Sightseeing taxis are a common sight in major cities all around Japan. As their name suggests, they are a service mainly offered to tourists as unique sightseeing tours, with the taxi driver also acting as the guide. As such, sightseeing taxis are the perfect choice for those who want to explore a city both time efficient and without carrying around luggage.
What is a Sightseeing Taxi?
The drivers of sightseeing taxis both show their guests interesting sightseeing spots around a city and provide information and trivia about said spots. The route, time, and duration is left entirely up to you, so you can customize your sightseeing experience to whatever fits your pace and interest. On top of that, the guide also has the knowledge of a Tokyo taxi driver, a profession that comes with its very own set of knowledge about the metropolis, including current trends and upcoming events.
Incidentally, there is a sightseeing taxi driver certification system in place in Tokyo, which means that only qualified drivers can hold this title and offer sightseeing tours. This guarantees that every such tour is given by a qualified driver – keep your eye open for a sticker on the taxi as shown in the picture above, a proof that this taxi does indeed belong to a real “Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi Driver.”
How to Make a Reservation
Sightseeing taxis are operated by several different taxi companies. The common means of reservation is to call in advance, deciding on a time and date, as well as the locations you want to visit – both sightseeing and shopping spots – and duration of the tour. While the reservation via phone can be done in English, for those hesitant to make a call, the best option is to either make a reservation via e-mail from the official websites of each company, or by consulting a concierge at the hotel or inn you’re staying at.
Different Types of Sightseeing Taxis
Depending on the number of people who want to ride the sightseeing taxi and the purpose of the tour, the size of sightseeing taxis also varies. There is the jumbo taxi for 9 people, the jumbo taxi for 6 to 7 people, the limousine type for 4 people, the medium-sized taxi for 4 people, the small taxi for 4 people, the accessible car for 6 to 8 people, the accessible car with a rotating seat, the accessible car with an attached ramp, and more. Since every company owns different kind of cars, make sure to check which types are available at the time of reservation.
A Typical Sightseeing Tour
The meeting place with your taxi sightseeing driver is usually at a convenient and easy to find place, such as at your lodging, at airports, train stations – generally anywhere that is convenient for you. Sometimes, the driver also prepares a sign with a name written on it, either held by them or displayed in the front window of the taxi.
Before beginning the tour, do make sure to confirm the schedule for the day and stops for lunch and dinner breaks, and so on. As soon as the taxi departs, the sightseeing tour officially starts. The sights seen from the window are then explained by the taxi driver, showcasing spots unique to the area and providing interesting facts and trivia about them. (Depending on the sightseeing spot, the driver may accompany you or visiting might not be possible.)
When the tour is over, you will be dropped off at a place that has been agreed on beforehand, such as your hotel or a train station.
Taxi Tour Pricing
The prices for taxi sightseeing tours vary depending on the company but here is a general overview, using the prices of Subaru Travel.
A 3-hour tour costs 14,950 yen while a 4-hour tour can be enjoyed for 19,790 yen. A 5-hour tour is available for 24,630 yen, and the 6-hour tour for 29,470 yen. An extension of 30 minutes will be 3,720 yen.
Besides the basic tour fees, the guest is also responsible for paying any additional fees, such as entry to facilities, road toll, parking fees, and so on. The payment method also vary depending on the company so please confirm at the time of booking whether the tour needs to be paid before or after the tour, and if the company only accepts cash or also credit cards and other means of payment.
① Sightseeing Taxis as Part of Your Trip
The most basic way to make use of the sightseeing taxi service is to explore a city leisurely, visiting landmarks, places of interest, and shopping hot spots. Every company offers a model course that can be booked easily and also customized. Add spots that you would like to visit and drop those you might already know or have no particular interest in. Even when you take a break to enjoy a meal, your driver will be waiting for you in the taxi.
② Sightseeing Taxis as Drive to and from the Airport
Taxi Sightseeing isn’t just recommended to fill an entire day but also for traveling from the airport to the hotel or vice versa. Why not make the trip both fun and educational by hiring a sightseeing taxi driver to show you interesting sightseeing and shopping spots on the way? Another benefit of using a sightseeing taxi for that is that you can easily store both your suitcases and your shopping haul in the trunk of the car, letting you sight-see and shop hands-free.
③ Sightseeing Taxis as Party Car
Certain sightseeing taxi companies allow the consumption of alcohol in the car. Japanese businesses hold parties with simple snacks and drinks such as beer, wine, and sake in the sightseeing taxis while enjoying the scenery from the windows and the stories of the guide. No matter if it is a rainy day or the sun is shining, whether it’s the time of autumn leaves or cherry blossoms, why not enjoy a leisurely drive in the sightseeing taxi with a cool beer or a warm sake in hand?