Travelling to Osaka? Find the best transportation card to meet your needs
Explore Japan without breaking the bank!
Efficient public transportation is to Japan as rockets are to NASA! So, undoubtedly, you can find a large variety of rail passes in Japan, offering advantages from unlimited travel nationwide or in a given region, to discounts or free entries to attraction sites, and more.
If you’re travelling in Osaka or the greater Kansai region, you might have come across several rail passes or travel cards. Here, we break down the differences between Osaka Amazing Pass, Kansai Thru Pass and ICOCA so you can find the best one suited for your travelling needs!
Osaka Amazing Pass, Kansai Thru Pass, ICOCA
Osaka Amazing Pass is a transport pass which covers unlimited travel for selected subway, tramway, and bus system within the city. It also includes free admissions to over 30 tourist attractions in Osaka city. You can find the 2-day pass on Klook.
Kansai Thru Pass is a flexible rail pass with unlimited rides on selected subways, railways, and buses throughout the Kansai district, covering Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and more. There are two ticket types - 2-day and 3-day pass - and you can choose to use your pass on un-consecutive days within the validity period.
ICOCA is a prepaid IC card, pre-charged with US$13 (¥1,500) that can be used on transportation for JR, subway, private railway, and bus, as well as for shopping in the Kansai region and beyond.
Much like the Octopus Card in Hong Kong, Easy Card in Taiwan, and EZ-Link in Singapore, you can reload your ICOCA to make payments for your transportation or shopping. You can also use your ICOCA to get discounted ticket for the Kansai-Airport Express ‘Haruka’.
Here’s a fun fact - ICOCA is a play on the phrase 'Iko ka' (行こか) meaning 'Shall we go?' in the local dialect!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Together with your Osaka Amazing Pass, you’ll get a guidebook and 'Toku×2' coupons (attached within the guidebook). Your pass is activated when you start using it for the first time for the train, bus, or a free admission to one of the attractions.
To use your Osaka Amazing Pass for transport, put it through the slot at the automatic ticket gate for trains and use the payment machine for buses. To redeem your free admissions to the tourist attractions, present your pass at the counter of the site. You’re eligible for only one entry per pass for each attraction.
Similarly, you can get discounts at famous spots, restaurants and shops with your Osaka Amazing Pass. To enjoy the special offers, simply present your pass and for certain places, submit your 'Toku×2' Coupons with it. Here are all the places where you can enjoy great deals with your Osaka Amazing Pass.
Photo Credit: https://thetravelintern.com/jr-pass-japan-budget-itinerary-osaka-hiroshima-kyoto/
When you purchase a Kansai Thru Pass, you’ll also receive a detailed map and discount coupons for 350 major tourist spots along the railway lines. To use your pass for transport, put it through the slot at the automatic ticket gate for trains and use the payment machine for buses.
The pass is activated for one day when you start using it. It doesn’t automatically activate the the consecutive one or two days remaining, so you can choose to activate your pass again on the other days you want to use it.
To enjoy the discounts from the tourist spots, simply present your Kansai Thru Pass and for selected places, the coupons with it. Here’s the complete list of places where you can reap great deals with your Kansai Thru Pass.
Photo Credit: https://thedailyjapan.com/5-travel-pass-yang-paling-murah-untuk-keliling-kyoto-dan-wilayah-kansai/
When you purchase the ICOCA, you have to put down US$4 (¥500) deposit, and you’ll receive the card pre-loaded with US$13 (¥1,500) and is ready to use immediately.
When using your ICOCA for the train, simply tap the card on the card reader section at the automated gate. There are also ICOCA exclusive ticket gates labelled as ‘IC Card Only’ on the floor. Tap the card again when getting off the train and the fare will be deducted from your ICOCA.
The ICOCA can also be used to make payment for purchases in participating stores, station kiosks, vending machines, coin-operated lockers, taxis, restaurants, and more. Refer to this for stores and businesses where ICOCA electronic money are accepted. To pay, simply tap the ICOCA card on the device at the register or card reader screen.
When your ICOCA balance is running low, you can reload it at ticket machines, payment machines, or at local convenience stores (Lawson, Family Mart, etc.). You can only use cash to reload as credit card is not accepted.
Before leaving Japan, you can return your ICOCA at a JR-WEST station ticket office and receive your deposit minus US$2 (¥220) handling fee. If there are remaining funds in your card, the balance will also be refunded to you. If your balance is less than the handling fee, it will be deducted, and the US$4 (¥500) deposit will be refunded to you.
Photo Credit: http://elinchow.blogspot.com/2016/12/japan-2016-from-kansai-international.html
AM I ELIGIBLE TO GET THE TRAVEL PASSES AND CARD?
This pass is available only to non-Japanese travelers.
This pass is available to foreign tourists with a short stay entry status to Japan and Japanese nationals living abroad. If you’re accompanying those who meet the aforementioned requirements as their guide, you’re also eligible for the pass.
There are no restrictions, and anyone can purchase the ICOCA card.
Photo Credit: https://www.boboandchichi.com/2016/09/visiting-japans-iconic-osaka-castle/
WHERE CAN I USE MY TRAVEL CARDS?
This pass can be used in Osaka with unlimited use of the subway, tramway, and bus system within the city, as well as non-JR trains in central Osaka. It can also be used for free admission to many of Osaka’s top tourist sites like Osaka Castle, the Umeda Sky Building and many more.
Here’s an example of an Osaka itinerary for 2 days using the Osaka Amazing Pass:
For more highlights, check out our Klook guide to Osaka Amazing Pass.
This pass allows for unlimited travel on city buses, subways and railways in the Kansai Region, which includes Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and more. It is, however, not valid on JR trains. You can also use it for the Nankai, Hankyu, Kintetsu, Wakayama and Keihan buses within Kansai. Here’s the list of the network of railways and buses you can take with this pass.
The pass also offers discounts in selected shops and entries to various attractions in the Kansai area. View the complete list of places where you can get perks from your Kansai Thru Pass.
Photo Credit: http://maruta.be/user/data/Design_walker/nBCN3iiW.jpeg
The contactless card can be used between cities in Kansai region and for journeys on the JR West network like Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe on trains, subways, private railways and some city buses. It also covers areas where PiTaPa cards are accepted and be used to for purchasing items inside and outside of the stations. Here’s a map of the areas where ICOCA is supported.
Photo Credit: http://www.japanitup.com/a-cheap-snack/familymart-convenience-store/
The price for the 2-day pass is US$29 (¥3,300).
The price the 2-day pass is US$36 (¥4,000) and the 3-day pass is US$46 (¥5,200).
The price for the ICOCA is US$20 (¥2,200). It comes pre-charged with US$13 (¥1,500) and a deposit of US$4 (¥500). The deposit minus US$2 (¥220) handling fee can be refunded when the card is returned.
Photo Credit: http://exchangeratecalculator.com/exchange/currency/JPY
WHERE TO BUY
The pass can be purchased when you’re in Japan at subway stations, information centers, selected hotels and areas, and more in Osaka. Here’s the full list of sales location of Osaka Amazing Pass in Japan.
You can also choose to purchase the pass before your trip to Japan online or from travel agents in your respective country.
If purchased before your trip to Japan, present your verification or QR code to redeem your physical Osaka Amazing Pass at any of the specified redemption counters when you’re in Japan.
Photo Credit: http://www.osaka-info.jp/en/plan/traveller_information/information_centers/osaka_visitors_information_center_umeda.html
The Kansai Thru Pass can be purchased from selected ticket offices, information centers, and hotels in the Kansai region. Here’s where you can buy Kansai Thru Pass in Japan. When purchasing your pass in Japan, you would need to present your passport and fill out an application form.
You can also purchase the pass online or from travel agencies in your respective country before your trip to Japan. To redeem for your pass when you’re in Japan, present your verification or QR code at the specified redemption counters.
Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTOs9NDGhsA
ICOCA can be purchased from one of the many ticket machines and tickets offices (with some exceptions) in the JR-West area in Japan. When buying ICOCA from ticket machines, credit cards are not accepted for payment.
Alternatively, you can also choose to purchase your ICOCA beforehand online or from travel agencies from your home countries. You can redeem your card by presenting your verification or QR code when you’re in Japan at specified redemption locations.
Photo Credit: https://www.osakastation.com/buying-tickets-for-jr-lines-and-subway-lines-in-osaka/
The rail passes and prepaid IC card can be purchased from Klook for a convenient, hassle-free booking. With instant confirmation, you’ll also receive your e-ticket right away. With the paperless e-tickets, there’s no need to print or stress about losing your tickets. Simply flash your mobile e-voucher to redeem your rail passes or prepaid IC card.
When choosing the participation date during booking, make sure it’s the date that you intend to redeem your rail passes or prepaid card in Japan. If you need to change the pick up date, you can reply directly to the booking email you have received from Klook.
When you’re in Japan, you can claim your passes or card with a simple redemption from one of these convenient locations:
If purchased from Klook, your Osaka Amazing Pass is valid for one year from the participation date you select during your booking. The participation date is also the date you intend to redeem your Osaka Amazing Pass in Japan.
After redeeming Osaka Amazing Pass, you don’t have to activate it immediately. You can use it anytime within the 1 year validity period. To activate your pass, put it through the ticket gate for a train ride or redeem a free entry to an attraction for the first time.
Once activated, it’s valid for 1 or 2 consecutive days, depending on the package that you purchased. The validity period is based on calendar days, as opposed to 24-hour periods. It’s valid on the day of use starting from the first train and ends at the last train on the day (until the last train of the following day for a the 2-day pass).
The Kansai Thru Pass is valid until October 31 if it’s purchased between April and September (The Spring/Summer Edition) and until April 30 is it’s purchased between October and March (The Autumn/Winter Edition).
Your pass doesn’t have to be used on consecutive days and can be used on any 2 or 3 calendar days within the validity period, depending on the package you purchased. For example, if you have a 3-day pass, you can use it on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
The prepaid card is ready to use immediately once redeemed or purchased in Japan. It only expires if it’s unused for 10 years.
Photo Credit: http://www.contemporist.com/modern-wall-calendars-2017/
Aside from unlimited travel for selected subway, tramway, and bus system within the city, the Osaka Amazing Pass also has free entry to over 30 tourist attractions in Osaka.
This pass is a great way to travel around and experience the city, without having to worry about extra cost. With just one pass, you can cover the main attractions in your travel itinerary for the ultimate traveller experience.
Photo Credit: http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2015/06/umeda-sky-building/
The Kansai Thru Pass offers unlimited travel on city buses, subways and railways in the Kansai region. Aside from covering city buses and subway inside the cities in Kansai, it also covers train and bus lines between cities.
Besides that, you can use your Kansai Thru Pass to get discounts at 350 notable tourist attractions along the railway lines. The pass can be used from Kansai Airport Station to board the Nankai Train as well.
Your Kansai Thru Pass also doesn’t have to be used on consecutive days. Instead, it can be used on any 2 or 3 days within the validity period, which allows for flexibility in your travel plans.
Photo Credit: http://www.surutto.com/tickets/kansai_thru_english.html
The ICOCA can be used for other things aside from transportation, like paying for your purchases at convenience stores, station kiosks, major stores and more.
As we know, it can be tough to gauge how much you need to recharge your prepaid card. With the ICOCA, you don’t have to worry about reloading too much as you can still use the card to pay for other practical travelling needs.
The balance of your funds can also be refunded to you at the end of your trip. Plus, you can get discounted Haruka rail ticket when you present your ICOCA card together with your foreign passport with a temporary visitor visa.
Photo Credit: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel/shopping/shopgrm/osaka/ekimarcheshinosa/
WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?
Each pass has its distinct advantages and it depends on your travelling needs. If you’re travelling around only Osaka, getting the Osaka Amazing Pass is the best option to discover the city the cost-effective way.
If you’re travelling across the Kansai region and require flexibility in your travel plans, the Kansai Thru Pass is the one to go for! You can also benefit from the discounts for major attractions along the railway lines.
The ICOCA is a great supplement for both the rail passes mentioned above. You can use it not only for transportation, but also to pay for your purchases during your travels. If you have remaining funds in your card, you can get it refunded together with the deposit!
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