How to choose: Suica or Pasmo card
A foreign country, a sheer unintelligible train system and a card to make everything easier. Actually, there are two of them, Suica and Pasmo.
Both cards are basically identical in how and where you can use them. Still, a lot of my friends coming to Tokyo never quite believe it at first, and ask me repeatedly that surely there must be a difference. So, for all skeptics out there and anyone who wants to know, let me summarize what you need to know, about Suica and Pasmo.
1. What are Suica and Pasmo?
Suica and Pasmo are IC cards that can be used to pay for public transportation in the Tokyo area. Transportation services in the metro area collaborate to allow smooth travel using either of these cards for easy payment of fares. The convenience of simply charging the card when needed, instead of having to buy a ticket every time before getting on a train, has made them widely popular among locals and visitors alike.
2. How are Suica and Pasmo different?
The difference between the cards is only the providing company. Suica is the card of the local train system “JR East.” Pasmo you can get from the company in charge of the local subway network called by “Tokyo Metro.”
Which card you pick matters only in one case: if you want to get a commuter pass.
Based on which networks transportation you use, go to a JR station to buy a Suica for trains and and if you plan to commute by subway, then buy a Pasmo at a Tokyo Metro station.
Interoperability is provided between JR East and Tokyo Metro for using and charging the prepaid-type Suica and Pasmo, but normal ticketing remains in the hands of each respective company. This includes commuter passes, which provide a discounted fare compared to single-ride payments. You can create commuter tickets for both of them easily at a ticketing machine at train stations run by the respective services.
3. What you can ride
You can use both Suica and Pasmo on basically all trains, subways, and buses in the Tokyo area. Interoperability between both services provides smooth travel, regardless of the type of transportation or managing company.
4. What you cannot ride
Both cards cannot be used on highway/long-distance buses, airport shuttles, Shinkansen and express trains. To use limited express trains and Green cars, you will need to buy an additional ticket.
This basically covers those types of public transport you typically do not use during a day of sightseeing in the area.
5. Other Uses
Suica and Pasmo are both prepaid cards that can be used at many vending machines, convenience stores, and other shops. Just look out for the sign above and swipe away.
Suica and Pasmo are also available at Narita and Haneda airport upon arrival. You can easily get them from ticketing machines. Unless you have a particular preference like wanting a penguin on your IC card, just pick up whichever card you first can get a hold of. If you plan to travel to other areas of Japan, Suica might be a tad more handy. I hope this article helped dispel some confusion and you can enjoy stress-free travel around Tokyo.