Adventures of 나쁜남자 and Kancheong Girl

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Japan Travel step 1: Japan Rail Pass

Japan rail pass can be a hassle to buy in Japan. I have bought it twice, once in Singapore and once in Japan. So, here's a rail pass guide for those going to Japan.
Japan rail passes allow you to ride on the JR trains unlimited amount of time within a certain time frame (depending on the number of days your pass entitles). Except for trains which require reserved seats (Narita express, shinkansens and some local trains), you need not get any tickets from the ticket office. You can just show your pass to the station officer and get pass the gantry. The station officer will stamp your pass to indicate the date it has been used.

For trains which require reserved seat, you need to get to the midori office (ticket office) and show them your pass to get your free ticket (which indicates the time of departure and seat number).
There are several types of regional rail passes and one which covers the entire Japan. For the regional passes, there are no two passes that will cover the same route (meaning no overlapping stations) so you can't buy two and expect to use one after another when travelling from one region to the next. Unless of course you pay the fare to get to the nearest station which the second pass covers.

Since I have more experience with the JR East pass, I will touch on that more. There are 3 types of JR East pass, firstly, the 4 day flexible pass. It allows you any 4 days of travel within a month from date of purchase if you purchased the pass in Japan. If you purchase the pass outside Japan, it allows you to state the starting date and the pass will be valid for one month from that start date. The second and third pass is pretty similar. It's the 5 days consecutive and 10 days consecutive pass.
If you are buying the rail pass in your home country, you just need to bring the exchange order and your passport to the ticket office. The officer will issue you your pass from there. If you are buying your pass in Japan, please take note that you will have to bring your FLIGHT TICKET and passport. We forgot about the flight ticket on two occassions and there was no way they will issue you the pass without it. The pass will be valid for one month from the date you purchase it in Japan.

The Japan rail pass is definitely worth the price if you are taking the Shinkansen. You can check out the price of your train trip on and then decide if the pass is worth it. That website is good for planning your trip too as it shows you the train schedule and which connecting trains to ride to get to your destination.

However, if you intend to stay within Tokyo then the pass would be pretty worthless. The Tokyo subway is largely owned by Tokyo metro and not JR company. As such, you find that at certain stops like Asakusa, you would have to get to Ueno (JR owned) and then pay 230yen to get to Asakusa (Tokyo metro owned). It would be wiser to get the Suica express instead.

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