Japan has one of the world’s most extensive and efficient railway networks, with clean and comfortable trains, I’m serious! If you do any research on how to travel to Japan you will find most pieces of advice go towards doing it by train.
So, before I left to Japan I wondered if I should you get a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)? Would it be worth it? Will it save me money?
To be honest with you I was shocked when I saw the price of the JR Pass! I knew travelling around Japan wasn’t cheap, but I couldn’t believe I was going to spend more than $400 on a pass!
The good news is that after a deep breath I started to crunch the numbers and I realised that the JR Pass would actually save me a lot of money in the long run.
Put it this way, if you just make one round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto on the shinkansen (bullet train) and use the pass to travel between Narita and Tokyo, you’ve already saved money with the pass.
The Trains in Japan
The trains in Japan are simply beautiful and oh my! soooo clean!
I have done interrail across Europe, criss-cross large parts of Asia on trains, but I never saw trains like the ones in Japan.
Japan was the first country that I found to have stunning green velvet seats impeccably cleaned and the outside of the trains are polished!!!
Will a Japan Rail Pass save you money?
Note that the cost of a normal one-way shinkansen (bullet train) ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto is Y13,520 and the roundtrip fare is Y27,040. An ordinary one-week pass is Y28,300. A one-way trip on the JR N’EX (Narita Express from Narita International Airport into Tokyo) costs Y2940.
So, if you use the pass to travel from Narita to Tokyo, then on to Kyoto and back, you’ve already saved money. You can also use the pass to get from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto.
What are the advantages of buying the Japan Rail Pass?
For us saving money is one of the main reason to buy a JR Pass, but the advantages don’t stop there.
The pass convenient and very easy to use: it’s valid on all JR lines and covers the shinkansen (bullet train).
With the pass, you don’t have to worry about buying tickets and fishing for change in your pocket each time you take a trip: you just show the pass at the turnstiles and you board the next available train.
Where can you buy the Japan Rail Pass?
The most important thing to remember is that you MUST purchase the pass outside Japan and also that you can only use a JR Pass with a tourist visa.
There are numerous official agents that can sell you a Japan Rail Pass online. We bought ours online through voyagin.com and I found the service impeccable.
I just filled in all the info they needed online and the passes arrived at my doorstep, with a booklet of all the info I needed, maps and even a tourist guide book to Japan. I totally recommend going with them.
P.S: This post was originally published on the 10/04/2016 and updated on the 17/8/2019. If you are thinking about travelling in Japan you might also like to read about the Conbini | The Japanese Convenience Store and the Unique Things Japan Has To Offer During Spring
FAQ’S about the Japan Rail Pass
¥29,110 (~$419) for a 7-day JR pass.
Works nationwide, potentially ideal for limited, fast-paced travel
Only works on JR lines – does not work on local transit or non-JR trains. Some destinations not reached by JR. Must be bought before arrival in Japan.
Yes – must use back-to-back within the 7 days of purchase for a 7-day pass, 14 days for a 14-day pass, etc.
Online at https://www.govoyagin.com