What is it?
The JR Pass is a standing ticket that allows you to travel around Japan rail system without having to buy individual tickets for every journey. It grants you unlimited access to any JR operated train including the Shinkansen Bullet Trains which will zip you along the Japan country side to other cities and destinations. It will save you a TON of money if you’re planning on hopping around the island. In fact, one Tokyo to Kyoto trip alone will cost you as much as the whole pass.
You can buy the pass in 7, 14, or 21 day increments for 258, 412, 527 $ USD respectively. We had a 10 day trip and bought the 7 day pass – planning it out so we cashed our pass in on our 2nd day.
How to Get It?
We got ours from https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/ (no affiliation) for $258 / person includes international express shipping to your house.
What you get in the mail is not the pass. Instead, information pamphlets and your exchange documents. Once you get to Japan, you need to go to a station that has a JR Pass exchange center. Here, you exchange your certificate for your actual pass. It’s about a 15 minute process not including the time you wait in line (and you will wait). The list of stations that you can exchange the pass in are listed in your information documents (and online at http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/exchange.html).
Find a station that has an exchange office, and allot yourself about 2 hours to get it exchanged. We arrived to Shibuya at 8am and still had to wait in line 2 hours to get our pass exchanged. It’s an inefficient process that they do by hand.
Should I Get It?
JR doesn’t cover lots of local subways, but it covers most Prefecture to Prefecture, City to City, and the Shinkansen trains.
- If you intend on seeing multiple cities in Japan, get it!
- If you’re not staying in one place for the duration of your trip and you want to see the whole of Japan, get it!
- If you are in Japan for less than a few days, and intend on staying in one prefecture of a city, don’t get it!
Rail can be costly in Japan so this will save you a lot of money if you do any more than 1 round trip to another city.
- Buy the pass a couple weeks before you leave for Japan.
- Allot 2 hours to get your pass exchanged.
- Download the Hyperdia app to find easy routes that will accept your JR Pass.