A common question is how to travel in Osaka, so we have put together this quick overview of the options to help give you confidence right from the beginning to the end of your visit to Osaka and more broadly Japan!
In this article we include options to get from and to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. We also include how to get to and from Kansai International Airport as well as detailed information about public transport in Osaka to help you choose the pass which will suit you best.
Note that this article is sponsored by Klook, however our opinions are our own
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Japan Transport Articles
You may also like to check out our set of Japan transport articles below:
- The Ultimate Guide to Tokyo Transport for Tourists
- The Ultimate Guide to Osaka Transport for Tourists
- The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto Transport for Tourists
- Getting Around Japan With A Japan Rail Pass
- Heading To Japan? Want To Buy The Cheapest Japan Rail JR Pass? Read This.
About Osaka Transport
Osaka has the honour of being one of the most complex public transport systems I have ever experienced in the world – and I have travelled a lot! A great question to understand is why is it so complex?
The thing which makes it different, is that in the majority of locations I have visited in Australia, USA, Europe, Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore, is in each of these places the public transportation system is usually government operated or operated by a single transportation company.
By contrast, in Osaka (and more broadly Japan) the public transportation is operated by multiple companies, who each have their own ticketing, stations and train lines. And to ensure they all get paid the right amount of money from tickets what this means is that you have to pay separately each time you switch from one company to another!
For example, Osaka Station is actually two train stations which are beside each other. You have the Japan Rail (JR) Osaka Loop Line, the Osaka Metro Midosuji and Yotsubashi Lines. Also, while the main shinkansen station is Shin-Osaka Station, some shinkansen train do actually travel through to Osaka Station before terminating…
If you stay within the JR system you can stay in the one station, just travel through to your destination and then pay when you exit, but if you need to use the Metro line you will have to exit the JR station and then find and enter the Metro station.
This model is repeated across Osaka, and if you look at the train map below (click here to see the larger size map), every time you see intersecting train lines it means that you may have to change stations. Note that this is a Metro map, so it highlights the Subway lines in colour, and the other lines are also in the map as faded and very thin grey and blue lines, however are also substantial transport options in their own right.
We got seriously caught out by this issue on our first visit to Japan! Basically we got lost in Tokyo Station and also had some other issues which you can read about in our article…
We have used Klook, an online travel agency, to make many travel bookings over the last few years. Overall we are very happy to recommend them as a reliable provider of tickets, tours and transport options for Japan and other destinations.
You may like to read our detailed review of Klook at this link ?.
About Transport in the Kansai Region
You may not realise that when looking at transport options for Osaka, that Osaka is actually only part of the greater Kansai Region. Essentially the combination of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe form a continuous mega-city in its own right, with a total population not much less than Greater Tokyo! As a result the public transport system will enable you to very easily travel in and between these cities, with multiple train and bus options other than the shinkansen to get around. Keep this in mind when planning your visit.
Often you can easily choose to stay in any of these cities and have relatively quick access via public transport as long as you stay close to a major transportation hub. Our recommended places to stay in Osaka are at the bottom of this article.
In Osaka we stayed at the Karaksa Hotel Namba near Shinsaibashi Station which we would definitely recommend. The hotel was a great option within easy walking distance to Dotonbori, lots of local restaurants and shops and an easy option to get around Osaka. The rooms were modern and clean with an ensuite bathroom, they had easy access to a washer/dryer and breakfast was included in the room price. If you are travelling as a family or larger group another great feature was that they have adjoining room options!
Osaka Public Transport
Osaka One Day, Two Day and Three Day Pass Options
There are a variety of different pre-paid transport and sightseeing passes you can purchase to travel around Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Koyasan.
It can be quite confusing to work out which pass will suit you best, so I am providing a short overview of each major tourist pass below to help you work out which are the best passes to buy for your trip.
A great option is to plan your visit and purchase a combination of these passes for your visit! If you purchase through Klook you will be able to easily collect them in a single stop in at Kansai International Airport after you arrive. I have also added Klook pricing blocks beneath each section which show the current pricing for each pass option in your local currency.
Klook Osaka Amazing Pass
If you want a great option to explore Osaka then ensure you check out the Osaka Amazing Pass, which includes both unlimited transport as well as free entry to over 40 major attractions in Osaka. You can choose either a one day or two day pass, which must be used on consecutive calendar days.
The Klook Osaka Amazing Pass is a great option to explore Osaka, and includes local public transportation as well as access to a huge number of attractions. Attractions include the Osaka Castle Museum, Osaka Science Museum, the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel, Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory, and many more attractions.
We found using the Osaka Amazing Pass an easy way to get around Osaka, and also inspired us to try activities which we may not have otherwise done. A really relaxing option is to do a boat ride in Dotonbori and just take in the views.
The hardest part is coming up with your Osaka Amazing Pass itinerary – but with an included app and booklet it is also pretty easy to take a flexible approach
The pass includes unlimited use of the following:
- Osaka Subway, tramway and selected city buses.
- Free entry to almost 40 major Osaka attractions.
- Many other discounts.
- Collection options at Kansai Airport, Hong Kong Airport, Incheon Airport and Taoyuan Airport.
- Free delivery to Thailand.
Kansai Thru Pass
The Kansai Thru Pass is a great option to have maximum flexibility to get around the Kansai Area, which includes Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama, Himeji, Koyasan and Kansai Airport. You can choose either a two or three day pass, which can be used on non-consecutive days. You can also purchase multiple passes to cover your visit to the Kansai region.
The pass includes unlimited use of the following:
- Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe Metro Lines
- The Keihan Railway between Osaka and Kyoto
- The Kintetsu Railway between Osaka, Kyoto and Nara
- The Hankyu Railway between Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto
- The Nankai Railway between Kansai Airport and Osaka
- Many bus lines and some additional railway lines. Click here to see all of the inclusions.
- Click here to see the Kansai Thru Pass Map.
Note that this pass cannot be used on Japan Rail lines or the shinkansen.Klook.com
Osaka Amazing Pass and Kansai Thru Pass Combo Package
Klook also offers a great package deal to get both a one or two day Osaka Amazing Pass and a 3 day Kansai Thru Pass.Klook.com
Osaka Unlimited Travel Pass
If you mainly plan to visit central Osaka and do not require an airport transfer then the Osaka Unlimited Travel Pass is a great option to cheaply travel round Osaka. You can choose either an Osaka One Day Pass or Osaka 2 Day Pass which can be used on non-consecutive days which includes the following:
- Unlimited use of the Osaka Metro operated city buses or subways (not including Japan Rail Lines or other private railway lines).
- Includes discounts at 30 tourist attractions across Osaka. Click here to see the inclusions and associated transport map.
YOKOSU! Osaka Ticket
If you mainly just plan to visit central Osaka and also need a one way airport transfer on arrival then the YOKOSU! Osaka ticket is a great option. This pass includes the following:
- A one way reserved seat on the fast Nankai Electric Railway train from Kansai Airport to Osaka.
- A separate one day pass Osaka which includes unlimited use of the Osaka Subway, Tram and Bus System (not including Japan Rail Lines or other private railway lines). Note that this pass can be activated on any day before the printed validity date expires.
- Includes discounts at 32 tourist attractions across Osaka. Click here to see the inclusions and associated transport map.
Nankai All Line 2 Day Pass
If all you need is to travel on the Nankai Electric Railway, this pass is a great option as it covers both travel on the fast train to and from Osaka and Kansai Airport. Also there is a direct Nankai Line to get from Osaka to Mt Koyasan, which is much more direct than the Japan Rail line option. This pass can be used on non-consecutive days so it is a great option! You can also buy more than one if needed.
- Includes shopping discounts at more than 20 shops across Osaka.
If you want to purchase single or return tickets on the Nankai Line Airport Express Line then Klook also offers a great option to purchase these in advance.Klook.com
Icoca Card Osaka
If you prefer to remain as flexible as possible and to be able to use almost all transport lines across Japan (not including the shinkansen) with a single card then check out the Icoca Card.
The most common local transport cards in Osaka and the Kansai Region are the Icoca cards (or IC cards) – note that there are also other IC cards issued across Japan, including the better known Suica and Pasmo card and many more options but they all work the same way. You can use the one IC card for your whole visit to Japan as they will work in other cities and towns.
There are many other local transport pass options available in Japan. In our experience the IC cards are the easiest option to use on transport across Japan as they can be used on almost every form of public transport including trains buses, trams and ferries, with the exception of the shinkansen bullet trains.
How to Use Your Icoca IC Card
You get a starting amount of credit with each card, and you can then top up the credit (using cash) at any train station as you travel. You just tap in and out of each train station, and you will see the remaining balance on your card each time you go through the station. You need a separate card for each person in your group. The cards will work for 10 years.
Indicative pricing for adults to travel around Osaka is as follows:
- Osaka Station to Namba Station on the Metro Midosiju Line is 230 Yen or approximately $US 2.20. The similar trip on the parallel JR line to JR Namba Station is the same price.
- Osaka Station to Kyoto Station on the local Tokaido-Sanyo line is 570 Yen or approximately $US 5.40. If you are travelling locally and do not have an active JR pass avoid using the shinkansen option as it is not much faster and is 2-3 times more expensive!
- Osaka Station to Nara Station on the Osaka Loop Line and Yamatogi Line (look carefully as there are regular train options to travel direct) is 810 Yen or approximately $US 7.70.
Icoca Card App
Once activated you can just tap on and off with your phone instead of using a physical card. Just make sure you have a no fee international credit card when you use this option as otherwise you may pay substantial additional fees!Klook.com
Icoca IC Cards for Children
You can also get child IC cards for children between the ages of 6 years old and under the age of 12 years old, where they only pay 50% of the adult fare. You can only purchase child IC cards at relevant train stations, as you must show the child’s passport and have a specific card issued to them. Their name is printed on the card as well as the symbol for child.
When you use a child IC card at a station the turnstile emits a loud chirping sound to indicate that a child card is being used – I assume that it enables the gate staff to identify if an adult is using the card when they are not supposed to.
I can confirm that once your child turns 12 years old that these cards are no longer usable and you need to purchase adult IC cards.
How to Return Your IC Cards Before Departure
You can also return your IC cards before you depart Japan and get your 500 Yen deposit and any remaining credit back, however you MUST return your card to the company who issued the card. Or take it home as a souvenir, and to lend to families and friends who plan to visit Japan, or to use when you undoubtedly decide to return to Japan! ?
If you have remaining credit when you are due to depart, be aware that you can also use your IC cards to pay for things like food and souvenirs at the airport.
New Tourist IC Card Options
New alternative options are the Welcome Suica and Discover Pasmo cards which are aimed at the tourist market. They are only valid for 28 days and you cannot get a refund for your deposit, however otherwise work the same as the normal cards.
How to Purchase an Icoca Card in Osaka
You can purchase your IC card after you arrive in Japan from most train stations.
Alternatively you can pre-order an Icoca Card through Klook and collect it at Kansai airport on arrival and get a discount on price. Check out the link below to see further details.Klook.com
Japan Rail Pass Options to Travel Around Osaka
The first decision you need to make is whether you plan to purchase a Japan Rail Pass for your Japan trip, as this will guide your subsequent choices. You may like to check out our detailed Japan Rail Pass article to learn more about what is a Japan Rail Pass and how to use it for your trip.
If you only plan to visit Osaka or the Kansai Region then DO NOT purchase a Japan Rail Pass – they are only worthwhile if you plan to do inter city travel on the shinkansen or bullet train!
How to Travel in Osaka With a Japan Rail Pass
For Japan Rail Pass users, the best option is to ensure you book accommodation which is in close proximity to a station on the JR Osaka Loop Line, which travels in a circle around Osaka and provides good access to many tourist attractions. Recommended accommodation locations are detailed further below in this article.
A Japan Rail Pass will enable you to travel on most (but not all) JR shinkansen (bullet trains) and local JR trains in Japan. However, there are a lot of other train companies in Osaka, Kansai and Japan for which you will not be able to use a JR pass. Therefore even if you purchase a JR pass you should also plan to purchase an IC card or pass to use on most other transport services in both Osaka, Kansai and across Japan.
In Osaka the main JR lines you will use as a tourist are as follows:
- The JR Osaka Loop Line is a loop line around Osaka with very regular services which will enable you to access most popular tourist areas.
- The JR Hokuriku Line is the main local train line between Osaka and Kyoto, which is separate to the Tokaido or San-yo shinkansen line. Note that there is no need to use the shinkansen to travel between cities, but if you have a JR pass you could travel in an unreserved carriage to quickly travel between the two cities.
- The Kansai Airport line enables you to transfer between Osaka and Kansai Airport.
- The JR Nara line enables you to travel between JR Namba Station and Nara Station, and the similar line (JR Joyo) then also connects from Nara Station to Kyoto Station, and travel to Inari Station where you can hop off to visit the very popular Fushimi Inari Temple.
- There are many other JR line options to travel from Osaka to Kobe and Koyasan.
- Click here to see a useful map showing the JR train network around the Kansai Region.
If you are only staying within the Kansai Region then there is no benefit in purchasing a national Japan Rail Pass for 7, 14 or 21 days as they are only worth while when using the shinkansen to travel intercity – check out the other passes above or below. Note that if you want to travel direct from Osaka/Kyoto to Tokyo that the National JR Pass is the only one which includes that route.
There are a large selection of regional passes which include Osaka. Klook has a great JR Pass tool where you can easily see all of the passes which include a particular location (such as Osaka). As you hover your mouse over each option there is a map which shows the areas covered by each pass option. Click here to check out all of the regional passes which include travel in Osaka through Klook. Note that these are all JR Passes so will not include travel on other train lines in the Kansai region, so ensure you also plan to purchase an IC card.Klook.com
How to Get From Kansai Airport to Osaka
There are multiple options to get from Kansai Airport (KIX) to Osaka and in reverse. The important thing to understand is that on arrival after a long flight that trying to work out how to travel in Osaka using public transport Is not a great idea – as we discovered on our first trip to Japan!
Kansai Airport is located 50 km to the south west of Osaka Station.
On our more recent trip to Japan we booked a private transfer from Narita Airport to our accommodation in Asakusa and in contrast we had a really relaxed arrival and were ready to get started to enjoy our trip! Consider your flight length, jet lag and arrival time before deciding which option will suit you best.
Here are our recommended options to get from Kansai Airport to Osaka.
Train from Kansai Airport to Osaka
The JR Osaka Loop Line train runs direct between Kansai Airport and Osaka. This is a great option as if you select the correct service as it travels direct to Kansai Station without having to change trains. This service is included in your Japan Rail Pass or you can separately purchase tickets.
The Nankai Limited Express runs direct between Kansai Airport and Namba Station – be careful as there are also all stops trains on this route which will be much slower. The Rapi:t is a limited express train which only makes a few stops along the way. All seats are reserved so you need to book ahead.
If you want to purchase single or return tickets on the Nankai Line Airport Express Line then Klook offers a great option to purchase these in advance.Klook.com
Airport Limousine Bus Osaka
The Limousine Bus provides a convenient and affordable option to travel direct to your accommodation on a shared transfer bus. There are multiple routes which service all of the major Osaka tourist areas, so either look for accommodation which is a specific Limousine Bus stop or is close to a stopping point. There are maps to help you find the correct route for your destination.
Klook has a great option for you to purchase discounted Limousine Bus tickets. Check out the below link to get more information on the specific hotels and areas of Osaka and Kyoto which are serviced by the Limousine Bus service.Klook.com
Private Transfer Service from Kansai Airport to Osaka
Another great option is to book a private transfer between Kansai Airport and your accommodation in Osaka. This option is great to just relax and let your driver take you direct to your accommodation.
As mentioned above we booked the similar Klook service for our recent arrival in Tokyo and were very happy that we chose this option. As a family of five of us this option was not a lot more expensive than the individual fares would have been, and we had a stress free arrival to our accommodation in Asakusa, unlike our first visit to Japan as mentioned above!
The vehicle was clean and tidy and modern, and the driver was easy to find for pick up – he messaged me via Whatsapp so after we arrived and collected and set up our pocket wifi rental, and told us where to go to meet him. He promptly found us, loaded the vehicle with our bags and we were ready to go. We had a smooth journey to our accommodation in Asakusa. We then quickly checked in and put our bags into our room and were ready to head out and explore and find a good dinner option! (you may like to know that ramen was our meal of choice… ? ).
The below private transfer option includes a few more destination options. Check out both options to see which one will suit you best.Klook.com
Fun Osaka Activities
Through Klook you can also book many fun activities in Osaka. I have summarised the most popular options below. You may also like to check out our detailed article on How to Sightsee Stress Free in Japan with Klook.
Klook Osaka Activities
There is so much that you can book for Klook Osaka! Here are the most popular activities for visitors to Japan.
Klook Universal Studios Japan
Klook USJ is a great experience! We have now visited twice and each time we have had a different experience. On our first visit we did not realise that the option to purchase Express Passes to skip the queue existed – and as a result by the time we found out they had unfortunately sold out. As a result during our visit we were only able to get on 4 rides during the day which was disappointing.
For our second visit to Universal Studios Japan we got in early and purchase our Express Passes, and on the day loved how many rides we were able to go on, and overall had a much better day out! Get in early to book your Express Passes as they regularly sell out.
Note that other special event Express Pass options for USJ are also regularly offered through Klook.Klook.com
HARUKAS 300 Observatory
The HARUKAS 300 Observatory is a great option to see amazing views over Osaka, as well as being a destination in its own right.
We visited the HARUKAS 300 Observatory during our recent visit to Japan and really enjoyed the experience – the windows and views were amazing, and while we were a bit early to take advantage of the Sky Garden 300 restuarant we have definitely planned to visit again when we next visit Osaka.Klook.com
Other Osaka Experiences
There are many more Osaka experiences you can book through Klook, check them out here.Klook.com
Hiroshima and Miyajima Day Tour from Osaka, Kyoto, or Hiroshima
One of the most popular Hiroshima activities through Klook is a one day tour which you can start and finish from either Kyoto, Osaka or Hiroshima. The tour includes a visit to Hiroshima including the Peace Museum, and also a visit to nearby Miyajima Island.
Where to Stay in Osaka to Get Best Use out of Your Osaka Rail Pass
If you are planning to use a Japan Rail Pass or Osaka Subway Pass to travel in Osaka, you then need to set yourself up to optimise your travel options.
For Japan Rail Pass users, the best option is to ensure you book accommodation which is in close proximity to a station on the JR Osaka Loop Line Line, which travels in a circle around Osaka and provides good access to many tourist attractions.
For Osaka Amazing Pass and Kansai Thru Pass users, again you should plan to stay in accommodation which is close to either a Metro or Subway Station to enable you to get maximum value out of your pass.
Below are our recommended stations for both pass options, you can also stay closer to the smaller stations on each line. Before booking your Japan accommodation ensure you check your travel times in Google Maps to get to your preferred tourist destinations to understand the likely travel times.Booking.com
Osaka Accommodation Options
- Namba Station. Click here to check out accommodation options through Booking.com.
- Shinsaibashi Station. Click here to check out accommodation options through either Booking.com.
- Osaka Station. Click here to check out accommodation options through Booking.com.
- Tennoji Station. Click here to check out accommodation options through Booking.com.
- Universal City Station. You can stay close to the entrance to Universal Studios Japan. Click here to check out our detailed article to see our recommended USJ accommodation options.
- Kansai Airport. Click here to check out accommodation options through Booking.com.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Anne Sutherland-Smith is the creative force behind Pretraveller.com, a travel blog that specializes in offering insightful guidance for exploring Japan, South Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Her passion for these diverse and dynamic regions shines through in her expert advice, particularly in helping travellers stay connected with the latest in SIM cards, pocket WiFi, and eSIMs.
With an unquenchable thirst for Asian and Oceanian cultures, Anne has carved out a niche as a knowledgeable guide for those venturing into the bustling streets of Tokyo, the historical alleys of Kyoto, the vibrant scenes of Seoul, the scenic landscapes of Australia, the vibrant markets of Hong Kong, or the futuristic cityscape of Singapore. Her articles are full of practical tips and detailed information, ensuring travellers are well-equipped for their journeys.
Anne’s approach is grounded in providing reliable, authoritative travel content that enhances the travel experience. From navigating the complexities of digital connectivity on the go to immersing in the local culture, her advice is designed to make travel both enjoyable and seamless.