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.

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

  1. Hello Takeshi San! My daughter and I will be arriving at KIX on Feb. 13 and we will be in Osaka until February 19. We will be staying at Fraser Residence in Namba. If we buy the Icoca-Haruka card, will be able to use it on the Midosuji line? If not, what pass do you suggest? We will not be leaving Osaka as we have been to the other cities near there. Thank you!

    1. Hi Paz san,

      You don’t need to use ICOCA and Haruka. You can take Nankai railway to get Namba. Please see the link below to find more info:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/how-to-build-the-itinerary-and-choose-the-deals-for-osaka-stay-5-to-7-days.html

      You may also use Kansai One Pass. It’s same type of card as ICOCA. You can take subway Midousuji line and any trains in Kansai area.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi san,

    I would like to ask for your advice in travelling around Japan using mainly train passes. I will be visiting for 16 days in mid-April with this itinerary in mind:

    – Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo via Narita Airport, and staying in Tokyo (Ginza area)
    – Days 2 to 4: Explore Tokyo (Tokyo Disney Sea, Ghibli Museum, Sanrio Puroland, Shibuya & Akihabara)
    – Day 5: Travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto, and staying in Kyoto
    – Days 6 to 8: Explore Kyoto
    – Days 9 to 12: Day trips from Kyoto to Osaka & Nara
    – Day 13: Travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo, and staying in Tokyo (Ginza)
    – Day 14: Day trip to Hakone
    – Day 15: Explore Tokyo
    – Day 16: Leaving Tokyo via evening flight from Narita Airport

    For Tokyo, would it suffice to get Tokyo Subway tickets to travel around the area?

    As for Kyoto, would it suffice to get just the Kansai through pass to cover Kyoto, as well as day trips to Osaka and Nara?

    For Hakone, I was wondering if it will be better to just pay ‘ala-carte’ for the train rides to the area? Or would a Hakone free pass be justified (though it is a 3-day pass)?

    As for trips between Narita Airport and Tokyo, and between Tokyo and Kyoto, do you have any advice on the best route to take? I was reading through the site, and I am not sure if Keisei Skyliner is the way to go for trips between Narita Airport and Tokyo. I have not figured out if there are any train passes to use for the trip between Tokyo and Kyoto.

    Please advise, as I am not familiar with Japan’s rail system, with this being my first overseas trip to Japan with my fiancee. Thanks Takeshi san!

    1. Hi Alvin san,

      The following deals and tickets are suitable for your trip:

      For Narita – Tokyo and sightseeing in Tokyo
      Tokyo Shuttle + Tokyo subway ticket combo is the best. This bus goes to Ginza and cheap. You can find this deal in the link below:
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html#anc02

      But subway cannot take you to outside downtown, like Disneyland, Puloland, Ghibli. You need to add single fare. So try to gather places in downtown, like Shibuya, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Asakusa by Tokyo subway ticket.

      For Kyoto, Osaka, Nara
      You can use Kansai thru pass for Osaka and Nara. You may use this pass in Kyoto too. But don’t purchase it just for Kyoto. This pass should be used for outside Kyoto. If you use 3 days pass for Osaka, Nara and Kyoto one day each. But do not buy extra for just Kyoto. City deal is basically okay.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      For Tokyo – Kyoto
      Basically no deals is available. I usually recommend 7 days JR pass. But you will spend more than 7 days. 14 days pass is too expensive. If you are okay to spend more time to save your cost, you may consider to use Platt Kodama. It’s slightly cheaper than regular fare.
      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

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    Thanks for the information but i am still a bit confused over what is best for my itinerary.

    My current plan is
    Day 1: Arrive at Kansai airport and travel to Kyoto direct
    Day 2-3: Stay and explore Kyoto
    Day 4: Travel in Nara and stay for 1 night
    Day 5-7: Back to Kyoto for 3 nights
    Day 8: Travel to Shirakawa-go and stay 1 night
    Day 9-10: Takayama and stay 2 nights
    Day 11: Kanazawa and stay 1 night
    Day 12-14: Osaka (leaving in the night)

    For the trip from Kyoto to Shirakawa-go to Takayama, Kanazawa and Osaka, i am considering to use the JR Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass for 5 days. But for the rest of the trip, i am not sure what pass is good as i have not finalise whether to travel to othe places as i seem to be spending too much time in Kyoto.

    Hope to have your comments on my plan.

    Thanks alot.

    1. Hi Hylie,

      For arrival day
      Haruka discount ticket + Kansai one pass
      http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/

      You may use Kansai one pass for travel to Nara and sightseeing in Osaka.

      In Kyoto, you can use one the deals in 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-kyoto.html

      You may add one more deal for the last day.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi /JPRail.com

  4. Dear Takeshi,
    Thank u for ur information,

    I would like to hear ur advise, i will have this trip :
    Day 1 & 2 kyoto
    Day 3 osaka
    Day 4 osaka USJ
    Day 5 osaka to kobe
    Day 6 osaka to himeji
    Day 7 osaka to nara
    Day 8 to kansai airport

    Day 5-8 i will use jr west pass
    Day 1 & 4 use a single pass
    Day 2-3 days pass kyoto osaka

    Lookinh forward for ur reply, thank u

  5. Dear Takeshi,

    Thank you for the great information you have shared on this site. It has helped a lot to make the itinerary for our planned visit in start of April. I would like to ask for some advice, if I should make any changes to my planned transportations:

    Day1: Arrival at Kansai-Airport and a day in Kyoto
    Day2: Kyoto
    Day3: daytrip to Nara from Kyoto
    Day4: travel to Hiroshima and a day there
    Day5: day in Hiroshima and Miyajima
    Day6: travel to Kinosaki and a day there
    Day7: travel to Osaka and day there
    Day8: Osaka
    Day9: Leaving in the morning at Kansai-Airport

    At the moment I am leaning towards ICOCA and Haruka discount tickets for travel to and from the Airport and in the cities and Kansai Hiroshima Area pass for Days 4-8 (I guess it dosen’t stretch for a return to the airport).

    I also have a question regarding the Kansai Hiroshima Area pass. Is it legible for travel like this: Hiroshima->Himeji Station->Kinosaki (the last line is JR towards Hamasaki I think)?

    Thank you,
    Ott

    1. Hi Ott,

      Your plan is feasible and I don’t see any issues. You can take Hiroshima-Himeji-Kinosaki route by this pass. I have a few small things to mention to you.

      1. You will start using the pass on day 4. But you can start using in on day 3. You can take JR trains between Kyoto and Nara. In Osaka on day 8, you can take JR trains too but you may rely on subway more. So you can use ICOCA on day 8. ICOCA can be used for any trains, JR, subway and non JR. I think ICOCA is better in Osaka.

      2. If you stay near subway station in Osaka, Nankai railway deal may be better than Haruka discount ticket on day 9. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi,

    I wiil come to osaka with this Itinerary:
    day 1 Kansai – Shin-osaka (by Takayama Hokiriku pass)
    day 2 Shins-osaka – Shirakawago (by Takayama Hokuriku pass)
    day 3 Shirakawago – takayama
    day 4 takayama
    day 5 – Takayama – shin-osaka
    Please suggest which way I should take :
    Takayama – toyama – kanazawa – shin osaka (include Takayama Hokuriku pass) or
    Takayama Nagayo (Takayama Hokuriku pass) and than Nagoya Shinosaka (what pass should I use?)

    Day 6 Osaka city (Osaka pass 1 day?)
    Day 7 Universal (Single pass ?)
    Day 8 Osaka Kyoto (Kyoto osaka sighseeing pass 2 days ?)
    Day 9 Osaka Kyoto
    Day 10 Osaka Kansai

    Please advise. Thanks Takeshi san. Ellis

    1. Hi Ellis,

      If you want to save your cost, you may take Takayama – toyama – kanazawa – shin osaka route. If you go to Nagoya, you have to pay single fare for Nagoya to Shin-Osaka. That costs around 6,500 yen for base fare and Shinkansen seat fee. But trip time of Nagoya route is more than 1.5 hour faster than Toyama-Kanazawa. You can choose whichever you like.

      About the deal in Osaka and trip to KIX, 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/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Kyoto Osaka sightseeing pass is very good deal. But please remember that this pass does not cover local transportation in both Osaka and Kyoto, such as subway and bus. You may have to pay single fare or add another pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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