Train Travel

Dec 29th, 2010, 01:32 AM
  #1  
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Train Travel

We have a short 4 night (arrive early one of these days) stopover to Japan in mid April 2011. The one part of the trip that is definite is that we want to go to Kyoto. The only tour that meets our specifications that I have found is the 2 day bullet train trip with what they call "Late Departure". The only problem with this is that it finishes mid afternoon to return to Tokyo however we would rather stay later in the day prior to coming back to Tokyo. We will also need to travel by train from the airport and around Tokyo. Are we booking the right thing or should we consider independently travelling to Kyoto and instead buy one of the rail passes? The problem with this is that you cannot book the bullet train until you are in Japan and we worry that we might miss out!

What are your thoughts?
andtrev is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 03:15 AM
  #2  
 
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You are not only fine traveling independently, you will be better off traveling independently. It will cost less, you'll be able to come and go as you please, and you'll be able to stay and eat where you feel like. Get a nice guide book before leaving though -- for Kyoto, my favorite is Diane Durston's Kyoto: Seven Paths to the Heart of the City, but others are good, as well.

In mid-April, you will have no problem whatsoever in getting train tickets on the bullet train. It's only very late April (staring Apr 29 in 2011) that train travel becomes more difficult, during Golden Week. You can save a little money (though lose a little bit of flexibility) with a JR pass. With a JR pass, there are 2 bullet trains/hour from Tokyo to Kyoto. Without the pass, you have a bullet train every 7-15 minutes.
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 07:33 AM
  #3  
kja
 
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I agree that traveling independently would make much more sense. Kyoto is very special - enjoy!
kja is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 09:21 AM
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I am an independent traveler as well and have been to Japan five times on my own.

However, the JTB tours which I think you are mentioning, andtrev, do seem less expensive than doing it on your own. The tour using the Nozomi starts at ¥23,400 which includes one night at a hotel. A JR Pass with which you cannot use the Nozomi is ¥28,300. Tours using the Hikari are even cheaper.

If you have a budget issue, you will be better off with a tour - if the cost difference is not a big deal, you can get a JR Pass and book your own hotel and travel on your own schedule...

For travel to and from Narita and ¥1500 worth of travel in Tokyo, you can purchase a Suica and N'ex Package for ¥5500.

And btw, I second rizzuto's book reco. Another good one is 'Kyoto, A Cultural Guide' by John and Phyllis Martin.
Mara is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 10:24 AM
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Thanks for that info, Mara. I hadn't considered using a tour operator before, but JTB does seem to offer some attractive deals that would suit many independent travelers.
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 11:45 AM
  #6  
 
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You're welcome, rizzuto - I probably found out about that bargain on japan-guide.com - the source of most of my info about traveling in Japan. Plus their Forum is pretty good when some weird issue comes up like looking for bus/train schedules in out of the way places....
Mara is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 11:55 PM
  #7  
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Thanks for your comments. What I am reading from you all in regards to my questions is as the tour does not allow flexibility (a late departure) even though it is reasonably priced the other alternative of independent travel is a possibility as the trains will not be booked out. Thus my next question is what rail ticket should we buy that will cover the travel to Kyoto return,rail from/to airport and local Kyoto/Tokyo travel. When can I purchase this ticket and how much? PS: I have read the JR pages and frankly are a bit confused.
andtrev is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 03:10 AM
  #8  
 
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You seem to be doing a great deal of traveling: Japan in mid-April, London at the end of April, and Paris in June. And from the timing of your posts, it seems very possible that you are not US-based.

Perhaps is you let us know where you're starting from and a bit more of your itinerary, we can be more specific in our recommendations of which travel passes to get and how to obtain them.
DonTopaz is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 04:54 AM
  #9  
 
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Mara or rizzuto-Do you have a link to the JTB Tours. Japan is on my raidar for next year and I'd like to mix some tours into my trip. As a first time traveller to Japan, I do not want to do the whole trip independently. On some parts of the trip, I am willing to sacrafice flexability for being able to see as much as possible efficiently.
shelleyk is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 06:09 AM
  #10  
 
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http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2275.html

shellyk - Here's a link from japan-guide where I found the JTB tour I mentioned above listed....
Another idea is taking walking tours in various cities - I have always traveled independently in Japan but have taken walking tours here and there.

andtrev - I guess the JR Pass would work for your trips to the airport and to Kyoto. Then within each city you can buy a day pass but usually it is cheaper to pay as you go...
Mara is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 10:00 AM
  #11  
 
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shelleyk: http://www.jtb-sunrisetours.jp/JTB.S...ours/FrontEnd/
DonTopaz is offline  
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