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, Kintetsu 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.

In this post, I would like to share the information about the discount ticket and pass that cover Kansai area. But if you stay in Kyoto or Osaka and visit the places in the city, you may find the deals in the links below:

How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Kyoto
How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Osaka

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

Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass)

  • Price (two days) – Adult:4,000 yen / Child:2,000 yen
  • Price (three days) – Adult:5,200 yen / Child:2,600 yen
  • Coverage – All Non JR railway lines, subway lines and city bus in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (not required using in consecutive days)

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.

JR West Rail Pass – Kansai Area Pass

  • Price (one day) – Adult:2,200 yen / Child:1,100 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:4,300 yen / Child:2,150 yen
  • Price (three days) – Adult:5,300 yen / Child:2,650 yen
  • Price (four days) – Adult:6,300 yen / Child:3,150 yen
  • Coverage – All JR railway lines in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – one to four days (midnight to midnight)
Limited Express Haruka connects Kansai airport and Kyoto via Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. This is covered by Kansai area pass.
Limited Express Haruka connects Kansai airport and Kyoto via Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. This is covered by 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..

As long as you travel within Kansai area, limited express train is not an issue. There are lots of Rapid train services. These urban commute train services give you fast and frequent movement. Please see the post, Rapid service network in Kansai area about Rapid trains in Kansai area.

If you think about using this pass for sightseeing in Kyoto or Osaka, it may not work. However JR train coverage is very limited especially in Kyoto. Please see these following links to make sure the coverage of JR trains in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?
Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?
Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Hankyu Tourist Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:800 yen / Child:Not available
  • Price (two days) – Adult:1,400 yen / Child:not available
  • Coverage – All Hankyu railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

Hanshin Railway operate trains among Umeda (Osaka), Osaka-Namba, Kousoku-Kobe and Kobe (Sannomiya). The price of this deal is very attractive. If you access to Kobe-Sannomiya from Osaka-Nmaba, single fare is 410 yen. It is paid off by just one round trip. If you look for deal to access to just Kobe, this is the one for your trip.

However if you access to Arima-Onsen and/or Himeji, Kansai Thru Pass or Kansai Area Pass may be better choice.

Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:700 yen / Child:350 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:1,000 yen / Child:700 yen
  • Coverage – All Keihan railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

Keihan Railway connects Yodoyabashi (Osaka) and Demachiyanagi (Kyoto). It covers Kyoto and Osaka only but the price is cheaper than Hankyu Tourist Pass. And many places in Kyoto are located along Keihan Railway. Fushimi Inari shrine, Uji, Kiyomizu-dera temple and many places in Higashiyama area can be accessed from Keihan Railway stations.

This pass has same issue as Hankyu Tourist Pass. You may need to take subway to get Keihan Railway station in Osaka, such as Yodoyabashi, Nakanoshima, Kitahama, Temmabashi and Kyobashi. And when you visit western part of Kyoto, such as Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji temple, you need to pay extra to access this place. Kansai Thru Pass may be better choice.

Kintetsu Rail Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:1,500 yen / Child:750 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:2,500 yen / Child:1,250 yen
  • Coverage – All Keihan railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

This deals covers Kintetsu Railway in Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

In Nara, many of places can be accessed by walk from the station. But this deal can take you to Kyoto station only You cannot use this deal to access to most of places in Kyoto.

Hanshin Tourist Pass

  • Price – Adult:700 yen / Child:Not available
  • Coverage – All Hanshin railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight)

This deals covers Kintetsu Railway in Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

In Nara, many of places can be accessed by walk from the station. But this deal can take you to Kyoto station only You cannot use this deal to access to most of places in Kyoto.

Kansai Wide Area Pass

Kyushu Shinkansen Sakura and Mizuho give you direct trainsfer to Shin-Osaka from Kyusyu.
All Shinkansen trains non reserved seat on Sanyo Shinkansen are covered by this deal.

If you may travel both inside and outside of Kansai area, Kansai Wide Area Pass is the best choice. You can get same coverage as Kansai area pass in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji and Wakayama. And also this pass covers Kinosaki Onsen, Shirahama, Kii-Katsuura, Shingu, Okayama, Kurashiki and even Takamatsu in Shikoku. You can take non reserved seat on limited express trains and Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama.

ICOCA, Pitata and other IC cards

ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may use these cards to take any trains and buses in all Kansai area. You can use even other area’s card, such as Suica, Pasmo too. These cards give you convenience. You can avoid to purchase a ticket whenever you make a train trip. You can take any kinds of trains, such as JR, subway and Non JR trains. However these cards do not give you any discount and unlimited ride.

If you meet these following things, IC card is your choice.

1. You intend to visit a few places in a day.
2. You need to take several kinds of trains and buses, like subway, Hankyu, Keihan, JR.
3. You cannot fix your plan and want to have some flexibility.

However if you have day trip to other cities, such as day trip to Kyoto from Osaka, Kansai Thru Pass or Kansai Area Pass is better choice in most of cases.

Kansai One Pass

This is same type of card as ICOCA. You can use this pass by same way as ICOCA. But this card is designed for overseas tourist. Preload amount is 2,500 yen (plus 500 yen deposit and sold at 3,000 yen) and you can get discount at many attractions. ICOCA is sold at any JR stations throughout Kansai area. But Kansai One Pass is sold in the designated stations only. Please see the link below to find the detailed information at official site.

Kansai One Pass official site

For traveler who use national or regional pass

If you use JR pass (national pass) or other regional deal, such as Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, JR train network in Kansai area is covered. You may have same or better coverage than Kansai Wide Area Pass. If you use these passes, please try to use this pass as much as you can. I think you may add only city deal, such as bus pass in Kyoto.

I hope you get the best deal in this post and enjoy your trip in Kansai area.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi san,

    From Kyoto to KIX, I plan to buy the ICOCA and Haruka express discount ticket. I have 2 question, can this ticket be purchased earlier (a day or two) or it need to be purchase the same day? and if I can only purchase the same day, so I don’t plan to use the ICOCA card, can I get refund for that card immediately or at airport? Thanks and really appreciate all your response.

    -Tet

  2. Hi Takeshi San, I will be traveling to Osaka on 27 March onwards. Can you help suggest the best and cheapest way to travel around with the itinerary below:

    Day 1 – Arrive Osaka
    Day 2 – Osaka
    Day 3 – Osaka to Kyoto (should I get 7 days JR pass here to use for the rest of the trip?)
    Day 4 – Kyoto
    Day 5 – Kyoto to Nara
    Day 6 – Nara to Nagoya
    Day 7 – Nagoya
    Day 8 – Nagoya to Osaka
    Day 9 – Osaka (maybe day trip to Kobe)
    Day 10 – Leava Osaka

    Also I have Suica card, can I use them for the first 2 nights at Osaka?

    Many thanks.
    Melisa

    1. Hi Melisa san,

      You can use Suica in your trip if you want. You can use any trips other than Nara to Nagoya and Nagoya to Osaka.

      But if you trip lots and visit many places, day pass in each cities may be better. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      I think the best part of your trip for Suica is trip to Kobe and trip from Osaka to Kyoto.

      And also there are deals for KIX-Osaka too.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Kintetsu rail pass is the cheapest way to get Nagoya.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/kintetsu-rail-pass-most-affordable-deal-for-osakakyoto-nagoya-and-access-to-ise.html

      JR pass is not required. It’s too expensive for your trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi San, I wrote in earlier today for your advice. But have decided a different plan. Thank you for your reply to the previous question, but can you help me with this instead?

        I’ve decided to stay 9 nights/10 days at Osaka (have booked a place at Tennoji) and do day trips instead. Because I want to save,:

        1) Would it be advisable to get 5 Days Kansai Hiroshima Area pass to do day trips from Osaka – Kyoto, Osaka – Nara, Osaka – Kobe, Osaka – Himeji and Osaka – Hiroshima?

        2) So from your previous reply, is Kintetsu still the best way to travel from Osaka – Nagoya – Osaka day trip?

        3) So for the balance 4 days, I plan to go around Osaka nearby only. I can split the 4 days to 2 days upon arriving and 2 days before leaving -or- 4 days in a row before leaving or 4 days in a row after arriving Kansai airport, whichever is the better option in terms of getting train pass with the x-days options to save more. What would you suggest? I am flexible around Osaka because I am planning the trip around the train tickets/pass.

        4) Should I get from Kansai airport to Tennoji with Haruka card (return)? And just use Icoca around Osaka area?

        5) Understand March and April is peak period, is it still possible to purchase the train pass in Japan upon arriving? Or recommended to purchase online?

        Can you help again? Many thanks. And I apologise if some of my questions are repetitive.

        Melisa

        1. Hi Melisa san,

          1. Kansai Hiroshima area pass is the best choice.

          2. Kintetsu rail pass is the cheapest but you should add limited express seat fee because there is no direct trains other than limited express train. Please see the link I gave you about the pass and find the fee. You can consider using Platt Kodama too.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

          3. Actually it doesn’t matter because you will use ICOCA or one day pass mostly. Please see the link below to find the deal in Osaka.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

          4. If you want to take Limited Express Haruka, you can use ICOCA and Haruka or Haruka discount ticket. You can use single fare or using ICOCA to take ordinary train. it’s up to you.

          5. Some of the deals, such as Kintetsu pass, Kansai Hiroshima area pass are sold at lower price online only. If you want to save your cost, you should purchase it online.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    Your page is very helpful! Thank you! However, I’m still confused on which rail pass is the best to buy. We are 7 people on this trip. Below is our itinerary, hope you can help.

    Day 1: Osaka airport to Ebisucho station (Osaka lodging)
    Day 2: Ebisucho station to USJ then USJ to Dotonbori then back to Ebisucho station
    Day 3: walk from Ebisucho station to Shitenno-ji temple, then go to Osaka castle via train, then go to Umeda sky building via train and lastly from Umeda Sky building to Dotonbori
    Day 4: Ebisucho station to Nara (Nara park/Todaiji Temple/Kasuga Shrine), Nara to Uzumasa station (where our lodging in Kyoto is)
    Day 5: Tour of Kyoto area part 1:
    Uzumasa station to Ginkakuji Temple, Eikando Zenrinji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Gion and back to Uzumasa station
    Day 6: Tour of Kyoto area part 2:
    Uzumasa station to Arashiyama Temples and Bamboo Groves, Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Manga Museum, Nijo Castle then back to Uzumasa station
    Day 7: Tour of Toei Kyoto Studio Park (walking distance from lodging) then from Uzumasa station, travel to Osaka airport

    1. Hi Ellie,

      You will use regular ticket for the first 4 days. But you can use Kansai one pass instead of regular ticket. It gives you the discount at many attractions.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      For day 5 and 6, you can use city deal.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html
      Even if you use the deal in the link above, you can show your Kansai one pass when you enter some attractions. You may get a discount.

      For day 7, you can use Haruka discount ticket at 1600 yen. You can start using this from JR Uzumasa station.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      You cannot buy this at Uzumasa station. You have to purchase it at Kyoto station in advance.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi,

    Travelling to Tokyo from Osaka JR Rail from Shin-Osaka. What is the closest JR station to get off nearest to Tokyo Inn, 111-0052 2-14-4, Yanagi-bashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo

    and how do we get there from the JR station

    Thank you
    JP

    1. Hi JP,

      As per I mentioned, “Please do not ask me about the access to your hotel. You can google your hotel and find it at hotel website or google map easily.” above the comment section, unfortunately I do not accept this type of inquiry.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi San,

    Please advise which types of pass are suitable for my 7 days and 8 nights in Kansai area

    Night 1 – Arrived at KIX 9pm
    Day 1 – Osaka
    Day 2 – Osaka
    Day 3 – Osaka to Kyoto
    Day 4 – Kyoto
    Day 5 – Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto to Nara
    Day 7 – Kyoto
    Day 8 – Kyoto – KIX

    Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks

      1. Hi Takeshi san,

        Really appreciate your quick reply. I was wondering if using the “One-day eco card” for each day at Osaka would make sense. For Kyoto, using either “1 day bus pass” or “1 day bus/subway pass” would make sense? Thanks

        Tet

        1. Hi Tet san,

          One day eco card is okay. But Osaka Visitors Ticket is a bit cheaper. And if you intend to visit many attractions, Osaka Amazing Pass may be cheaper.
          In Kyoto, one day bus pass or Kyoto sightseeing card is okay.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi San,

    Please advise which types of pass are suitable for my 7 days and 6 nights in Kansai area?

    Day 1- KIX -Osaka
    Day 2- Osaka
    Day 3- Osaka
    Day 4- universal studios
    Day 5- Kyoto
    Day 6- Osaka
    Day 7- Osaka – KIX

    Your kind reply will be high appreciated.

    1. Hi Carmen san,

      Please find the deals for KIX-Osaka and Osaka in the links below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      For trip to Kyoto, you may have Kansai One Pass.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      This does not give you any discount and gives you same value as regular ticket. But it gives you convenience and discount at many attractions. There is no choice for one day trip to Kyoto. I think this is most suitable choice. You also can use to take trains and buses in Osaka too by this card.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

        1. Hi Carmen san,

          Kansai thru pass is not recommended because it’s good for the trip to outside Osaka, such as Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. But you have only one day trip to Kyoto. Kansai thru pass is available from 2 days. It’s too expensive for sightseeing in Osaka.

          If you change your mind and visit another place outside Osaka, it’s recommended.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi Takeshi San,

            Can Osaka Eco Card suitable for my trip in Osaka? Please recommend which pass is include universal studios? Thanks!

          2. Hi Carmen san,

            When you visit the places in Osaka, Eco card or Osaka Visitors Ticket is most common deal. But when you go to USJ, single ticket is the best choice. Eco card and Osaka visitors ticket covers only subway and bus. You need to take JR trains to get USJ that is not covered by these passes.

            I recommended you to use Kansai one pass. If you use it, you can use this card to take both subway and JR. So you can use it for access to USJ.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          3. Hi Takashi san,

            I’m decided to add Nara in my trip. It will be day trip too.

            I am thinking to use Kansai One Pass in my Osaka and Kansai trip while using Kintetsu Rail Pass in Nara. Is that worthy? Thanks!

          4. Hi Carmen,

            Kansai thru pass 2 days is considerable now. Actually this is the best pass to visit Kyoto because it covers train to Kyoto (Keihan railway and Hankyu railway), subway is Osaka and Kyoto, city bus in Osaka and Kyoto. I did not recommend this because this pass is available for two days or three days. You have only trip to Kyoto in one day. But now you have two day trips outside Osaka.

            Kintetsu rail pass at 1500 yen is cheaper than half amount of Kansai thru pass which is 4000 yen for two days. But it covers subway in Osaka. If you make trips in Osaka by subway before/after trip to Kyoto and Nara, this pass gives you convenience and discounts. Kintetsu rail pass does not cover Osaka subway.

            Kansai one pass is convenient but it gives you same value as cash payment. It does not give you unlimited ride.

            You may use Kansai one pass. But I think Kansai thru pass for Nara and Osaka, and city deal in Osaka is better solution.
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. HI we are visiting Osaka and would like to do a retun day trip to Kyoto for sight seeing. and the next day or day after Nara and Kobe. Can you help me with which is the best railway and tickets to purchase.

    Is it worth getting a package ticket or just buy on the day. also what would be the sites we could see in Kyoto withe the rai pass.
    Many thanks

  8. Hi!
    My friend and me are planning to visit Japan in May. The first city is Tokyo. But we want to visit Kyoto on one day. What is the best and chepeast way for transport to Kyoto? Has Kansai got line from Tokyo to Kyoto and what is the price?
    Greetings,
    Vanja

    1. Hi Vanja,

      You have to take Shinkansen. It takes 2.5 hours by the fastest train.
      http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-departure-arrival-stations/stations-in-tokai/nagoya-toyohashi/what-is-shinkansen-bullet-train.html

      Kansai area means Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. This is totally different area from Tokyo.

      If you are okay to spend more time to transfer and save your cost, you can use Platt Kodama.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

      But if you have day trip, it’s not recommended. You need to get Kyoto and maximize your time in Kyoto. JR pass is also recommended. It cost almost same as regular return fare between Tokyo and Kyoto by Shinkansen.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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