Japan Rail Pass is for the travelers on a tighter budget. It is one of the top features of Japan budget travel guide. Every year, millions of tourists from different parts of the world visit Japan. Not all of them have pocketful money to lead their everyday life in luxurious way, let alone on traveling abroad! Though, they save a portion of their income to spend it for traveling to make their dreams come true.

It is very expensive traveling in Japan unless you know how to turn high cost Japan tour into a cheapest one. Indeed, Japan is never going to be a cheap destination likIndia or Nepal. As a tourist you have to pay for accommodation, transportation, and of course for shopping and dinning.

Japan Rail Pass Exchange Order. Photo credit: Hector Martin at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Don’t you think that you could cut some cost on transportation? Surly you can! That’s for what Japan Rail Pass has been introduced. To reduce your travel cost, JR Group offers this exclusive service for foreign travelers. No one could imagine how useful it is unless you experience it yourself. According to many, Japan Rail Pass reduces travel expense and make their trip easy and fun. Let’s find out what Japan Rail Pass really is!

What is Japan Rail Pass?

Japan Rail Pass! Photo credit: Cheng-en Cheng at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is simply the most economical means of traveling all over Japan by train. It offers a convenient way of traveling and enjoying your Japan trip. The railway system of Japan is considered the world’s best railway system with punctuality and speed. In a long distance train travel, you could rely on it 100% which takes you to everywhere around Japan efficiently.

JR Pass can be used on all Japan Railway lines including the Bullet (Shinkansen), limited express, local trains, express and rapid trains. Please note that, Japan Rail Pass can’t be used for travel on NOZOMI and MIZUHO trains on Takaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines. In addition, Japan Rail Pass is valid for the railways, buses, and ferry boats under certain circumstances.

Who Can Buy a Japan Rail Pass?

Tohoku Shinkansen. Photo Credit: Kentaro IEMOTO at Flickr.

Japan Rail Pass can be purchased only by foreign tourists who come to Japan for sightseeing, under the entry status of “temporary visitors”. Japanese are not allowed to take this service. Though, a Japanese national could take the service if he/she lives outside Japan with the right of permanent residence of that country or who is married to a non-Japanese residing in a country other than Japan.

When you order a Japan Rail Pass online or buy it from authorized JR PASS agents, you actually buy the exchange order and this could be exchanged for a Japan Rail Pass when you land in Japan at JR stations, and airports.

Japan Rail Pass Types, Prices & Validity Period:

Show your passport along with your JR exchange order to get your JR Pass. Photo credit: Cheng-en Cheng at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

JR Group only offers two types of Japan Rail Pass: Green (for superior-class Green cars), and Ordinary. As a buyer you are offered to choose three types of Passes (day based): 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day Pass. Green car usually offers larger seat and less crowded while on the other hand ordinary car offers just the opposite of green car where you will find less foot space and seats are limited.

7-Days29,110 Yen38,880 Yen
14-Days46,390 Yen62,950 Yen
21-Days59,350 Yen81,870 Yen

Please note that you get 50% off – apply to children aged from 6 to 11.

JR Pass gives you the opportunity to travel all over Japan just with a national Japan Rail Pass. You don’t have to buy other regional rail pass. One single national Japan rail pass is enough to enjoy your trip across the country.

Japan Rail Pass validity period is based on calendar days, not 24 hours period based. The pass becomes valid beginning on the date the pass is first used. Please note that it will not be activated just right after purchasing it online. To activate JR Pass, you need to exchange your voucher at a designated JR office.

JR pass has to be exchanged within three months from the date it was issued. If you fail to activate the pass by that time, it will be expired. And you can’t change your exchange order once a starting date has been assigned to the Pass.

Important Things to Know Before Buying a Japan Rail Pass:

JR Kyushu Train. Photo Credit: Yamaguchi Yoshiaki at Flickr.

1. You must show your passport along with your Japan rail Pass to a station attendant if requested.

2. Japan Rail Pass is valid only to the person whose name is written/issued on the Pass. JR pass can’t be transferred or shared.

3. JR pass holder can’t use automatic ticket gate rather they are allowed to use manned ticket gate where they are supposed to exchange JR pass or to present their rail pass to the official stuff.

4. With no additional fee needed, you can have reserved seating opportunity but make sure that you get set reservation before boarding.

5. It is more convenient when you plan on traveling long distances.

6. JR Pass can’t be exchanged for other types of passes or tickets.

7. You can’t reissue your JR Pass when it is lost or stolen. So, be careful of it.

8. Validity period of using JR Pass can’t be extended once you have started using JR Pass.

9. Train seat reservation is not mandatory except some and seat reservation is free for all JR pass holders.

10. Japan Rail Pass can be purchased online and from authorized agents in your home country.

11. Japan Rail Pass can’t be bought in Japan. So, you have to buy it before landing in Japan, I mean buy or order it to your home country.

12. JR pass holder could get special discount on staying at JR group affiliated hotels.

13. JR pass is not valid on all highway buses around Japan.

14. Check out the Japan rail map.

Where to buy Japan Rail Pass Online?

Shinkansen (Bullet Train), Tokyo station.
Shinkansen: Bullet Train, Japan. Photo credit: hairyeggg at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

As Japan Rail Pass can be purchased online, you can easily order one from home. Not all the authorized online JR Pass companies are efficient of shipping your JR Pass on time. Therefore, you have got to find the most trusted JR Pass online selling company that offers you the best deals and great value with a cheap JR Pass.

Below are the most recommended sites that sell Japan Rail Pass online:

1) traveljapan.com.au
2) jrpass.com
3) japan-experience.com
4) acprail.com
5) jtbtravel.com.au
6) japantravel.com.uk
7) insidejapantours.com
8) jrailpass.com

You should not Buy a Rail Pass, If…..

The Nagomi Train, JR East. Photo Credit: Simon Pielow at Flickr.

Depending on your itinerary you should buy a Japan Rail Pass or its regional rail pass. If you plan on traveling some long distance train rides, then JR Pass is highly recommended. For example, if you are supposed to move to Osaka from Tokyo, and then Kyoto to Nara by train, you must have to have a JR Pass.

If you think that you would just travel all over Hokkaido region, buy its regional rail pass named Hokkaido Rail Pass. When you intend to travel only to Biei and Furano areas during the lavender season then purchasing JR Pass/Hokkaido Rail Pass would be costly and not convenient at all.

Public transportation there is rather poor and infrequent. In that case, you should not buy a Rail Pass! Instead you could use a rental car or used car which would be economic. Please note that renting a car in Asahikawa is cheaper than renting it from Furano. You can search for Japan rental cars online at a very cheap price here.

If your intention is to travel alone and want to reach to rural areas in Japan then you should not rely on a JR Pass. Rather use the local trains and buses.

Few More Words to Share:

Train in Fukuoka, Japan. Photo Credit: Yamaguchi Yoshiaki at Flickr.

Japan Rail Pass is what you need to make it easy to travel all over Japan by train. As JR group is associated with JR-Hokkaido, JR-East, JR-Central, JR-West, JR-Shikoku, and JR-Kyushu, you don’t need to worry about getting from one region to other one with only one national JR pass. Though, it depends on your budget, which region you plan to visit and your length of stay in Japan. So, if you only want to explore the Hokkaido region then I would highly suggest you to buy Hokkaido Rail Pass or when you plan to visit only Shikoku region then buy rail pass from JR-Shikoku. Here you can find a great list of all regional rail pass of Japan.

For more information about JAPAN RAIL PASS, please visit JR Pass official website. To get useful information about traveling all over Japan by train and rail route guide, read this book.