Using a Rail Pass in Japan can help travelers traverse its many train lines, but is it worth investing in one while on vacation?
Every year, millions of people flock to Japan to witness its marvelous and most iconic attractions, including Mount Fuji, Imperial Tokyo, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, historic Kyoto, the Island Shrine of Itsukushima, and much more. They can use the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto when heading to Mount Fuji or take the subway train to a specific place of interest. The simple fact of experiencing the country’s world-leading railway system is just a unique and quintessential part of a Japan trip.
However, those who want to save a lot of money when using the Japanese transportation system can spend some time learning about the convenient and special Japan Rail Pass. This applies to tourists who plan to save much money when exploring a lot in Japan.
Here’s What To Know About The Japan Rail Pass And Its Validity
The JR Pass or Japan Rail Pass is the perfect option to opt for long-distance travel in the country. It’s very cost-effective and is offered only to foreign tourists. When they purchase a JR Pass, people will have the chance to take unlimited rides on Japan Railways trains for one, two, or three weeks. What is so unique about this pass is that it offers rates to tourists that the residents inside the country can only dream of. There are two types of JR Pass: these are the ordinary and green cars. The latter offers more spacious seats than the former.
The JR Pass can be used on Japan Railways or JR all over the country. These include the Shinkansen, express, limited express, and local trains. Moreover, the pass is valid on the Tokyo Monorail to and from Haneda Airport. The JR Pass can also serve as a transport ticket on the JR Ferry to Miyajima. It can also be used on some non-JR trains to access the isolated lines on JR. These include the Aoimori Railway, the IR Ishikawa Railway, and the Ainokaze Toyama Railway. The JR Pass is also valid on some local JR Buses, such as those that go to Lake Towada, the tourist loop bus to Hiroshima, city buses around Sapporo, and others.
The JR Pass is not valid for several transportation options, such as on JR trains that use non-JR tracks, special compartments, and berth trains requiring liner tickets, highway buses, and more.
Here’s How To Purchase A Japan Rail Pass
There are many ways that one can purchase a Japan Rail Pass. For instance, people can buy the pass online through an authorized website that is allowed to sell JR Passes. When purchasing the pass from any of these websites, the voucher must be exchanged with an actual pass inside the country not more than three months after the initial purchase date.
- Recommended: Although the costs are higher when purchasing a JR Pass from the JR official website, people will have the option to make online seat reservations and will only need their passport to pick up their pass inside the country.
Another way of purchasing a JR pass in Japan is through a travel agent outside the country. When people adopt this way, they will have to exchange the voucher received from the agent with an actual pass inside Japan not after more than three months of the initial purchase.
The last option for purchasing a JR Pass is to do it at selected major stations inside the country. However, the costs for doing so will be higher than other options. The major stations include Haneda Airport, Narita Airport, Kansai Airport, and more.
- Who can use it: The JR Pass can only be used by temporary visitors who come for a short period to Japan. As for Japanese nationals, they should prove that they’ve been residing outside of the country for more than ten years so that they can use the JR Pass.
Is The Japan Rail Pass Worth It?
The Japan Rail Pass is worth the money only for people who are willing to see a lot around this beautiful country. For example, if one wants to experience the most famous sights and attractions in Japan, they will need to travel from Tokyo to Osaka, and then to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and back to Tokyo. If one buys separate Shinkansen tickets for such a trip, they will be paying around 40% more in costs than if they would have purchased a week-long Japan Rail Pass. This is not to forget about the hefty costs that will be paid for transport within the cities, airport transfers, or a trip to Miyajima.
However, people on a very tight budget may not be able to even pay for the Japan Rail Pass. This is where are advised to opt for discount tickets, buses, or slower trains. Moreover, those willing to visit the beautiful villages of Gokamaya or Shirakawa-go might be better off without the JR Pass because these places are not accessible by JR trains alone, which means that the JR Pass will not be valid for these trips. Also, people staying in one place in Japan will not benefit from purchasing a JR Pass. This is because most urban network transfers in the cities do not use JR railways.
The better option for the above cases might be to purchase a regional Japan Rail Pass instead of a national one.
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