I was on the fence about getting a Japan Rail Pass. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth the extra money that it cost. This can be a tricky decision for everyone. So, I decided to do all the research for you. I had the same issue when I was in Europe and the big struggle was whether or not to get a Euro Rail Pass. (Of course then I decided not too get one, but Japan is a lot different)
Let’s start with the why…
Why should you get the Japan Rail Pass? Train tickets in Japan are very expensive. They aren’t always of course – but the further distance that you are going and the faster the train you would want to ride on, the more expensive it is going to cost. And time is money!
I prefer to take the bullet trains because they are super cool! They are a SUPER Japanese experience and quite honestly, they are SO worth the extra money.
How cool is it to go 2 hours worth of distance, in just 15 minutes!! You don’t get that anywhere else.
Steps to getting and using your Japan Rail pass
1. You must buy Japan rail pass before leaving your home country. They will then send you a voucher in the mail that you must take with you to Japan, to be exchanged for the actual pass. If you do not get the pass before arriving in Japan, you are plain out of luck.
2. You can get the pass from any of these locations :
|JR EAST Travel Service Center (Marunouchi North)||7:30-20:30|
|JR-CENTRAL Ticket Office (Yaesu North)||7:30-20:30|
|JR Tokai Tours Tokyo Office||10:00-18:00|
|Ticket Office (JR-WEST Central)||5:30-23:00|
|Ticket Office (JR-CENTRAL Hachijo Shinkansen)||8:30-23:00|
|JR Tokai Tours Kyoto Office||8:30-19:00|
|JR Tokai Tours Kyoto Station Shinkansen Central Entrance Office||11:30-19:00||11:30-18:00|
|Ticket Office (Central NO.12,13)||5:30-23:00|
|Nippon Travel Agency TiS Osaka Branch (Travel Service Center OSAKA)||8:00-20:00|
There are loads of places all over Japan that you can get these passes. I listed the ones that I thought would be the most helpful for you. The rest- and any other information that you might need can be found at http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/index.html
3. Make sure to take your passport and you need to continue to carry your passport because you have to be able to show it if asked by train officials. The nice thing about Japan is that it is very safe, so I just kept my passport and my JR pass together most of the time. I would say 9 times out of ten no one asked to see my passport, but I prefer to be safe rather than sorry.
4. If you want to get a seat reservation (which I recommend- it is free and it guarantees you a good seat and almost always I got a row to myself) Just go to the JR office, show them your pass and tell them where you want to go. They will print off a ticket for you, then you just show your JR pass and your ticket.
5. Make sure that you only use it for JR trains. A few times I found myself on the wrong trains without a ticket. Everyone was very nice when that happened but I did have to pay afterwards when there could have been a free train to take. So beware of that and make sure to ALWAYS verify and make sure you are getting on the right trains.
Japan Travel App
6. Download the Japan Travel app before you go. This way you can look up routes and you can specifically search for Japan rail trains, on google it will never tell you the truth! That is how I ended up on the wrong trains!
You’re all set! Have a great trip! Below are a few of the routes that I took with JR. Keep in mind, while there are trans to everywhere, you are never going to have a straight journey, I usually had to transfer at least 2 times, but most of the time 3-5 transfers for one trip.
- Tokyo to Hakone
- Hakone to Matsumoto
- Takayama to Kyoto
- Kyoto to Hiroshima
- Hiroshima to Nara
- Nara to Tokyo
There were still a lot of routes that I took that didn’t involve the JR trains but I think that the JR pass was totally worth the money that I spent on it.