Japan rail pass

Japan Rail Pass

Are planning trip to Japan? You should buy Japan rail pass for your trip.  If you read previous post about travel cost in Japan you already should know that big part of your travel budget will be spend on any kind of transport in Japan. But by buying Japan rail pass your saving would be significant. You can save about 30-40% by using JR pass instead of buying train ticket each time you want to go somewhere.

You can just check online the prices for the routes you are interested if you already have your trip to Japan itinerary ready. The best site to do it at hyperdia.com. This site links routes of all public and private railway companies in Japan and it is best to plan you trip. Important to know the JR pass is not valid on “Nozomi” and “Mizuho” bullet trains (shinkansen) so you should uncheck check box on route search screen for these trains as it is shown in picture below:

Japan train route search form
Here is table with train schedule during my Japanese adventure:

From To Fare Unreserved Reserved
Tokyo Odawara 1450 1680 1990
Odawara Kyoto 6830 4410 4720
Kyoto Nara 690
Nara Himeji 2210 1680 1990
Himeji Hiroshima 4310 3250 3560
Hiroshima Miyajima (+ferry) 740
Hiroshima Tokyo 11340 6200 6510
Total ¥27570 ¥17220 ¥18770

Train tickets in Japan consist of two parts – route fare and seat fare.
Route fare is a constant value on that route while seat fear depends on which train you are taking (shinkansen or express), are you reserving ticket in advance(reserved, unreserved or sleeper car).

In my case full journey on railway could cost ¥44790 for unreserved seats or ¥46340 with reserved. You don’t need reserve tickets for local trains, but you will need to make reservation for raiding shinkansens as I missed one train because I didn’t have reservation and was no seat available when I showed up in train station. So by my calculation I would need to spend ¥46340. By todays currency exchange rate it would be 600USD. But..I saved almost 250USD because I bought Japan rail pass in advance.  You can do the same.
There are two types of JR pass – ordinary and green. The green pass is like first class ticket, but seats on ordinary class cars were very comfortable and enough space for my legs, so I don’t know any reason why should pay more for. 7-day ordinary JR pass costs ¥28300, while the same duration green pass costs ¥37800. JR passes are 7-day, 14-day and  21-day duration so you need to plan in advance to make most of your rail pass and to know which kind of pass to buy.

It is very important to know you must buy Japan Rail Pass before your arrival to Japan. Actually you are buying not pass itself but exchange order and while in Japan you must turn that order to one of the JAPAN RAIL PASS exchange offices with your passport to get JR pass. At the time of exchange you can specify the day you want to start to use your JR pass.

Exchange Orders for Japan rail pass can be purchased only from JR authorized sales offices and agents. The list can be found here.