Is it worth buying a Japan Rail Pass for my Japan trip? – Answered

Post by Tak
Japan Rail Pass

NOTE: as of 2024 – the JR National Pass prices have changed, which may make it cheaper to purchase individual point-to-point train tickets, please look up the latest JR and Train ticket prices. (for the convenience, it may still be worth it to buy a pass where you can use unlimited JR transport; consider local JR passes too, not just the national pass.)

 

The Japanese train network is very famous across the world, and the Japan Rail (JR) Pass makes your travel so much easier. But the question here is: “Is it worth buying the JR Pass for my journey?”. So, let’s talk about whether or not you can save money by purchasing a JR Pass!   

 

How much does a Japan Rail Pass Cost?  

 

First things first! We should be looking at the cost of your JR Pass. Here is a simplified price table that is shown in Aussie dollars, but please keep in mind that the prices shown on the table are approximations. The prices vary depending on the currency exchange rate. “Green” class is equivalent to a premium economy class on an airplane. It entitles you to ride on the higher class cars on all JR trains where available.

  Ordinary Pass Green Pass 
  Adult Child Adult Child
7 Day Pass  $380 $190 $510 $260
14 Day Pass  $620 $310 $850 $425
21 Day Pass  $800 $395 $1,100 $550
*All prices are approximations and will differ depends on the exchange rate.

Hmmm… It seems to be a little expensive… But, is that really expensive against what you get in return? Let me go through some cases where it is and isn’t worth the money.

 

How will I save money with a JR Pass? 

 

The answer to this question is very simple: “The more you ride, the better value you get!” It sounds easy to do, right? But maybe in some cases, like if you are traveling one to two weeks in Japan, you would wonder how many JR Trains you need to ride to make up for the money spent on the JR pass.

Case 1: When you should buy the 7 Day JR Pass
If you land and depart from Narita Airport, and you want to explore Tokyo and Kyoto.
Narita to Tokyo Return = $80
Tokyo to Kyoto return =$370

Total = $450

Ordinary JR Pass = $380

The ordinary JR Pass covers every cost from the airport to the Tokyo CBD. So, it is definitely worth it to buy JR Pass.

 

Case 2: When you should buy the 14 JR Pass
If you land and depart from Narita Airport, and you want to visit Tokyo to Hiroshima via Kyoto and Osaka.
Narita to Tokyo Return = $80
Tokyo to Kyoto =$180
Kyoto to Osaka = $20
Osaka to Hiroshima = $133
Hiroshima to Tokyo = $250
Total=$665

Ordinary JR Pass = $620

By stopping at a few major cities in Honshu Island, you would make up the value of the JR Pass. It means that the more you enjoy Japan, the more value you are getting out of your JR Pass!

 

When should I not to buy JR Pass? 

 

I would NOT recommend that you purchase a JR Pass if you are only traveling within Tokyo and it’s surrounds, or between Kyoto & Osaka. You are probably already aware that the further you travel with your JR Pass, the more value you will get out of it.

Let me tell you an example from my experience.
My friends stayed in Tokyo for 6 nights, and when they were planning their holiday around Tokyo, they asked me whether or not they should buy a JR Pass. Their itinerary was as below:

Day1: Cairns -> Narita Airport (Arrive at 7 pm)
Day2: Sightseeing in Tokyo City
Day3: Visiting Mt Fuji via Odawara
Day4: Tokyo Disneyland
Day5: Sightseeing in Tokyo City
Day6: Nikko
Day7: Tokyo sightseeing & Departure from Narita Airport (at 10 pm)

They were thinking of buying a JR Pass because they wanted to experience the Shinkansen Bullet trains, and wanted to get unlimited train journeys. In their case, they would not get the value they would pay since the travel distance didn’t meet the break-even point.

 

Let’s calculate this case!
Narita to Tokyo return = $80
JR Network rides =$30 (Max use)
Tokyo to Odawara (Gateway to Hakone) return =$110
Tokyo – Omiya – Nikko = $115
JR Network rides =$30 (Max use)
Total = $365

 

Although they took a decent long-distance trip from Tokyo, it was just under the break-even point. So, it was not worth it for them to buy JR Pass. If that is the case, joining a day tour to Mt Fuji-Hakone or Nikko would be a much more cost-effective and efficient way to visit those destinations.

 

Conclusion

The important fact for you to get the best value from the JR Pass is to: “Visit and enjoy as many cities as time allows you!”. The JR Pass definitely gives you great access to most cities in Japan by Shinkansen and local JR lines. But if you stay within and around one city, you can save money by purchasing a SUICA and topping it up when needed.

I hope this article will help you understand whether or not it is worth buying a JR Pass. If you have any questions regarding JR Pass, our “JR Pass explained” video will likely answer your questions.

Happy travel to Japan!

 

Japan Rail Pass

Mar. 2020 JR Pass transport Tak


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