JR pass - buy it in US or Tokyo?

Old Jan 4th, 2011, 07:45 PM
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JR pass - buy it in US or Tokyo?

Hi all,
We are going to Japan in April, five nights in Tokyo and five nights in Kyoto. We are planning on taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and back since our trip begins and ends in Tokyo. We have firm hotel reservations so our bullet train trip needs to happen on a certain date. We are also planning a day trip to Nara while in Kyoto as well as possibly a day trip from Tokyo some place near by if we have a chance. It's our first trip to Japan, so we plan to hit all the typical tourist destinations and we are doing it on our own - no guides.

Is it cheaper/more convenient to buy our passes online from the US or once we arrive in Tokyo? I worry that April is a popular travel time and we may not be able to find the tickets on the day/time we want. Also, we don't speak Japanese and despite being experienced travelers, I wonder if we would get overwhelmed once we arrive. If we should buy the tickets in advance, do we get it for the two weeks straight?

Does anyone have a suggestion? Many thanks in advance!
Ann7544 is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2011, 07:59 PM
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You cannot buy at JR Pass in Japan at all. You buy what is called an exchange order in your home country and then exchange it for the actual pass in Japan. Without that exchange order you don't get a pass. There are some regional passes that you can buy in Japan, but that is not what you need. Here's a link that might help:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361.html
With your itinerary you would save a bit with a 7 day pass.
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 06:23 AM
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As Mara has correctly stated, you must purchase the exchange order in your home country. You then exchange it when you get to Japan for the pass.

As you are spending 10 days there, you must give serious thought to when you will start using the pass. For example, do start using the pass when you arrive in Tokyo as you will not get the value out of the pass.
Use the pass for travel from Tokyo to Kyoto and return, and possibly on the Narita Express to the airport.

Seeing that you are spending 5 days in Tokyo, perhaps you consider doing a day trip to NIKKO, as you can use the pass for Shinkanse travel to Utsonomiya and then on the local Japan Rail train to Nikko town..Just a suggestion.

Make certain that you purchase the pass that covers all of Japan, not just Japan Rail East or Japan Rail West, or you will be restricted to travel in those areas only.

http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en003.html
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 08:44 AM
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Sorry.Typo there. " For example, do start using the pass "

That should read.." Don't start using the pass when you arrive in Tokyo."

Just flew from Australia to Bangkok, and missed that before I hit the submit button..
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 04:35 PM
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The JR Pass is a paradox. You cannot buy a JR Pass anywhere, yet you can only use it in Japan.

You buy a voucher in your HOME COUNTRY (the "exchange order" referred to above). The price is fixed, no discounts, no eBay sales, no Pacific Rim craigslist offerings. The price is 28000+ yen per person, period. You cannot purchase the exchange voucher in Japan.

When you get to Narita Airport, you go downstairs to the JR East office and exchange your voucher for your pass. Tell the clerk you want the last day of the pass to be the day you will return to Narita for your flight home (e.g., we arrived 16 May and our passes were active from 20 May to 26 May). This process takes all of 10 minutes.

No, you don't need the green pass for first class - regular class has far more room than airplane coach, is perfectly clean, and most of the cars are non-smoking. Yes, there are some snacks, but you're better off getting a bunch of pastries for low prices at the Vie de France in whatever major station you're leaving from to go to ___ (i.e., Tokyo station to Kyoto).

With your itinerary you will save a LOT with the 7-day pass. This is especially true if you go to Hiroshima, Himeji, Nara, etc.

If your pass is not good on the day you go to Nikko, use the Spacia train from Tobu Railways because it's fairly quick and includes admission to nearly all the shrines.
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 06:07 PM
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Various vendors that sell JR Pass Exchange Order set their own exchange rates and service charges, so it's still worth shopping around for the best price. It's true you cannot buy it cheap on eBay etc, as each voucher is issued for a specific person and it must match the passport details when exchanging for the pass. You can buy it anywhere outside Japan, not necessarily in your home country, if for example you will be travelling elsewhere prior to arriving in Japan (voucher must be activated within 3 months of issue).
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 08:27 PM
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I bought my first Japan Rail pass back in 1990. The cost was Yen 27,000 for the seven day pass.

Here we are in 2011, and its now Yen 28,300.
Talk about inflation
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Old Jan 5th, 2011, 09:53 PM
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Thank you all - very helpful! This is exactly the type of information I was hoping for. Also, additional suggestions are very much appreciated. Thanks again!
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Old Jan 6th, 2011, 09:38 AM
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There has been no general fare increase since Japan National Railway was broken up and privatized in 1987!
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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 04:23 PM
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You can only buy the JR pass in the US. It must be validated along with proof of your passport at the train station. I was only in Kyoto for a day, but you will love it. I would opt for a 7 day pass which is also good on JR lines in Tokyo (Shibuya, Tokyo Station, etc.
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