The JR Pass has (sadly) increased its prices as of October 2023, with a 70% increase (almost double!). The question now is: Is the JR Pass still worth it? We'll be going through the changes as well as comparing it to one of the most popular multi-city itineraries: 7D6N Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto Trip!
#HHWT Tip: If you're looking for inspiration for your next multi-city trip, check out our article here!
Why did it increase?
There are several factors that led to this decision. Firstly, the strength of the yen has been declining in recent years. With inflation right now, Japan's insistence on no intervention to slow or stop the decline has also added to this decision in order to keep profits up. Additionally, rising costs in terms of maintenance of the rail line has also added on to the cost of the Japan Rail Pass as a whole.
What are the price changes?
There are two types of tickets that you can grab for the JR Pass: Standard and Green Pass. Standard tickets are the most common and are cheaper when compared to the Green Pass tickets. Green Pass is basically First Class, which gets you a variety of benefits compared to your Standard ticket.
Both the Standard and the Green Pass have increased tremendously, with the Green Pass 7-day ticket having the largest increase. So, with the new prices, expect to pay at least SGD$458, RM1584 or IDR5.2 juta.
Children under 6 years old are still able to board transportation for free, whereas 6 - 11 years old can get a 50% discount on their ticket. Anyone above 11 years old are expected to pay full price.
However, these price increases come with new benefits that the old JR Passes did not have.
New JR Pass Benefits
One of the benefits of the new JR Pass is the ability to use it to take the Nozomi and Mizuho trains, which was previously not available with the old JR Pass. These are great for those travelling between Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto which are the major cities in Japan.
The Nozomi trains are the fastest trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line as it only stops at Nagoya before heading towards Osaka/Tokyo. It also runs on the Sanyo Shinkansen line which connects Osaka to Fukuoka (stopping at Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima and Kokura). If you're planning to catch the most direct train, you'll now be able to with the new pass!
Mizuho trains run on the Sanyo Shinkansen line (stopping at similar stops as the Nozomi train with an additional stop at Himeji) as well as the Kyushu Shinkansen line. The Kysuhu Shinkansen line connects Fukuoka with Kagoshima-Chuo. It stops at Hakata, Kumamoto and Kagoshima-Chuo. It is one of the fastest trains on the line.
It still includes access to all Shinkansen lines, main Local Train Lines, certain Bus services and Ferry services.
PS: Do note that there are no longer separate baggage compartments on the Tōkaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen lines. Oversized luggage (max. 250cm on all sides) cannot be brought onto these lines unless there's a seat reservation made.
Regular tickets, City passes and Region passes
Regular tickets are made up of a base fare, and then has multiple additional fees that affect the pricing of the ticket. The base fare is calculated based on distance travelled, where 1km = ¥20, with it decreasing to ¥10 for longer trips.
Additional fees include:
- Seating reservation: This will be an additional ~¥500 if you are planning on sitting in a reserved seat. The prices will be higher during peak season. If you aren't, it will be harder to find seats during peak periods which means additional waiting time for long-haul trains.
- Limited express fees: Applicable to Shinkansen trains. If you're taking any of the bullet trains, you'll have to pay additional fees based on the distance you are taking. There are also separate fees for bullet trains in the Tokyo area.
- Night train private compartment fees: If you're planning on doing an overnight train to certain places, you'll have to pay ~¥6000 or more to get a compartment.
- Round trips: 10% off on the base fare of round trip tickets that are more than 600km apart.
- Group discount: If your group has 8 or more people, you will have a 10 %to 15 %off discount
We recommend getting regular tickets for short trips during non-peak periods (~ 1 day) as it will be value for money.
City Passes such as the Suica cards are cards that allow you to travel within a particular city. They have now gone digital due to the limited shortage of IC chips so do remember to download them onto your devices. The benefit of these cards is the ability to pay at other stores such as convenience stores and the fact that they are rechargeable, where some have no sign up fees. We recommend getting these if you're only staying in one city and not venturing anywhere else.
We've talked about the JR Pass in-depth earlier on. However, there are other passes available that you can opt for. Regional passes will focus on the region's transportation rather than having a country-wide pass. The regions that they have highlighted are:
- Hokkaido Pass
- Tohoku Area Pass
- Kyushu Pass
- Kansai Wide Area Pass
- Kansai Area Pass (Keihanshin)
There are also other region passes that has multiple major cities in it such as:
- Central Japan and Hokuriku Region
- West Japan
- East Japan
These usually range from SGD$25 to SGD$237 and can be found on Klook here! We recommend getting these if you're planning to go on week-long trips around one particular region.
Is it worth it?
The short answer is no.
You can opt for the JR Hokuriku Arch Pass instead which gives more value for a 7-day trip. It covers all of your trip throughout the 7-days without the hassle of keeping track of the many different tickets you might need.
The JR Hokuriku Arch Pass is valid for unlimited travel between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. This is all for the price of SGD$223 (Adult) or SGD$11 (Child) for a 7-day pass. The pass covers travel from Tokyo all the way to Osaka and includes:
- Kansai Airport (via Kansai Airport Express - HARUKA)
- Narita Airport (via Narita Express)
- Haneda Airport
- Kobe and many more!
PS: Looking for inspiration for these cities? Check out our guide here!
Credit: Tokyo Metro
The pass covers all Tokyo Metro lines within the Tokyo Metropolitan District as well. Hence, you don't need a Suica/Pasmo card. However, you can still opt to have one (since they are now available digitally), as there is no sign-up fee.
Between Osaka and Kanazawa, the train operating will be the limited express train (Thunderbird). The Shinkansen trains that you will be able to use are the Hokuriku Shinkansen, Tohoku/Yamagata Shinkansen (between Tokyo-Omiya only) and Tohoku/Yamagata Shinkansen (between Tokyo-Takasaki only)
The pass has both Reserved seating and Non-reserved seating options that you can make use of. If you're planning on reserving seats, make sure to reserve them in advance first before boarding the train. Use the Hokuriku Arch Pass at ticket machines to reserve seats!
Note: Only 6 reservations can be made throughout the 7-days. You should have your passport on you while using the pass as well.
One of the best additions to the pass is the Belles Montagnes et Mer (Berumonta) Sightseeing Train and Hanayome Noren trains which operates on the weekends. As the name suggests, the views are spectacular and the train itself is a work of art. Some of the famous sightseeing attractions along the route are Zuiryuji Temple, Himi Onsen hot springs, and the Amaharashi Beach. It goes right up to the beach to give you some amazing views.
Hanayome Noren brings you from Kanazawa to hot spring resort of Wakura Onsen in a beautiful train that mimics a bridal curtain of the region.
#HHWT Tip: Check out these hidden gems that can add some spice to your trip!
This is not to say that the JR Pass is not worth at all. If you're planning to travel all around Japan, the JR Pass is still the most value for money that you can get without having to deal with the hassle of buying too many tickets. It just depends on what you're planning to do and when! Happy travels!