Japan Rail Pass Review: Should I Buy a JR Pass?

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Japan Rail Pass Review

Japan Rail Pass Review:

Welcome to my Japan Rail Pass Review. Travelling throughout Japan is an amazing experience that I would highly recommend.  You won’t have to worry about the stresses of renting and driving a car, as your primary mode of transportation will be rail. The country’s transit system is state of the art and highly efficient. A Japan Rail (JR) Pass will give you access to a large portion of this network, allowing you to leave the ticket machines and turnstiles behind! In my Japan Rail Pass Review, I will explain important information and analyze whether the pass is worth the cost.

 

What is a Japan Rail Pass?

The JR Pass is an amazing tool, granting you access to six rail companies which form the JR Group. This will allow you to get almost anywhere in Japan with the utmost speed and reliability. The process of getting a JR Pass requires a few steps. You must first purchase an “exchange order” within your home country. This can be done online through a JR authorized sales office and mailed directly to your home. Remember that it will take time for your order to be processed and shipped, don’t leave it to the last minute! You will not be able to buy a pass in Japan.

The exchange order must be traded for a JR Pass within 90 days of the issue date or it will expire. At the end of this article, I have provided a list of offices in Japan where you can pick up your pass. You will be required to fill out a form and show your passport to a JR employee. You must select a starting date that is within 30 days of trading your exchange order. Use your pass strategically and start when you can cover all major train routes throughout your itinerary!

 

Should I Buy a Japan Rail Pass?

Japan is widely considered an expensive country to visit. The JR Pass represents a large expenditure and should be compared with the cost of purchasing rail tickets individually. Riding on the Shinkansen is expensive and using local lines will start to add up after one or two weeks. If you are planning to cover a large distance within a short period, the JR Pass will save you money.

 

I have created a cost and savings analysis outlining the difference between using a JR Pass or buying each train ticket individually. The first scenario is my trip and the second is what I perceive to be a very common route through Japan. Please note that prices will change over time. I didn’t include transactions that would amount to less than $5. 

 

 

 

My 14 Day Itinerary:
Cost of 14 day JR Pass: ¥46,390
 
Start End Round-trip   Cost
Shin-Yokohama    Kyoto No ¥13,250
Kyoto Himeji Yes ¥10,540
Kyoto Nara Yes ¥1,240
Kyoto Arashiyama     Yes ¥480
Kyoto Hiroshima No ¥11,300
Hiroshima Miyajima Yes ¥1,180
Hiroshima Tokyo No ¥19,080
¥57,070
Savings: ¥10,680      
Common 7 Day Itinerary:
Cost of 7 Day JR Pass: ¥29,040
Start End Round-trip    Cost
Tokyo Kyoto No ¥14,110
Kyoto Hiroshima No ¥11,300
Hiroshima Tokyo No ¥19,080
¥44,490
Savings: ¥11,300

 

Results:

The JR Pass is definitely worth purchasing. I saved approximately ¥10,680 by purchasing a 14-day permit. The week-long itinerary of Japan saved ¥11,300, stressing the importance of using the pass strategically. For example, a 7-day pass can be activated right before you take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and expire right when you arrive back in Haneda or Narita airport! Most people can easily do Kyoto and Hiroshima within one week. The 14-day pass makes sense for people travelling to smaller towns or attractions via the bullet train. For example, I was using Kyoto as a hub for exploring areas such as Himeji and Nara. If you’re taking the slow and steady approach, using (night) buses might be a better option for you. 

 

Conclusion:

Not only did the JR Pass save me money, riding the bullet train a handful of times became a highlight of my trip. It was a fun experience to watch the Japanese landscape zoom right before my eyes and I enjoyed having a spacious area to sit (having lots of room to yourself is uncommon in Japan). Riding from Yokohama to Kyoto in just over 2 hours was awesome, it is astounding how I had travelled hundreds of kilometers but still had the majority of my day left for sightseeing.

 

I also enjoyed the convenience factor of the JR Pass. You don’t have to worry about the confusing ticket machines which didn’t alway cooperate with me. The pass significantly decreased my credit card transactions and money I had to carry (finding an ATM that will accept your card can be difficult in Japan). Lastly, you’ll have access to extra services by JR, such as the Miyajima Ferry and Hiroshima sightseeing bus. If you are travelling to Japan, purchasing a rail pass will save you time and money, plus you get to ride the bullet train!

 

Thank you for reading my Japan Rail Pass Review. Do you already have an itinerary in mind? Check out the links below and calculate the savings a JR Pass will create for you!

 

Important Links:

 

Research timetables, routes, and ticket costs

Official site of the JR Pass

Official list of JR Pass sales offices for North America

Places where you can active your exchange order

Thanks for visiting my Japan Rail Pass Review and be sure to check the rest of my Japan Travel Guide.

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