking drivers, but if you want to be sure of a driver that speaks your language you will need to book the taxi in advance. This company accepts the following credit cards: VISA, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, Diners Club International, Nicos, and UnionPay.
Japanese Website: http://www.hattori-taxi.co.jp/
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.