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
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.

Osaka Amazing Pass

This deal includes unlimited subway ride and 28 attractions. If you visit 3 or more attractions on the list, this is better deal than subway pass. Please find more information about this pass at the link below:

Osaka Amazing Pass

Osaka Kaiyu Ticket

This is combo deal of Osaka subway unlimited ride pass and Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium admission. This deal is cheaper than even round trip fare to Osakako station from either Namba or Umeda and admission. If you visit some more places after vising aquarium by subway, this deal gives you a great saving.

Trip to Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium by Osaka Kaiyu Ticket

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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi-san,
    this helped me understand a bit more about the passes to use in Kansai area. We plan to tour for about 10-12 days to osaka,kyoto,nara,kobe,himeji and roundtrip to kansai airport. what woukd you suggest we buy?

    is the kansai thru pass unlimited rides for the days stipulated?

    thanks,
    ken

      1. Thanks a lot for the info Takeshi-san.. the sample itinerary seem a lot similar to my plan that maybe I can use it and fix aome a litle bit to suit my dates. I’ll have to finalize my own itinerary then I can go back and study your other suggestions in your blog.

        Regards!

  2. hi, i would like to ask is hankyu tourist pass must be used 2 days consecutively if i buy 2 day pass? can i use it on monday and another day on wednesday instead?

  3. Hi, Takeshi san,

    Can you help me which tickets should I use for our itinerary? Thanks in advance

    Apr 25 – Arrival Kansai Terminal 1 at 7:30pm
    Dinner at the airport and leave at 8:30pm
    to Nankai Namba

    Apr 26 – Nankai Namba to Umeda back to Nankai

    Apr 27 – Nankai Namba to Kyoto
    (Hire a private car tour for the day)
    Then Kyoto go back to Nankai Namba

    Apr 28 – Nankai Namba to Arima Onsen
    Arima Onsen to Sannomiya to Nankai Namba

    Apr 29 – Nankai Namba to Inari
    Inari to Nara
    Nara to Nankai Namba

    Apr 30 – Osaka Free Day
    Go to Yamazaki Distillery

    May 1 – Nankai Namba to Kansai Terminal 1

    Hope I made sense. Thank you!

    1. Hi Christine san,

      There are some options between KIX and Namba. If you take ordinary train, single fare is 920 yen. This is most affordable. If you take limited express “Rapi:t”, the following deal is available.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com/en/ticket/ticket/tokuwari.html

      And the following deal is not available in Japan but it may be available in your country.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com/en/ticket/ticket/nambaRT.html

      Single ticket is your choice for Apr 26 and 27. And Kansai thru pass is the best option for Apr 28 and 29.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/kansai-thru-pass-sample-itineraries.html

      You may use some deals in Osaka for Apr 29.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html#Osaka_area
      However you need to add single fare to get Yamazaki from Osaka.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi

      1. Takeshi san,

        Thanks for your reply=)

        i can avail the webtoku instead of tokuwari since its not available in our country? or since i dont know if flight arrival will be delayed, is it much better to just ride nankai airport express since we will be arriving at night, even without reserved seat or luggage area is it spacious? and they have more travel time intervals than rapit?

        Is it better to get ICOCA card for April 26,27&30 travel for convenience? for April 30 we decided to just stay around shinsaibashi/dotonbori area or 1 to 2 spots only and not go to yamazaki anymore.

        For April 28 & 29, will get Kansai Thru Pass.
        From Nankai Namba to Arima Onsen, I will choose Route 4.
        http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=NAMBA(NANKAI)&arv_node=ARIMAONSEN&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2016&month=04&day=28&hour=09&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7
        Is this the best way? 3 transfers?

        For going back to Nankai Namba, we plan to stop over Sannomiya from Arima Onsen before going back.
        http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=ARIMAONSEN&arv_node=NAMBA(NANKAI)&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2016&month=04&day=28&hour=15&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&faretype=0&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7
        Which route is the best since we plan to have a stopover at sannomiya?

        Thanks!

          1. Thank you Takeshi san=)

            One more clarification, I’m confused about the use of the ICOCA card. (I read ur links, at
            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
            and
            http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_icoca_haruka.html )
            ICOCA card is for JR trains only? It cannot be used as a preloaded card for single tickets travel that we will be doing on April 26, 27 & 30?

            Your site is really a big help. I’m hoping with your help to make our rides/transfers/logistics as seamless as possible to save time on those actual dates.

          2. Hi Christine san,

            You can use ICOCA to take any trains, such as JR, Non JR (Hankyu, Hanshin, Keihan etc) and subway. So you can use this card instead of single fare ticket on Apr 26, 27 and 30.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          3. Hi Takeshi san,

            If the Kansai Thru Pass does not include JR, how do i get to Inari from Namba (to go to Fushimi Inari)? Hyperdia says no route with JR unchecked.
            Then from there I plan to go to Nara after.

            Thank you for your help!

          4. Takeshi san,
            Last follow up question, I plan to get Yokoso for Apr 25 for the rapit and 26 for osaka, can i buy this upon arrival at nankai too?
            Thank you for your help!

          5. Takeshi san,

            I chanced upon Skyvista of kintetsu, Is this worth for sight seeing? I plan to get this on Apr 26, i want to book online since it might get full, noth north and south routes. It says here the north route at 11:40 only operates in holiday or busy season, will it be available on the 26th?

            Here are the sites (some were not google translated)
            http://www.kintetsu-bus.co.jp/skyvista/

            http://www.veltra.com/en/asia/japan/osaka/a/122196

            I plan to buy at veltra in advance. Or should I buy on the bus station?

  4. Hi Takeshi-san,
    I and my mom are going to have 1 week trip to Osaka-Nara-Kyoto. I’m trying to figure out what is the best deal to move around Kansai area. I have my schedule and plan to purchase different types of Pass, can I get your help a bit to check if it is worth or not.

    Day 1: 5PM arrived at Kansai Airport and go to Tennoji)
    Day 2: 1 day trip to Nara
    Day 3-4: Around OSAKA
    Day 5: I have a conference near Osaka Station so I and my mom have to separate. I try to figure out what is the best ticket to use on this day because I stay at the conference area all day and just go from Tennoji-Osaka-tennoji. Should I buy a single fare ticket?
    Day 6-7: 2 days trip to Kyoto ( from Tennoji Station)
    Day 8: Kyoto – Kansai Airport

    For day 1 and 2: I dont know if I should buy JR west pass 2 days or should I buy ICOCA round trip card to Nara. If I buy ICOCA, I can use the ICOCA card on day 5 also right?
    For day 3-4: I tend to buy Amazing Pass
    For Day 5: I tend to buy single fare ticket from tennoji to osaka and back to tennoji only.
    And from day 6-8, I dont know what pass should I get to Kyoto, around Kyoto and back to Kansai Airport.

    I read your post and get a lot of useful tips to travel around Kansai area but it still difficult for me to plan how to travel around in easy and inexpensive way. It will be great if I can get your advice for my schedule above. Thank you so much in advance.

    1. Hi Khanh san,

      I recommend the following deals:

      ICOCA and Haruka to Tennoji for day 1 and 2
      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 may use ICOCA for the trip to Nara on day 2. You may use ICOCA for day 5 too. But only 1500 yen e-money is included in ICOCA and Haruka. You need to add some more fund into ICOCA card. You can add into the card at the vending machine in any JR stations.

      I agree with you to use amazing pass for day 3 and 4.

      For day 6, use ICOCA again to get Kyoto. After arrival Kyoto, you may add Kyoto city deal. For day 7, you can use city deal as well.
      http://www.insidekyoto.com/special-kyoto-bus-train-subway-passes

      At last, you can use Haruka discount ticket from Kyoto to KIX. You may find the price and info at the link about ICOCA and Haruka above.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thank you for your advice. However, I still wonder about the ICOCA & Haruka card. For day 1, after arrive at Kansai Airport,
        should I buy one way or round way trip to Tennoji?
        And as I understand, ICOCA is a prepaid e-card that everytime I get on train, it charge a base fare amount as a single ticket, right? No discount, right? So if I use the card to go from Tennoji to Nara (day 2) ,Osaka Stn in day 5 and go to Kyoto on Day 6, does it cost a lot? I still wondering about it?
        Do you think is there any other pass that will be better for my schedule?

        Thank you so much.

        1. Hi Khanh san,

          Exactly. ICOCA does not give you any discount. It gives you only convenience. However there is not deal to cover day 2, 5 and 6. I though Kansai thru pass for day 2 and 6.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

          It’s okay for day 2, trip to Nara. But for day 6, single ticket (or ICOCA) and Kyoto city deal is cheaper. You may go for this pass but it does not give you a big discount.

          For day 5, single ticket or ICOCA is okay. There is no other choices.

          You need to have one way deal to Tennoji. And you can add only Haruka discount ticket from Kyoto.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi-San,

    Thanks for all your information provided. May I seek your help on my itinerary below? I have checked Hyperdia but it seems like the 7-day JR Pass will not be cost-effective for my trip. Could you advise on which passes would be helpful for my travel plan below or how I may save costs? Thanks so much!

    Day 1: Arrive Tokyo Narita Airport (considering whether to take overnight bus to Kyoto or to take train to Kyoto the next day)
    Day 2 – 4: Kyoto
    Day 5: Kyoto –> Kanazawa –> Shirakawa-go –> Toyama (just for the accommodation at night)
    Day 6: Toyama –> Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (staying at ryokan in Murodo)
    Day 7: Complete Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route –> Matsumoto
    Day 8: Day trip to Kamikochi
    Day 9: Matsumoto –> Mt Fuji
    Day 10: Mt Fuji –> Tokyo
    Day 11 – 12: Tokyo

    1. Hi Fong san,

      If you take overnight bus, there is no deals. Single ticket is only choice.
      On the other hand, if you take a train to Kyoto, JR pass may work from day 1 to 7. You can take Narita Express from Narita to Tokyo, Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. limited express Thunderbird from Kyoto to Kanazawa, train from Shinano-Omachi (or Nagano) to Matsumoto. Single ticket may be slightly cheaper than JR pass. But you will get convenience and flexibility. You may get other place when you are Kyoto in case of changing your mind.

      Tateyama Kurobe option ticket is recommended anyway.
      http://www.jrtateyama.com/e/

      If you don’t use JR pass, you may have round trip deal + subway pass combo.
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html

      There is no deals for Kamikochi and Fuji anyway.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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