Heading to Japan? Want to Buy the Cheapest Japan Rail JR Pass? Read This.

How to Buy the Cheapest Japan Rail JR Pass

When you start planning your trip to Japan a key question for most travellers is whether you need to buy a Japan Rail JR Pass and what is the cheapest option.  If you search in Google for Japan Rail Passes you are immediately inundated with many websites advertising themselves as the best place to buy your JR pass, and it can be somewhat confusing to work out the best place to purchase your JR Pass online at the most affordable price.

The aim of this article is to help answer those questions so you can buy the cheapest JR Pass online with confidence.

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Quick Links

Here is a quick summary of the key links to book the cheapest rail pass for each country.  For more detailed information read further down in this article.

Your Delivery or Collection Country Cheapest Japan Rail Pass Option
Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK (Delivery) Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Voyagin

Voyagin currently has a JR Pass specific coupon code which pops up when you click through – ensure you apply this code to get the best price.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Scotland (UK) and Canada (Delivery) Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through JRailPass.com
Japan and Singapore (Delivery) Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Voyagin

Voyagin currently has a JR Pass specific coupon code which pops up when you click through – ensure you apply this code to get the best price.

Mainland China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. (Delivery) Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Klook.
Hong Kong Airport, Central Hong Kong and Singapore CBD (Collection) Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Klook.
Other Countries (Delivery) Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Pass through Voyagin

Voyagin currently has a JR Pass specific coupon code which pops up when you click through – ensure you apply this code to get the best price.

What is a Japan Rail Pass?

A National Japan Rail Pass is a pass only available for visitors to Japan which enables you to travel on most bullet trains (or shinakansen) as well as other Japan Rail company trains, buses and ferries throughout Japan – further details on specific inclusions and exclusions are lower in this article.  Japan Rail passes can be purchased for either 7 day, 14 day or 21 day periods, and you can purchase either First Class (Green) or Second Class (Ordinary) passes.  Child Japan Rail Passes are available for visitors aged 6-11 years old, and up to two children or infants aged 5 or under are free as long as they do not need to occupy their own seat.

Your Japan Rail Pass includes the option to reserve your seats on the shinkansen at no extra cost, however in non-peak times a great option is to hop on and off the unreserved seating cars without needing to make any other bookings.  At each station there are floor markings showing where to line up for the unreserved cars.  If you have a reserved seat you go to the floor marking for the specific car on your ticket.

Note that pricing was accurate as at 16 October 2018, however is subject to fluctuate due to changes in pricing and exchange rates.  This article will be periodically updated to reflect the latest prices.

How Much is a Japan Rail JR Pass?

When you look at the cost for a Japan Rail Pass you need to combine both the JR pass price and the shipping cost to make an effective comparison of options for your party size. I have provided pricing examples for common scenarios.

For the options recommended below I suggest that you go to their websites and do a trial run of placing your order to see the total cost for your group composition and location – you can then make an informed decision.  All three providers are reputable companies and we have many happy customers who use each of these companies to purchase their Japan Rail Passes and other tickets and activities.

You should order your Japan Rail Pass at least two weeks before your departure date, as a hard copy exchange order needs to be shipped to your address.  One of the options below has an option to ship to your hotel in Japan if you leave it to the last minute, and you can also purchase JR passes within Japan but at a higher price – details are further below in this article.

Japan Rail JR Station Sign

Cheapest Japan Rail Pass for Delivery in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and Other Countries

Voyagin is a reputable Japan based online travel agency who have recently launched sales of Japan Rail Passes and offer a competitive option which is very cost effective for delivery to Australia, New Zealand, USA and UK and countries other than those mentioned further below.

Voyagin JR Pass Promotion

Voyagin is currently running their JR Pass Promotion from 1 November 2018 to 6 January 2019 with the following coupon code discounts, note that this deal can only be used for 7, 14 or 21 day unlimited JR Passes.

  • Spend 58,000 Yen, Save 2000 Yen, use coupon code`JR2000` (ie. spend $US 510, get $US 18 discount)
  • Spend 87,000 Yen, Save 3000 Yen, use coupon code`JR3000` (ie. spend $US 766, get $US 26 discount)
  • Spend 100,000 Yen, Save 4000 Yen, use coupon code`JR4000`(ie. spend $US 881, get $US 35 discount)

After you have added your Japan Rail Passes in the Shopping Cart you will be offered the option to choose worldwide shipping and to add your coupon code.

Click here to check out pricing and book your JR passes through Voyagin

Cheapest Japan Rail Pass for Delivery in Europe (only includes some European countries) and Canada

JRailPass.com is a reputable Japan Rail Pass specialist online travel agency for Europe who are located in Spain and ship Japan Rail Passes worldwide.  They offer competitive pricing and free delivery for customers purchasing a minimum of € 519 who are located in the following countries:

  • Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Scotland (UK) and Canada.
  • For all other countries you can get a 50% discount on shipping with a minimum purchase value of € 519 – their standard worldwide shipping cost is € 30.
Click here to check out pricing and book your Japan Rail Passes through JRailPass.com

“I bought our JR Passes from the site recommended by Anne on this post. It worked out really great. Ordered Saturday, received today in Cape Town, South Africa. I sent a message to the site after I ordered and help was quick, friendly and efficient! Highly recommend – Louda C.”

TIP: Note that we have had several instances where customers have made a booking through JRailPass.com, and have been concerned when they have not received a confirmation email within a few minutes after making payment.  In all cases the confirmation email has subsequently been found in the person’s Junk Email folder.  So check there first!


Cheapest Japan Rail Pass for Delivery in Japan and Singapore

Voyagin is a reputable Japan based online travel agency who have recently launched sales of Japan Rail Passes and offer a competitive option which includes free shipping for delivery to Japan and Singapore.  Voyagin offers a regular coupon code discount, so once you add on the coupon code it works out to be a very competitively priced option.

After you have added your Japan Rail Passes in the Shopping Cart you will be offered the option to choose free shipping, and at the following step to add the coupon code discount.

Click here to check out pricing and book your JR passes through Voyagin

Cheapest Japan Rail Pass for Delivery and Collection in Asia

Klook is a reputable Asian online travel agency who have great options for most Asian countries to either receive their exchange orders by delivery or collection at a flat rate price.

Klook offers the following delivery and collection options at no additional cost:

Collection: Hong Kong Airport, Central Hong Kong, Singapore CBD (also compare with Voyagin option above – which provides delivery rather than collection)

Mail Delivery: Mainland China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Click here to check out pricing and book your JR passes through Klook

Is a Japan Rail Pass Worth It?

Is a JR Pass worth it is a common question asked by readers.  After running the calculations multiple times I have come to the conclusion that it is definitely worth it if you plan to travel Tokyo to Kyoto and return.  The price to purchase the shinkansen tickets direct is equal in price to a 7 day Japan Rail Pass and this does not include the cost to travel on local JR trains within Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka which are also covered.  For longer itineraries you can easily check the price for each sector to work out the relative pricing using Google Maps.

For a common itinerary for many travellers to Japan in the below table I have looked up the cost of direct fares with and without reserved seats to enable a comparison to be made.  The itinerary is as follows:

  • Narita Airport
  • Tokyo (Shinjuku)
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Hiroshima (including Miyajima Island)
  • Tokyo
  • Narita Airport

Below are the direct fares you would have to pay for each sector.  I have calculated that the cost of reserved seats would be $US 565.20 and the cost for unreserved seats would be $US 366.70.

With pricing of a 7 day JR Pass of $US 271 per adult and pricing for a 14 day JR Pass of $US 422 per adult, you can see that the JR Pass is a cost effective option for this itinerary, in particular if you prefer to reserve your seats, or are travelling at peak times.  For a 14 day trip you may also want to add 1-2 more destinations onto your itinerary, so in that instance a JR Pass would definitely be worthwhile.

Direct Fares Reserved Seats Unreserved Seats
Narita to Shinjuku Station (Narita Express) (Return) 2 * 3190 Yen (Reserved Seat) 2 * 3190 Yen (Reserved Seat)
Shinjuku Station to Kyoto 13600 Yen (Hikari) 8210 Yen (Hikari)
Kyoto Station to Shin-Osaka Station 2810 Yen (Hikari) 560 Yen (Hikari)
Shin-Osaka Station to Hiroshima Station (Return) 2 * 10230 Yen (Sakura) 2 * 5620 Yen (Sakura)
Miyajima Island Ferry Return from Hiroshima 2 * 180 Yen (Ferry) 2 * 180 Yen (Ferry)
Shin-Osaka to Shinjuku Station 14140 Yen 8750 Yen
Local Train Use (eg. assume 200 yen per local trip, assume 4 trips per day * 7 days) 7*4*200 Yen 7*4*200 Yen
Totals (Yen) 63350 yen 41100 Yen
Totals ($US) $US 565.20 $US 366.70

.

If you are planning to travel at least twice between cities on the shinkansen (eg. Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka to Hiroshima or Osaka to Tokyo etc) it is worthwhile to purchase a Japan Rail Pass.  You will get best value by planning your itinerary to cover all or most of your long distance travel within either a 7 day, 14 day or 21 day period.  Your Japan Rail Pass can also be used within cities while it is active on almost all JR branded local trains and buses.

If you arrive in Tokyo and spend 4 days exploring before travelling to Kyoto etc, you can activate your Japan Rail Pass on the day you depart Tokyo to maximise the value of your pass.

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#bullettrain #shinkansen #n700a

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Who is Eligible to Buy a Japan Rail JR Pass

Japan Rail JR Passes can only be purchased by visitors to Japan who have a passport issued by a country other than Japan and have a temporary visitor designation on entry to Japan.  You must show your passport when picking up your Japan Rail JR Pass, so ensure your passport has been stamped as you enter Japan.

Japan Rail JR Pass Inclusions

A Japan Rail JR Pass enables you to take unlimited rides on specific trains, buses and ferries in Japan as detailed below.

Railway Inclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass includes:

  • Unlimited rides on all JR group railways, which includes shinkansen bullet trains, limited express trains, express trains, rapid trains, local trains and the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), and the Tokyo Monorail.
  • Travel on the “HIKARI,” “SAKURA,” “KODAMA,” or “TSUBAME” shinkansen trains.
  • Reserved seats on shinkansen trains are included at no extra change. To make a reservation you can go to the ticket office at the departure station to obtain your reserved seat ticket.  Note that during crowded periods you cannot be guaranteed a seat on a specific train, so plan to book ahead if travelling during these time periods.  Crowded periods include 27 April – 6 May, 11-20 August, 28 December to 6 January.
  • If you use the GranClass car of the Tohoku, Hokkaido, and Hokuriku Shinkansen, you must pay the limited express charge and the GranClass car surcharge.
  • Passengers using JR trains on non-JR lines must pay additional fares and charges for sections traveled on such lines, because some JR trains use the lines of other companies railways for direct services.

Railway Exclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass does not include:

  • Train rides on the Nozomi and Mizuho shinkansen trains.
  • The Aoimori Railway between Aomori and Hachinohe, the IR Ishikawa Railway, between Kanazawa and Tsubata and the Ainokaze Toyama Railway between Toyama and Takaoka each have some special conditions. If you plan to travel to these areas check the specific rules for these options.

Bus Inclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass includes unlimited rides on all local JR Bus lines, and validity is subject to change at any time.  JR bus lines include JR Hokkaido Bus, JR Bus Tohoku, JR Bus Kanto, JR Tokai Bus, West Japan JR Bus, Chugoku JR Bus, JR Shikoku Bus and JR Kyushu Bus.

Bus Exclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass does not include:

  • Travel on Express Bus routes operated by JR Bus

Ferry Inclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass includes travel on the JR-WEST Miyajima ferry between Miyajima and Miyajimaguchi.  Miyajima Island is a major tourist attraction close to Hiroshima.

Ferry Exclusions.  A Japan Rail JR Pass does not include travel on the JR-Kyushu hydrofoil ferry service between Hakata and Busan (South Korea).

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Bullet train! #hikari

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What is the Cheapest Japan Rail JR Pass and Can You Get Discounts?

Japan Rail JR Pricing is firmly fixed so it is unlikely that you will find a cheaper or discounted option.

If you do see an website purporting to sell cheaper or discounted Japan Rail JR Passes be very careful before purchasing and check whether it is from an authorised travel agent of Japan Rail at this link.

Can You Buy a Japan Rail JR Pass in Japan?

Japan Rail is trialling whether to sell the Japan Rail JR Pass over the counter in Japan until March 2019.  Of note is that purchasing the passes in Japan is significantly more expensive than purchasing them online before you depart for Japan.

Within Japan you can purchase a Japan Rail Pass from the station as detailed in this link.

Is Narita Express or N’EX covered by the Japan Rail JR Pass?

The Narita Express or N’EX provides fast transport between Narita Airport and Tokyo in less than one hour.  The major stations where it stops are Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Yokohama stations.  The Narita Express is included in your Japan Rail JR Pass.

For more information about whether the Narita Express is the best option to get from Narita to Tokyo I suggest you check out my article on best options to transfer from Narita Airport to Tokyo.

Where Can I Activate my JR Pass?

Your Japan Rail JR Pass can be activated in many locations, basically anywhere that Japan Rail has a ticket counter.  A detailed list of those ticket counters and their opening hours is available at this link.

Should I Buy a Japan Rail JR Pass?

You can also determine the individual fares for your planned trip using the Hyperdia website to determine whether the available passes are good value, or whether you just want to pay as you go for point to point tickets.

Note that the Japan Rail pass also enables you to use JR local trains in Tokyo and other cities, however if you want to use a non JR train line you will still need to separately pay for tickets.

What is the Japan Rail JR Pass Official Site?

The official Japan Rail JR website is www.japanrailpass.net, however you cannot purchase your Japan Rail JR Pass from this site.  The site provides good advice on Japan Rail JR Pass inclusions and how to use it, and the travel agents who are authorised to sell the passes.

How to Buy the Cheapest Japan Rail Pass

 

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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