How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area

Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO
Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO

I wrote about the transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe in the previous post. There are lots of railways by Japan Railway and several private railways, such as Hankyu, Hanshin and Keihan. This means you have many many choices to choose the ticket or pass. All private railways have own pass. And also JR West has Kansai Area Pass. You may be overwhelmed to choose the right ticket.

Now I would like to share the information about the discount ticket and pass with you. I classify these tickets and passes under three types, all Kansai area, Kyoto and Osaka. I hope this post will help you to find the right one for you.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

All Kansai area

This category is suitable for the tourists who visit Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara and many more places in Kansai for multiple days. I recommend you Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass). And also JR West Kansai Area Pass may be considerble.
*If you will use Japan Rail Pass, don’t think about JR West Kansai Area Pass. Japan Rail Pass includes everything that JR West Rail Pass has.

Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
Kansai Thru Pass include World Heritage site Koyasan (Mt. Koya) too. (C) JNTO

Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass)

This is the most recommend one! This pass includes all major private lines and subway lines, such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Keihan, Kintetsu, Nankai, Osaka Subway and Kyoto Subway. You can access Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Mt. Koya, Kansai airport, Wakayama and many more place. This pass is sold at 5,200 yen for 3 days and 4,000 yen for 2 days. It gives you the greatest value in any railway pass of Kansai area. But if you think about only round trip between Kyoto and Osaka, the regular fare may be cheaper. Please see the details at the post, .How to use Kansai Thru Pass. Compare pass and single fare. I compare the price of pass and single fare in many cases. You will find which you should buy or not.

Kansai Airport Express Haruka
Kansai Airport Express Haruka is one of the fastest way to get Kansai airport.

JR West Rail Pass – Kansai Area Pass

This pass includes most of JR lines in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji and Kansai airport. Shinkansen and all express trains are not included except Kansai airport express “Haruka”. Please see the details about this pass on the post, How to use JR West Kansai Area Pass. Compare pass and single fare.. And also one of my post, How to access from Kansai airport to downtown Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe may be helpful for you.

You don’t need to worry about express trains. There are lots of Rapid train services. These urban train services give you fast and frequent transfer. Please see the post, Rapid service network in Kansai area about Rapid trains in Kansai area.

Especially if you use this pass for Haruka, that is a good deal. But if you think about using this pass for sightseeing in Kyoto or Osaka, it may not work. Especially JR lines is not so convenient in Kyoto. Please read How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto to get more details. Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass) or the single fare and Kyoto day pass combination might be better choice for your trip in Kyoto and/or Osaka.

And also ICOCA and Haruka includes ride on Haruka and 1500 e-money that can be used for JR trains, private railway and subways. This is very good deal too. Please see the post, ICOCA and Haruka ticket. Very flexible and good deal for tourist who stay in Kansai.

Katsura river in Arashiyama, Kyoto is very popular in Spring and Fall. ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Kyoto area

I explain several kinds of pass to you. These passes is suitable who stay in Kyoto or one day trip to Kyoto from Osaka.

Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card

This is a basic day pass of Kyoto City Subway and Bus. You can go anywhere in city of Kyoto. There are two types of pass, One day at 1200 yen and Two days at 2000 yen. Please see the details at Kyoto Municipal Transportation official website. If you pay a single fare, it costs 210 to 340 yen to take the subway and 220 yen to take the bus. So if you take a bus or subway more than 5 times a day, this pass is worth the price. If you are not sure how many times you take, I recommend you to purchase this pass. It is not bad deal, more convenient and save your time to calculate the fare at the station.

This pass is very suitable for the tourists who stay in Kyoto. Because you can use this pass even short distance transfer. For example, you can take a bus to move only several blocks to get the restaurant.

City Bus All-day Pass

This pass is very similar to the One or Two day pass above. But this pass does not include any subway lines. The price is only 500 yen for one day. If you take more than three, it would pay. Even though some of the popular spots in Kyoto, like Arashiyama, cannot be accessed by this pass, this affordable price may work for most of tourists.

I recommend this pass to the tourists who have one day trip to Kyoto from Osaka. If you have Kansai Thru Pass or JR West Kansai Area Pass, this pass will cover the place where these rail passes cannot cover. If you use Japan Rail pass, this pass is one of the best choice. Because you need to use subway or bus to get most of spots in Kyoto anyway. Of course you can combine this pass with a single fare from Osaka.

Floating Garden Observatory is popular observation deck in Osaka Umeda area. ©JNTO

Osaka area

There are lots of subway lines in downtown Osaka. This is the best way to explore in Osaka. You can use JR lines too. Especially if you will be Japan Rail Pass user, try to use JR lines as much as you ca. Please see the post, How to use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Osaka.

One-day unlimited Pass, Enjoy Eco Card

This is a basic day pass of Osaka Municipal Transportation. You take any subway lines and bus service that are operated by Osaka city. The price is 800 yen. But if you use buy this pass on weekends or holidays, the price is cheaper. It is only 600 yen. If you take subway train from Umeda to Namba, the fare is 230 yen. So it is not hard to use more than even higher price 800 yen.

Don’t forget to compare and check some more passes

At last, if you may travel to outside of Kansai area, like Kinosaki, Shirahama, Okayama and Kurashiki, don’t forget to check the post, The newest JR West rail pass for Kansai and Okayama, Kurashiki, Kinosakai and Shingu area, Kansai WIDE Area Pass. In my opinion, this pass gives you the greatest deal in all JR West rail passes.

If you need more information about rail passes in Japan for visitors, please check the post, How to choose Rail Pass to travel Japan. Summary of most of rail passes in Japan.

490 thoughts on “How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area”

  1. Hi Takeshi-san,
    Your blog is very helpful for our upcoming trip to Japan (this Saturday)!
    I’m just wondering, if me and my husband should get a Kintetsu 2-day pass or Kansai thru pass for 5 days? Here’s our Osaka itinerary:
    Feb 13 – Arrive Kansai airport at 3:55PM. Go to Namba for check-in
    Feb 14 – Go to Awaza for check-in. Visit Osaka Castle, Shi-Tennoji Temple, Dotombori/Shinsaibashi shopping area, Others.
    Feb 15 – Go to Nara sa day trip, then proceed to Kyoto. Visit Nijo castle, Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion) and Arashiyama
    Feb 16 – Stay in Kyoto,visit temples and shrines in Gion and Higashiyama area, such as Yasaka shrine, Kiyomizu-dera temple, Gion-Shijo area, Ginkaku-ji temple
    Feb 17 – Early check-out, go to Mt. Fuji (not sure if we go to Lake Kawaguchiko or Hakone, still researching the most convenient route). Check-in in Shinjuku
    Feb 23 – Flight back to Singapore through Narita.

    We are also planning to buy a Suica or Pasmo card as recommended by our friends.

    Your awesome response is appreciated!

    Thank you!

    Regards,
    Joyce

    1. Hi Joyce san,

      You don’t need both Kansai thru pass and Kintetsu pass. Actually Feb 15 is enough to use Kansai thru pass but Feb 16 is not. This pass is minimum 2 days. But if you have a plan to explore in Osaka after arrival in Namba on day 1, you may use one of two days of Kansai thru pass. It covers Nankai railway from KIX to Namba and subway trips in Osaka. In this case, you can use this pass on Feb 13 and 15. If you just stay around Namba, single ticket is your choice.

      For staying in Kyoto, Kyoto city deal is okay.
      http://www.insidekyoto.com/special-kyoto-bus-train-subway-passes

      Hakone is easier to drop by. You have to take an express bus from Mishima to get Lake Kawaguchi. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi,

    im going to travel around osaka for 3days.. is eco card 1day pass x 3 is enough to travel around it? for jr pass, i think im going to pay per use only, since most attraction can be travel via other railways and subways. am i correct?

  3. Hi Takeshi-San, your blog is really helpful with regards to the different cards and passes available. But I’m still a little overwhelmed by which passes I should get.

    My trip will be arriving Osaka (KIX) un the evening of 6th Jan. Thereafter, we’ll be travelling to Kyoto from KIX. From what I understand, the best pass to get is the ICOCA-Haruka card?

    Then on the 9th, we’ll be travelling to osaka from kyoto. Within osaka, we would be visiting places like osaka castle, osaka museum of history, osaka takoyaki museum , museum of oriental ceramics and osaka korean town. Is there any subway pass I should get?

    We’re also planning to squeeze in a day trip to kobe from osaka. For that, would it be better to just get a Jr single trip?

    Thank you so much.

  4. Hi Takeshi-San,

    Thank you for your info on the trains; they have been very informative. Still, there really are many choices and I’m still slightly overwhelmed.

    I’ll be heading to Japan next year with 2 friends and I’d like to get your advise on which train tickets to get for my following itinerary:

    Day 1: Arriving Kansai Airport at 11pm and Staying in Osaka,
    Day 2-4: Staying over in Osaka
    (Visiting Kobe on Day 3)
    Day 4-9: Staying over in Kyoto,
    (Visiting Nara on Day 7)
    Day 9: Back to Osaka and Kansai Airport

    Or would you advise to change the Nara and Kobe day trip visits to another day to get the best out of the passes?

    Appreciate all the help I can get!

    Thanks & Regards,
    Cas

    1. Hi Casandra san,

      First of all, please check the following link:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/visit-osaka-and-kyoto-for-5-to-7-days-sample-itinerary.html

      I believe this plan is almost same as your itinerary.

      And also, the following link will help you to plan the trip to Kobe. Because I don’t mention about day trip to Kobe from Osaka in the link above.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-kyoto-kobe-and-nara/guide-to-take-trains-in-kobe-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve.
  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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