A long overdue post but no matter, it’s here! Finally penned the second blog post about our vacation in Okinawa. The first post is on my new blog Qyoole – you can read it here. This second blog post is a highly requested one as I had many of you asking how it is like getting around Okinawa. So I have compiled a ultimate guide with links and tips, enjoy!
Transportation in Okinawa can be described as BOTH of the 2 extreme ends of the yardstick. It’s either really easy or very limited. It depends on 2 factors
- Places you wish to visit in Okinawa
- Whether you have a driving license or not
Basically if you want to visit places out of central Naha, it is recommended that you rent a car for convenient transportation. Otherwise, I’ve got some tips and links you can check out for day-tours out of central Naha 🙂
Within Central Naha
Public transportation within central Naha is very convenient and accessible thanks to Yui Rail (https://www.yui-rail.co.jp/en/) supplemented by public buses. In fact, we found it easier to travel by public transportation simply because traffic congestion can be pretty bad in Central Naha due to it’s small roads. It is also very difficult to find park spaces and if you did manage to find a parking lot, the parking system is a pain for pocket and in the ass, literally. You’ll need to fit your car into the parking lot in one single professional move as you won’t be able to change its position after. It automatically gets wheel-locked via a huge barrier that comes up under the car. The first time when we encountered the wheel-lock, we didn’t even mean to park – we only drove into the space to make a 2-point turn! We got wheel-locked, didn’t know why the car was stuck, thought we hit another car, wasted 45 minutes (with parking lot timer ticking) to figure out how to get out >.<. Many of the roads are one-way too, so imagine the hassle.
So don’t drive in central Naha. You’ve been warned. Just take the Yui Rail. It is a monorail that connects the airport to the main city and shopping areas within central Naha. This monorail is comprehensive and easy to use.
- Figure out where you wish to go via the train map. There is only 1 line.
- Purchase your ticket via the ticketing machine.
- Scan the QR code and DO NOT LOSE THE TICKET.
- DO NOT MIX YOUR TICKETS.
- Upon arrival at your destination station, scan the same QR code to exit.
Yui Rail is pretty fast and very efficient. You can check here for train timings and how to read them (https://www.yui-rail.co.jp/en/timetable.html?station=NahaKuko) to plan your schedule. Via Yui Rail, you may reach these popular tourist spots:
- Naha Airport via Naha Airport Station
- Okinawa Outlet Mall via Naha Airport Station (+ 15 min bus ride)
- Naminoue Beach via Asahibashi Station (+ 30 min walk)
- Koukusai Street via Makishi Station
- Makishi Public Market via Miebashi Station and Makishi Station
- Tsuboya Yachimun ?Pottery?Street via Makishi Station (+15 min walk)
- Shurijo Castle via Shuri Station (+15 min walk)
For more information on bus transfers to these areas, you can visit (https://www.yui-rail.co.jp/navi/en/area/1)
The locals use the public bus services to get around from their homes to various destinations. We had the chance to take the public bus once to get to Okinawa World (Bus 83) and we got brought back in time to buses in the 1980s where payment is by coins. When we first boarded the bus, we had a hard time reading the bus arrival timings. Even some of the Japanese in Okinawa for local travel had a hard time too! There are also buses that do not operate on the weekends/ weekdays and some are so infrequent, you only get 2 trips in the early morning and 2 trips at night, miss them and ya a goner. Fortunately we only had to take the bus once during our 11 days trip. Click here to download a PDF guide that teaches you how to read the bus timetable.
- For information on bus services in Okinawa visit – http://okinawabus.com/en/
- For bus routes and maps visit – http://www.kotsu-okinawa.org/en/map_south.html
There are also free shuttle buses from the Airports, here are the links.
- Free shuttle bus (Naha International Airport) – https://www.otsinternational.jp/otsrentacar/en/okinawa/pickup/naha-airport-international/
- Free shuttle bus (Ishigaki International Airport) – https://www.otsinternational.jp/otsrentacar/en/okinawa/pickup/ishigaki-airport-international/
- Free shuttle bus(Miyako Airport) – https://www.otsinternational.jp/otsrentacar/en/okinawa/pickup/miyakojima-airport/
Out of Central Naha with an international driving permit
If you are in Okinawa for more than 3 days, you might want to visit destinations out of central Naha. To do so, we highly recommend renting a car so that you do not have to follow tourist buses, have more time and journey planning flexibility. There are also some places such as Mount Yaedake, Nakijin Castle Remains, Nago Castle and local eateries where hop-on-and-off buses do not visit. Here are some of the off-route places we visited.
In order to rent a car and drive overseas, you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP). The procedure is simple and fuss free – you can have it done over the counter at $20 within minutes or have the IDP processed and delivered 7 working days in advance. Click here for more information. Note that China, Cambodia and Myanmar do not recognize the IDP.
There are some car rental companies that have English support. Here’s a list that was kindly provided by OkinawaStory.
- OTS Rent-a-car: https://www.otsinternational.jp/otsrentacar/en/
- TOYOTA Rent a Car: https://rent.toyota.co.jp/eng/
- Times Car RENTAL: http://www.timescar-rental.com/
- ORIX Rent a Car: http://car.orix.co.jp/eng/
Out of Central Naha without a car
For tourist spots such where Yui Rail does not reach, you can choose to reach them via tour buses. Some of these popular spots are:
- Churaumi Aquarium
- Cape Manza
- Kouri Beach
The cons of these tour buses is you’ll need to follow their schedules and will not be able to complete touring a destination or stay for as long as you want. However, if you are someone who sees well with scheduled tours, here are 3 options you can consider exploring:
- Hip Hop Bus:http://www.jumbotours.co.jp/okinawa-hip-hop-bus/english/
- Naha Bus:http://okinawa.0152.jp/en/tour/
- Okinawa Bus:http://okinawabus.com/en/bt/
We didn’t have the need to hail a taxi during our stay, so we can’t give a personal recount of our experience. However, taxis in Okinawa are not as costly as Tokyo, so you might want to consider the convenience especially for late nights out 🙂 Flagging down a small taxi in Okinawa starts from 500yen for the first 1.8km before the meter starts ticking at 60yen for each additional 359 meters. There are also fixed rates to some destinations. For the list, click here.
This concludes the end of my blog post, I hope it has been useful to you! Moving on I will be sharing with you more about eating and shopping in Okinawa!