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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning to travel to JApan from April7-14th. Which is a complicated season due to the cherry blossom.

    I would like to know your recommendations on buying single tickets and Kansai Area Passes vs a JR Pass and what would be the cheapest with the following itinerary:

    Tokyo April 7-9th
    Travel to Osaka on the 9th (preferably on Shinkansen)
    Visit Kyoto from Osaka and back on the 10th and maybe continue to do the same on the 11th
    Visit Nara on the 12th.
    Travel back to Tokyo on the 13th and stay the night in Narita to fly back on the 14th.
    Consider also we will be moving around all of the cities as well and prefer to use public transportation and that Shinkansen is preferred due to the time it may save in order to enjoy the cities more.

    Any advice should be helpful. Many thanks in advance.

    Jorge

    1. Hi Jorge,

      JR pass is your choice. You will be Narita in the evening on 13th April, right? If so, you can use JR pass 7 days from the arrival day to 13th April.
      If you stay in hotel near Narita airport, hotel shuttle may be available. Ask your hotel to make sure. Otherwise single fare can be added to take a train to Narita airport.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I would like to seek your advice on which pass will suit me best for our 13-days Japan trip next month. Here is our itinerary:

    Day 1-3 Narita Airport to Tokyo -> Tokyo Shuttle (one-way) + Tokyo Subway 72-hour Pass (2,400 yen)
    – Day 1: City
    – Day 2&3: Disney

    Day 4-5 Tokyo to Osaka -> one way ticket (~15,000 yen)
    – Day 4: Namba (ICOCA)
    – Day 5: USJ (ICOCA)

    Day 6-8 Osaka to Kyoto
    – Day 6&7: Kyoto Imperial Palace, Fushimi Inari, Nishiki Market (Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass 2-days 1,000yen)
    – Day 8: Arashiyama, Kinkakuji (?)

    Day 9-10 Kyoto to Kobe
    – Day 9: Kyoto to Kobe (Hankyu One Day Tourist Pass 800yen)
    – Day 10: Mt Rokko (Single Ride Ticket)

    Day 11-12 Kobe to Osaka
    – Day 11: Kobe to Osaka (?)
    – Day 12: Osaka (ICOCA)
    – Day 13: Osaka to Kansai Airport (Discounted HARUKA 1,300yen)

    I still have a few questions regarding this trip:
    – Is there any pass that cover travelling in Kyoto to Arashiyama and Kinkakuji?
    – Is there any suggested pass for us to go back to Osaka from Kobe (Day11)?
    – Is there any alternative/better pass for our trip?
    – Is Osaka Visitor Ticket (500yen) only available for tourists from Korea/HK/Taiwan/China?

    Thanks a lot in advance for your advice!

    1. Hi Yang,

      – Is there any pass that cover travelling in Kyoto to Arashiyama and Kinkakuji?
      Kyoto sightseeing card or all day bus pass is your choice.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      – Is there any suggested pass for us to go back to Osaka from Kobe (Day11)?
      ICOCA is okay. There is no deals available for one way transfer.

      Do you know that one way fare from Kawaramachi (Kyoto) to Kobe-Sannomiya by Hankyu railway is 620 yen? Single fare is cheaper if you use the pass for just take a train from Kyoto to Kobe. You may use ICOCA to take Hankyu railway if you want.

      In Kobe, you may use Rokkosan Tourist Pass for day 10.
      http://www.hankyu.co.jp/global/en/tickets/information/index.html#ticket04

      – Is there any alternative/better pass for our trip?
      Do you really need subway pass for day 2 and 3? The nearest station of Disneyland is JR Maihama. You can take subway partially to Maihama. But you have to take JR train at the end. Single ticket may be better as long as you spend all day in Disneyland.

      – Is Osaka Visitor Ticket (500yen) only available for tourists from Korea/HK/Taiwan/China?
      You can purchase it in Japan too.
      http://www.kotsu.city.osaka.lg.jp/foreign/english/OsakaTicket.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I will be staying at Hotel Brighton Kyoto Yamashina. I want to travel to the following places, is it worth it to get the Keihan special sightseeing pass? Should i buy one or two day pass? Thank you!

    Day 1:
    – Hotel Brighton Kyoto Yamashina to Fushimi Inari
    – Fushimi Inari to Nishiki Market
    – Nishiki market to Hotel Brighton Kyoto Yamashina
    – Hotel Brighton Kyoto Yamashina to Hotel Brighton Osaka Kitahama (via Keihan Main Ltd Exp)

    Day 2:
    – Osaka Castle
    – Osaka Museum of History and Living
    – Namba area

  4. Hello,

    We will be arriving Kansai International Airport and staying at Nara for 5 days.

    Question is should we buy 2 travel passes?
    1 for OSAKA-Nara (Kintetsu Pass) and 2 for going around Osaka (Osaka Amazing Pass)? we will also go to universal Studios.

    Thanks you
    Nel

    1. Hi Nelson,

      I think you will spend one full day in USJ. It’s very easy to spend one day. Some says one day is not enough.
      If so, you don’t need to use 2 days amazing pass. 1 day is okay. You can use single ticket to get USJ. But if you stay in USJ for half day and visit many more places after USJ, you can use 2 days amazing pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi,

    We will be travelling to Osaka for 8 days this coming Nov. There are 2 children below 12 years old. Staying in osaka all the way n travel to sites as below:
    Kyoto
    Nara
    Universal studio
    Wakayama

    Additional if have time
    Shirakawa
    Takayama

    Can you pls advice which train pass should i get if to use to travel to all the sites.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Please see the link below. You can find what you need.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/how-to-build-the-itinerary-and-choose-the-deals-for-osaka-stay-5-to-7-days.html

      I don’t mention about Wakayama in the link above. But you can use Kansai thru pass or Kansai area pass.

      If you go to Takayama and Shirakawago, Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is recommended. You cannot purchase it in Japan. So you have to decide you go there or not before you leave.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for your post. I am only going Kyoto and Osaka. 4 days in Kyoto and 2 days Osaka . Can I know which pass is more suitable ?

    Thanks !

  7. Takeshi-san, Rainbow card and Eco Card both seem to give you unlimited use of subway in Osaka for 1 day, but Rainbow is only 500 yen while Eco card is 800 yen. Am I missing something ?

  8. i have check willer express
    i might take willer express from kyoto on 18 Oct night bus and arrive 19 oct morning ,
    but there sign “Ladies Seat policy”, i’m travel with my husband, is that mean we can seat down next to each other?

  9. hi Takeshi-San,
    i have ready all your information.
    thankyou for share your knowledge to other.
    i really need a help for choose the transports pass
    13 oct
    day 1 i will arrive in Kansai Airport around 7 pm and i have book airbnb on Osaka-shi
    14 oct
    day 2 USJ
    15 oct
    day 3 kobe (mount rokko, earthquake museum,nankinmachi) and himeji castle if we have time
    16 oct
    day 4 osaka castle, osaka aquarium,dotonbori
    and at night time will travel to kyoto and will continue the trip from kyoto
    17 oct
    kiyomizudera temple, toei kyoto studio park
    18 oct
    fushimi inari temple,arashiyama bamboo,kinkakuji temple,gion
    19 oct from kyoto will travel to tokyo

    what is the best pass i need to used when i’m in osaka and kyoto?could you please help me. thankyou

    1. Hi Meriana,

      The following link shows you one of my sample itineraries. You can use it for most part of your trip.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-osaka-kyoto-and-tokyo-in-7-days.html

      Kobe is not included in this trip plan. I just add some info about it.
      Please see the link below:
      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

      If you add Himeji, please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/how-to-access-to-himeji-and-kobe-from-osaka.html

      I think you can visit both Kobe and Himeji. You can go up Rokko at the last part of your trip. Night view from mountain is gorgeous.
      In this case, you can use JR Kansai area pass one day and add transportation to get Rokko.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html
      https://www.rokkosan.com/en/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thankyou for your reply, i really appreciated your help.
        i just realize my accomodation is on Tengachaya location.
        the host have recommend to take nankai airport exp. for namba 920 Yen. (13 Oct)
        what ticket i need to purchase on Kansai airport?

        on 14 Oct will go to USJ and spend 660 Yen Round Trip (Tengachaya-Shinimamiya-nishikujo-universalcity)

        what ticket i can purchase?
        is just a single ticket or i can used ICOCA?and where i can purchase the pass?

        i will take Kansai Thru Pass from 15 Oct to 16 or 17 Oct
        is that worth it with my itinerary?

        On 15 Oct i will go to Kobe and Himeji

        if i used Kansai Thru Pass to visit Kobe what is the spots in Kobe have cover by Kansai Thru Pass?

        depart from Namba, i can catch Hanshin train at Osaka-Namba, 40 minutes and fare is 400 yen.

        place i will visit on kobe it will be cover all the Kansai Thru Pass only.

        and from Kobe to Himeji
        From Sannomiya to Sanyo-Himeji – 60-65 minutes / 940 yen
        still not sure where i will go, can you give me some edvise?

        On 16 Oct will just take around Osaka( osaka castle, osaka aquarium,dotonbori)
        and will go to Kyoto from osaka

        the Hostel we have book is close to Kawaramachi Station?

        which line subway or station i need to take from Dotonbori to Kawaramachi which is have cover by Kansai Thru Pass?

        i have searching on hyperdia but i really not sure which line have cover by Kansai Thru Pass really need your guide and experience

        On 17 Oct
        is my first day on Kyoto and will visit kiyomizudera temple, toei kyoto studio park
        is that good idea if i still used Kansai Thru Pass?
        or i can swape the itinerary on 18 Oct to 17 Oct is there some place have cover by Kansai Thru Pass

        18 oct
        fushimi inari temple,arashiyama bamboo,kinkakuji temple,gion

        19 oct from kyoto will travel to tokyo

        as i stay in Kawaramachi for 3 days only, what is the best pass i can have for cover all my itinerary on kyoto if Kansai Thru Pass not really erconomic to be used on Kyoto ?

        i’m really sorry to give you alot of question.
        thakyou Takeshi

        1. Hi Meriana,

          You may purchase a single ticket at the vending machine for trip to Tengachaya from KIX and trip to USJ. You may use ICOCA. If you purchase this card, you don’t need to purchase a single ticket. You can take any trains, JR, subway and other railways. You can purchase it at JR Kansai airport station. But in these days, the window at JR Kansai airport station is very busy. If you see the long line up, just purchase a single ticket at the vending machine. Otherwise you will spend many minutes there.

          The following link shows you the info about Kyoto Access Ticket. This deal is not your choice. But it shows you the route from Tengachaya to Kawaramachi. Kansai thru pass covers this route too and this is the easiest route.
          http://www.howto-osaka.com/en/ticket/ticket/kyoto.html

          Kansai thru pass is a good choice for Oct 15 and 16. I think you can use 3 days Kansai thru pass. I also recommend you to visit Arashiyama, Bamboo forest and Toei Studio Park on same day. If you can add Kinkakuji temple on same day, it’s easier to visit because Toei, Arashiyama and Kinkakuji are located in the west side of Kyoto. Other places are located at east side. If you can do, use Kyoto Sightseeing Card for Arashiyama, Toei and Kinkakuji. Kansai thru pass can be used for the rest of places, Gion, Fushimi, Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera and Gion.
          http://www.insidekyoto.com/special-kyoto-bus-train-subway-passes

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. dear Takeshi-san
            thankyou for your advise !!!
            so 15 Oct, 16 Oct it will be my itinerary

            and 17 Oct i will used Kansai Thru Pass from my Accomodation on Kawaramachi to Gion,Fushimi, Ginkakuji and kiyomizudera,

            and 18 Oct i will use Kyoto sightseeing Card to Arashiyama, Toei, and Kinkakuji (cost 1200 Yen for one day pass)

            i have another question about travel from Kyoto to Tokyo what pass i can used for transfer from kyoto to tokyo and pass i can buy to be used on my itinerary?

            as i will go to Tokyo on 19 Oct in Morning time after arrive in Tokyo(my acconmodation is close to KINSHICHO station)i will just go around Tokyo city such like shibuya,harajuku,akibara,ameyako market ,tokyo tower and harbour rainbow.

            20 Oct i will go to Disney Sea
            21 Oct Kawaguchiko
            22 Oct hakone
            23 Oct Edo Open house museum and Doraemon Museum
            24 Oct is my last before Back to my country i don’t have any itinerary as we will pack luggage , but my flight is from Narita Airport

            thankyou so much for your guide, wish can meet such a great person like you.please visit my country one day

            thankyou

          2. Hi Meriana san,

            There is no deals available from Kyoto to Tokyo. But in Tokyo, you may use subway pass or other deals. For access to Narita, you can catch budget bus from Tokyo station. Please see the links below:
            http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
            http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html#The_Access_Narita

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

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