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Everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass

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What is the Japan Rail pass?

The Japan Rail Pass gives tourists unlimited travel across all transportation owned by Japan Railways and their partners. Your pass can cover different regions, such as the East or West, or you can get a pass that covers all areas.

Who can use the JR pass?

The Japan Rail pass can only be used by tourists, both foreigners and Japan Nationals are eligible provided they are temporary visitors. You must have the “temporary Visitor sticker in your passport, which is the standard visa for all visitors.

When it comes to transportation in Japan, you’ve probably heard of two things; The Japan Rail Pass and the bullet trains. Japan’s railway network is heads and shoulders above everyone else, the trains are almost never delayed and everything is always immaculate. The bullet trains are undoubtedly a must do for your Japan visit, they reach speeds of 320 km/h! Read on if you want to figure out the Japan Rail Pass, and if you need one!

Where can I buy the JR Pass?

Up until very recently, you have had to purchase your pass before entering the country. We purchased ours at an authorised travel agent here in Dubai, you can find a list of authorised sellers here! They will give you a voucher which has to be exchanged for the actual pass once you arrive in Japan - this is when you’ll show your passport with your temporary visitor visa. You’ll need to visit a Japan Rail Pass exchange office, you’ll be able to find one at all major train stations and the airports. If you’re planning to catch a train after exchanging, leave with plenty of time as there was quite a big queue when we were there. 
 
The pass is also now being sold in Japan at some sales offices which you can find here, this is currently still a trial until March 31, 2018. However, the price is higher than if you buy it before you arrive.

How long is the JR pass valid?

The Japan Rail pass can be bought for 7, 14 or 21 days. Once activated the pass is valid until midnight on the final day regardless of what time you activated the pass. However, if you happen to be on the train at midnight, it will be valid until the end of your journey.

How much does the Japan Rail pass cost?

The all areas pass starts at around $270 dollars for 7 days, and goes to around $550 for 21 days. To find out more on the up to date prices, visit this site, or contact your local sales office.

What does the JR pass cover?

The pass is valid on:
  • JR Trains - this includes the Shinkansen (Bullet trains)!
  • Tokyo Monorail to Haneda Airport
  • JR Ferry to Miyajima
  • JR Buses
 

Should I get a ordinary or green pass?

The ordinary carriages are plenty luxurious and very spacious, you really don’t need to pay the extra for the green pass (first class). The only time it may be worth it, is if you go in the peak periods (May, August, September) and don’t want to have to deal with trains that are full. But as long as you avoid peak times, or reserve ahead of time, I’m sure you’d have no trouble in the ordinary carriages - we didn’t!

Do I need to book the trains?

Nope! You can just hop on! However, you can reserve seats if you like - if you’re travelling at peak times I’d consider reserving seats for peace of mind, that way you’ll know you’re sitting together. Also, if you’re after the best views, particularly of Mount Fuji - reserve a seat! It’s free to reserve a seat, just visit any JR ticket office!

Is it worth me getting a JR Pass?

If you’re planning to venture to a few different cities and visit the main sights of Japan, the chances are the pass is totally worth it. A return trip from Tokyo to Kyoto alone will almost cover the cost of a 7-day pass! The cost alone isn’t the only thing to consider, the convenience of the pass is totally worth it. You’ll be able to skip queuing for tickets and hop on trains at your convenience. Use this calculator to determine if you think the pass is worth it!

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