AsiaJapanTravel Tips

A Guide to Purchasing the JR Pass

Japan’s world class train system is one of the most efficient ways to travel the whole country in a short span of time. Here’s everything you need to know about purchasing your JR Pass—and getting it at a great discount. 

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

The Japan Rail (or JR) Pass is a special discounted train ticket that lets foreigners take unlimited train rides on the Japan Railways Group (JR Group). This is the fastest and cheapest way to travel through multiple cities in Japan over a short period of time.

Getting the JR Pass

Who can purchase it?

The JR Pass is only to foreigners traveling to Japan under ‘Temporary Visitor’ status. Japan residents, visitors ‘Entertainer’ or ‘Trainee’ status, and those with a ‘Re-entry Permit’ cannot avail of the JR Pass.

Purchasing the JR Pass

Users should also avail of the JR Pass before leaving for Japan.

The best way to secure your JR Pass is by ordering it online with authorized resellers. Book through KKday to get your JR Pass at an exclusive discounted rate.

Key in all your details and address, and a special voucher will be mailed right to your doorstep. Allot around 3-5 working days  This isn’t the JR Pass; it’s an Exchange Order (or MCO Voucher) you present in Japan to claim your JR pass.  

Japan Train Travel: How to Get Yourself a JR Pass: Sample MCO
Japan Train Travel: How to Get Yourself a JR Pass: Sample MCO

Once you’re in Japan, present your passport and your MCO Voucher at any of the official JR Exchange Offices. If you’re in a rush, you can exchange them at the JR Ticket Offices at the Narita, Haneda, and Kansai Airports.

Japan Train Travel: How to Get Yourself a JR Pass: JR Ticket Office
Japan Train Travel: How to Get Yourself a JR Pass: JR Ticket Office (Wikimedia Commons/Marho used under CC)

Validity

Within 3 months from your booking date, you must turn in the MCO Voucher and claim your JR Pass. Upon claiming, you have to choose a starting date for your particular JR Pass. This can be any date within one month from claiming the JR Pass; once assigned, it cannot be changed.

Making the most of your JR Pass

Ordinary Car vs Green Car

Japan Train Travel: How to Get Yourself a JR Pass: Ordinary Car
Japan Train Travel: How to Get Yourself a JR Pass: Ordinary Car

Seats in the Green Car are more spacious and comfortable, and are (unsurprisingly) more expensive. If you’re just curious about the ‘Green Car’ experience, Ordinary Car JR Pass users can pay a top up fee at the JR counters for a one-time upgrade.

Reserved and Non-Reserved Seats

All of the Japan Wide JR Passes let you reserve your train seats for free. At any JR office, simply call the officers and tell your departing and arrival stations. They’ll issue you a ticket with your name and seat.

If you have a regional JR Pass, you can still reserve a seat. You just have to pay a single top-up fee of ¥1000–6000 (or $10 to 56 US dollars), depending on the time and distance.

Japan Wide vs Regional JR Pass

There are over 30 different JR Passes that cover various routes and regions. There’s also the Japan Wide JR Pass (valid for 7, 14, and 21 days) that lets you cross all the regional JR routes. The Japan Wide pass is the most extensive, but it’s also the most expensive.

The best JR Pass for you all depends on your itinerary (more on that later). But as a rule of thumb, the Japan Wide JR Pass pays off if you’re planning to visit at least two different cities in two different regions.

So if you’re planning to visit Tokyo (Kanto Region) and Osaka/Kyoto/Nara (Kansai Region) on the same trip and explore the nearby cities in the region, you’ll save a lot with the Japan Wide JR Pass.  We’ll bring you a more detailed guide about the different JR Passes soon!

1
Tags: