Ever wanted to cross Japan by rail but hate the idea of being stuck on the train, watching the scenery flash by without ever being able to get out and experience it? Today we’re going to let you in on a little secret few foreigners are aware of so you can explore further, without having to pay extra for the privilege.
This neat little trick is quite well known in Japan, but there are probably quite a few gaijin out there, and some Japanese people too, who aren’t aware of it. The secret is that Japan Rail (JR) has a special rule for certain tickets, which allows you to get on and off the train as many times as you like on your journey.
・Stop off at places along your route for free
That’s right, you can get off the train multiple times without having to pay for a new ticket each time you get back on. With a JR passenger ticket you can disembark at any point on a journey that’s 101 kilometers or more, and pass through the gates without having to hand your ticket over. Maybe your legs are starting to feel cramped after sitting for so long? No problem, hop off and give them a stretch in a nearby park. Something in the distance catches your eye? Get off at the next stop and hunt it down. Your journey becomes much more exciting and enjoyable once you know you’re not bound to your seat by a one-use ticket.
・ Valid over several days
We said "as many times as you like" and that’s true, but actually we should point out that this is limited to the time-frame for which the ticket is valid. A ticket’s time limit increases with every 200 kilometers added to your journey, starting from 2 days for 200 km or more, 3 days for 400 km, 4 days for 600 km, and so on. The further you intend go, the more time you have to travel there. And that means more exploring.
・ Take a break, then carry on the next day
For example, if you have a ticket for Kyoto from Tokyo, you could get off on the way at Shizuoka, relax and stay the night at a hotel, then continue on your way the next morning. No need to waste money on a new ticket. It’s a pretty handy rule, right?
・ Take it slow
Unfortunately this rule only applies to regular passenger tickets, so you can’t take advantage of it on special-express trains. But why rush to your destination though, when there’s so much to enjoy on the way? Not to mention you can use some of the cash you save to pay for cheap accommodation during your stops.
Disclaimer: make sure to check the small-print on the JR website so you don’t end up stuck in the sticks somewhere with no money to get home.
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