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Tourist Cards in Japan: Which one to choose?

Discover where and how to buy a Japan tourist card so that you can make the most of your trip and enjoy the landscape better

Carolina S.

April 26, 2023

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Plan your budget for Japan 2023 with our travel tips to visit the different tourist hotspots in this beautiful country. If you don’t know what IC cards are or where to buy a Japan tourist card, pay close attention because we will summarize the most useful and suitable options for your pocket.

Knowing which tourist card to buy in Japan is a must if you want to travel among the main cities of the country. Why? Because you’ll reduce travel time, and you’ll be able to get discounts on some of the most important attractions or museums.

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What is a tourist card?

In Japan, you can buy an IC card, which is a prepaid card that can be used to travel on different Japanese modes of transportation, and sometimes to pay at different commercial establishments.

>>You may also be interested in Things to do in Osaka

What tourist cards can be used in Japan?

In detail, the cards most used by travelers are the SUICA card, JR Pass, PASMO, ICOCA, Japan Bus Pass, and the Hakone Free Pass. So, below, we will talk a little about them.

SUICA card

The SUICA card is one of the most popular in Japan because it allows you to travel on different public transportation, such as the subway, train, bus, and even the monorail.

It’s very easy to use, and you can top up the card at any transport station with no limit.

In addition, it can be used as an electronic wallet. In other words, you’ll be able to make purchases with the SUICA card in supermarkets, shops, restaurants, and vending machines and you’ll even have the possibility of paying for some taxi services. (The payment service is available only in establishments that have the SUICA logo)

Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass or also known as the JR Pass is a non-transferable transport card, which you can use to take Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express trains.

You have two options when you’re buying: Standard Pass or Green Pass (first class). The best thing about this card is that you can buy it online from home, and you can choose the pass that is valid for 7, 14, or 21 days, depending on your itinerary.

Standard prices per person range from $209 USD to $424 depending on the number of days, and as for the Green Pass, costs start at $281. The services obtained in first class are usually food on board, seats with even more space for luggage, and seat reservations, among other things.

Japan Rail Pass. Source: kanpai-japan.com

PASMO card

As for the PASMO card, we have to mention that you won’t only have the option of using it as a tourist transportation card in Tokyo, but also as a credit card. You’ll be able to make purchases at a vending machines and establishments marked with their logo.

To start, you must buy the PASMO card at the different authorized service spots, and after that, you’ll have to top it up. When purchasing the PASMO card it will be necessary to deposit 500 yen ($3.50) along with the purchase price. (The deposit will be refunded 100% once you give the card back after your trip)

Japan Bus Pass

If you prefer to travel by bus, you can also do so. You can choose to buy the Japan Tourist Card for 3, 5, 7 days, or even two months. But, using this card in Hokkaido or Okinawa is impossible.

The main advantage of the Japan Bus pass is that you can sleep during the night trip on the bus, which will allow you to save time and money on accommodation. Important to keep in mind, all inter-city routes are available except the Narita Shuttle Ikebukuro.

ICOCA card

The ICOCA card can be used for JR West or trains in the Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, and Okayama regions, but it’s also valid throughout Japan, as it can even be used to make purchases.

You can buy the ICOCA card at any Japan Rail stations in the Kansai region and at Osaka Kansai Airport.

Hakone Free Pass

With the Hakone Free Pass, you can get multiple discounts on excursions located in Hakone and it is valid for 2 days. Additionally, with this tourist card, you’ll be able to enter and use the transportation service in the area, which includes the train, the Ropeway, the Sightseeing boat, and the different buses.

Comparison of tourist cards in Japan

When selecting the best Japan tourist card, it’s important that you can compare the benefits, prices, and disadvantages of each of them. Therefore, we have prepared a comparative table below, which will serve as a guide.

Tourist Card JapanUseDisadvantagesDeposit (USD)Top-up prices (USD)Where to buy
SUICATransportation in Japan, e-wallet.Doesn’t work for fast or bullet trains.$3.50$13.99
$20.98
$27.97
$34.97
$69.93
JR East station, transportation stations, vending machines.
Japan Rail PassShinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express trains.Only works for fast or bullet train.$0Standard Pass: $209
$331
$424
Green Pass:
$281
$449
$554.71
Website, main airports, main metro stations.
PASMOGeneral transportation in Tokyo. Shopping wallet.Only for Tokyo.$3.50$13.99 and up. (Prepaid card)Main airports, subway, and subway stations in Tokyo.
Japan Bus PassNational bus routes.Only for buses on national routes.$0$71.33
$89.51
$106.99
Website.
ICOCATransport. Discounts on Kansai attractions. Purchases in vending machines.For Kansai, Osaka, and Kyoto only.$0From $17 per top-up.Website.
Hakone Free PassTransportation in Hakone. Discounts at Hakone attractions.For Hakone only.$0$46 (2 days)
$49.79 (3 days)
Hakone Stations, website.
Prices in US dollars for Japan tourist cards.

Where to buy a Japan tourist card?

Buying IC cards or Japan tourist cards is easy, as you can do so at counters or service points located in the train, metro, or bus stations.

As for the Japan Rail Pass, this card or pass can be purchased directly from their website. This is definitely convenient because you’ll have the option to buy the card before traveling.

japan-train-station
Buy your Japan tourist card at authorized transport stations. Source: Freepik.es

Buy tourist card in Tokyo

The transport network in Tokyo is intricate and a very complete service since it includes everything from trains to buses and monorails. To get around Japan and be able to use the different means of transport, it’s important that you get a Japan tourist card, which could even be used to make purchases at participating vending machines or commercial stores.

You can buy Japan tourist cards at the Japan Rail East traveler service desks, the automatic ticket machines in the city’s transportation stations, the airport, the Japan Rail Café, or the railway ticket offices.

You may be interested to know about the best SIM card for Tokyo.

How to use Japan tourist cards?

Using an IC card or a Japan tourist card is really simple. In fact, the system doesn’t differ much from the access to the subway in other countries.

When taking the train or subway, you must enter through the transport entrance, where you’ll find a blue illuminated reader. While there, you’ll have to put your card in the reader, and then, you’ll see the available balance on your card, and you’ll be able to go through the security system.

Japan Tourist Card to have internet

Did you know that you can also buy a card to have internet before traveling to Japan? With the Holafly virtual SIM card or a Japan unlimited data eSIM, you’ll be able to connect to the internet from the moment you land in Japan plus share data with nearby devices up to 500 MB per day.

In particular, with the Holafly Japan virtual SIM card,  you’ll have unlimited data, and you’ll be able to choose the best option according to your budget and travel itinerary. Moreover, if you travel to different countries on the Asian continent, you can opt for Holafly eSIM for Asia, which will allow you to connect to the internet in 11 countries on the continent.

Get internet with Holafly and enjoy the best data connection on the continent at 3G/4G/LTE/5G speed.

esim-japan-holafly
Buy your virtual chip or Holafly’s Japan eSIM for tourists and enjoy your data.

FAQs about Japan tourist cards

How to top up Japan tourist cards?

You can top up the Japan tourist cards at the train, metro, or bus stations at the indicated points of sale spot.

Is it necessary to give back the tourist cards before leaving Japan?

Yes. At the end of your stay in Japan, you must give back your IC card. This way you’ll be refunded 100% of your deposit.
You can give back the IC card at the tourist service counters or the city’s transport stations.

What to do if I still have a balance on my tourist card before leaving Japan?

If you no longer use your IC card and you have a balance of more than 220 yen ($1.54), it will be registered, and you can recover it on your next visit to Japan. (As long as you return in a period of less than 10 years)

What do I do if I lose the tourist cards?

In the case of the PASMO or SUICA card, you must buy a new one. There is no penalty, but you won’t get a refund nor will the previous balance be readded.

What are the restrictions on the PASMO and SUICA cards?

These cards don’t work to take a bullet train or fast train.

How to choose the best tourist card for Japan?

It will depend a lot on your travel time and shopping needs. If you want to visit different cities in Japan, we recommend buying the Japan Rail Pass and the SUICA, as they will complement your trip perfectly.
But if you prefer to save money, it’s best to purchase the Japan Bus Pass because it’s cheaper, and you’ll have the option of traveling overnight.