What is the Japan Rail Pass?
With more than 4,800 train stations and 23,000 kilometres of tracks, the Shinkansen bullet train is unquestionably the best way to visit Japan. The Japan Rail Pass or JR Pass offers you unlimited travel on these trains and local connecting services during the period you select. In addition, you can also take a number of local and express buses and the Miyajima ferry, which takes you to the fabulously beautiful island of the same name, located near Hiroshima.
How to get a Japan Rail Pass?
The JR Pass is available only to foreign tourists, and so you have to purchase it before your trip. Contact Connections or drop by a travel shop to order it. You will receive an Exchange Order (XO), which you can exchange and activate for the actual JR Pass in any station in Japan.
You can choose between 7, 14 or 21 days of JR Pass validity. The price also depends on the class in which you wish to travel. The prices of a Standard Car pass are 267 euro, 426 euro and 545 euro respectively (prices subject to changes in the exchange rate of the yen). A Green Car pass to travel First Class will cost you 347, 578 or 752 euro.
If you intend to cover significant distances, then a Green Car JR Pass is no excessive luxury. First Class carriages are less crowded and offer more seating space. If you choose this option, you do have to reserve a seat beforehand. If you forget to do so before departure, you can always hope to find a free seat in Green Class or else travel in second class without a reservation.
How do you use the JR pass?
If you are travelling in high season, it is advisable to reserve a seat when you arrive at the station. Sometimes it is even a good idea, for example during the Christmas period, to reserve a number of trips (at no charge) as soon as you activate your JR ail Pass. If your visit to Japan falls outside those peak times, you generally do not need to reserve a seat beforehand.
When you arrive at the station and have found the right platform, show your JR Pass to the controller at the access gate. Then you can board the train and find a free seat if you have not reserved one in advance.
Tips for travelling through Japan
Travelling by train always takes a bit of planning, and this is no different in Japan. It is therefore useful to have a bit of advance information about the use of Japanese public transport.
All Japan railway stations are indicated in both Japanese and English on the information panels.
Do you prefer to travel light? Remember to take some 100 yen coins with you for the train station lockers, so you can store some of your luggage.
If you want to avoid the crowds, certainly in the big cities, avoid travelling between 7:30-9 am and 5-8 pm.
Lastly, it may be wise to memorize a few typical words. A first-class carriage is a ‘Green-sha’, a second-class carriage a ‘Futsusha’ and a reserved seat is referred to as a ‘Shiteiseki’.
Planning to explore Japan? Start with a tour of the Connections website. Discover the flights to Japan, hotels, a wide range of tours as well as the Japan Rail Pass.