Getting a taxi in Okinawa isn't that different from the rest of the world. There are certain things to be aware of, however.
Steps to getting and hailing a taxi when on the street in Okinawa
- Look for a taxi with the vacant sign in Japanese: 空車
- Put your hand in the air to get the taxi's attention
- Get in and verify the taxi accepts credit card (if that's how you're paying)
- Most taxi drivers don't speak English; come prepared to show the driver your destination (e.g., map on cell phone or have the address written down)
Cost For a Taxi in Okinawa
The average cost for a taxi in Okinawa is ¥560 ($5.10) plus ¥70 every 365 meters ($0.65/0.25 miles). For remote areas of Okinawa, the average cost is ¥470 ($4.30) plus ¥60 for every 335 meters ($0.55/0.25 miles). Most taxis accept credit cards, but it's best to verify with the driver first.
Hailing a Taxi From The Curb
There are plenty of taxis in Okinawa. And just like anywhere else, the busier the street (whether that be people walking on the sidewalk or the number of cars on the road), the easier it is to find a taxi.
It's first important to know if a tax is available. This is where the language barrier comes into play.
Most taxis have a LED lighted sign in the front windshield that shows 1 of 3 Kanji symbols:
- 空車 = "Empty car." If this is showing, you can flag down the taxi
- 賃走 or 実 車 = Either of these means the taxi is occupied and unavailable
If you're in an extremely busy part of Naha (e.g., Naha Airport or bus station), more than likely there will be a line forming to get taxis. Some times it can be tempting to walk down the street and find a taxi before it reaches the long line of passengers. This is not only rude, but probably won't achieve your goal. Taxis drivers, just like most Japanese and Okinawans, are very much rule followers. They will simply ignore you or wave you on to get in line.
Calling a Taxi by Phone
Here is a list of phone numbers for English speaking Taxis (all accept credit card and all go on U.S. Military bases):
- Okito Kohtsu - 0120-23-5477
- Panda Taxi - 0120-89-3930
- Meiho Taxi - 0120-47-2394
- Taxi Operator (U.S. Military) - 098-970-8888
During weekend evenings, taxi companies can get extremely busy and wait times can exceed an hour. So, it's best to plan ahead as best aspossible.
Getting a Taxi from Naha Airport
There are two places to hail a taxi from the domestic flight terminal. Both are on the first floor of the airport, just outside the domestic arrival lobby.
- Taxi Stand # 7 (Medium and short distance taxi stand) - If you are going anywhere in Naha, Urasoe, Ginowan, Nishihara, Nakagusuku, or anywhere south of Naha, you'll go here.
- Taxi Stand # 8 (Long distance taxi stand) - Central part of the island, Chatan, Kitanakagusuku, and the northern part of the island.
From my experience, the medium and short distance taxi stand line can get extremely long! So, not a bad idea to reserve a taxi before you arrive.
Is Uber in Okinawa?
Uber is not in Okinawa. There are two other apps, however: JapanTaxi: and Didi-Rider. Non-Japanese speakers may have some trouble signing up for JapanTaxi; it asks for your name in Katakana. If you can't get the apps to work, just call a taxi instead.
DiDi-Rider was easy to install and get registered. It asked for my phone number and it appears that I can book a taxi without having to input payment information.
When I type in a destination, it will tell me how many minutes away my taxi is, however it won't give me an estimated cost for the taxi ride.
Another thing that might be difficult for most foreigners is it doesn't allow you to type in addresses in English. However, there is a roundabout way to fix this:
- Go to the main menu and choose "Settings"
- Choose "Favorite Places"
- Choose "Add Favorite Places"
- Choose "Pin your location on the map"
- Pan on the map until the pin is over the desired location. (You may have to slightly adjust the pin, so that it's directly over an actual address. You'll know this when it auto-populates the address field and the "Confirm" button turns orange.
- Press "Confirm" and type in the desired name of the new "Favorite Place"
- Click "Save"
- Now when you go back to the main map to book a taxi, when you choose to populate the "Where to" field, you can click "Favorite Places." The location you just saved will now be in there.
I have yet to try out the app yet, but will update this article once I have.
I had some difficulty registering for the app once it was installed. First, it asked you to type in your first name in Katakana. This may be a hassle for most foreigners, as it requires you to install the Japanese keyboard on your phone, and also requires knowledge of how to spell your name in Katakana. However, I don't imagine it's the end of the world if you just type in any Katakana characters as your name. You just may get a funny look and name pronunciation from your taxi driver.
It also took me a few minutes to receive the confirmation code to my Japanese cell phone number. So, just be patient for 3 to 5 minutes instead of click resend and having your text messages build up unnecessarily.
Important Things to Know When Riding a Taxi
- Usually, the taxi door is automatic. The taxi driver will open and close it. So, be sure to stand back when the taxi first pulls up and be patient when getting out. And no need to close it on your way out.
- Most taxis accept up to 4 passengers
- Cash is always preferred, but most taxis in Okinawa accept credit cards. It's always best to double-check when sitting down though.
- No need to leave a tip if the driver loads or unloads your luggage. The driver will most likely be confused if you try.
What is a Daiko Taxi
A daiko service is an amazing service that will pick up both you and your car. You call the number, give them your location and two drivers show up in one car. One driver drives the taxi, the other drive your car to your destination. The cost is usually more than a regular taxi, but it's well worth the price.
This service exists because of the very low tolerance Japan and Okinawa have for driving under the influence. With a .03 blood alcohol content considered drunk driving, partygoers need to be extra cautious when out drinking.
Here is a list of English Daiko services on Okinawa: