JR Pass is a Japan Railways train travel ticket for Japan. If you plan to travel around Japan while traveling, in 90% of cases buying a JR Pass will save you a lot of money. Below I will tell you how to calculate whether to buy JR Pass or not, how to buy it and some points regarding its use.
I’ll start with some clarifications about the JR Pass.
- You can use the jr pass only if you are traveling to Japan on a tourist / business visa
- You can buy a ticket only from your own country (you cannot buy a JR Pass in Japan, upon arrival in the country you only need to change the voucher that you purchase in advance for a real ticket)
- JR Pass registered, that is, is issued only to the same person for whom the voucher is issued.
- In case you lose the JR Pass, it will no longer be possible to restore it and money will not be refund.
Which trains can I use with the JR Pass?
You can use JR Pass for:
- All Shinkansens except Nozomi and Mizuho.
The travel card applies to Shinkansen`s Hayabusa, Hayate or Komachi, but these trains do not have non-reserved seats, you must reserve a seat, or have to stand in the vestibule.
- Local (not intercity) buses of the JR company.
JR local bus lines (JR Hokkaido Bus, JR Bus Tohoku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, JR Shikoku, West Japan JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Kyushu Bus)
- Ferry JR Miyajima , which goes to the island of Miyajima.
- On N`ex , express train from Narita Airport, where, in particular, you can get to Tokyo.
JR Pass does not apply to lines of other railway companies. If the JR lines use parts of the paths of other companies, you will have to pay a certain cost.
The main thing to remember is that the action of jr pass does not apply to Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansens, as well as to the metro and city-trains. BUT in almost every city there is a jr line, which you can use to get to the sights and save your money. In Tokyo, this is the Yamanote line, which allows you to get to different areas – Ueno, Shibuya, Harajuku, Tokyo Station, Ginza District (Yurakucho Station).
See also the article “Prices in Japan: Hotels, Products, Transportation”
Should I buy a JR Pass
There are two ways to figure out whether it will pay off or not:
- Use the calculator on this site https://www.japan-guide.com/railpass/
- Use the service http://www.hyperdia.com/ , which you must add to bookmarks to use when planning your movements in Japan. The service shows the schedule and options for getting from point A to point B.
For the initial calculation, a calculator is suitable. Here, for example, is my calculation. I added the main movements around the country, excluding transfers from / to the airport, a few more transfers that are covered by the travel card only partially, and did not take into account movement in Tokyo (the jr pass does not work in the metro, but you can get to some areas of Tokyo using JR Yamanote Line). So, even these movements already costs the same price as the 2-weeks ticket.
In fact, we saved 50% using JR Pass. If we didn’t use travel cards, for each person we would have spent 74,560 ¥, and the price of pass was 46 390¥.
See also “Travel Route in Japan for 12 days”
How much is the JR Pass
The price of jr pass differs slightly in different agencies, here I will give approximate prices for May 2020:
- 7 days – $ 276
- 14 days – 440 $
- 21 days – $ 564
The price is relevant for a regular travel card, there is also a jr pass green class (this is something like a first class, but, according to reviews, it makes no sense to overpay, because all classes on trains are comfortable: we went in ordinary cars, we did not experience any inconvenience !).
Read also the article about prices in Japan.
How to buy JR Pass
As I said, you cannot buy a travel card in Japan, you must buy while in the country of residence. There are two ways to do this:
- In travel agencies that are authorized to sell travel cards (http://japanrailpass.net/area_05.html).
- Online on special websites. There are several sites for sale, in fact, these are the same agencies, the price in them varies slightly. The most recommended sites for purchase: https://www.jrpass.com and https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/ I bought on the second one, on the jprass.com the procedure is the same.
- Online on popular getyourguide.com service
When you purchase on the site, you pay online and within a few days (I was delivered in 3 days), a voucher is delivered to you (delivery costs $ 15-20), and you exchange it for a travel card when you arrive in Japan. Then it can be used.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to buy JR pass through the site https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/ All pictures are clickable.
Step 1. We go to the site, select the necessary travel card and quantity. In my case – 2 “adults” travel for 14 days
Step 2. Choose a delivery. Shipping cost from Fedex is $ 15 (if there are 2 tickets in the order, then $ 15 is added only once – everything is delivered in one package). Enter the date of entry to Japan, if necessary, select additional services.
Step 3. Input information about yourself. Just like in the passport. Also enter the delivery address
Step 4. Check again the data carefully and pay: enter the card data.
Step 5. This is it, we bought jr pass and received a notification about that.
All information is sent to the e-mail as well, and after a while you will receive email from fedEx about the delivery.
How to exchange a voucher for JR Pass
The addresses where you can exchange voucher is indicated on one of the documents that will be sent to you along with the pass. The easiest way is to change jr pass at the airport upon arrival (be prepared for the queue, we waited about 1.5 hours) or at Tokyo station (there is a jr office there). If you buy a travel card for the entire duration of the trip and plan to cover the road from the airport to the city , activate it at the airport.
For activation, the following documents are required:
- The form of the travel card that will be issued to you while you are standing in line
- Passport with a tourist visa
After activation you will get the ticket, where the validity period and type of ticket will be indicated. On the first photo in the post you can see the green sticker in the middle.
When you activate at the airport, immediately book your seats on Narita Express if you plan to get to Tokyo Station. This train is covered by a pass, but there are no non-reserved seats. By the way, if you buy jr pass on jrpass.com you can include meet and greet service (95$ only). The assistant will meet you on arrival, will help you activvate JR pass and reserve tickets and will be your escort through the airport and station to make sure you board the right bus or train.
See also “TOP 10 Tokyo Attractions”
How to use JR Pass
If you have jr pass, you can:
- Book seats if the train has reserved seats (they must be in the shinkansen)
- To occupy non-reserved seats (on the station board they write which wagons are unreserved, as a rule, in shinkansen these are wagons No. 1–3)
We booked only once, then we realized that you can just come a little early to the station and take the line. For all the time I had to go standing only once – it was a weekend and a very popular destination.
If you reserve a seat, you will be given a green ticket. Upon entering the station, you must show jr pass to the employee, regardless of whether you have this ticket or not. As I understand it, you can not show the ticket 🙂
How to use trains in Japan
I highly recommend to use mobile Internet or wi-fi router in Japan. It will really help you. We bought a SIM card at Narita Airport, I believe that it saved us a lot of time, a lot of nerves and helped to avoid constant running around in a panic at the train stations.
Our SIM card costed 7,100 yens for 2 weeks. For the same price, you can rent a Wi-Fi router from https://www.japan-wireless.com/en/ (the company recommends Lonely Planet in its guides), I wrote to them asking for a discount for readers, they gave me [mkdf_highlight background_color = “pink” color = “”] coupon JW2B [/ mkdf_highlight] for 10% off (up to 02/29/2020 – 15%) . You can safely use it! A two-week rental, taking into account the discount, will cost 7290 yen. The Internet is unlimited, up to 10 devices can be connected to the router.
Life hack from me.: for ordinary trains, the schedule can be viewed directly on Google maps. I found jr station as close to the place where I needed to go and searched the route. Google gives a good schedule, and trains in Japan are always in time. In the maps you see the departure time, line and train number.
This is a quick option, especially suitable when moving around cities.
Another site (I have already indicated it above) is hyperdia.com. In the case we need to get to Ashikaga flower park, we can see additional information on the site: from Tokyo, the train leaves from track number 23, and from Oyama – from track number 8.
If you need shinkansen, for example, from Tokyo to Kyoto , you need to be careful. Google maps show the fastest options, and these are the Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansens, which are not covered by the pass. Therefore, immediately open hyperdia.com. Clean the check mark on Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen and on private railwayson when searching the train. There will be nothing extra in the issue and you can choose the appropriate option.
A suitable option is Shinkansen, covered by pass and non-stop
Please note that in some places, for example, Lake Kawaguchiko, which offers a picturesque view of Fuji, you can’t get completely through the JR line, so leave the “private lines” tick!
In our example, Tokyo-Kyoto immediately indicates the platform from which the train leaves and to which it arrives. When you are on the departure platform, pay attention to the stickers on the floor – they indicate which coach will stop here. Find your train, your coach, and get in a line.
Have a nice and easy trip to Japan!