Heading to Japan with a Japan Rail Pass? Equip yourself with essential tips and guidelines for a seamless travel experience. From planning and preparation to making the most of your JR Pass during your trip, this comprehensive checklist covers everything you need to know. Get ready to explore the wonders of Japan with ease and confidence by following these essential pointers. Bon voyage!
Check passport validity: Ensure your passport is valid for the entire duration of your stay in Japan.
Verify eligibility: Confirm that you qualify for the Japan Rail Pass as a temporary visitor, with the purpose of tourism.
Purchase JR Pass voucher: Buy the Japan Rail Pass voucher from an authorized sales agent, such as Getjrpass.com before departing to Japan. Remember, the voucher cannot be purchased within Japan.
Plan your itinerary: Plan your travel destinations, routes, and schedule in advance, taking note of the different JR lines and connections.
Research train schedules: Check train timetables for the various JR lines, especially for Shinkansen (bullet trains) and limited express trains.
Passport: Bring your original passport (not a photocopy) with the “Temporary Visitor” stamp or status, as it is required to exchange the JR Pass voucher. If you travel on any other Visa, your exchange will be denied.
JR Pass voucher: Don’t forget to pack the physical voucher you received after purchasing the Japan Rail Pass from Getjrpass. JR does not accept a photocopy or pictures of your JR Pass voucher. You are required to bring the original voucher sent out physically by UPS. This is very important.
Locate a JR Pass exchange office: Find an exchange office at major train stations or airports upon your arrival in Japan.
Choose a start date: Pick a start date for your JR Pass within 30 days of voucher exchange. The start date cannot be changed once the pass is issued.
Provide required documents: Present your original passport and the voucher at the exchange office. Japanese citizens are required to show a certificate provided by their embassy.
Receive your JR Pass: Obtain your Japan Rail Pass after successful verification of your documents.
Although not mandatory, reserve seats on Shinkansen and limited express trains for a smoother journey. Reservations are free for JR Pass holders and can be booked with help of JR Staff at your nearest JR office or with the ticket machines located in major train stations or airports. Have a look at this video!
Treat your JR Pass like a valuable document, as it is non-transferable and cannot be reissued if lost or stolen. Luckely, it’s the size of a normal credit card and fit perfectly in your wallet.
Travel with compact and easy-to-carry luggage, as space on trains can be limited and navigating through busy stations with large bags can be challenging.
Utilize the help of JR information counters located in major train stations for inquiries about train schedules, routes, seat reservations, and other travel-related concerns. The staff can often provide assistance in English.
Familiarize yourself with the different types of trains in Japan, such as local, rapid, express, and limited express trains, to make informed choices based on your travel needs and JR Pass coverage. Read more about the different train types in Japan.
Consider renting a pocket Wi-Fi device or purchasing a local SIM card for easy internet access during your trip if your mobile provider doesn’t include Japan. SIM providers in Europe such as 3 include Japan in their world-subscription – we therefore recommend to doublecheck with your provider before the trip.
Japan-specific navigation app like Navitimer, Hyperdia, Jorudan, or the official JR East app for easy access to train schedules and routes. Some even show prices, stops, timetables and tips. Read more about it here.
Familiarize yourself with the JR Pass coverage area to avoid using non-JR lines, which may incur additional charges.
Familiarize yourself with common Japanese phrases and etiquette to help navigate your travels and interact with locals more comfortably.
Bring a portable power bank to keep your devices charged while on the go, as not all trains have accessible power outlets. Japan is a very photogenic country – you’ll use your camera and phone all the time!
Be aware that most train services in Japan stop operating around midnight, so plan your travels accordingly to avoid getting stranded.
Japanese trains are known for their punctuality. Arrive at the station a few minutes early to ensure you don’t miss your train.
Avoid traveling during Japan’s peak travel seasons, such as Golden Week, Obon, and New Year’s holidays, to experience less crowded trains and popular tourist spots.
Consider using luggage forwarding services (takkyubin) to send your luggage to your next accommodation, allowing you to travel more comfortably on trains.