Photo courtesy of flickr user Yvon Liu.
The JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) allows you to travel all over Japan for much cheaper than you would have to pay had you not purchased it. There are many different types of trains in Japan, and they’re quite expensive in the long run; especially if you plan on doing some traveling more than once or twice during your stay.
At first glance, one might look at it as far too expensive when coupled with the airline ticket (the most expensive part of your trip, I guarantee). However, with a quick bit of math, it is soon revealed that the JR Pass can save you BIG money! First, a couple of caveats:
#1: It can only be bought outside of Japan. The pass is intended for foreigners only, to promote and increase tourism, and increase the ease of traveling for us overall. You can buy it online or in person at a designated JR Pass retailer.
#2: What you are actually purchasing is not the pass itself just yet, it is a voucher which you take to Japan with you. When you land, you simply trade the voucher for the actual pass, which can be done at any JR Station or even at the airport once you land.
The JR Pass saved me hundreds of dollars when I went to Japan in 2009; granted, the more you plan on traveling, the more it will save you. However, it will practically pay for itself after just a few train rides, depending on their distances.
Depending on how long you want your pass to be available for use, the price varies. There are one week passes, two week passes, and three week passes available. I used the two week pass, which cost me an estimated $500. However, without the pass, I would have spent well over $1,000.
My usage case was probably not the average Joe’s usage, considering I used the pass to travel almost the entire main island of Honshu from North to South during my one month stay. But even for mister Average Joe, a one week pass could potentially pay for itself after just four or five train rides, and in case you are not aware, you’ll be using a train pretty much anywhere you decide to visit, unless it is walking or biking distance.
You can find more information and even purchase a JR Pass yourself here.
Another location to purchase a pass – also available in a physical brick-and-mortar store, if you prefer – is here. They have a physical location on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, next to the Super H-Mart and Brand Mart USA off of I-285.