Is the Japan Rail Pass Worth it for 3 Weeks?

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).

Japan Rail Pass

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

Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it for three weeks

  • 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?

Is the pass right for you?

Make sure you work out whether the rail pass is worth it for your trip. Calculate the cost of the individual trip and double check the pass is cheaper. Remember you can only get the Japan Rail Pass before you enter 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.

The best thing about the Japan Rail Pass is that it gives you unlimited freedom to travel. This means you can go to as many destinations as you like without increasing the travel costs. If you are considering buying a JR Pass, carefully plan your itinerary to make sure you get the most out of it.

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4 Comments

  1. by Sam on February 12, 2015  1:03 pm Reply

    Interesting. I'm like you, and would totally have weighed this up too. Are there are advanced tickets on trains in Japan like in Europe? I'm guessing not, and of course given the flexibility of the pass, it does sound like it was worth it!

    • by Vicky on February 14, 2015  6:17 am Reply

      Errrm, good question. I'm going to say yes because you can book tickets on the hyperdia.com website so yeah, you must be able to do it in advance. Just make sure you weigh it all up before you decide.

  2. by Charlie on February 13, 2015  7:31 am Reply

    Very useful info. And it shows that really it isn't that pricey to travel round Japan. I mean, it's not cheap like SEA but not extortionate either. Considering the flexibility, the pre-booked ticket sounds like the best way to go.

    • by Vicky on February 14, 2015  6:14 am Reply

      Yeah, I think it's perfectly manageable. The price is kind of like travelling round Europe. I did end up spending quite a bit, but I blame the skiing :)

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