Should I buy JR Pass? | Japan Rail Pass Guidelines

On our 1 week travel in Japan, we’ve managed to visit Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and back to Tokyo since Narita airport is our entry and exit point. During our planning for this trip, we are a bit confused if we should either avail an airline flight, an overnight bus sleeper or Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka and Kyoto from Tokyo.

#1: Should I buy Japan Rail Pass?

This is the result of our planning and the reason why we choose Shinkansen (bullet train) among other options:

Mode of Transpo Fare (one way) ETA Comfort Experience
Airplane ave YEN 5,000 to 10,000 1.5hrs YES YES
Night Sleeper Bus ave YEN 4,000 to 7000 ave 8hrs travel time varies per person YES
Shinkansen ave YEN 13,800 to 14,000 (if you’re a foreign visitor, you can avail 7day-japan pass for ave YEN 29,000 2.5hrs – 4hrs depending on type of train YES YES

All the mode of transportation mentioned above differentiate per price, estimated time of travel, comfort and experience. The fastest mode is via Air and there are a lot of airlines that offers this route which means a lot of chance to score cheap fare but thinking about the travel time – the amount of  time from city to airport + waiting time inside the terminal and the actual travel time to Osaka might add up.

For the night bus sleeper, it also has it’s advantage point like instead of staying on a hotel for a night, you can actually spent it travelling and waking up the next day on a next city. There are a couple of bus company that offers night highway bus and there are also seat type to choose from. But with regards to the comfort of the travel, it really varies per person. And if you can sleep well during the travel you can start the day right away after reaching the terminal or the other way around.

For the shinkansen or bullet train, it is the most expensive among the 3 options and compared to the night bus, travel time is already cut to 3 hrs in average. But in terms of experience, this is a must try especially if it’s your first time travelling on a high speed train. Out of 3 options, this is the mode that we’ve choose because we want to try riding bullet train as well! Good news is that Japan Rail company offers a special ticket pass for foreign visitors where one can travel the JR subway lines all throughout Japan for 7-14-or 21 days including Shinkansen and Narita Express (Airport to city line).

#2: Where can I use my JR Pass?

If you intend to visit different regions in Japan, then you should purchase the 7days, 14days or 21days Whole Japan Rail Pass.

The Whole Japan Rail Pass includes:

  • 7/14/21 Days unlimited transport to JR lines throughout Japan.
  • Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Pass for Hikari, Sakura, Kodama or Tsubame trains. Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansens are not included on the Japan rail pass.
  • Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho station.
  • Narita Express (N’EX) from Narita Airport to Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations and vice-versa.

Other transportation not part of Japan Rail Pass:

  • Tokyo Skyliner – Arrive at Tokyo from Narita Airport within 41 minutes. Fastest train to city from the Airport.
  • Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen. These 2 shinkansens only stop on major cities so this will arrive early compared on other shinkansens.
  • Subway lines other than JR Lines are not included on the pass.

But, if you’re just staying on a certain region, then getting a city pass is recommended instead. Are you not sure which JR Pass to buy since you’re just visiting a specific region? Check this Klook Guide for more details – Browse All JR Pass options!

#3: Am I eligible to buy JR Pass?

As mentioned, JR Pass is only applicable for foreign visitors who will visit Japan for sight-seeing under the status of “temporary visitor”. The temporary visitor status allows a person to stay in Japan until 90 days for sight-seeing and it’s passport must have a “Temporary Visitor” stamp.

#4: How to buy JR Pass and How much is it?

We bought our 7days Whole Japan Rail Pass from Klook and received our Exchange Order voucher via Mail after 7 days. The postal mail is applicable if you’re from Mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines but if you’re from Singapore or Hongkong, you can pickup the Exchange Order voucher at their local office.

The exchange order or MCO is what you will receive via airmail or pickup from Klook. This is the ticket that you need to bring with you to Japan so you can exchange it to a physical JR Pass.

We bought our JR Pass around PHP 13,000.00 (YEN 27,500.00) each.

#5: How to claim JR Pass upon arriving in Japan?

We claimed our JR Pass at Narita Terminal 2. From the arrival, head down to B1F or find signage direction to “Trains”. The JR East Travel office is located on the left side near the escalator. You need the exchange order and your passport with “Temporary Visitor” stamp on the office. After claiming our JR Pass, we also reserved Narita Express seat to Tokyo since this is also included on the JR Pass. Aside from Narita office, you can exchange it to these other JR offices or from these office access map.

#6: How to use JR Pass on subways?

All stations, have a designated “station master” on entrance or exit. You need to go directly to that station personnel and just show your JR Pass and that’s it – you’ll just pass through that lane instead of using the turnstile.

#7 Thoughts?

Before we bought the JR Pass, we did a few research and decision making on which mode should we take to reach Osaka from Tokyo and vice versa. But, since we really wanted to try the high speed train or shinkansen, we pushed with this option even though it’s expensive $$$. The good thing about JR Pass is it covers most of our commute needs – from Narita Airport to Tokyo (via Narita Express), from Tokyo to Osaka and vice versa (via Hikari shinkansen), Osaka to Kyoto and vv (via Hikari shinkansen), and most of local JR train rides in Tokyo and Osaka.

Related posts about our 7days-6nights Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto Japan DIY travel:

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