How to Use Tokyo’s Public Transportation

How to Use Tokyo’s Public Transportation

An easy to understand, outlined guide on how to use Tokyo’s public transportation.

Currently, Tokyo is the most populated city in the world, so taking public transportation in Tokyo, Japan is the best way to get around the city.  However, being that it is such a large city, Tokyo’s public transportation system can be very confusing and overwhelming to many. I’ve put together an easy to follow, and detailed guide on how to get around Tokyo, and the best way to do so.  And when I say detailed, I mean I’ve compiled all of my research into a succinct bullet point outline so that you can easily understand everything and get the most juice out of the lemon (is that a real phrase, or did I just make it up?)

Trust me when I suggest that you read through this slowly.  Jot down your own notes & reference multiple maps while reading, so that you can feel comfortable with getting around when you arrive in Tokyo.  Taking public transportation is much cheaper than paying for an uber or taxi, since the city is so large, and it gives you an excellent opportunity to truly experience Japan’s unique culture.

*PLEASE note that bus transportation is not included in this guide.  We found prices to be similar from bus to train to subway, and felt that train and subway lines are more reliable and time efficient.

Things to Know about Tokyo, Japan’s Public Transportation System:

  • Tokyo’s size requires anyone to utilize their very efficient public transportation
  • They are ALWAYS on time
  • Everything is clean. From the actual train cars to the walkways, to the restrooms.  In fact, the public restrooms at the stations were comparable to nice hotel restrooms.  As with most of Tokyo, there are few trash cans available.
  • Efficiency is the focus.  With more than 30 million people in one city, efficiency is necessary for Tokyo’s public transportation.  There are arrows showing which side of walkways to walk on and where to line up for each car. What would be chaotic elsewhere is robotic here.
  • Very safe.  The etiquette on Tokyo’s public transportation is to not give direct eye contact and to keep to yourself.  Not once did I ever slightly feel uncomfortable or that there were pickpockets. *however, still always protect your belongings
  • Easy to use, but can be quite confusing to a visitor.
  • Vending machines are in every station.  They have a plethora of unique drinks you can get.  *Keep in mind the amount of plastic that comes from these machines, if you want to try something be selective to limit your plastic purchases please.
  • There are two types of Tokyo public transportation cards you can purchase. The Suica & the Pasmo, more details on these below
  • If lost, someone may come up to help you and you can always ask an official inside.  We found that the Japanese were very kind and helpful when we seemed lost and confused.
  • The JR East & subway lines are the most convenient (see below)

 

    Trains in Tokyo

    You can use a Travel card (Suica or Pasmo) or a JR rail pass on Tokyo’s trains.  These allow commuters to hop on/off buses and navigate stations relatively stress free.  I would recommend using one of these cards throughout your stay as it will eliminate the need to purchase a ticket for each ride.  Whichever you choose, know that Tokyo’s trains are very economical & convenient for travelers

    Here are details on the train types available in Tokyo:

    • JR = Japan Rail, this rail system covers the entire country of Japan (this JR term will be referred to a lot in this post)
      • JR East is a group of lines.  It includes Tokyo so will be seen most often in the city
        • JR Yamanote Line- one of the JR East lines, this train service does a circular loop of all of Tokyo’s main spots & runs until 1:20am
          • Six major stations on this line:

      Tokyo

      Ueno

      Ikebukuro

      Shinjuku

      Shibuya

      Shinagawa

      Other JR Lines that you might use frequently in Tokyo are:

      Keihin-Tohoku Line: runs parallel to the Yamanote Line’s eastern half

      (blue)

      Saikyo Line: runs parallel to the Yamanote Line on the western half

      (dark green, light blue)

      Chuo/Sobu Line (local): runs across the Yamanote circle, this is a local, slow service

      (Yellow, slow local)

      Chuo Line (rapid): runs across the Yamanote circle, a rapid service.  Connects the Tokyo Station with Shinjuku Stations

      (Orange, rapid)

      Shinkansen: Tokaido Shinknason trains stop at Tokyo & Shinagawa, and bullet trains north stop at Tokyo & Ueno

      Shinkansen, or high speed bullet train, tickets can be purchased from the JR stations

      Maps of the Shinknason trains cover the entirety of Japan, so to avoid confusion none are included in here.  If you are interested in the bullet trains, check out this guide here

        • The Narita Express is a JR East train line
          • Narita Express is the train line that takes you from the Narita Airport into Tokyo’s city center
      • There are private railway companies
        • They connect Tokyo’s center with outer regions & surrounding prefectures
        • The private railways typically start at a JR Yamanote Line
        • Here are some of the private railway companies
          • Keio
          • Odakyu
          • Seibu
          • Tokyu
          • Keikyu
          • Keisei
          • Tobu

        Now that we’ve covered above ground trains, let’s move onto

        Tokyo’s SUBWAYS

        • There are 13 subway lines
          • Operated by two companies
            • Toei (4 lines) & Tokyo Metro (9 lines)
          • They run mostly inside of the JR Yamanote Line (remember the JR Yamanote Line is the circular/loop line that stops at many major Tokyo stops)

        Tickets & Passes for Tokyo’s Subways and Trains

        Travel cards

          • Travel cards give you unlimited access to any subway or train line
          • They don’t discount the cost per ride, but save you a lot of time from having to buy a ticket each time you want to go somewhere; i.e. you’d have to find the ticket booth, stand in line, etc (each station is different so finding the ticket area would take you time)
          • Each area of Japan has their own travel card.  The most used and acceptable in Tokyo are the Suica and Pasmo cards. What is the difference between a Suica and a Pasmo card?  See below!

        Suica: purchased at JR lines

          • Travelers can purchase Suica cards from any JR station ticket machine or convenience stores
          • It is a prepaid fare card
          • A 500 yen deposit is required, and can be refunded when the card is returned
          • Suica cards are accepted all over Japan- almost all buses, trains, convenience stores, vending machines
          • Once charged up with money the Suica card can be used immediately

        Pasmo: purchased at non-JR lines/local lines (subway & bus lines)

          • Pasmo cards are used the same way as Suica cards, they are just provided by a different company
          • Pasmo cards are only accepted within Tokyo
          • Pasmo cards can be purchased from either airport, rail & subway stations
          • A 500 yen deposit is also required, and can be refunded when the card is returned.
            • Keep in mind, that the Pasmo card is only available to be used within Tokyo, so be sure to return the card for your deposit inside of Tokyo

        Should you choose a Suica or Pasmo card?  

        This seems to be a matter of preference to each person & where they will be traveling within the country

        How to use your travel cards:

          • Simply touch your travel card over the entrance scanner to the station
          • The scanners will beep if you do not have enough money charged onto the card, so each station has kiosks where you can purchase and re-charge your cards
        • Day passes are available but not very convenient
          • They don’t cover all of the different lines & all seem to be overpriced
          • And if you’re exploring over a few days you’ll end up taking different lines of transportation around, so its more economical to purchase a travel card
        • Japan Rail Pass
          • This is useful if you are exploring large parts of Japan, outside of Tokyo
          • If traveling outside of Tokyo, I would suggest purchasing the Japan Rail Pass only for the days that you are not in Tokyo, and using the travel cards, which are cheaper, for when you are in Tokyo
        • Regional Passes
          • JR Tokyo Wide Pass: good for getting to Tokyo Disneyland and Mt. Fuji
            • You can only purchase a regional pass in person at either of Tokyo’s airports or the main train stations
          • Know that each region of Japan has its own travel pass, or IC card (Tokyo’s are Suica & Pasmo)

          Tips for using Tokyo’s Public Transportation:

          • The faster, bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen, require separate tickets. Meaning you cannot use your Travel (Suica or Pasmo) cards for the bullet trains
          • Return your travel card at the end of your visit at any station relevant to your card
            • Suica: JR lines
            • Pasmo: non-JR lines
          • With 30 million people in one city, rush hour will be packed; if possible, avoid traveling from 7:30-9am
          • Many lines run from 5am-1am
          • There are women only cars during rush hours (children 6th grade & younger are allowed), typically towards the front of the train
          • Use your mobile device to help you navigate.  Google Maps was on point with their directions using Tokyo’s trains and subways.  The app will show you the number of stops, which exit of the station to take & the direction to walk towards
          Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

          Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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          Planning a trip to Tokyo?  Read these posts to help you plan & feel prepared for your trip!

          Weekend Itinerary for Tokyo, Japan

          Basics of Japanese Culture

          First Time Visitors Guide to Tokyo, Japan

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          How to use the CBX Bridge

          How to use the CBX Bridge

          Fly from the Tijuana airport easily & save yourself money on your flights!

          Did you know that American based travelers can fly to Mexico for cheap? This alone is one of my favorite conveniences for using the CBX to get to the Tijuana airport.

          By using the CBX Bridge in San Diego, California passengers can book a flight to Mexico with a Mexican airline for nearly half the cost (if not less) than it would cost to fly out of San Diego or Los Angeles directly.  However, there is a lot of confusion on what this bridge actually is, where to go to cross it and if it is safe for travelers.

          Read below for my experience and all of the information that you will need to use the CBX bridge at the Tijuana Airport.

          What is CBX?

                  CBX stands for Cross Border Xpress.  It is a pedestrian facility located on the San Diego/Tijuana border that allows people to walk straight into the Tijuana airport from the United States.  People call it the CBX bridge, as it is technically a covered, indoor, pedestrian walkway.

          To clear away some confusion: NO, CBX is not an outdoor bridge. The facility is entirely indoors. You purchase your ticket to cross (read below), check in to your flight and walk down a hallway that marks where the border of the United States meets the border of Mexico. Once you exit this hallway you will be inside the Tijuana Airport.

          Where is CBX & How to get there from the United States?

                  Surprisingly, the CBX bridge facility is not the same border that you drive across when trying to get to Baja California.  It is located in San Diego and is approximately a 15-minute drive from the border patrol area into Tijuana.

          From central San Diego (Mission Valley/USD area) it will take approximately 20 minutes to drive to the Cross Border Xpress.

          It is very easy to park or drop off travelers as it has a clearly marked entrance and roadway to the front doors. And offers large open parking lots with security driving throughout.

          Photo credit: CBX Website

          Preparing to use the CBX bridge & the costs of crossing

          • Make sure you have a boarding pass available; this proves that you have a reason to be crossing into the airport
          • Purchase a ticket to cross through CBX in advance; this can save you time by not having to purchase in person at a kiosk (really it’s not that much time saved, but more convenient for ease of access)
          • Tickets for CBX are $30 for a round trip crossing, $16 for one way, or $105 RT/$55 one way for families (four to six people)
          • Just like any other trip to the airport, prepare how you will get there.  Whether that is having a friend drop you off, parking your car (see detailed information below) or a ride share service.
          • Parking is $17/day, and you pay when you return.  It will most likely be cheaper to order a Lyft or Uber to take you to CBX rather than park a car.

          [New to ride-sharing?  It is one of the most convenient ways to get around if don’t want to or cannot drive.  Use these links to receive discounts on your first ride with them! Lyft // Uber ]

          How to Cross the Cross Border Xpress

                  Walk inside the set of doors that are closest to the drop off area (if you drive past the cross walk speed bump you’ve gone past the correct doors).  With your boarding pass and CBX ticket in hand, walk to the tables inside to complete immigration forms. At the inside entrance, an agent will scan your CBX ticket, ask if you have your passport and boarding pass then will allow you to walk across the pedestrian sky bridge.

                  Every staff person we spoke to/with spoke English and was kind, friendly & efficient. Which makes any travel anxiety lower quickly.

                  The bridge itself is modern and covered, and there is an official line marking where you actually cross from the United States into Mexico!  At the end of the bridge you enter directly into the Tijuana airport terminal. Find your airlines ticket counter if you need to check any bags.  If not, head to security as you normally would at any other airport. Except this time you’ll be walking over with a smile of satisfaction that you not only very easily crossed into another country, but that you most likely saved yourself a lot of money flying out of Tijuana to your destination!

          What airlines fly into & out of the Tijuana Airport?

                 These are the airlines that fly into and out of the Tijuana Airport. Travelers who live near San Diego and Los Angeles in Southern California can search for flights with these airlines to save some serious money when flying to Mexico or Central America.

          • Aeromexico
          • Interjet
          • Volaris

          Flying into the Tijuana Airport, to cross back into the United States

                  Almost identical to how you can cross from the United States into the Tijuana airport through CBX bridge facility, you cross back.  After the baggage claim area, there is a clearly marked area for the CBX bridge. Show your CBX ticket to an agent and then cross back over the pedestrian bridge.

          *Do NOT exit the airport into Tijuana– an airport agent will guide you to the CBX exit, however, be present and aware regardless.

                  Customs at the CBX bridge facility has little to almost no lines to wait in.  They scan your luggage, but you don’t have to take anything out.  Declare anything you bring back with you, and then walk across the bridge and outside to your ride back home.

          Utilizing the Cross Border Xpress in San Diego is a wonderful way to travel for cheap to and from Mexico.  It is set up to be convenient and easy for travelers, and as someone who has used it, i can attest to its convenience and ease of use.  Have any questions — feel free to leave them in the comments below!

          Happy travels!

          Related: Interested in planning a trip to a Mexican destination?

          Check out my travel guides for Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende to gather some inspiration!

          TIPS for Using the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) in San Diego, California

          • Flying out of Tijuana airport is cheaper than another US based airport if you are flying to a location in Mexico or Central America.  This isn’t always 100% true, but 90% of the time you will find a much better deal
          • People often say to leave time for traffic, however I drove down to the CBX facility a couple of times (different days of the week and different times of the day) and never had a traffic issue.  It is almost in the middle of nowhere so is not a traffic heavy area. And with there not being much to do in the airport I wouldn’t suggest showing up very early as you’ll arrive and go through the facility quickly and then be bored at your gate.
          • The security lines are much shorter here, so no need to stress the time spent waiting to go through
          • Currently there are not many food options in the airport (this also depends on where your gate is/which airline you are flying), however we saw signs stating that new eateries are being added in 2019.
          If you’re curious about the CBX bridge being at the Tijuana border crossing, I captured screenshots of the distance between the two.  It’s about a 15 minute drive between the two.

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          Things to know before traveling to Belize

          Things to know before traveling to Belize

          Belize felt like an ‘off the beaten path’ place, where we could truly escape the hustle of our lives and embrace the pleasantly slow lifestyle of the Caribbean.  The country has a unique blend of crystal clear waters, top snorkel and scuba locations, Mayan ruins, tropical jungles and incredible wildlife. If you’re considering a visit to Belize, here is a list of 12 facts and tips you should know before you go.  

          [already in the planning stages of your trip?  Feel free to jump to Top things to do in San Pedro”]

          With so much to explore, here are

          Twelve things you need to know before traveling to Belize

          1. English is the main language spoken.  Many people in Belize are tri-lingual, also speaking Spanish & Creole.  Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America.

          2. Belize used to be known as the British Honduras.  They only gained their independence in 1981.

          3. You can use US Dollars almost anywhere.  However, your change may be a mix of Belizean and US dollars.

          4. For a small country (only 70 miles across), it’s incredibly diverse.  We were told by locals that there are at least four different cultures within the country: Creole, Mestizos, Mayan & Garifuna.

          5. Regardless of background, Belizeans are known for their welcoming smiles.

          6. The Belizean government has done an outstanding job preserving its natural habitat.  From marine preserves to animal welfare, this country truly cares about its long term impact on the environment.

          7. Rice and beans simmered in coconut milk are a staple item, so vegetarians can be happy visitors here.

          8. Most areas are safe for visitors, and getting around is fairly easy as their highways are all well-paved.

          9. Coffee and chocolate in Belize are immaculate.  Be sure to buy lots of both to bring home with you.

          10. Or better yet, move down to Belize as an expat.  There are plenty of tax breaks (so I’m told) and happy expats currently down there.

          11. Belize is home to many rare animal species; tapirs, jaguars, manatees and hundreds of unique birds.

          12. Archaeologists discover new findings every year of Mayan sites!

          Belize is quickly becoming a top central american destination for tourists, and with a multitude of activities and sights to explore it’s easy to understand why.  If you have any questions about planning your trip to Belize comment below and I’d be happy to help!

          If you’re planning a trip to Belize, check out my other blog posts on the most beautiful places to visit & the best things to do in Belize

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          Mexico City Travel Advice

          Mexico City Travel Advice

          Tips to help you feel prepared for your trip to Mexico City

          The most populous city in North America is a staggering characterization to anticipate for a non-Spanish speaking traveler.  However tourism is booming here. Each year millions come to explore Mexico City’s many museums, gardens, and clubs, and it’s begun to be spoken about in the same sentences as with London, Paris, etc.  Many have a misconception that the city is rife with crime, overpopulation and pollution. To the contrary, Mexico City is a beautiful and colorful destination waiting for you to explore its deep rooted history, culture, and possibly most important, food!  After traveling here, I’ve put together my most useful Mexico City travel advice.

          20 Pieces of Travel Advice for Mexico City

          1.  There are (essentially) no rules of the road.  People will drive in all directions and nudge their cars through where they want.  And adjust your ears for the car horns, as they are extensions of a Mexico City drivers arm.

          2.  Public Transportation should be avoided if you are not a local.  Pick pocketing happens to many tourists, so use Uber instead

          [New to Uber?  Use this link to earn your first ride for free on me!]

          3.  Avoid the taxis too (they are pink & white).  This may be a preference on the traveler, but I’ve read plenty of stories of Mexico City taxi drivers who skim your credit card information and overcharge non-Spanish speakers.  If you insist on taxis, NEVER hail one from a tourist attraction. Go to the stations that have taxis parked, or one that your hotel can call for you.

          4.  In fact, the ratio of drivers to people living in the city is fairly low, which makes its people more sustainable than most other cities.

          5.  Overall, Mexico city is very safe for tourists!  In fact tourism is booming here; with over 12 million plus visitors coming each year.

          6. The city is very vegetarian and vegan friendly!

          Related: Here is a vegan food tour we did ourselves in Mexico City! ]

          7. Mexicans are not fans of sarcasm and can take things very personally. So use caution if your go to humor is sarcastic. (*we were advised of this by a few different Mexico City locals, however I never experienced it firsthand)

          8. Cinnamon is a popularly used spice.  Embrace it or go home.

          9. Mexico City is not for morning people (or so I’m told).  They enjoy late nights out, and who couldn’t blame them with their exciting club scene.  Lucky for travelers, that just means it is easier to take morning photos since there will be less people out.

          10. The city is massive.  While on a map it may not look like it will take you long to get there, in real time it will.  So, incorporate travel time and traffic if riding in a car.

          Related: Mexico City Travel Guide ]

          11. There are 16 districts in Mexico City, also known as colonias.  Each has its own personality, and vibe. Polanco, for example, is one of the wealthiest residential areas with expensive designer boutiques, upscale restaurants, and swanky clubs and hotels.  While Condesa and Roma are home to hip cafes and bars, quirky shops, and cool art galleries.

          Related: Wondering where to stay in Mexico City?  Here’s why you should stay in Roma or La Condesa ]

          12. The city was built on a high altitude lake bed- and it continues to sink… (could this be north america’s version of Venice?)  When people speak about pollution in the city this is because the air takes awhile to migrate away from this valley.

          13. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, so should not be missed.  The gastro scene in Mexico City is booming. You can find a delicious meal on any spectrum of price you’re willing to pay.  Dinner typically starts around 9pm.

          14. Carry loose change to tip at restaurants.  10% is customary, and it can be left on your table when you depart.

          15. Speaking of cash, it’s best to carry small denominations of pesos with you.  Use your credit cards for larger purchases.

          16. Pack to dress in layers- the weather can be sunny all morning with showers in the afternoon.

          17. You cannot and should not drink the tap water.  My advice would be to purchase a large jug of water at a local convenience store and refill your own water bottle throughout your trip.

          18. Leave your valuables at home.  There is no need to flash off your expensive jewelry or handbags.  As a visitor, you can easily be targeted. We were even told that many locals won’t wear their nice jewelry out in certain areas of the city.

          19. Dress smart.  While many may not wear expensive jewelry, as a whole, the people of Mexico City dress professionally.  

          20. Set aside at least three FULL days in Mexico City.  While you could spend weeks here to see it all, the major sites can be done in a weekend.  Plus that’s three lunches and three dinners where you can eat your way to happiness here.

          If you’re questioning whether you should go to Mexico City or not, the answer is YES, go!  The city is very affordable and safe for tourists. Have more questions? Check out my other posts about traveling in Mexico.  You can also leave a question in the comments below and I’ll be sure to respond and help you plan your trip!

          Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

          Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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          Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

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          Eco-Friendly Tips for the Beach

          Eco-Friendly Tips for the Beach

          Five simple tips to help keep our beaches clean

          Note: this post contains affiliate links to products we love and have purchased ourselves on Amazon. Clicking these links doesn’t cost you any extra money, and you’re supporting us by doing so. You can view my disclosure page for additional details.

          When choosing a destination for a vacation one of the most popular reasons for going will be a place with stunning views and landscapes.  In order for these destinations to be desirable they are well maintained by someone who is being paid to do so, and some beaches cannot keep up with the trash pollution (hello tides bringing things in and out).

                  Beaches are easy places for people to leave behind garbage because the assumption is that ‘I won’t be coming back here so not my problem anymore’, or a personal “favorite” of mine is the assumption that someone will clean up after you.  It’s confusing to think about how and when that mindset settled in, but the reality is no one is coming in after you to clean up your mess on a beach.  Beach clean ups are great, but they are a band-aid over a bigger problem, not a solution.  So, I’ve put together a simple list of things YOU can do to prevent waste and be eco-friendly on your next beach visit.

          Five Friendly Tips to help keep our beaches clean

          1. CARRY A (REUSABLE) WATER BOTTLE

          Instead of purchasing another plastic water bottle, reuse one you already have or carry a sturdy reusable bottle with you.  It’ll be a great reminder to fill it up and stay hydrated, and it saves plastic from being left behind.

          Here is a resusable water bottle that I really like

          *My suggestion would be to not invest too heavily into a reusable bottle that you will travel with.  I once had an empty water bottle tossed via a secondary, full plane, re-check of our carry on luggage with the reason being I couldn’t have any bottles of any kind…

          2. BRING A REUSABLE CLOTH SHOULDER BAG OR GROCERY BAG

                  Plagues are to human destruction, as Plastic is to the ocean… alright, my attempt at an analogy may not be great, but the point I’m trying to make is that plastic is the devil- especially to our oceans.  Avoid plastic like a plague and always bring a reusable bag with you.  Some clothing stores use cloth bags, such as Free People and Verge Girl, that you can reuse or use a reusable grocery bag.  They are lightweight and very useful.

          These cloth bags are a great size for a long day spent at the beach

          3. WEAR REEF-SAFE & CRUELTY FREE SUNSCREEN

          Coral reefs maintain and protect vast parts of our oceans.  They can be bleached and die from oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are main ingredients in many mainstream sunscreens.  They are toxic to our oceans.  Protect marine life and coral reefs by wearing reef-safe and cruelty free sunscreens.

          I am currently working on reviewing various sunscreens that fit into this category to share which ones are best for protection, quality and for your dollar.  In the meantime, here are brands that I have heard of:

          • Sun Bum; I use their 30 spf
          • Hang Ten
          • Jason Mineral
          • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen
          •  Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen
          • Bare Republic

          *search for mineral and zinc oxide based sunscreens

          4. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD

          Packing your own food will allow you to use reusable Tupperware and avoid horrific items like foam packaging and plastic straws.  While at home I use the Pyrex brand, but for travelling these silicone bags are great (plus they have cute little pandas on them too)

          If you bring items that are individually wrapped, such as protein bars, be sure to…

           

          5. TAKE YOUR TRASH WITH YOU

          Some beaches will have garbage bins on the beach, which is wonderful!  However, beaches are windy places.  When the wind starts it’ll pick up whatever lightweight items are in a garbage bin and float them away.  Use that reusable bag you’re going to bring with you and store your trash in there to toss out at home or at your lodging.

                  That’s it!  Five very simple things you can easily do to help preserve beaches.  It’s incredible to think about how simple these five tasks are and even more incredible how impactful you, as an individual, can be utilizing these tips.

          Share this post with someone you go to the beach with so you and your team can be prepped for the beach that all you have to do is enjoy the the rays & the waves!

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