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Rail travel in Japan with the JR Pass

Rail travel in Japan with the JR Pass


Traveling by rail in Japan?

If you nod, you’ll feel a sense of pride and relief that you’ll be using one of the most efficient modes of transportation in Japan. Traveling by rail in Japan is not only a clean, comfortable and punctual experience, but it also allows you to travel to most parts of Japan!

So, if you’re planning a rail trip in Japan, bookmark this blog now, as it’s the ultimate guide to understanding this popular mode of transportation.

Here are some facts to know ahead of time to ensure your trip as a tourist in Japan is the best, extremely safe and memorable.

Book Japan Rail Pass Online

Rail travel in Japan – Depositphotos.com

Traveling by rail in Japan: what are the options?

It’s absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed by Japan’s powerful rail network. With so many services on offer, it can be daunting to figure out which rail system is best for you. Thankfully, the system is so easy to understand that it doesn’t require you to know too many details.

Here’s a brief summary of the various trains you’ll come across when traveling by rail in Japan:

  • Local (normal)
  • Rapid
  • Express
  • Express/Express
  • Shinkansen (bullet train)

To help make this easier for you, I’ll share my own personal experience and detail the best train system available: the Japan Rail Pass!

Japan Rail Pass

If you’re planning on exploring Japan and traveling long distances, then you should definitely consider the Japan Rail Pass (also commonly known as the JR Pass). Traveling by rail in Japan is all about efficiency, affordability and convenience – and the JR Pass certainly delivers.

Exclusively for foreign tourists, this pass surprisingly offers unlimited rides at a very competitive price. This means you can explore as much of Japan as you want without breaking the bank. In fact, the cost of a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is already equivalent to a two week JR pass. With the JR Pass, you can travel not only on the Shinkansen, but also on all other JR trains, ferries and buses.

You can also choose between regular tickets and green cars. The difference between the two is that the latter is a top-notch option. The seating arrangement in the train is more luxurious and spacious.

Where to Buy a Japan Rail Pass

Before you can start your rail travel in Japan, you’ll need to buy a ticket (or pass). These are usually sold by local stations. In most big cities, you’ll no doubt notice large ticket offices (at JR stations, they’re called Midori no Madoguchi). Once you arrive, you will be able to speak to an agent who can assist you. You may experience a slight language barrier, but most agents are used to interacting with non-Japanese speakers, so you should be fine!

You also have the option to buy your pass online if you want to buy your tickets in advance! It’s fast and efficient and will take any stress out of your arrival in Japan!

Book Japan Rail Pass Online

Data SIM card

It is absolutely essential that you purchase a data SIM card so that you can use your mobile phone at the full flat rate. However, I should point out that during the trip, it never occurred to me to make any calls (as only a few people were able to communicate in English). That being said, I do find it helpful to have access to key mobile apps such as: Hyperdia (help for rail travel in Japan – it gives you accurate information about timetables, platforms, etc.) and Google Maps: for finding places dormitory.

When buying these SIM cards, you can buy them at many stores in Japan. They’re cheap, but you should also be aware that they don’t cover all the areas you want to travel (as most people have very limited English – it’s wise to get information before you travel.

you will need Wi-Fi enabled SIM card. Check out a wide range of 4G SIM cards and Wi-Fi devices in Japan on Klook. You can buy online, get all the information you need, and arrange to be picked up at the airport upon arrival.

Reserving Seats on Trains in Japan

When you travel by rail in Japan, you don’t need to reserve a seat. We can always find a seat on the train. On very busy routes, this can be useful if you know when you want to travel. Non-reserved seats are always clearly demarcated along with signed carriages.

Hyperdia gives you all the information about information boards on the platform or markings on the platform floor that tell you which cars are not reserved (always Cars 1 to 3 or Cars 1 to 5 on Shinkansen trains). This means you don’t have to look for a vacant seat on the train, and you can have peace of mind knowing you can’t reserve a seat while you’re traveling.

Travel Safely by Rail in Japan

Although most staff at the station do not speak English, there is always someone there to support you. Even better, you’ll immediately notice that safety and convenience are top priorities in Japan, so you’ll never get lost or feel unsafe. However, if you seek support, you should take into account the fact that it may take some time due to the language barrier, but they do try to help you with whatever help you need.

Traveling by rail in Japan is an unforgettable experience. While people see the final destination as the beginning of an adventure, their smooth rail system is as much a part of the fun as the destination. This is something every traveler should experience at least once in their life, because you definitely won’t regret it!

  • travel expert

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