Hands down, the best way to get around Osaka is via train or subway. Osaka has an extensive railway system that touches every major attraction and places of interest. But while the extent of the rail system makes it fairly easy to travel, there are other factors that can pose challenges to a foreign traveler.
One, there’s the language barrier. Not every station has English signs, and sometimes there’s no other way to navigate but to ask for directions. The way the trains are coordinated can be confusing for someone new to the city.
There’s a chance you might board the wrong train, and sometimes even the wrong platform. Some trains even split along the way, so there’s a chance that you may have boarded the wrong carriage.
Here’s where the power of technology comes in. The internet is a powerful tool to help you navigate the confusing streets of Osaka. Hyperdia is a powerful website where you can check out the different schedules of Japanese cities, including Osaka. Just input your stations of departure and arrival, and Hyperdia will show what trains to take, where to transfer, and how long the trip will last. It will even show how much it will cost you to take the trip, so you can plan out your budget.
Speaking of budget, if you feel you’ll be taking the train a lot during your trip, consider the following train passes and cards:
Osaka Amazing Pass
This sightseeing pass is highly recommended. It is an all-inclusive pass available in one- or two-day versions. It provides you unlimited access to subways and bus systems in the city. Aside from that, it provides free access to the following attractions:
- Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory
- Osaka Castle Main Tower
- Dotonbori Tour
- Tombori River Cruise
- Natural Hot Spring Naniwa no You
To reserve one online, visit klook.com. Note that there are two pick up spots for this type of pass, so make sure that you select the more convenient pick up place.
➡️ For Kansai Airport pick up, RESERVE HERE!
➡️ For Kuromon Market Namba pick up, RESERVE HERE!
JR West Kansai Rail Pass
This offers unlimited access to rail and bus rides, not just in Osaka, but in other parts of the Kansai region, including Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara. You can also use this to get from Osaka to Kansai Airport and vice versa.
You can choose from a single day pass up to four days. However, take note that this pass is only available within the JR system of trains and buses. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use in subways and Nankai-affiliated trains.
Is this pass for you? If you’re only planning to tour Osaka and not the other cities, then this may not be for you. You’re not maximizing its value. You can choose instead to avail the Amazing Osaka Pass.
If you’re planning to travel to Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, and other Kansai cities, then the Kansai Rail Pass could be perfect for your needs.
Do note that this pass is only available for online purchase. You can’t buy this anywhere in Japan. This pass is intended for foreign tourists who will stay in Japan for a limited time.
You can book this pass via Klook:
➡️ 1-Day Pass. RESERVE HERE!
➡️ 2-Day Pass. RESERVE HERE!
➡️ 3-Day Pass. RESERVE HERE!
➡️ 4-Day Pass. RESERVE HERE!
How do you get the pass once your transaction is complete?
- Once your reservation is confirmed, Klook will send you a digital voucher. Make sure to check it on your email. You can save it on your device, or have it printed out.
- Upon your arrival at Kansai Airport, look for the HIS Counter, located at the Arrival Hall. There’s usually a small Klook sign at the counter, so you’ won’t miss it.
- Show the digital voucher to the staff, the staff will then provide you with a physical voucher.
- A good thing about this pass is, once you receive it, you don’t need to use it right away. The clock won’t start until you actually use the pass. For instance, if you got a three-day pass and claim it on Tuesday, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the pass will expire by Thursday. You can use it on your last three days of travel, or you can use it on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
- Upon your first time using the pass, approach a staff member at the counter (at any station) and have your pass stamped with the final date.
- Every time you use the pass moving forward, you can simply show it to the staff at any JR Station.
If you can afford it, you can use it in tandem with the Osaka Amazing Pass, so you can have hassle-free access to any train or bus station in the city. Having your itinerary planned out in advance will also help you decide when to activate your JR Pass, and when to use the Amazing Pass instead.
Kansai Thru Pass
Kansai Thru Pass is much like the JR West Kansai Pass above in the sense that it allows you unlimited travel within the Kansai Region. The difference lies in the train lines. While JR West Kansai Pass is valid only for train lines within the JR network, the Kansai Thru Pass is valid for almost all the other lines. You cannot use the Kansai Thru Pass on any JR line.
So which is better? Kansai Thru Pass or JR West Kansai Pass? Depends on your itinerary. If you feel like you’re taking more non-JR lines, get the Kansai Thru Pass. Most destinations in Kansai are also accessible by non-JR lines. And what makes Kansai Thru Pass more useful is that you don’t need to use it on consecutive days, which removes the time pressure.
To be clear, the Icoca card is not a pass, but rather a prepaid card. It is a card used primarily for transportation in western Japan, akin to the SUICA and PASMO Card used in Tokyo and other eastern cities.
Since it’s a prepaid card, you’re still paying for each trip. Once in a while, you also get to enjoy discounted rates when you use this card. But the main convenience of having an Icoca card is you don’t need to get into a queue every time you’re buying a ticket. Just place the card on over the magnetic reader, and you’ll get through the platform without hassle.
Aside from train rides, you can also use the Icoca Card on vending machines, convenience stores, buses, and even the lockers found in train stations.
You can get an Icoca card through Icoca machines found in any train station. Simply choose “English” on the welcome screen and follow the instructions. The instructions will very easy to follow.
You can also get an ICOCA card via Klook. One advantage of getting your card via Klook is that the card already comes pre-loaded with JPY 1500, plus your deposit of JPY 500. Once you return the card, you get your deposit back.
The JR Pass will allow you to take unlimited rides within the JR network. It is best for long-distance train travel. If you are only visiting one city in Japan, purchasing one will only cost you precious money.
When is JR Pass worth it? If you are visiting multiple cities in Japan for a period of 7 days or longer. JR Pass covers Shinkansen (high-speed bullet trains), which are very expensive. The JR Pass will allow you to take these speedy trains without worrying about the cost. It’s a great buy if you have a busy itinerary spanning multiple cities.