Monday, 16 October 2017

Getting Around in Okinawa

Before going to Okinawa, I did a little research and I found that basically everyone recommends that you use the monorail within Naha and if you're leaving Naha, to rent a car. This turned out to be true. While my sister and I didn't try the public bus, we did end up using three forms of transport:

Yuirail (Monorail)
If you're only traveling within Naha, the Yuirail (monorail) is the way to go. It goes through Naha city and fairs range from 150 yen to 330 yen for adults. There are also 1 Day Passes (800 yen) and 2 Day passes (1400 yen). The great things about the 1 Day and 2 Day tickets are that they last 24 or 48 hours from the time of purchase. For example, I bought a 1 Day ticket at 1pm when I landed and it lasted until 1pm the next day, something I found to be very useful.

1 Day Pass + Free Rurubu Magazine - The magazine is also worth picking up if you read Japanese
Of course, traveling around Naha is pretty inconvenient with your luggage, but there are lockers at the monorail stations. There are lockers in every station, but the size of the lockers and the number of lockers vary according to station. For more information, here's a PDF that has the number of each type of locker for every station (PDF is in Japanese).

Lockers at Kenchomae station
You can also get discounts if you show the 1 Day or 2 Day ticket at various attractions. I managed to get discounts to the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and I saw a sign for discounts at Shuri castle. There seems to be more and if you read Japanese, I think this PDF would be quite useful.

Summary
Pros:
- Cheap
- Comes with discounts to various attractions (for the 1 day or 2 day passes)
Cons:
- It can be troublesome to bring your luggage around
- Be prepared to walk quite a bit as not all the attractions are next to the stations (for example, it's about 20 minutes to Shuri castle from either of the two closest stations)

Rental Car
My sister and I used this method the most and we found it indispensable when traveling around Northern Okinawa.

Turns out that the only photo I have of the car is the one where ice-cream is the main feature
Rental cars were also surprisingly inexpensive. We paid 23,031 yen for a 4 day rental from Budget Rent a Car and 7,992 yen for a 12 hour rental from Nippon Rental Car. These prices included car insurance. Considering that the bus tours we found cost about 5000 yen per person, renting a car ended up costing around the same but gave us a lot more flexibility.

Parking also turned out to be a non-issue. The only fees we paid while traveling out of Naha were the toll fees, and pretty much every place I went had free parking. Within Naha, however, we ended up paying for parking at Shuri castle. I would say that if you're planning to stay in Naha and your hotel doesn't come with parking, you might want to just rent a car for 12 hours instead of several days.

Summary:
Pros:
- Most convenient way to get around
- Not as expensive as one might expect
Cons:
- One person can't drink. It isn't really a problem for us since I'm not a drinker, but if you're traveling with a group of friends and all of you like a beer with lunch/dinner, then this might be a problem.

Tour Bus
I already wrote a mini-review of this in the master post, so I won't talk too much about this. A tour bus is a good idea if you don't like driving but want to travel to long places. If you're traveling alone, it also tends to be cheaper than renting a car (although once you have two or more people, then I think it's either the same or slightly cheaper).


If the tour bus has many pick-up stops, you should also be prepared for an extremely long ride (especially if you're one of the first few!). But if you pick the right tour, you might find this to be a good way to travel to around Okinawa.

Summary
Pros:
- You pretty much don't need to worry about driving or catching a bus/monorail
- Cheaper than a car if you travel alone
Cons:
- You'll be on a schedule
- There might be a longer travel time than with a car if there are many pick-up stops.

Conclusion
If you're fine with walking, I would recommend the Yuirail within Naha and the rental car when you're out of the city. But, if you're with someone who can't walk very far or if you plan to do a lot of shopping, I would advise you to get a car even if you're traveling within Naha.

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