Japan Rail Pass Guide
The Japan Rail Pass, also known as a JR Pass is a cost effective rail pass that is available to overseas visitors to Japan. The pass entitles the holder to unlimited travel on the extensive JR rail network for one, two or three weeks, which includes the famous shinkansen (bullet trains) and selected JR buses and ferries.
Purchasing a Japan Rail Pass is well worth it and will save you money if you plan on making multiple trips within Japan. It offers the most affordable way to travel around, especially if you plan on seeing the must see destinations in Japan, such as the ‘Golden Route’ of Tokyo – Kyoto – Nara – Osaka – Hiroshima – Tokyo.
Types of Japan Rail Passes
The pass comes in two different types, one for each class of service, Standard, also known as economy and Green Car, also known as executive-class or first-class. The Green Car offers more spacious seats, more foot space and enhanced service than economy.
How the Japan Rail Pass Works
The Japan Rail Pass is only available to short term foreign tourists to Japan, and must be purchased outside of Japan. It is only available to people who enter Japan under the visa status of ‘temporary visitor’. To order the pass, you must first purchase an ‘exchange order’ via the internet, which can be validated once you are in the country. You receive a voucher that is exchanged to the actual pass once you are inside Japan and within three months of purchase.
The pass is time limited with three time periods available: 7 day, 14 day and 21 day. You can select an activation date, when transforming your ‘exchange order’, which can be up to 30 days from the time of transformation, so you don’t need to activate it right away.
Here is how the Japan Rail Pass works in six easy steps:
1. Buy your Japan Rail Pass – you can choose between 7, 14 or 21 days and select Economy or Green Car (executive class).
2. Receive your exchange order – you will be shipped your Exchange Order, this is required in order to receive your actual pass in Japan.
3. Go to Japan with your Exchange Order.
4. Get your ‘Temporary Visa’ stamp –if you’re Australian you will automatically receive a temporary visa stamp in your passport on arrival.
5. Transform your Exchange Order into a Japan Rail Pass – locate the nearest JR Travel Service Center to change your exchange order into your Japan Rail Pass.
6. Discover Japan using your Japan Rail Pass – now is the fun part you can start using your Japan Rail Pass to discover all that Japan has to offer.
Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?
Is the Japan Rail Pass worth the cost? It really depends on your itinerary and how much long distance travel you plan on doing. If you just plan on travelling within Tokyo then it is not worth it. If you plan on visiting some popular destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kanazawa, Takayama, Hiroshima and Miyajima, then it is definitely worth it and the most affordable way to travel around. To give you a general idea, a return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto will cost you around the same price as a 7-day Japan Rail Pass. If you plan on traveling more than that, definitely get it.
A good tool to help plan your trips in Japan and work out how much train travel costs in Japan is the Hyperdia website. Use this site to see how much it will cost to visit the places you want to see and compare it to the cost of one of the rail passes.
You can get your hands on a great-value-for-money Japan Rail Pass by visiting the Japan Rail Pass Now website.