Japan Rail Pass: How to get one + worth getting or not

Before R and I decided to buy our Japan Rail Passes, we asked several friends and acquaintances who’ve been to Japan before if they thought the passes were worth buying or not. I actually don’t remember getting a concrete answer (haha), but most of them advised us to go for it. I became convinced that it was a good idea when my cousin Steph said that she regretted not getting it when she went to Japan.

A Japan Rail Pass is a train pass that can only be used by foreign tourists and offers unlimited rides on all train and bus lines run by the Japan Railways Group, for a certain period of time. Even though R and I were going to be in Japan for 10 days, we decided on getting the 7-day passes rather than the 14-day ones, mostly because the cost of the 14-day pass was way out of our budget.

Assuming for now that you DO want to get a Japan Rail Pass, what are the steps?

  1. Purchase a Japan Rail Pass exchange order. The Japan Rail Pass website offers a list of accredited agencies and sales offices all over the world who are authorized to sell these exchange orders. There are 3 agencies listed in the Philippines, but sale of the JR pass on one of them is only available to passengers on JAL flights. H.I.S. PhilippinesTravel Corp. and Universal Holidays, Inc. are the other two. Universal Holidays have two offices, but both had either unhelpful answers to my questions or their lines cannot be reached. So I ended up inquiring with H.I.S. instead, and eventually bought my (and R’s) exchange order from them too. All you have to do is to go to the H.I.S. Philippines’ office at the 2nd floor of the Serendra Shopping Arcade in Bonifacio Global City, present your passport with your Japanese visa, and pay (haha). The 7-day ordinary Japan Rail Pass costs 28,300.00 yen. It depends on the current exchange rate how much you’ll pay in Philippine peso. Click here to see other JR Pass types and prices. 02_exchangevoucher
  2. Turn in your exchange order for a Japan Rail Pass at a Japan Rail Pass exchange office. JR Pass exchange offices can be found inside certain JR stations all over Japan. Click here for a list of the JR stations with JR Pass exchange offices. Make sure to bring your passport. Bringing your passport wherever you go in Japan is pretty mandatory anyway, in my opinion. I’ve read several forums that some foreigners get stopped on the streets and asked for identification, though thankfully that never happened to me and R.

 

Those are the only steps, basically.😄 02_japanrailpass

Yay😀

So is getting a Japan Rail Pass worth it or not? R and I didn’t really calculate our train costs when we were in Japan, figuring it must have been worth it since we were able to ride the bullet train twice, haha. But for the sake of actual fact, I recalled all the train rides we took and looked up the price of each via Hyperdia:

November 7

  • Osaka~Shinimamiya – 170 yen
  • Shinimamiya~Osaka – 170 yen
  • Osaka~Shin-osaka – 160 yen
  • Shin-osaka~Kyoto – 2,730 yen (bullet train)

November 8

  • Kyoto~Inari – 140 yen
  • Inari~Kyoto – 140 yen

November 9

  • Kyoto~Tokyo – 13,220 yen (bullet train)

November 10

  • Tokyo~Ueno – 150 yen
  • Minami-senju~Suidobashi – 160 yen
  • Suidobashi~Harajuku – 160 yen
  • Harajuku~Minami-senju – 290 yen

November 11

  • Minami-senju~Shinjuku – 210 yen
  • Shinjuku~Nakano – 150 yen
  • Nakano~Akihabara – 210 yen
  • Akihabara~Minami-senju – 160 yen

November 12

  • Minami-senju~Shin-yokohama – 690 yen
  • Shin-yokohama~Sakuragicho – 160 yen
  • Sakuragicho~Minami-senju – 610 yen
  • Minami-senju~Shinjuku – 210 yen

November 13

  • Osaka~Shinimamiya – 170 yen
  • Shinimamiya~Osaka – 170 yen
  • Osaka~Shinimamiya – 170 yen

Adding everything up amounts to 20,230.00 yen. Since a JR pass costs 28,300.00 yen, we clearly weren’t able to get our JR passes’ full worth. We would have been able to if we also rode the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, but we booked a sleeper bus instead to supposedly skimp on hotel accommodations (but on hindsight we actually spent more haha). But we don’t regret getting JR passes because nothing beats being waved through ticket gates without any hassle or being able to switch trains at any time if you happen to be riding the wrong one (which happened to us a couple of times because R and I fell asleep haha and/or we just really had no idea where we were supposed to go). Also worth it: riding the bullet train. (Details will be saved for another post, though!)

However, I wouldn’t recommend getting a JR pass if:

  1. You’ll be travelling for less than 5 days in Japan
  2. You’ll be staying in mostly one place during your time there. The JR pass is mostly worth it if you’ll be traveling long distances on bullet trains.

I especially wouldn’t recommend getting a JR pass if the majority of your stay will be in Kyoto, even if you’ll be traveling somewhere far later on (e.g. Tokyo), because majority of the transportation you’ll be using in Kyoto are their buses. In other words, getting a JR pass depends largely on the length of your trip plus your itinerary.🙂

Visit my Japan page for more of my misadventures (and information, of course)!

44 thoughts on “Japan Rail Pass: How to get one + worth getting or not

    • Haha actually yung mismong pass maliit lang, parang MRT card. Lalagyan lang niya yung malaki pero parang nakalaminate na dun. Kasi madaling masisira kung swipe ng swipe, yun ang tingin ko haha. So ang ginagawa na lang, dadaanan ka na lang sa gilid, ipapakita mo sa train clerk etc tapos yun, lalabas ka na.

  1. Hi Irene nice blog. ☺ My hubby and I are going to Japan this Sept and I’m thinking if we should buy the JR pass. Fortunately I came across your blog. Planning a Japan trip is a bit complicated. We will be leaving on Sept12 can we still purchase the JR pass from the three agencies you mentioned? TIA

    – Mishy

    • Hi Mishy, thanks! I’m glad to be of help. I think you can buy a JR Pass exchange order as long as you have a Japanese visa already. Just present that to the agency (I recommend H.I.S in Bonifacio Global City) and they’ll process the exchange order.🙂

  2. Ang galing nag-google lang ako ng Japan Rail Pass BLOG mo agad ang lumitaw hehehe. Natanong ko na to sayo pero hehe at least alam ko yung buong info. 14-day siguro kukunin namin. Twice naman kaming magroroundtrip from Tokyo to Osaka and back so hopefully masulit namin yung 45k (ouch). Hehehe.

  3. Hello, as I’ve said in the post: “A Japan Rail Pass is a train pass that can only be used by foreign tourists and offers unlimited rides on all train and bus lines run by the Japan Railways (*JR) Group”. There are a lot of other railway lines run by other companies in Japan. The JR pass can only be used on JR lines.

    • Hello, we flew via Cebu Pacific🙂 H.I.S isn’t limited to certain carriers. Just make sure you already have your Japan visa when you buy from them. Hope that helps!

  4. Hi! Me and family (6 of us in total) are going to Japan for a total of 10days. Heres our planned itinerary.
    Day 1- fly into Osaka(night time), take taxi to Shinosaka(where hotel is)
    Day 2-universal studios
    Day 3, half day trip to Nara (via train?), then head back to hotel to head to Kyoto(bullet train)
    Day 4- Kyoto, visiting Kiyomizu, sanjunsinagen?, fushami inari (all east and south east)
    Day 5 – Arashiyama (by train?)
    Day 6 – Places near our hotel like Kinkaku, Nijo, Ginkaku
    Day 7 – Head to Tokyo (bulllet train), visit Shibuya crossing (and unique restaurants in area)
    Day 8 – Visit meiji shrine, and Shinjuku national garden, maybe robot restaurant
    day 9 – Spare day, maybe go to Harajuku to see any cosplay? and back to Shibuya
    Day 10- early morning flight, flying out from Narita (getting there via train?)

    My question is, would it be worth getting a JR pass considering we are only travelling from Osaka -Kyoto – Tokyo?

    • Hi, Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo rin kami ng friend ko and we got JR passes. As I’ve said in my post, I think sulit siya especially if you’re riding the bullet train. Just a tip: you can also ride bullet trains to and from Osaka-Kyoto para mas mabilis.

      • Thanks for the reply! yep, I read your post and I was wondering if it would be cheaper not to get a JR pass because of what you wrote that the costs of your travelling was less than the cost of the pass. we are not doing a return trip to osaka. it’ll basically be fly into osaka, fly out of tokyo, and with most of our stay in kyoto, I read in your blog that most of the means of transpo there are buses. So would it be really worth it for us to get a JR pass?

      • Hi again cheryl,

        You can use http://www.hyperdia.com/ to check the amount of your train/bullet train rides and add them up and compare them to the cost of a JR pass. If I were you and this was my itinerary, I think I’d still get one.🙂 Hindi masyadong kailangan ng JR pass around Osaka so mas ok ipa-convert ang JR pass exchange order on your 3rd day, then ride the bullet train to Nara. Then use the JR Pass to ride to Kyoto rin. Yun nga lang in Kyoto, mostly bus. But it’ll be super helpful and fast if you take the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo. Convenient din ang JR pass around Tokyo.

        On the other hand, pwede rin naman ang simpleng trains lang going to Nara and Kyoto, tapos sleeper bus na lang to Tokyo. You can check out the amount and/or book overnight buses here https://willerexpress.com/en/

        Hope this helps!

  5. Thanks for the tip! Try ko kasi makatipid kasi andami namin! I’m thinking bullet train from kyoto to tokyo, pero normal public transpo sa rest of the trip. Anyways, I’ll check using the site you gave. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome! Kung gusto niyo talaga makatipid, I suggest na wag na lang magbullet train entirely kasi mga 30,000 yen siya per person, one way palang. That’s why okay yung JR pass kasi it would cover bullet train and normal JR trains na rin.

  6. Hi, just like to ask, diba maraming klase ng tren sa Japan, ung bullet train ba na sinasabi mo is the same with shinkansen bullet train, coz we will be travelling from osaka to tokyo magagamit ba yung jr pass sa shinkansen bullet train?

    • Hi elmer, yes, maraming train lines and companies sa Japan and yes, bullet train is what they call Shinkansen in Japan. Japan Railways is a national train company that has its own bullet train line, so yes, nagagamit ang JR Pass sa bullet trains. Be sure to show your pass when reserving, kasi baka sa ibang line ireserve ng seat at mapabayad ka pa. Hope that helped!

      • Hi salamat ng malaki sa reply ninyo. nakasakay na rin ako sa shinkansen sa japan noong nakaraang taon May 2014, osaka to tokyo medyo mahal kc 13000 yen ang isang tao eh dalawa kmi ng misis ko. ngayong papunta kami at same route ulit, kaya interesado ako sa JR Pass para makatipid at magamit yung ititipid sa mas mahalagang bagay. kaya lang di ko maunawaan itong isang site http://www.attictours.asia/japanRailPass.php kung may time kayo you can visit the site then tell me what it means. ito kc ang isa sa sinabi doon “What is the “JAPAN RAIL PASS” ?
        JAPAN RAIL PASS offers an incredibly economical way to travel throughout Japan by rail, including the Tokyo monorail. The pass is not valid, however, for “NOZOMI” and “MIZUHO” trains on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines.”

        sa inyo ano ang ibig sabihin nito? pwede ba osaka-tokyo ang JR pass o may pili lang na lines?
        maraming salamat muli sa magiging tulong ninyo!!!!

      • Hello, walang anuman! Ang JR Pass ay pang JR train lines lang, so piling lines lang talaga. Hindi siya pwede sa subway lines or ibang train lines na ibang train companies ang nagpapatakbo. Japan Railways lang. Ito yung website ng Japan Railways: http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en004.html so nakalagay na rin diyan kung anong bullet trains ang covered ng JR Pass.

      • thank you. ma iba ako, may alam ka bang BalikBayan Box service fast and reliable shipping from Japan to Manila?

  7. Hello!! Your blog is very helpful though im still confused on the transpo around in japan.
    we’re staying 6days in osaka only but thinking to go to tokyo if….. the budget permits.
    i am aware that bullet train roundtrip to osaka- tokyo is expensive. but after searching the JRP baka it might lessen our expense going to tokyo. since cover naman sya right?
    from osaka – tokyo and then osaka.. now i need to find out if the JRP covers the train in osaka🙂 you think worth it to buy the JRP if that’s my plan? thank you!

    • Hi Carla, I personally wouldn’t recommend getting a JR Pass if most of your trip will be in Osaka. There are JR trains anywhere in Japan, pero mas ginagamit ang subway when going around Osaka (and that’s not covered by the JR Pass). If you decide to go to Tokyo, there are overnight buses which are way cheaper (around 5,000 yen per person, one way) or try looking at domestic flights within Japan with Jetstar and other low-cost carriers. As for going around in Osaka, I suggest getting PiTaPa cards (pwede gamitin for both JR lines and subway lines) or you can choose other day passes here: http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/plan/practical_information/travel_passes/ Good luck!

  8. Hi! Just happened to see your blog when searching for JR pass and really find it useful and informative… We are scheduled to go to Japan – arrive in Tokyo and depart from Osaka via Cebu Pacific. We are 6 in all and we will be staying from the 23rd to 30th of June almost 8 days… Would you recommend that I will buy JR pass since we also planned to visit my cousin in Fukuoka, and JR pass is valid to all parts of Japan using JR lines right? Do I need to purchase one for my 3-year old son? Thank you and any response will greatly be appreciated.

  9. Hi, can the JR rail pass be used to go to Hokkaido? We’re planning to fly to Osaka via Cebu Pacific, then go to Sapporo, then go around Tokyo.🙂

  10. hi! we will be going to Japan in January 2016 for a week. We are planning to go directly to Osaka from Narita Terminal2 and stay there for 2 days and go back to Tokyo after. Would it be wise to purchase the JR pass? Are there stil extra fees that we need to pay when travelling using the JR pass?

    • Hi Mia, there’s no need to pay extra fees if you make sure the train lines or bullet train rides you’ll be riding are all JR (Japan Railways). If you’re going to ride other train lines such as subways, you’ll have to purchase separate tickets. Also remember that you have to reserve seats for bullet trains before riding them. Just show your JR pass at the information or bullet train ticket counter and you’ll be assisted.

  11. Hi, will be in Japan on the 27th. Will arrive in Tokyo via Haneda airport, will stay 3 days in Tokyo then 3 days in Kyoto then go back to Tokyo. I have 8 days to explore Japan. But i really don’t know whether i will purchase Jrpasa. What will you advise me?
    And also, would appreciate if you can advise me where to go during my stay. Am a female solo traveller. Really have no idea which tourist spots i must see. Thank you!

    • Hi Jan, apologies for the very late reply! I don’t know if you purchased a JR Pass or not, but I would have recommended not to depending on your luggage and travel by plane or overnight bus instead. Also, I would love to advise you on which tourist spots are must-sees but I would actually ask you first what you would be interested in seeing and doing. I really hope you’ve done your own research before you went. Hope you have a good trip!

  12. Hello po.! I have a European friend who’s coming to Philippines for a visit,and he asked me if possible po na dito sya sa Pinas kukuha my JR pass. Little help po! Thanks!

    • Hi Anne, I think it’s possible as long as you buy from an authorized travel agency and present your friend’s Japan visa there. I know someone who got their Japan visa in another country but bought their JR Passes from Reli Tours in the Philippines. Hope that helps!

  13. Thank you,it is good material to read this post increases my knowledge. What a wonderful piece of information. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.

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