Explore Japan by rail
With air fares getting more affordable (some under S$300!), a trip to Japan is a must at any given time of the year. Ironically, travelling within Japan is often rather costly and often times, this stops us from venturing beyond one city!
Read till the end to find out how you can enjoy massive savings with a JR Pass on your next holiday to Japan!
Clueless about JR Passes and don’t know where to start? This guide is all you need to get your next Japan holiday underway!
1. What are JR Passes and what do they do?
A JR Pass is a personal transportation pass specifically for foreign travellers. Depending on the pass you’ve purchased, you’ll be able to access all relevant train lines operated by Japan Railways, including all trains on the JR railway network as well as JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku, JR West, JR Center, JR East and JR Hokkaido. You’ll also be able to access other means of transportation like the JR Bus, JR Ferry and monorails.
Also, the JR Pass can be used 24/7, so yay to affordable and hassle-free transportation!
The JR Pass gives you unlimited travels on the following transportation networks:
|JR Trains||The JR Pass can be used on almost all trains operated on the nationwide JR (Japan Railway) network, as well as JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku, JR West, JR Center, JR East and JR Hokkaido.
JR Pass access also includes the shinkansen (bullet train), limited express, express, rapid and local trains.
|Tokyo Monorail||To/from Haneda Airport|
|JR Ferry||To Miyajima|
|Local JR Buses||You can refer to the official list of valid bus networks to better plan your route.|
|Selected Non-JR Trains
(For access to isolated JR stations)
|JR Pass holders can get on certain non-JR trains that have access to remote, isolated JR lines, only as a transfer to JR lines. They include specific stations in Aoimori Railway, IR Ishikawa Railway, and Ainokaze Toyama Railway. Check out the full list to better plan your trip.|
2. Am I eligible for a JR Pass?
The JR Pass is eligible for travellers on a “Temporary Visitor” status in Japan. This means you’re allowed to stay in Japan for less than 3 months. In other words, the JR Pass is limited to non-Japanese nationals, and people who are visiting for tourism purposes. This doesn’t include work or military-related reasons.
3. What are the different types of JR Passes available?
There are several JR Passes available and each caters to different needs. For example, if you’re planning to travel nationwide, it’s best to purchase the Whole Japan Rail Pass that gives you access to every JR line throughout Japan.
However, if you’re only looking to travel citywide, then purchasing a single city pass might be more suitable.
These JR passes also vary in terms of validity period. For example, you can choose between a 7-day, 14-day or 21-day Whole Japan Rail Pass. With this, you can have unlimited travel within that validity period. Do note that the days start from your first trip!
4. Which JR Pass should I purchase for my trip?
With so many passes to choose from, the first step is knowing the general areas of Japan you’d like to cover on your trip.
For example, if you’re planning a trip to Osaka and are looking to explore Nagoya during your stay, then purchase the Central Passes that allow convenient travelling along the central parts of Japan.
Or if you’re only looking to travel within a city, like Hokkaido, then purchase the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass.
Having said, if you’re looking to 2-week trip to Tokyo but have planned a whole bunch of road trips to the other parts of the country during your stay, then purchase the 14-day Whole Japan Rail Pass!
5. Where can I purchase a JR Pass?
The JR Pass is available at the different airports and ticket sales offices in Japan but at a higher cost. It is highly recommended that you purchase the JR Passes online from authorized agents like Tripsle to save yourself the time, money and hassle of scrambling for one when you land.
You will first receive an Exchange Order when you purchase a JR Pass outside of Japan. You will need to present the Exchange Order together with your passport in Japan at a JR Rail Office in order to receive your JR Pass.
5.1 Buying on Tripsle
JR Passes on Tripsle are the CHEAPEST on the market and can be purchased in one hassle-free booking. Choose from a wide range of passes that are all exclusively discounted! Depending on where you are, you’ll either need to pick up the pass or it will be mailed out to you.
If you’re in Singapore, you can pick-up your Exchange Order voucher at the Tripsle office located in Hong Kong Street.
|Tripsle Office (Singapore)
Address: 13 Hong Kong Street, Singapore 059656
Pick up timeslots: 10:00am-12:00pm, 2:00pm-7:00pm
Open Monday to Friday (closed on Public Holidays)
Nearest MRT Station: Clarke Quay (NE5)
If you’re in West Malaysia, Thailand or Philippines, the Exchange Order voucher will be mailed to your address by registered post within 7 business days.
5.1.1 When purchasing on Tripsle, what date should I select?
The participation date you select on the first checkout page should be the date you intend to exchange your Exchange Order for your JR Pass in Japan.
On the following checkout pages, you can select the pick-up date at the Tripsle office in Singapore or – if you’re in West Malaysia, Philippines or Thailand – specify the address you want your Exchange Order mailed to.
Please make sure you have enough time to pick up or receive your Exchange Order before departing for Japan. You MUST have the Exchange Order to receive your JR Pass in Japan.
5.1.2 First checkout page:
5.1.3 Second checkout page
Singapore CBD Pick Up
Do note if you are picking up your pass from the Tripsle office in Singapore, the pick up date has to be at least 3 business days from the date of booking. The Exchange Order may not be ready for collection if you select a date earlier than 3 business days from booking date.
For example, if you’re booking on 11 September 2017, the EARLIEST date you should select for pick up is 14 September 2017.
Also, when picking up your Exchange Order, do stick to the date and time slot you have selected to ensure a smooth collection process.
West Malaysia / Thailand / Philippines Mail Delivery
If you selected mail delivery for West Malaysia, Thailand, or the Philippines, your Exchange Order will be posted to you within 7 business days via registered mail.
Ensure that the mailing address and information provided are accurate. In the event that you need to make any changes, please contact Tripsle immediately. Reach out to Ask Tripsle with your booking number and the changes you need to make.
Do note that handling and postage fees will apply when making corrections to Mailed Exchange Orders (MCO). If changes are made 30 days after a booking is placed, a 10% change fee (of the cost of your JR Pass) will also apply.
5.1.4 Why do I need to fill in my personal information?
Japan Rail authorities require all users to submit accurate and valid personal information before a JR Pass can be issued. The information on the Exchange Order MUST reflect that of your passport. If not, the Exchange Order will be deemed invalid and you won’t be able to get your JR Pass.
When swapping your Exchange Order for a JR Pass in Japan, you MUST show your passport and Temporary Visitor stamp/sticker for validation. A photocopy of your passport is NOT accepted.
6. What’s the difference between the Tripsle voucher, Exchange Order, and JR Pass?
This is the voucher you receive upon completing your booking on Tripsle. If you have selected a pickup option from Tripsle office, you only need this to redeem your Exchange Order. You CANNOT use the Tripsle voucher to redeem the JR Pass in Japan.
Also referred to as MCO, an Exchange Order is what you receive from your Tripsle pickup point or by mail. You MUST have this Exchange Order with you in Japan to exchange for the actual JR Pass.
This is the actual pass you will use on the transportation systems in Japan. You MUST exchange for this pass in Japan with the physical Exchange Order described above. You will need both the Exchange Order and the original passport associated with it to redeem for the actual JR Pass.
7. Where and how do I exchange my Exchange Order for the JR Pass?
Once you’ve received your Exchange Order from Tripsle, the next step is to bring it with you to Japan. At the JR Ticket Office in Japan, present your Exchange Order with your passport to receive your JR Pass. For the complete list of JR Ticket Offices, click here.
8. How do I activate my JR Pass?
When exchanging your Exchange Order for a JR Pass, you can choose your start date.
This date will be the official date for which your JR Pass will be active for use, so do plan out your trip and choose wisely! The start date can be any day within 30 days and doesn’t have to be the date of exchange.
9. When do I have to redeem my Exchange Order for a JR Pass? Can I activate it later?
Exchange within 90 days of booking, activate within 30 days of exchange!
You have to redeem your Exchange Order for a JR Pass within 90 days from the date of issue (the date of confirmed booking). Once you have redeemed your Exchange Order for a JR Pass, you don’t have to activate the JR Pass immediately.
You can select any date to activate your JR Pass, as long as it’s within 30 days from the date you swapped your Exchange Order for JR Pass in Japan. Do keep in mind that once you select the start date, you cannot change it.
10. What is the difference between the Green Car and Ordinary Car?
Commonly found on Shinkansen (bullet trains) and Tokkyu (limited express trains), the Green Car is equivalent to the first class cabin in airplanes, and of course, is more expensive. On top of good service, guests can expect foot rests, bigger seats, magazines, personal luggage space and even a radio set!
Additionally, the Green Car option is increasingly popular during the peak periods because it offers seat reservation. This also means that you have to make reservation for each trip that you take!
10.1 Should I purchase a green car pass?
Based on the standards of the JR trains, the service on ordinary cars are often times good enough for the journey. However, the seat reservation feature and general perks of the Green Car (the space, and not having to deal with crowds) can be a good reason for you to purchase the Green Car pass!
11. What is the difference between reserved and non-reserved seats?
Some JR trains offer reserved seating, although you might have to purchase a separate express ticket to reserve the seats. For trains that don’t require an express ticket, you can reserve your seats upon collecting your JR Pass.
This means that every purchase of the JR Pass entitles you to any seat on a non-reserved car.
For example, if you wish to reserve seats on the Kansai-Airport Express Haruka train and other Express trains on the West Kansai Rail Pass, you have to purchase an express ticket.
However, on Special Rapid Services, Rapid Services, and local trains on JR-West Conventional lines, you can reserve your seats upon collection of JR Pass.
12. Is it recommended to reserve seats?
Even though it’s not mandatory, it’s good to reserve your seat for a peace of mind. After all, the last thing you want when you’re travelling is an extra thing to worry about!
If you’re travelling in a group, it’s also a good idea to reserve your seats so you can sit together. Reserving your seat when travelling during crowded periods will guarantee you a seat as well, in case the unreserved seats cars are full.
13. Does it matter what time I start using my JR Pass?
The validity period of your JR Pass follows calendar days instead of a 24-hour rule. Hence, it doesn’t matter what time you start using your JR Pass.
For example, if you start using a 7-Day Pass at 3pm on 1 October 2017, it will expire at midnight at the end of 7 October 2017 (Day 7) rather than at 3pm on 8 October 2017 (Day 8).
14. What happens if I am on a train when the pass expires at midnight?
Your JR Pass will remain valid until the end of your journey if you happen to be on the train at midnight, given that you boarded the train before midnight. If you’re transferring to a shinkansen, limited express or express train after midnight, however, your JR Pass does not cover the extra charges.
15. How do I use my JR Pass?
Your JR Pass is the only ticket you need except when have reserved a seat. In that case, you will also have a seat reservation ticket on top of your JR Pass.
JR Pass holders also do not go through the automatic gates. Instead, you’d have to pass through the manned gate and present your pass to the staff. On certain occasions, you might also need to present your passport with your JR Pass.
16. What are the JR Passes available?
Here’s the complete list of JR Passes available:
7 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass
14 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass
21 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass
2 Day JR All Shikoku Rail Pass
3 Day JR All Shikoku Rail Pass
4 Day JR All Shikoku Rail Pass
3 Day JR Hokkaido Rail Pass
JR Hokkaido Rail Pass Flexible 4 Days
7 Day JR Hokkaido Rail Pass
5 Day JR Hokkaido Rail Pass
6 Day JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass
5 Day JR Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Pass
5 Day JR Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Pass
5 Day JR Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass
Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Area Tourist Pass Mini
1 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass
2 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass
3 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass
4 Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass
5 Day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass
5 Day JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass
7 Day JR Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass
7 Day JR Sanyo-San’in Area Pass
4 Day JR San’in Okayama Area Pass
4 Day JR Hokuriku Area Pass
5 Day JR Setouchi Area Pass
5 Day JR Hiroshima Yamaguchi Area Pass
JR East Pass (Tohoku Area)
JR East Pass (Nagano/Niigata Area)
3 Day Northern Kyushu Area Rail Pass
5 Day Northern Kyushu Area Rail Pass
3 Day All Kyushu Area Rail Pass
5 Day All Kyushu Area Rail Pass
17. How far ahead should I book my JR Pass before my trip to Japan?
We recommend that you book your JR Pass from Tripsle 2 months before your trip to Japan. This allows enough wiggle room in the validity period of your Exchange Order.
You can’t purchase your JR Pass more than 3 months before your trip, as it’s pass the validity period of your Exchange Order. Also, avoid purchasing your JR Pass too close to the date you’re leaving for Japan. You might not have enough time to pick up your Exchange Order from the Tripsle office or receive it from mail.
18. Can I use my JR Pass from the airport?
Yes, you can but you will first need to swap your Exchange Order for your JR Pass and activate it at the airport. JR lines connect most airports in Japan to the closest main cities. You can use it on the Tokyo Monorail that links Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho station.
There’s also the Narita Express, also known as N’EX, that links Narita Airport to Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro stations. However, you CANNOT use the JR Pass on the Keisei Skyliner that connects Narita Airport to Tokyo.
19. Can I cancel my pass?
Once you’ve successfully booked your JR Pass with Tripsle, the Exchange Order will be mailed to you or be picked up from the Tripsle office, depending on your checkout options. Unredeemed vouchers can be refunded within 11 months of being issued and will require a cancellation fee of 10% of the pass price.
Do note that Tripsle will not offer refunds or cancellations for any instances of lost, damaged or stolen vouchers, including any causes relating to local schedule changes and suspended services.
There will also be no refunds or compensation relating to accommodation, meals, transportation or other expenses incurred.
20. Is it worth it?
Definitely! With Japan’s very complicated train lines, it’s almost a must to purchase the JR Pass, unless you’re okay with coughing up money every time you’re travelling!
The main reason to get a JR Pass is for shinkansen. A round trip on the shinkansen topped with a couple of local journeys already amounts to the cost of a JR Pass. Whereas, the JR Pass offers unlimited journeys on various transportation networks within the validity period.
Having a JR Pass works out to be cheaper compared to purchasing a ticket for each separate trip. This is also especially true if you’re travelling long distance within Japan and are using public transport a lot.
Time to conquer Japan!
Now that you know how the JR Pass works, it’s time to plan your Japan itinerary and purchase your JR Pass from Tripsle that is best suited for your trip! To fully optimise your trip, make sure to book your 4G WiFi Device, so you can always stay connected.