You will be surprised by the efficiency, facility and punctuality of Japanese trains. Time-tables and directions are also written in Latin alphabet, so do not worry to miss your stop. If you are uncertain about what train or bus you should get on, you can ask to the station master or to other passengers. They will surely to help you to reach your destination.
The best way to visit Japan is probably by train. A wide variety of different rail passes are available. The most extensive one is the Japan Rail Pass, valid for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days for unlimited travel on almost all JR trains nationwide. Many other passes are available depending on the region you are going to visit.
SUICA and ICOCA
SUICA and ICOCA are the most commonly used pre-paid IC cards and they represent a smart way to travel around Japan by train or bus. They do not provide special fares or discounts, but these IC cards let you save some time (and worry) by avoiding the need to buy a ticket for each ride you take. SUICA is issued in Kanto region (Tokyo), while ICOCA can be bought in Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara). They are compatible all around Japan. Unfortunately, to ride a bullet train or a limited express train, you will need to buy a specific ticket.
Useful Apps for transportation
If you are looking for a help to plan your trip on the way, you can download HyperDia (Android) or NAVITIME (iOS and Android). These Apps will provide you detailed information about when you have to leave, what train you should get on and what time you will arrive at your destination.
You can easily get to Nara from the main cities (travel info are available here). It’s important to know that Nara has two main stations: JR Nara Station (operated by JR-West) and Kintetsu Nara Station (operated by Kintetsu Railway). The closest station to the center of the city is Kintetsu Nara Station, which can be reached by foot from JR Nara Station in less than 15 minutes. Traveling on JR lines can be the best choice for Japan Rail Pass holders. If you are willing to travel by Kyoto, Nara and Osaka area, you may save some money by purchasing a Kintetsu Railway pass.
Furthermore, there is another money-saving service to travel around Nara by bus, the Nara Kotsu Bus pass. You can purchase a 1-Day Pass that covers Nara Park and Nishinokyō area for just 500 yen. If you are interested in visiting the Hōryuji Temple complex and other nearby areas, a 1-Day Pass Wide (1000 yen) can be the right solution. Also, a 2-Day Pas (1500 yen) is available for a wider sightseeing around Nara prefecture.
Taxis are a comfortable alternative to reach the main sightseeing spots for a reasonable fare. They can also be useful to reach rural or remote destination not always covered by public transportation. If you are worried about the language, we suggest you to show to the driver the address you intend to reach (even if it’s written in Latin characters). Taxi stands can be found at both train JR Nara and Kintetsu Nara Stations or along the main avenues in Nara Park.
- Alice Meniconi
I am an italian designer in love with Japanese culture and Studio Ghibli's movies. In 2015, I moved to Nara for my academic internship. Since then, this city became my second home. After I graduated at ISIA Firenze in 2016, I came back to my beloved Nara to enjoy a three months working experience.