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When should I activate the Japan Rail Pass?
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When should I activate the Japan Rail Pass?

One of the questions we get asked the post is: When should I activate my JR Pass? Today we dive into this question and explain what to keep in mind.

When to activate the Japan Rail Pass?

The best time to activate depends on your travel plans, and how much value you can get for the pass. This depends on a couple of factors, so let’s have a look at what to consider when finding the best data to activate the JR Pass.

The first factor to look at is: what days are you travelling longer distances by train. Intercity train travel in Japan is what is the most expensive by far, so these are the days that you’d be wanting to use the pass.

A common mistake here is that this may not be the first day of arrival in Japan. For instance, when arriving at Tokyo Haneda Airport and then spending the first couple days in Tokyo, then travel cost will be relatively low. Then using the Shinkansen bullet train to is where the real travel costs are. To put things in perspective, a local ticket on the JR in Tokyo is about 200yen, while a single ticket Tokyo – Kyoto is about 14.500yen.

The second factor to look at is: How are days counted for the JR Pass. JR Passes are available for 7, 14 or 21-days of consecutive use, while regional passes may have other durations. That means, the pass starts counting down from the first day of use, even when not used.

What is also important here is that the Japan Rail Pass is counted in days, not hours. In other words it does not matter what time you activate the pass. For example starting the JR Pass on a Monday will mean that the last day of travel is the following Sunday, and the pass will then expire at midnight.

In short, consider what days you are travelling by train the most. Then make sure your Japan Rail Pass is valid for those days.

Where to activate the Japan Rail Pass?

The JR Pass can be activated at most major stations, these are called exchange stations. This includes stations like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka stations but the international airports in Japan of Haneda Airport, Narita Airport and Kansai Airport.

We have special guides for the following stations:
Narita Airport
Haneda Airport
Kansai Airport
Kyoto station
Nagoya station
Osaka station
Shin-Osaka station
Sapporo Station

To activate your JR Pass bring your exchange voucher and passport, the JR Pass will then take care of the rest.

Tips for activating the Japan Rail Pass

Here are some expert tips to activate the JR Pass.

  • Make sure to have a first day of use in mind before making the exchange, this will make the process a lot faster
  • Seat reservations can be made from the moment that you activate the pass
  • In case you want to make reservations right away, then it is useful to bring a written list of what trains you want to travel on. This way the JR Staff can quickly book the tickets.
  • The JR Pass does not have to be started right away when activated, you may select any date within 30 days of activation.

Find out where to buy the japan rail pass online.

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