Getting Around Kansai
Navigating around a city or region you have never been to can be quite tricky and knowing about the special discounted passes used for the public transport is one of the first steps to learning how to get around. Within Kansai there are numerous options for bus, train and subway lines that will help moving around a lot easier and significantly cheaper, so let’s take a look at the most important ones.
Photo: Kevin Jaako on Flickr
JR Kansai Passes
The JR Kansai Passes or essentially the regional equivalents of the JR Pass which allows you to travel throughout Japan on all JR trains for a single fixed price. Within Kansai JR West offers four distinct passes, being the JR Kansai Area; Kansai WIDE; Kansai-Hiroshima and Kansai-Hokuriku pass, with each have a certain coverage within the region.
The cheapest and smallest coverage is the Kansai Area Pass, which includes the areas around Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Himeji, for just 2.200 for one day for an adult or consecutively up to four days. The most expensive is the Kansai-Hokuriku pass which encompasses everything from Wakayama to Otayama and Nara to Fukuyama for 15.000 for seven days. Children are half price and reservations can be made online between 27 and 2 days in advance of usage.
Be aware that although the cards include certain shinkansen it also excludes a few depending on the type of pass you purchase, so please visit the JR West website to see which pass suits your itinerary the best.
Kansai Thru Pass
The Kansai Thru Pass from Surutto is a two-day or three-day pass for all non-JR trains, subways and certain city busses within the Kansai region, which includes the prefectures Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Nara, Wakayama and Shiga. Like the JR Passes the pass is only available to overseas tourist for 4000 or 5200 yen for an adult or half that price for a child between the ages 6 and 12. You can purchase the pass at for example the Kansai airport tourist information center; Osaka visitor information centers in Namba or Umeda and the Kyoto Bus information center, which is on the right side of the bus terminal.
Kyoto City Bus Pass
Within Kyoto there is a flat-rate are covering most of the city, which means that within this area all bus rides are 230 yen. The Kyoto City Bus Pass is a one-day unlimited use card for 500 yen per adult or half that for children. Since Kyoto severely lacks trains and subway connection this pass is a lifesaver for everyone who will use more than two bus rides, or essentially switches busses once. Cards can be purchased from machines at Kyoto Station’s Bus Terminal or from the driver on the bus and is available for everyone. Outside the flat-rate area a minor fee of a few yen is applied per stop.
Traffica Kyoto Card
Another option which includes subway lines as well as all Kyoto City Buses is the Traffica Kyoto Card. This is a prepaid card that gives you an 10% extra deposit than what you pay for it at the bus terminal, for example a 1,000 yen card allowing you to use up 1,100 yen worth of travel.
Osaka Amazing Pass
For overseas visitors in Osaka there is the Osaka Amazing Pass for an unlimited one-day usage of private subways and rails within Osaka and also offers some free admissions to cultural and tourist attractions, such as the Osaka Castle Museum and the Osaka Zoo, as well as discounts at certain selected stores. The card costs 2.300 yen for one day and 3.000 yen for two consecutive days with no discount for children.