EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE JAPAN RAIL PASS AND TRAVELING BY TRAIN IN JAPAN
A guide with the most important tips on buying the JR PASS and traveling by train in Japan
If you decide to travel to Japan and wish to explore more of the country beyond Tokyo and Kyoto, the best means of transport to do it is by train.
For an initial Japan trip, a minimum of 2-3 weeks is recommended. If you need any further tips on which cities to visit, take a look at my post.
You have probably heard of the high-speed bullet trains called Shinkansen which can reach up to 300 km/h. Did you know they are operating in Japan since 1964? Japan has both bullet and non-bullet train, but of course the former should be part of your travel experience.
Departure hall at train station in Japan
Nozomi Shinkansen bullet train
Advantages of traveling by bullet train (Shinkansen) in Japan:
- Incredible speed (up to 300 km/h);
- Operate regularly and without any delays;
- Spacious trains with luggage storage and wide room for your legs;
- 1st class and 2nd class train cars available;
- English-speaking staff;
- Bar service on-board;
- All seats are aligned with the direction of the train (I believe form an engineering point of view, it would not be manageable otherwise given the high speed it can reach);
- They are included in standard train passes (except certain ultra-fast categories such as Nozomi).
During your tour to Japan and to save time while traveling, I recommend buying the well-known and advantageous Japan Rail Pass ticket.
It is a travel ticket that can only be purchased by foreigners visiting Japan which you can use while travelling by train throughout Japan. It is valid for both bullet and non-bullet trains. You will avoid many queues and can travel carelessly. Depending on the lenght of your stay, you can buy this ticket for 7 days, 14 days or 21 days.
Should I buy the Japan Rail Pass for any train ride in Japan?
You can see if a JR Pass pays off or not at this Japan Rail Pass Calculator
Just insert your route and this calculator will estimate the cost of all your train rides. It will then compare these prices with a standard Japan Rail Pass ticket and you will be able to see if such a ticket pays off or not.
From my experience, I would say such a ticket is only convenient if you travel beyond the route Tokyo-Kyoto. The further you travel, the more it pays off. In my case, as I traveled from Tokyo to Miyajima and needed both train tickets and ferry tickets, it was a marvelous and very convenient option.
Where and when can I buy the Japan Rail Pass?
You can buy it directly here without any additional fee since it is one of our partners.
Just click on this link.
Ideally, I would recommend buying it in advance before you travel to Japan since it is cheaper and more convenient for buying it online. You can order it at the link above and it will be sent by parcel service to your delivery address. In this way, you can start using it immediately after landing in Japan.
How much does a Japan Rail Pass cost?
You can have a look at the pricing list here
A 14 day Japan Rail Pass in 2nd class cost €375 and in 1st class €509.
How does the JR PASS work after receiving it by post?
Once you order it online and received it by post, keep it for your trip to Japan.
Please note you will not receive the JR Pass per se, it will be instead an exchange order into the real JR Pass. That is why you need to take it with you to Japan, as this exchange can only be performed at any JR Pass official store in Japan.
Conveniently, one of these stores is located at the main international airport of Tokyo Haneda. In this way, you can start using it as soon as you land. When you go to the store, you will receive the actual ticket and the assistant will stamp it. The counting of the JR pass validity starts from this first stamp. Therefore, taking into account the length of your ticket, plan carefully, and decide the day on which you want to start using it.
Which are the advantages of using the JR Pass?
- A single ticket allowing you to travel through Japan by train (bullet and non-bullet) and by bus;
- Certain metro stations are also included (JR ones, which are always in green);
- The ferry boat between Hiroshima and Miyajima is included in this ticket;
Ferry boat trip from Hiroshima to Miyajima in Japan
- You can buy both to travel in 1st class and 2nd class;
- Any seat is available (excluding the reserved ones);
- You avoid many queues and travel carelessly, which is of particular importance in high seasons, such as cherry blossom or autumn foliage.
As you can see, if you want to explore Japan the JR Pass is a great investment for your Japan trip and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
Do not forget to buy it through our link which is also listed at the homepage under Our Partners.