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. giovanna says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    thank you for your useful information!
    i’ll be in Japan for the Hanami and i’m torn between Kansai pass and Kansai Thru pass!
    DAY 1# KIX – Osaka (my hotel is near Higobashi) – Himeji – back to Osaka
    DAY 2# Universal studios
    DAY 3# Osaka Castle – Kyoto (I stay in Kyoto for 3days))
    DAY 4# Kyoto – Nara – Fushimi Inari
    DAY5# Kyoto
    DAY6# Shinkansen to Tokyo
    DAY7# -10# Tokyo- (3 day metro pass)- I will leave from Haneda airport.
    It’s better the Kansai pass for 4 days or Kansai thru pass for 3 days (day1-day3 and day4)? Or it’s better one Himeji pass for the first day and one Kintetsu rail pass for Nara? This is my second visit in Japan but my first one all alone!
    thank you for your help,
    best wishes
    Giovanna

  2. Elise – London, Ontario
    Elise says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Thank you for such an informative website. We’ll be traveling around Kansai for 16 days in December-January. Can I get some advice for our travel plan?

    8 Days in Kyoto
    (ITM -> Kyoto)
    Day Trips: Nara, Kobe

    4 Days in Hiroshima
    Kyoto -> Himeji -> Hiroshima
    Day trip: Miyajima

    4 Days in Osaka
    Hiroshima -> Kurashiki -> Osaka
    (Osaka -> KIX)

    I’m thinking a combination of the 5-day Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass for the Kyoto-Hiroshima-Osaka days and the Kansai Thru Pass for the Kyoto tour. I’d appreciate any feedback and help.

  3. Jonatthan says:

    Hello Takeshi San

    Thank you for helping people decide. Hope i could get a reply on mine soon as i am travelling on 29th…unfortunately i cam across your site little late 🙁

    My itinerary is as follows:

    1 . Reach KIX and go to Umeda – stay and relax
    2. Umeda to Koyoto, Arashiyama and other places of interest and back to Umeda at night
    3. Umeda to Nara & Kobe if possible
    4. Umeda to Tokyo – Local sight seeing
    5 Tokyo Sightseeing
    6 Tokyo to Hakone – Stay overnight and local visit
    7 Hakone sight seeing – Stay overnight
    9 Go to Osaka and local sight seeing
    10 Leave

    Does is make sense for me to take Kansai Thru pass or any other pass or am i better off buying IOCCA card and pay full price for tickets. If the savings by Kansai (any pass) is not more than JPY 3000 then i would prefer to keep the convenience of taking any train, subway or bus.

    Kindly help in deciding.

  4. Manuel says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    first of all thank you very much for your great website. It is a never-ending source of information about traveling Japan by train. Thank you for your time and effort.

    Since you kindly offer to give advice on which pass(es) to choose, here are my travel plans and thoughts:

    Day – Route/Destination
    1 Arrival KIX by 9:35pm -> Hotel near Namba (planned)
    2 Osaka
    3 Himeji -> Nara
    4 Nara -> Kyoto
    5 Kyoto
    6 Kyoto
    7 Kyoto
    8 Kyoto -> Shinagawa (Tokyo)
    9 Shinagawa -> NRT (Departure NRT 11:10am)

    Tickets planned:
    Day 1+2 Yokoso! Osaka (alternative if I miss the final 11:40pm train: night bus + day ticket subway weekend)
    Day 3-7 Kansai Wide Area Pass (want to take the 11:29 Hello Kitty Shinkansen to Himeji; also open to a day trip from Kyoto)
    Day 8 day pass Kyoto + Nozomi regular ticket
    Day 9 Keisei Access Express regular ticket

    Do you think I will underuse the Wide Area Pass and would be better off with another? Or would I be better off with the Japan Rail Pass, given I have to go to Tokyo anyways (would then take Hikari+Narita Express of course)? Any other recommendations or route optimisation proposals?

    Cheers,
    Manuel

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

      Hi Manuel san,

      Kansai Wide Area Pass may be okay. Roughly you will spend just less than 8,000 yen for Osaka-Himeji-Nara-Kyoto. So if you use some more in Kyoto, you will be able to get the worth.

      JR Pass is too expensive for your trip. Just use the deal as you are planning now.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. BelleAnn says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’m so happy I came across your site! I would be really thankful if you can recommend the best tickets to get for our trip:

    Day 1 – Kix to Osaka (arriving at night, AirBnB location)
    Day 2 – Universal Studios
    Day 3 – Nara
    Day 4 – Osaka
    Day 5 – Kyoto
    Day 6 – Osaka
    Day 7 – Kobe
    Day 8 – Osaka to Kix (departing Japan at night)

    This itinerary is very flexible. We basically want to spend an entire day at Kobe, Nara and Kyoto. We’re also opting for a somewhat ‘relaxed’ trip since we’re bringing our 8month old baby with us. Are the trains/subways stroller (tram) friendly?

    Thanks for looking into this!

  6. Hi this is a sample of our itenerary for when we visit Osaka.
    Day1 KiX
    Day2 Universal Studios
    Day3 Kyoto and Arashiyama area
    Day4 Minoo Park
    Day5 half day in Nara
    Day6 and 7 mostly dotonbori and shinsaibashi area
    Day8 checkout then flight is in the evening

    We would be staying near hommachi station. What pass would you recomm nd? Thank you so much

  7. siva says:

    Hi,

    I seek your advise in which pass to take. I have been reading the reviews but a little confused. I would like to give you a rough plan of my trip:
    Day 1 – landing at Kix in the evening.. from KIX to Tengachaya (my BNP)
    Day 2 – osaka castle
    Day 3 – kyoto
    Day 4- osaka area
    Day 5 -osaka area
    Day 6 – back to KIX

  8. Ashley says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I have read so many posts on the passes but I’m still quite confused which passes would be suitable for me. Could you please help me out, my travel plan is roughly planned as below but it’s not fixed yet, feel free to change it.

    Day 1 – KIX to Kyoto (ICOCA and Haruka pass?)
    Day 2 – Kyoto
    Day 3 – Kyoto
    Day 4 – Kyoto
    Day 5 – Himeji, Kobe, Arima (Is a day enough for this 3 places or should I plan 2 days instead?)
    Day 6 – Osaka
    Day 7- Osaka
    Day 8 – Osaka
    Day 9 – Osaka
    Day 10 – Osaka to KIX

    Thanks,
    Ashley

  9. Laura says:

    Hi,

    May I know which pass i should buy for my Osaka-Kyoto Trip

    Day 1 # KIX – Kyoto (city tour)
    Day 2 # Kyoto (city tour)
    Day 3 # Kyoto (city tour)
    Day 4 # Kyoto-Nara
    Day 5 # Kyoto – Osaka
    Day 6 # Osaka
    Day 7 # Osaka
    Day 8 # Osaka
    Day 9 # KIX

  10. Chung says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Need advice from you, my travel plan as below

    Day 1 # KIX – Kyoto (city tour)
    Day 2 # Kyoto (city tour)
    Day 3 # Kurama
    Day 4 # Nara
    Day 5 # Kyoto – Osaka
    Day 6 # Koyasan
    Day 7 # Himeji
    Day 8 # Osaka
    Day 9 # KIX (early morning flight)
    Should i go for JR West Kansai Wide Area with ICOCA (5 days) or Kansai Thru Pass (3 days)?

    Accommodation based at Osaka, two mid senior citize

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