How to choose discount railway ticket and pass for the trip in Kansai area

Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
Katsura river in Arashiyama, Kyoto is very popular in Spring and Fall. ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO
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Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO

There are JR lines and lots of private railway lines, such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Kintetsu and Keihan in Kansai area. There are so many kinds of ticket or passes as well. It makes you confused to choose it.

In this post, I would like to share the information about the discount tickets and passes that cover Kansai area.

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Kansai Thru Pass

  • Online purchasing price (2-day) – Adult : 4,300 yen / Child : 2,150 yen
  • Online purchasing price (3-day) – Adult : 5,300 yen / Child : 2,650 yen
  • Coverage – All Non JR lines, subway lines and city bus in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – 2 or 3 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 Metro 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 5,300 yen for 3-days and 4,300 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 in the link below:

JR West Rail Pass – Kansai Area Pass

  • Price (1-day) – Adult : 2,200 yen / Child : 1,100 yen
  • Price (2-day) – Adult : 4,300 yen / Child : 2,150 yen
  • Price (3-day) – Adult : 5,300 yen / Child : 2,650 yen
  • Price (4-day) – Adult : 6,300 yen / Child : 3,150 yen
  • Coverage – All JR railway lines in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – 1 to 4 days (midnight to midnight)
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. But the Shinkansen and all express trains are not covered except Kansai airport express “Haruka”. Please see the details about this pass in the link below:

Hankyu Tourist Pass one day and two days

  • Price (1-day) – Adult : 700 yen / Child:Not available
  • Price (2-day) – Adult : 1,200 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)

Hankyu Railway operates trains among Umeda (Osaka), Takarazuka, Kawaramachi (Kyoto near Gion), Arashiyama (Kyoto) and Kobe (Sannomiya). The price of this deal is very attractive to cover three cities, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. If you access to Kobe-Sannomiya from Umeda, single fare is 320 yen. If you access to Kyoto-Kawaramachi from Umeda, single fare is 400 yen. You can get the worth of one day pass by one round trip to Kyoto-Kawaramachi from Umeda. If you look for deal to access to just Kobe, Arashiyama and Gion area, this is a good choice.

But if you want to visit all part of Kyoto and many places in Kobe, Kansai Thru Pass is better choice. Because you have to take other train or bus than Hankyu Railway. Kansai Thru Pass covers all.

Please see the link below to find more information:

Hankyu Railway official site- Hankyu Tourist Pass

Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass one day and two days

  • Price (1-day) – Adult : 700 yen / Child : 350 yen
  • Price (2-day) – 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 have 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 have to pay extra to access this place. Kansai Thru Pass may be better choice if you have another trip(s).

Please see the link below to find more information about Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass:

Keihan Railway official site – Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass

Kintetsu Rail Pass one day and two days

  • Price (1-day) – Adult : 1,500 yen / Child : 750 yen
  • Price (2-day) – 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.

Please see the link below to find more information about Kintetsu Rail Pass:

Kintetsu Railway official site – Kintetsu Rail Pass

Hanshin Tourist Pass

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

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.

Please see the link below to find more information about Hanshin Tourist Pass:

Hanshin Railway official site – Hanshin Tourist Pass

Kansai Wide Area Pass

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. Please find more information in the post below:

ICOCA and Kansai One Pass

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.

For the traveler who stay in Kyoto or Osaka and visit inside city only

These above deals are too much for the city sightseeing only. 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

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

Comments

  1. Hi Takeshi San,

    Thanks for your help!! I am currently planning my train routing but I am not sure if I should buy any rail pass and if so, which one I should buy?

    My current 7D6N plan is:

    Day1 – Kansai Airport –> Namba(Dotonbori)
    Day2 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Kyoto –> Inari –> Namba(Dotonbori)
    Day3 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Umahori –> Arashiyama –> Namba(Dotonbori)
    Day4 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Nara –> Uji –> Namba(Dotonbori)
    Day5 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Universal City –> Namba(Dotonbori)
    Day6 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Kobe –> Umeda –> Namba(Dotonbori)
    Day7 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Kansai Airport

    What is the cheapest or most convenient choice?

    Thanks,

    Billy – Hong Kong

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Billy,
      I think the following option is the best for you.

      Day1 – Kansai Airport –> Namba(Dotonbori) — Single Fare
      Day2 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Kyoto –> Inari –> Namba(Dotonbori) — Kansai Thru pass 3 days
      Day3 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Umahori –> Arashiyama –> Namba(Dotonbori) — Kansai Thru pass 3 days
      Day4 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Nara –> Uji –> Namba(Dotonbori) — Kansai Thru pass 3 days
      Day5 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Universal City –> Namba(Dotonbori) — Single fare
      Day6 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Kobe –> Umeda –> Namba(Dotonbori) — Single fare
      Day7 – Namba(Dotonbori) –> Kansai Airport — Single fare

      You can use Nankai between Kansai Airport and Namba. Universal studio is close to Namba. So you don’t need to buy any pass. You can access to Kobe from Namba and from Kobe to Umeda by Hanshin. You don’t need to buy a pass either.

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Lee says:

    Hi,

    I will be eaving for Nagoya on 31 March 1am… and still cant make up my mind whether to buy JR pass.. my initerary as follows:

    31/3 Nagoya to Kyoto
    1/4-3/4 Kyoto
    4/4 Kyoto to Nagoya
    5/4 Nagoya to Takayama/Shirakawa-go and Gokayama ( if possible want to drop by at Kanazawa)
    6/4 Takayama back to Nagoya
    7/4 Nagoya to Spore

    I had calculated the basis costs travel ie airport to town , town to town… but I am wondering with JR pass may be i have more flexibilities…

    Thanks in advance

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Lee,
      It is not enough for Japan Rail Pass 7 days. But as you mentioned, if you have a pass, it will be more flexible. Especially if you go to Kanazawa and stay there, you can use your pass from Kanazawa to Maibara and Maibara to Nagoya. If you do this itinerary, Japan Rail Pass will help you lots.
      However it is quite tight from Nagoya to Kanazawa via Takayama and Shirawakago. Usually it is one day trip from Takayama to Shirakawago and back to Takayama. It is your choice. If I were you, I go for purchasing the pass.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    First of all, your post helped us save loads of time 🙂 Thank you for that.

    I will be traveling to Osaka this 2 April and my plans are:

    2/4- Osaka. Plane arrives at 3.45pm
    3/4- Osaka
    4/4- Kyoto
    5/4- Undecided
    6/4- Tokyo
    7/4- Tokyo
    8/4- Osaka
    9/4- Flight Home

    I have bought JR Pass.

    Do you suggest that I buy a Kansai Thru Pass for 3 days to save on my subway/buses travels within Osaka, Kyoto or another place (kindly suggest 🙂 )?

    Or buy an Osaka Unlimited Pass to travel in Osaka (I am keen on visiting Kaiyukan, Tempozan, Minami, Osaka Castle, Hozenji Tokocho Alley).

    I am not sure how much I would be needing to use the subways or would it be more economical.

    Thank you so much for your help!
    Wen Hui- Malaysia

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Wen Hui,
      I think Kansai Thru Pass is too much for your itinerary. If you are thinking about Nara, Wakayama or Mt. Koya in 3 days, Kansai Thru Pass would be your option.
      If you visit Osaka and Kyoto, the combination of single fare to Kyoto + Kyoto one day pass + Osaka one day pass is the best option.I estimate total amount will be less than 4000 yen. (Kansai Thru 3 days = 5000 yen)
      You don’t have any plan on Apr 5. I think you will use this day for Osaka. Because the place where you want to go in Osaka is a little tight for one day. But if you still have a time, I recommend you to go to Kobe. Kobe is very nice harbour town and totally different from Osaka and Kyoto. Mt Koya is very interesting place. But it will be very tight to go there in one day.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Hi, Takeshi/ JR Rail, I will be staying in osaka for 7 nights , and thinking of a day trip to Kyoto and Kobe, arriving at Osaka from Kansai International Airport, Can you please recommend the best ticket to buy? thanks

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi George,
      It is very hard to say. Because it depends on how much you take bus and train. It depends on which part of Osaka you will stay. If you intend to go to many places in Kyoto, Kansai Thru pass may work. But as you see this post, single fare to Kyoto or Kobe is not much expensive. I think you pay a single fare to Kyoto / Kobe. And you may buy Kyoto One day pass. If you go many places in one or two days in Osaka, you can buy Enjoy Eco card.
      This is just idea. I recommend you to fix your itinerary before you buy the pass.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Great suggestions on getting discounted train tickets 🙂

  6. WeeTay says:

    Hi Takeshi / JR Rail,

    I will be staying in Kyoto for 3 days. For 1st day, I am thinking of taking a trip to the premium outlet in Rinkutown, go Osaka and back to kyoto. The next 2 days will be in Kyoto. I am thinking of getting 1 day JR kansai area pass and Kyoto Sight Seeing 2 days pass for the next 2 days.

    Is this advisable? The JR Kansai area pass will cover the JR Kyoto Line local and JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service?

    Arigato Gosaimazu!

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi WeeTay,
      Yes, you can use JR West Kansai area pass. It cover all part of your trip. I agree with you that you use Kansai area pass and Kyoto 2 days pass for your trip. It is perfect combination and most reasonable.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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    Rachele says:

    Hello Takeshi-san,

    My name is Rachele and I am coming to Osaka on a business trip.
    I will not have much time to go around (only evenings) but I am planning to do a one-day trip from Osaka to Kyoto and then to go around Osaka when I have time.
    I will be staying in Osaka for 6 days.
    I will be moving to Tokyo (I will take a night bus) and stay there for 7 days.

    What kind of ticket do you think I should buy?
    Is the JP rail pass convenient or not?

    Arigatou gozaimasu!

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      HI Rachele,
      When you stay in Osaka, single ticket may be best choice for you. As you see this post, signle ticket to Kyoto is around 400 yen. You may be able to use Kyoto one day pass if you will visit many places in Kyoto.
      And when you go to Tokyo, Japan Rail Pass will work. But if you take overnight bus, single ticket is cheaper than Japan Rail Pass. If you take Shinkansen for round trip to Tokyo, Japan Rail Pass is the best choice. Even though Japan Rail Pass 7 days is more expensive than regular round trip ticket to Tokyo, you can use the pass to visit many places in Tokyo and surrounding area. If you really want to take overnight bus or just one way trip to Tokyo, Japan Rail Pass is not the best choice. Buy regular ticket to take overnight bus. And you can think about other discount passes for staying in Tokyo. If you need more info about discount pass for Tokyo, see the link below.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/compare-many-discount-tickets-and-passes-for-sightseeing-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-right-tickets.html
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Abi Ha says:

    Hello Takeshi/JP Rail,

    Thankyou, your answer about those passes validity is very appreciated and very useful for us.

    Please allow me to ask some more questions regarding those passes use.

    Since passes were only valid for ‘non-reserved’ seat on limited express train, (examp; JR West Pass on ‘Haruka’), how could we found out about availability of those ‘non-reserved’ seats?

    Just jump aboard and look for them? since I learned that the way we use this pass (esp. JR West Pass) is just showing them to ticket officer at the gates (is it?)

    If so and then those ‘non-reserved’ seats were fully seated, what should/can we do?

    Thank you.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Abi Ha,
      Thanks for your comment. Don’t worry about another question. I always welcome a question in regards to rail trip.
      When you take non reserved seat, you are completely right. Show your ticket or pass at the gate, and then just go to the platform and ride a train. If you cannot find a seat, you need to stand up in the passenger’s cabin or deck. But if you take a train from the departure station (ex Kansai airport), usually you can take a seat easily. If you don’t want to stand up, you can wait for next one or take a rapid train.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Abi Ha says:

    Hello, found this website very useful for our initerary planning to visit Japan, especially Kansai area, in this late March.

    I have questions about those pass validity. I have read from your post about JR West multi day pass validity is for ‘consecutive’ days. How about those other passes; Kansai Thru Pass, Osaka unlimited day pass (2 days) and Kyoto Two Days pass. Are those pass must be used in consecutive days?

    For one day passes; Kyoto sight seeing pass, Osaka eco card, etc. Should they use at the date of purchase or we can use/activate them on days after the purchase date?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Abi Ha,
      Regarding Kansai Thru, Kyoto 2 days and Osaka unlimited 2 days, those passes have to be used in consecutive days.
      Regarding Osaka Eco card, the date will be printed when you insert a pass card into the ticket gate. The pass card is valid on the printed date only.
      Kyoto one day card should be used in the day of purchase.
      You can buy Kyoto or Osaka one day pass at the ticket vending machine. It is very simple. So when you need it, just go to the station and buy it.
      Enjoy your trip.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. Jonathan Ayre
    JAyre says:

    From my own personal experience there’s a couple of things I’ve learned while in the Osaka/Kyoto area.

    Firstly, where Mt Koya is concerned, once you reach the top, you still have to take a bus into the town itself. If memory serves, this bus costs around 400-500 yen for one trip, and there’s no walking track from Koyasan Station (the top of the cablecar), so you have to take the bus. Also, people generally travel between the town centre and Okunoin temple by bus, as its a little way out of town. For people going to Mt Koya I suggest looking into the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket, which has been mentioned in a prior post on this site, which includes unlimited bus travel and a return trip (usually from Namba/Shin-Imamiya).

    Secondly, for travel in Kyoto, when I was there last I was able to buy a multi-trip card, which costs either 1,000 or 3,000 yen, and is valid on the subway and buses. One advantage is that on each you get an extra 10% extra value for free, which can equate to an extra trip or two. This makes it well suited to people using the subways and buses to get around within Kyoto, but not making too many trips in one day. You can buy these from the fare machines located at subway stations, which makes them really easy to get. The first subway station visitors to Kyoto are likely to find is located in the basement of JR Kyoto Station. There’s signage from the JR Lines and Shinkansen that can guide you down to the subway station.

    Best regards,

    – Jonathan Ayre –

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