JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) and Regional Passes! (Japan Transportation)

in japan •  2 years ago

Hi everyone!

For anyone who is most likely to visit Japan anytime soon or planning to do so, can check out this simple but detailed note!

What is Japan Rail Pass ? Here I am referring to the All Japan Railpass, currently priced at 29,110 Yen for 7 days, 46,390 Yen for 14 days and 59,350 for 21 Days for an Ordinary Pass. (Green Pass is more expensive but provide a more comfortable, luxurous ride). Without going too much into the detals or fineprints, the All Japan Railpass can only be purchased outside Japan by foreigners on a sightseeing trip to Japan (15 or 90 days temporary stamp on the passport). There is however an ongoing “experiment” by the Japan Government to sell the JR Pass at Kansai, Narita & Haneda Airport.  It allows the pass holder to take JR Shinkansen, Limited Express Trains, Rapid Trains and Local Trains across Japan, including Hokkaido, Tohuku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, Shikuko and Kyushu regions. It does not entitle holders to travel on non-JR trains such as Tokyo Metro or buses. The All-Japan railpass also does not allow travel on the Mizuho and Nozumi Shinkansen and most overnight trains.

Should you get a JR Pass ? It’s really a Dollars & Cents (or Yen) Decision ! You compare the total $ of individual train tickets against the price of the JR pass. Saying the obvious, if the total $ of individual train tickets is more than the price of JR pass, then you should get the JR pass as it saves you $.  

Regional Transport Passes

For casual travellers, getting a Regional rail/transport pass is not mandatory, nor essential, and may in fact be detrimental, as it restricts the travellers from taking the most direct form of transport.  For example, if you already bought a Tokyo Metro pass, and you intend to travel from Shinjuku to Shibuya, you would more likely take the Tokyo Metro (15 minutes), even though the fastest/cheapest mode of transport is JR (5 minutes). 

A. Tokyo Tokyo is served by the subways (2 different companies - Tokyo Metro, Toei Line), Japan Railways JR (Yamanote Line, Chuo /Sobu line) and other private railways.   

A1. Subway. If you have decided that you would be taking subways most of the time in Tokyo, you can consider getting the Subway 24/48/72 hours ticket at 800/1200/1500 Yen respectively. The tickets can be purchased by tourists at Narita/Haneda Airport and BIC Camera shops in Tokyo. You have to show your passport at time of purchase. Pros : 1. This ticket is the best value for money for travel within Tokyo. The cheapest Tokyo Metro is around 170 Yen, you would break even if you take 3 trips per day. 2. You can use it for both Tokyo Metro and Toei lines  http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/...

A2. JR One-day pass, called Tokunai Pass. 750 Yen. For travel of JR train within Tokyo + 23 wards. Suitable for those who intend to travel extensively (5 trips or more per day) on the JR.  http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/toku...

A3. Narita Express N'EX Round trip ticket. 4000 Yen. For travel from Narita to Tokyo/Shinjuku/Ikebukaru/Omiya/Yokohama. Validity = 14 days. Pros : Ideal for those who arrive/depart at Narita Airport. Especially beneficial for those travelling to faraway Yokohama, Hachioji areas. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/nex_...Other Regional Pass covering Tokyo

A4. JR Tokyo Wide Pass. 10,000 Yen for 3 consecutive days. Covers Gala Yuzawa, Karuizawa, Nikko, Tokyo, Narita Airport, Lake Kawaguchi,  Shimoda. Pros. The pass is ideal for travellers who are based in Tokyo and go on day trips for 3 consecutive days. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/tokyowide...

A5. JR East Pass.  5 non-consecutive days of travel within a 14 days period. There are 2 passes. The JR East Tohuku pass for 19,000 Yen covers Akita, Aomori, Morioka, Sendai, Nikko, Gala Yuzawa and the JR East Nagano Niigata pass for 17,000 Yen that covers Niigata, Nagano, Karuizawa, Nikko.  Pros : This pass is ideal for travellers who travel from Tokyo to the Tohuku or Niigata region, spending a few days in each place before moving on to the next spot.  You can therefore break the pass usage into 5 non-consecutive days usage, which is not possible for the JR Pass.  Cons. It's a lot of $. Do your maths wisely. Pass does not cover Hokkaido.  Tohoko http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass_... Niigata http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass_...

A6. JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass. With the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen, JR has released this new pass that covers Hokkaido. Price at 26,000 Yen (if bought outside Japan) for 6 non-consecutive days of travel within a 14 days period. Covers Shinkansen/Limited Express/Rapid/Normal trains to Tokyo, Nagano, Gala Yuzawa, Niigata, Fukushima, Yamagata, Sendai, Akita, Morioka, Aomori, Hakodate, Sapporo, Otaru, and Shimoda in Izu   Pros : This pass is ideal for travellers who travel in Hokkaido, Tohuku region, Izu, spending a few days in each place before moving on to the next spot.  You can therefore break the pass usage into 6 non-consecutive days usage, which is not possible for the All Japan JR Pass.  Cons. It's a lot of $. Do your maths wisely. http://www.jreasthokkaido.com/e/ 

A7. JR Hokuriku Arch Pass. This is another exciting new pass that covers the Hokuriku Shinansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa. Price at 24,000 Yen for 7 consecutive days.  Covers Karuizawa, Nagano, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Kyoto and Osaka.  Pros. Cheaper than the JR pass (29,110 Yen) and ideal for travellers planning to visit Tokyo & Kyoto, and wanting to spend days in Kanazawa, Toyama and Nagano.  Cons. It’s a lot of $, Do your maths.  Also does not cover Takayama.  http://hokuriku-arch-pass.com/en/

A7. Hakone Free Pass. Currently at 5,140 Yen for 2 days. Covers Shinjuku to Hakone Yumato on the Okakyu Railways (excluding Romance Cars) and the various transport arrangement in Hakone.  Pros : Ideal for those who are trying out the full spectrum of transport in Hakone. http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/...


B. OSAKA Osaka is served by the JR, subway within the city, private trains between the cities (Osaka to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji). There are transport passes from each of these companies. The main ones as follow :B1. One-day Enjoy Eco Card. 800 Yen for weekday, 600 Yen for weekend. Unlimited rides on subways.  Pros : for travellers spending the day within Osaka city area.  http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/plan/pr...

B2. JR Kansai Area Pass. 1 day 2200 Yen, 2 days 4300 Yen, 3 days 5300 Yen 4 days 6300 Yen.  Unlimted ride on JR trains covering Osaka, Kyoto, Iga-Ueno (Ninja museum), Nara, Kansai Airport, Wakayama, Kobe, Himeji.  Not covering Shinkansen. Pros : for travellers taking JR around Kansai area. http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/t.... There are other JR passes covering other regions within JR West and can be found here. http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/t...

B3. Kansai Through Pass. 4000 Yen for 2 days, 5200 Yen for 3 days. Unlimited ride on subway and private railways. Covers Umeda, Himeji, Kobe. Kyoto. Nara, Wakayama, Koyasan and Kansai Airport. Special gifts and discounts at selected facilities.  Pros : for travellers taking private railways around Kansai area. http://www.surutto.com/tickets/kans...

B4. Osaka Amazing Pass. 2,300 Yen for 1 day and 3,000 Yen for 2 days. This is strictly speaking, not a transport pass, but allows the traveller to visit 28 tourist spots free of charge, in addition to unlimited rides on the subway Pros : Ideal for those who intend to visit some of these facilities.  You have to do your maths to decide if the pass is worthwhile for you, as members don't go to the same facilities. http://www.osaka-info.jp/osp/en/fac...

B5. Haruka + ICOCA Card. For those arriving at Kansai Airport and planning to take the JR to Osaka, Kyoto, you can consider getting this pass. https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/...

C. KYOTOKyoto is best served with city bus.  

C1. Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass. 500 Yen. Cards can be purchased at information centers, kiosks, from bus drivers and at many convenience stores. Cons. Whiles buses are cheap, they are impacted by traffic conditions and take longer to reach your destinations. http://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/koho/e...

D. NAGOYA, TAKAYAMA, SHIRAKAWA-GO D1. Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist pass.  13,500 Yen for 5 days.  Covers Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Kyoto, JR Thunderbird to Kanazawa, Nohi bus to Shirakawa-go, Gokayama,  Takayama, Toyama, Gero and Nagoya. Pros.  This pass covers Nohi bus to the UNESCO Site Shirakawa-go/Gokayama.  And is especially ideal for travellers who arrive at Chubu Airport Nagoya and spend 4 nights in Takayama, Shirakawa-go/Gokayama, Toyama, Kanazawa before travelling to Kyoto/Osaka and depart via Kansai Airport. http://touristpass.jp/en/takayama_h...

E. SEISHUN 18The original intention of the Seishun 18 ticket, is to encourage Japan Youths to travel across Japan, during their school holidays, to broaden their horizon.  But it's not restricted to anyone, so foreigners, regardless of age, can also purchase this ticket.   Price = 11,850.  Validity period may be different every year, for 2015 it's Mar 1 - Apr 10, Jul 20 - Sep 10, Dec 10 - Jan 10. Not allowed on Shinkansen and limited express. Can be used for 5 non-consecutive days or used by 5 different people on the same day (or other combinations). Pros : Would be useful for 5 travellers taking a 1 day trip, on rapid/local trains.  http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seis...

F. IC CARD IC Cards are basically stored value cards that allows travellers to "tap" their card when taking the JR, subway, private railways, without purchasing tickets every time.  Travellers would pay a deposit + balance they would like to add to the card.  When the balance is used up after multiple trips, the travellers can top up their cards at machines outside the train stations. They can also use this IC card to pay for purchases at convenience stores and other outlets. 

  • Issued by JR : Suica (JR East), ICOCA (JR West), Kitaza (JR Hokkaido), Sugoca (JR Kyushu) 
  • Issued by Other Railway Companies : PASMO, PiTaPa

These cards generally has a validity of 10 years.  So, you don't necessary have to cancel the card if you plan to return to Japan again.  However, based on my experience, it's impossible to get a deposit refund if you travel across the Regions. So, if you intend to get a refund, do ask for it before you move out, example ask for your Suica refund before you leave Tokyo for Osaka. In addition, certain railways in the remote areas do not accept cards issued by other Railway Companies, but they accept Suica and ICOCA. So, it may be better to get them instead if you planning to go to the remote areas. 

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