Travel to Japan can turn pretty expensive quite fast. It’s really not the cheapest country in the world… But there is a way to save some money in order to make your dream-trip to Japan happen. Today, I’m going to tell more detailed about Japan Rail Pass and how you can plan your travel route around Japan in order to save a lot of money.
If you travel to Japan check also my other posts about Japan.
What is the Japan Rail Pass?
Firstly what is this JRailPass? I believe you probably already heard about it if you are researching info about it. Am I right? The Japan Rail Pass or shorten JR Pass is a pass for railway that is available for foreigners/tourists who are traveling in Japan. Trains can be quite expensive (especially those cool, super fast bullet trains) in Japan, this is an amazing solution for travelers who want to visit multiple cities or to travel long distances.
In order to qualify for a JR Pass:
- You must have non Japanese passport
- You must enter Japan with a Tourist Visa and stay less than 90 days
Where you can use the Japan Rail Pass?
You can use the JR Pass on all Japan Rail trains in the whole Japan except for the privately operated trains. Basically, you have an access to almost all the Shinkansen bullet trains, except those Nozomi and Mizuho trains, which are the fastest ones in Japan. Although, no worry the arrival time difference between those trains is really not huge. Also, you can use Japan Rail Pass on local trains inside cities such as Osaka, Kyoto or Tokyo.
You need to buy the Japan Rail Pass BEFORE you arrive to Japan. You will receive an actual letter in the mail, which will have a document which you will exchange to JR passes when you are in Japan. You can buy your passes here.
Do I really need one?
Yes, the answer is definitely yes. Well… only if you will live in a small Japanese city and you won’t move around then no, but who does that? If you are planning to visit multiple cities or at least two cities like Tokyo or Kyoto during your trip, you will most likely need a JR Pass and if you’re looking to save some money.
If you are still not sure if it’s worth getting a JR Pass, you can check on HyperDia actual train prices. Look how much tickets will cost for the trip between the main cities you are planning to visit and compare it to the price of a Japan Rail Pass for one or two weeks. It’s no-brainer to order a Japan Rail Pass.
PROS AND CONS OF THE JAPAN RAIL PASS
- Hop on and off trains without purchasing tickets in advance;
- Saves you a lot of money;
- Extremely fast Shinkansen Bullet Trains, comfortable and modern;
- Great for covering many cities in Japan.
- Must be purchased in advanced;
- Can’t use for the fast Nozomi or Mizuho trains;
- Not the best option for travelers who like to take their time slowly and discover one city at a time.
How to save even more money using the JR Pass?
Adjust your itinerary to fit all the biggest train journeys in one week rather than in two weeks. For example: 7 days in Tokyo, 3 days in Kyoto 2 days in Osaka, 2 days in Nara and 4 days in Tokyo again. Planning big trips in the middle of the trip you will need to buy a JR Pass only for 7 days rather than 14. This saves up to 130 Eur per person. For sure, it takes a bit of planning, but that’s worth it.
Once you activate your Japan Rail Pass, keep it with you all the time and use it wherever it’s possible. You can use it on any JR train line which means you can use it even in big cities for smaller journeys.
How to use the JR Pass in Japan?
When you want to start using your JR Pass, you have to active it. You do this by exchanging the letter you’ve received into the actual JR Pass. Find the nearest JR Exchange Office to receive your pass. You can find your nearest exchange point in this handy list on the JR Pass Website.
Once you have received your Japan Rail Pass, you can start using on your chosen days. You can just get on the train on any JR line or you can book a seat in the Shinkansen trains. I recommend reserving a seat especially during busier seasons or longer trips. It is completely free of charge and gives you a seat, you don’t need to worry about it anymore. To reserve a seat in a train, you need to walk into one of the ticket offices which you will find at any larger station. Then ask the employee behind the counter to reserve a seat for a specific train and you will get a reservation ticket. When it is time to get on the train, you have to walk to the tickets gate and show your Japan Rail pass and a reservation ticket.
To enter automatic ticket gates you have to show your JR Pass to one of the guards next to it. Sometimes, they ask you to show your passport as well to make sure it is yours JR Pass. Although, always have your passport with yourself, because policeman at any time in the city can ask you to show your passport to them.