How I got a Japan Rail Pass
I went online to Japan Rail Pass by Japan Experience to purchase the rail pass about 5 months before my trip. They don't mail the actual rail pass to you. They mail you a voucher/ticket through FedEx that can be exchanged for the Japan Rail Pass. You would exchange the voucher at a Shinkansen office at the train station (I did it at the Tokyo Station office). This site I got my pass from is one of the cheaper options out there, but only $6 cheaper. The site also offered the option of renting a pocket wifi. Do it! We used the pocket wifi everyday for restaurant recommendations, directions, and translations. The pocket wifi was a great addition to the rail pass that we simply picked up at the post office in the airport. It may seem a bit pricey to some people but it was definitely worth it.
|My Japan Rail Pass voucher tickets and free guide book.|
And this site also includes a free book and map on the JR lines throughout Japan that you can use to go to different places. These items are mailed with the voucher, so you can determine where you can go using the pass ahead of the trip (I used it for going to Nagano because it was my first time going there). In all, great service; I can't recommend it enough.
Please remember that this Japan Rail Pass is only for tourists who are staying in Japan for a maxiumum of 90 days on a tourist visa. If you are staying long term on another form of visa you may not be able to use this pass.
How to Use the Japan Rail Pass
This was my favorite part of the pass. At the beginning of this blog I said "pick a place, and go!" I meant it. If you are using a regular JR line train all you have to do is go up to the gate attendant and show them your pass. They'll let you through the gate to the tracks with no problem. No struggling with the ticket machines (I hate ticket machines). Just simply walk on through, and go.
Now, if you are looking to use a Shinkansen you'll need to stop at a Shinkansen office to receive a reserved ticket. The ticket will be free since you have the Japan Rail Pass. There will most likely be a small line for the Shinkansen office, but it goes fast. Once you reach the office attendant just tell them where you want to go. He/she will do the rest of the work for you. These attendants are amazing! They seem to have memorized all the train departure times by heart and know what track they depart from. These attendances know English so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask. After you leave the office just go through the gates that lead to the tracks by showing the gate attendant you ticket and train pass. The rest is just a matter of getting on the train , and go.
I've been saying JR lines. The Japan Rail Pass only works for JR lines. If there is a place you want to go that doesn't have a JR line you'll have to pay out of pocket for that ticket. This will include local subway tickets and private train line tickets.
|Heading to Tokyo Disney on a JR line.|
Don't Lose Your Train Pass
This sounds very elementary, but don't lose your train pass. Keep it with you at all times, like you do with your passport (Your passport is your form of identification in Japan. It is a law that tourists must have their passport on them at all times). If you lose this pass you can't get another one, even if you show them proof that you purchased one. Once it's gone, it's gone. You'll have to pay for every train you take, and if you were planning to travel around the country it can get pretty expensive.
The website has more services at your disposal such as other purchase options and helpful articles. Please browse the website if you are even considering doing to Japan. I'll be going back to Japan in 2018 (probably summer), and I will be getting the Japan Rail Pass again.