Japan is not as expensive as it was once thought, but the price of transportation can eat up the biggest bulk of your travel budget. That is why it’s important to be prepared before embarking on your Japan trip. I often get this question, “Do I need a JR Pass?” So often that I decided to write this blog to answer the question. JR Pass is so popular that some tourists think is it the only way to save when traveling by train in Japan. Nope, not true. While JR Pass is really helpful when you know when to actually use it, you also have other options and this is what I will discuss in this JR Pass blog.
What is a JR PASS?
Japan Rail Pass, commonly known as JR Pass, is a pass in lieu of a ticket that can be used for traveling in Japan (within the city or inter-city) via the JR trains, JR buses and some ferries. It gives you the convenience of unlimited rides within the day/s, depending on the number of days of the Pass that you purchased.
Why should you buy a JR Pass?
JR Pass gives you peace of mind and convenience when traveling around Japan. You no longer have to que to buy your tickets or recharge your IC Cards and you can make any random side trip when you want to. The pass saves you time. Also, there are perks of buying a JR Pass:
1.FREE Seat Reservations – Train seats in Japan have fees. So, if you want to make sure that you will get a seat for the entire duration of your train ride, you have to pay for a RESERVE SEAT. Good news is, if you have a JR Pass, you can make seat reservations for FREE. Just go to the JR Pass office and show your pass.
2.Discounts at JR affiliated hotels – JR Pass offers discounts on REGULAR rates at JR affiliated hotels. See hotels HERE. But then again, if you’ve booked your hotel in Japan HERE, discount is just the same or way better.
Am I Eligible for a JR Pass?
Foreigners traveling to Japan as a temporary visitor (Type C visa) are eligible to purchase and use the JR Pass, provided s/he is staying in Japan for tourism purposes only under 90 days.
Validity of JR Pass?
For the Sitewide JR Pass, there’s a 7, 14 and 21 days pass.
Within 3 months from the date the Exchange Order was issued, you need to turn in your Exchange Order to get your JR Pass. For example, an Exchange Order was issued August 1, you need to turn it in and claim your JR Pass on or before November 1. Now once you turned in the Exchange Order and obtained your pass, you need to specify the date when you will start using the JR Pass so long as it is within 1 month.
Once a start date has been assigned to your pass, it cannot be changed. So, make sure you don’t make a mistake when assigning the date. Otherwise, say goodbye to your money.
How much is the JR Pass?
There are many types of JR Pass, but I will discuss here the SITEWIDE JR Pass, since that’s the one I’ll recommend because you can use this type of pass for intercity travels in Japan. Also note that the cost of the pass depends on where you will be making the purchase. But I listed the prices below.
Take note that there are 2 types of JR Pass, the GREEN and the ORDINARY. Basically, the Green Pass is the more expensive pass that gives you access to the more spacious and more exclusive parts of the bullet train. But since knowing how clean Japan is, the Ordinary Pass will do. Even ordinary trains in Japan are spotless and comfortable.
|7 DAYS||RESERVE HERE|
|14 DAYS||RESERVE HERE|
|21 DAYS||RESERVE HERE|
Where can I use the JR Pass?
You can use the JR Pass in all trains operated by Japan Railways (JR) including shinkansen (except Nozomi and Mizuho trains), limited express, express, rapid and local trains.
Narita Express train to/from Narita Airport
Tokyo monorail to/from Haneda Airport
JR Trains in Tokyo such as JR Yamanote and Chou lines
Local JR Bus like the JR Loop bus in Hiroshima (except long distance JR Bus). Refer to the list HERE.
Selected non-JR Trains (for access/transfer to isolated JR trains) – See list HERE.
JR Ferry to Miyajima
Is JR Pass worth it?
It depends. If you are traveling around long distance, multi-cities in Japan for 7 days or more, then I would recommend you use the JR Pass, for example, you will travel from Osaka, to Kyoto, to Nara, to Hiroshima, to Nagoya and to Tokyo.
See the sample calculations below:
Train fares for multi-cities without the JR Pass
OSAKA AIRPORT to OSAKA-NAMBA: JPY 640/USD 6/SGD 8/MYR 23
OSAKA to KYOTO : JPY 560 / PHP 270/ USD 5/SGD 7/MYR 20
KYOTO to HIROSHIMA : JPY 11,090/PHP 5,346/USD 100/SGD 136/MYR 405
HIROSHIMA to NAGOYA: JPY 13,810/PHP 6,657/USD 125/SGD 170/MYR 505
NAGOYA to TOKYO: JPY 10,880 / PHP 5,245/USD 98/SGD 134/MYR 397
TOKYO to NARITA AIRPORT :JPY 3,020/PHP 1455/USD 27/SGD 37 /MYR 110
TOTAL FARE: JPY 40,000/PHP 19,278/USD 361/SGD 492/MYR 1,461
*JR Trains within each city not yet included in the calculation.
Otherwise, if you are just traveling within the city, for example your route is within Tokyo city only or you are just exploring Kyoto only, then you only need an IC card like PASSMO or SUICA. For Kansai Region, say you are doing Osaka to Kyoto to Nara then back to Osaka, the Kansai Thru Pass should be okay.
Tokyo to Kyoto : JPY 13,940/PHP 6,718/USD 126/ SGD 171/MYR 509
If you want to calculate the cost of the trip for each leg, visit HYPERDIA to see the actual fare. Make sure to UNCHECK the Nozomi and private railways to get the fare of JR route. Also make sure you use the total fare on top.
When to purchase the JR Pass?
As I explained above, I recommend using a JR Pass if you are traveling long distance in different cities in Japan. Filipino tourists usually do the Osaka – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Tokyo route or the Tokyo- Nagoya – Kyoto – Osaka route. For a set time period ( 7 days or more). Or maybe you are traveling to Sapporo from Tokyo. Now, if you will do the same, then better get a JR Pass to save a few bucks and for convenience.
When not to purchase the JR Pass?
As aforementioned, if you will be traveling within one or two short distance cities only, you don’t really need a JR Pass. You can use a rechargeable IC Card.
If you are traveling long distance but only for 2 -3 cities, say you will be traveling to Tokyo from Osaka. You can buy a one-way shinkansen ticket for a cheaper price than the JR Pass. You can also fly to Osaka from Tokyo or Tokyo from Osaka for a much cheaper fare. Or you can take a long-distance bus like the Willer Bus.
If you are traveling within 1 region only, say Kansai Region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, etc.), then the regional pass like Kansai Thru Pass is more economical.
Where can I purchase a JR Pass in the Philippines?
1.You can buy a JR Pass from accredited travel agencies HERE.
2.You can buy it online. Klook offers the lowest rate for a JR Pass. They can deliver your JR Pass in the Philippines, wherever is your home address.
How to Exchange a JR Pass?
Once you order a JR Pass via Klook or a travel agency, you will receive an EXCHANGE ORDER that you can then exchange for your actual JR Pass when you arrive in Japan. No worries as the Exchange Order includes instructions and information on where you can claim your pass.
Make sure you bring your passport and Exchange Order when claiming the JR Pass. You will be asked to fill in a short form, choose a START DATE for the pass within the month and this can’t be exchanged.
I advise you to do this a day or two before your train travel in Japan or arrive at the train station plenty of time before your train transit.
JR PASS REMINDERS:
Always bring your passport when using the JR Pass.
Be careful when riding trains, the JR Pass cannot be used on Nozomi and Mizuho trains, you will pay for the entire ticket price if you do. When in doubt, ask the staff at the train station.
To make seat reservations, request inside the JR Office.
JAPANESE TRAIN ETIQUETTE
The Japanese are generally quiet, disciplined and respectful so best to do the following:
Be Quiet – Avoid making too much noise when talking or laughing. Keep your phone on silent mode. Do not answer phone calls while inside the train or do not make phone calls. Avoid typing too loud on your laptop too.
Don’t sit in the priority seats – The priority seats are for the elderly, PWD (people with disabilities) and pregnant women only.
Wait in line – Patiently wait in line for the next train and wait for the passengers inside the train to get off before you go inside.
No eating – Unless you are in a bullet train and first-class seat for long distance trains where food are served or sold.
No smoking – Unless there is a designated smoking area inside the train.
About the Blogger : Gael is a Filipina travel blogger. Her work has appeared in local and international publications.
For advertisements, sponsorship and partnerships, you may reach her at gaelhilotinblog (at) gmail (dot) com.
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