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Car Rental in Tokyo: visiting the fascinating capital of Japan
The capital of Japan and one of the most populated areas in the world, Tokyo has something to offer every visitor, from some of the best shopping worldwide to unique and excellent nightlife to a metropolitan version of natural beauty during cherry blossom season. While you’ll want to take advantage of excellent public transportation during your stay in Tokyo itself, make the most of your visit by also driving into the countryside! Book your rental car today.
The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Tokyo, from March to May and from October to December.
Japan is an incredibly homogeneous country and its inhabitants speak almost universally Japanese. Many younger Japanese people speak English, particularly in large cities and near popular tourist destinations. Have a notepad and pen on hand, as many Japanese people can read and write English better than they can speak it.
Tokyo is in the Japan Time Zone, UTC+9.
The currency is the Japanese yen and cash is still the preferred method of payment at most companies. Exchanging currency outside of major airports can sometimes be a challenge, though the US dollar is widely accepted. Many ATMs will not accept non-domestic credit cards, though you’re likely to get lucky using a foreign card at ATMs in post offices and 7-11 convenience stores.
Automobile hire is available in over 30 locations throughout Tokyo, including the Tokyo International Airport or Haneda Airport (HND), the Narita Airport (NRT), and at the Hachioji Railway Station.
Most nationalities can visit Japan visa free, though restrictions vary according to methods and locations of arrival and departure, and forms of identification. Double-check visa regulations for your country before you depart, particularly as a visa received prior to entry is necessary for some nationalities. All foreign nationals age 16 and over will be fingerprinted and biometrically photographed upon entry.
Driving in Tokyo
Tokyo itself is very congested, making driving slow going, and parking very difficult. Book your rental car so that you are only responsible for it on the days you plan to drive outside of Tokyo itself. Once you get your car, do make a point of driving the scenic Tokyo Expressway in the evening after afternoon rush hour is over.
- Traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road throughout Japan.
- Expressways: typically 80 to 100 km/h
- Metropolitan areas: 40 km/h
- Residential areas: typically 30 km/h
- Local highways: sometimes as low as 50 to 60 km/h
- Traffic in Tokyo is typically congested all day, but you should make a point of avoiding peak traffic periods during morning and even rush hours, particularly around 8 to 9 am and around 5 pm.
- Parking is both challenging and very expensive in downtown Tokyo, so be sure to ask your hotel how to park most efficiently.
- An international driver’s license based on the 1949 Geneva Convention is required for all car rentals and must be carried with you at all times. Make sure you have acquired an international driver’s license for Japan specifically before you arrive. Be sure to check country-specific regulations on licensing before you leave your home country.
- It is unlikely that your domestic car insurance—even that issued through credit cards—will be valid in Japan, so make sure to double-check before you hire your car.
- There are numerous toll roads in and around Tokyo, and they are very expensive, so be sure to check the costs of your chosen route before you depart.
- You must carry your passport with you at all times.
- The minimum driving age in Tokyo is 18 years. The minimum age to rent a car depends on the company, though you are likely to face young-driver surcharges until the age of 25.
Cheap Car Rental in Tokyo
Automobile hire in Tokyo typically starts at around $44 a day. Here are some of the best deals in Tokyo:
- Daihatsu Move or similar (mini class) – $44/day
- Honda Fit or similar (economy class) – $48/day
- Toyota Vitz or similar (standard class) – $49/day
- Mazda 3 Axela or similar (compact class) – $64/day
- Toyota Corolla Axio or similar (intermediate class) – $67/day
Note that prices vary depending on the availability of each specific car and the season in which you rent. For the most accurate offers, use the search bar above.
Tips for Renting a Car Inexpensively in Tokyo
There is some seasonal variation in price for rental cars in Tokyo, which has to do with demand. In the popular spring and summer months, the price per daily rental goes up by around $5.
For the best prices, book at either the Haneda or Narita Airports, where agencies such as Orix Rent-A-Car and Niconico Rent-A-Car offer routinely inexpensive automobile hire. Both agencies also typically offer discounts ranging between 8% and 20%.
Book a car within 3 months of your arrival date in order to receive the best prices from the Narita Airport. Booking at the Herada Airport is a bit more flexible, though you should still book within 7 months for the best deals.