The Japanese Rail Pass is your “Golden Ticket” to Discovering Japan.
Is it worth the hefty Price?
Short answer: Yes.
If you plan to visit multiple cities in Japan during your stay (and you totally should!) the pass pays for itself.
Still not convinced? Keep Reading!
5 Reasons why Travelers should purchase the Japanese Rail Pass:
1. It will save you money.
I had one week in Japan and my goal was explore as many different cities as I could. My plan was to fly into Tokyo and from there head to Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, and a quick stop in Kyoto before heading back to spend my last weekend in Tokyo.
Prior to my arrival, I was a little uneasy about the JR Pass’s price tag ($285 for a 7 Day pass*). I researched ALL the alternative transportation methods; buses, flights, metro cards etc.
All calculated together, the JR Pass was still less expensive!
My itinerary was jam packed, but I was able to do it all with the help of the JR PASS.
Which brings us to my next reason:
2. Its Efficient!
Lets say I went the alternative route and booked a bunch of buses, planes, and bought metro cards, I’d still have to find the bus station, I’d probably have to take a subway or cab to get there, same goes for the airport. I’d have to arrive early at the airport to go through security, and we all know buses rarely leave on time (well, maybe in Japan they do since everything runs so efficiently but, you get my point) those are all precious hours waiting to get from point A to B not to mention more money spent.
With the JR Pass, all I had to do was go to Tokyo Station, flash my pass at the turnstile attendant and BAM I was on the train! Literally, thats it! I felt like a rockstar!
3. The Trains are very Comfortable!
Not only are the high speed trains sleek and modern, but the seats are super comfortable (and also very clean!).
There are different classes on each train, for an additional fee, you can “Reserve” a seat in first class, where the seats are like recliner chairs!
But why pay more when you can just sneak into these seats?
After you flash your ticket at the turnstile, the conductors and train staff don’t really police seating. Sure, if a train is really crowded this would be more difficult but, with all the trips I took on these trains, rarely were the cars crowded and I sat in First class the entire time.
If someone came by and I was sitting in their seat my plan was simple; I would get up and move. No need to play “Dumb American” just smile, grab your shit and sit in the next empty row. This only happened once while riding the train.
4. Experience Another Aspect of Japanese Culture while riding the High Speed Train
The modern design and immaculately clean facilities, the very professional and kind staff bowing each time they entered the car, looking out the window and watching the beautiful Japanese landscape whizz by; riding these trains are an entirely awesome experience in themselves!
5. The Surprise Savings!
The Red Bus from Hiroshima Train Station to Hiroshima City Center: Prepaid with JR Pass
The “Bus Loop” provided by the Red Bus around Hiroshima’s Historical Sites (Including the Hiroshima Museum, Hiroshima Castle, and MANY MORE): Prepaid with the JR Pass
The Ferry From Miyajima Train Station to Miyajima Island: Prepaid with JR Pass
Yamamoto Line (a subway around Tokyo): Prepaid with the JR Pass**
Trains/Monorails to both the Narita AND Haneda Airports!? Prepaid JR Pass! No, expensive cab ride for you! Just go to Tokyo train station and follow the signs, you’re a pro at this now!
Unfortunately, I was unable to take advantage of the free shuttle from Haneda because I arrived very early and the JR Office at the airport didn’t open for a few hours. Rather than wait around I paid the $6. I did however use it to get to Narita for my flight back.
You win some, you loose some, $6 isn’t going to break me.
All of the above savings I discovered once I was already IN Japan, so they were not factored into the first initial money saving comparison!
Overall, the JR Pass is a WIN.
**As of this writing, the 7 Day pass is $285 plus $47 (shipping and insurance, keep in mind, it was sent expedited and I paid for insurance because I’ve had problems receiving mail in Bangkok- the mail system sucks, quite frankly). If you’re sending it to an address in the US, the shipping charges will be much less.
**The pass only works on the Yamamoto line.