I know you can't buy the pass in Japan and have to buy one prior to leaving for my trip, but all the sites I've seen say that you need to buy them at specifc Nihon Travel Agencies and such (which none are nearby... I'm from the US, to note). Are there no websites to buy from? Or can I call in to these agencies to get the passes?
I'm doing a 32 day stint from mid-August through September, and I plan on travelling all over the country, so I thought the 3 week pass (despite it being ungodly expensive) would be my best bet.
Another question, when I buy the pass, do I buy it to start at a specific date? Can I buy it next week, for example, and make it valid from August 28th for 3 weeks?
Thanks for any help, in advance!
I've booked my rail pass online through a dutch agency specialized in Japanese (holiday)trips. It was not the specific Nihon travel agency you mentioned. You get a confirmation paper of payment and you get your real pass in one of the JR offices in Japan. You don't have to give a specific date, only when you pick up your pass you have to fill out a form where you have to specify your departure date.
1. With your pass it is free to reserve a seat. This is a good option when you want to go to big cities due to lots of business people travelling with the JR trains as well.
2. The lonely planet doesn't say it but it is possible to go on anight trains, eg. to Hokkaido. It takes you about 10-12 hours but it save you a lot of money for accommodation (it is really expensive!)
3. The JR railsystem within Tokyo covers the main business routes within the city. Sometimes you have to change to other lines to get to your destination. Your pass is invalid then, don't forget to buy a ticket!
4. When you are using the JR subway system, you have to show your pass to the person behind the counter near the gates, to go through. Sometimes you have to show your passport as well, but most of the times you don't
Have fun in Japan!
greetz from the Netherlands
I'm doing the same thing and have relied on the following websites for info...there are numerous agents for buying railpasses in the US:
There's a menu on the left side that links to where passes/vouchers are sold. I'm going to buy mine in SF this week (I'm going to Japan next monday) so if you like, I can tell you what I find out after my own purchasing experience regarding the "date specific" question you posted. Let me know if that would be helpful...
Check out this conversation thread too...another great traveller to traveller website, this one has some good specific info on the mechanics of using your rail pass:
Haven't had a chance to come back and thank y'all for the advice (especially Maya). I'm still having issues, in that I have only found one place that sells the exchange orders online. I'm just not sure if it's a legit site for selling the authorized exchange orders.
So do you think this website is a reputable place to buy my pass?
Or should I try calling the Japan Rail Pass offices and see if I can order over the phone? I'd prefer to order from that site online, but I don't want to get screwed out of $400 (OUCH).
Thanks again to anyone in advance.