I booked the Japan JR Rail Pass for three weeks knowing that after two weeks in Tokyo I’d be ready to explore more of what Japan had to offer for the rest of my time in the country.
I paid £314 for the three-week Japan rail pass, with Fed Ex next day delivery (I’d left it to the last minute – standard).
Just to note you don’t need a Japanese rail pass if you’re planning on staying in Tokyo only. I so nearly bought one for that time too which would’ve been a horrible waste of money. Journeys on the Tokyo subway are around £1.50 so the cost wouldn’t be worth it.
I love to look at how much I’m getting for my money so here’s what my time exploring wider Japan would’ve cost me if I hadn’t invested in the three week Japan rail pass. All prices are from the almighty hyperdia.com website which gives the train information for the whole of Japan.
My JR Pass journeys
- Tokyo to Kyoto 8,210¥ | £45.67
- Kyoto to Osaka 560¥ | £3.11
- Osaka to Kyoto 560¥ | £3.11
- Kyoto to Nara 620¥ | £3.45
- Nara to Osaka 800¥ | £4.45
- Wayamaka to Osaka 1240¥ | £6.90
- Osaka to Tokyo 8750¥ | £48.68
- Tokyo to Yamagata 6800¥ | £37.83
- Yamagata to Hakodate 9830¥ | £54.68
- Hakodate to Chitose 5070¥ | £28.20
- Niseko to Sapporo 2160¥ | £12.02
- Sapporo to Otaru 640¥ | £3.56
- Otaru to Tokyo 14470¥ | £80.50
- Tokyo to Narita Airport 1400¥ | £7.79
= 60,540¥ | £336.88
Wow, it’s a close one, even with travelling halfway up the country and back again. I was actually expecting there to be more of a difference. Now I feel like I didn’t travel enough – should’ve done that Hiroshima trip.
Total without pass = £336.88
Total with pass = £314
Difference = £22.88
So I guess the answer to ‘is the Japan Rail Pass worth it for 3 weeks’ is yes, but only just!
As well as the cost, one of the other benefits of the rail pass in Japan is that you don’t have to buy a ticket every time. I’d have definitely missed a few of my trains if I’d had to join the queues at the station. Just ask when you flash your pass to get through the turnstiles – I only ever had to book seat reservations, and that was if I wanted to.
Is the pass right for you?
Make sure you analyse whether the rail pass is right for your trip plans before you invest, as you can see you have to go pretty far to get your ROI. And remember, you can only get the Japan Rail Pass before you’re in the country. It has to be delivered to an address outside of Japan and then you can get it validated at a ticket office when you’re there.