Japan's Best Travel Deal: Unlimited Trains for USD20/day: Seishun 18 tickets!


Japan has the best public transport system in the world, but likely the most expensive too. Back in grad school, my commute cost me JPY1,000 (USD10ish) a day. But, for those willing to do their research and sacrifice some comfort, Japan does have so many alternatives to make travel affordable. For this article, I am covering what I believe is the best price-for-value pass there is for trains - the Seishun 18 ticket. Here's the list of all places I went to / plan to go to using this ticket. 

What is it?
It's a ticket mainly designed for young students - they have no money and plenty of time. Say, a bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo is around 2 hours, for JPY15,000. If you take the local trains, it'll likely be half the price, but will cost you at least 6 hours. With the Seishun 18 ticket, it'll be JPY2,410!!! Pretty good, eh?

What is covered?
All of JR local trains, including Rapids and express trains. Limited express and bullet trains not covered. Basically if there's a seat fee, that's not covered.

Where do I buy it?
In designated JR Travel Stations, or some ticket offices, so not all places sell them. But if you have a major station, there's probably one place or another where it is sold. Just say - Seishun juu-hachi (which is the phonetic for 18).
They'll give you one ticket as with the picture, then a group of other ticket looking things (behind the ticket I'm holding). Those are the terms of agreement/receipt. You can throw them away.


I'm neither Japanese nor a student. Can I buy it?
Everyone can buy it. No restrictions.

How much?
It's JPY12,050, valid for non-consecutive 5 days. That comes down to JPY2,410 a day!

What's the catch?
  • It is sold in 5 day increments.
  • It is only valid around April, August and December (coinciding with school breaks). The updated periods of sale/use are here. For 2020, here are the details:
  • If you don't use the 5 days during the period of validity, it's gone.
How do I use it?
Just show the guy at the window your ticket. Upon first use of the day, they'll stamp it with the date and thus use your one slot, and you just have to show this stamp when you come in or leave a station.

Here's what it looks like after using one slot:

The awesome thing is that people can share one pass. In this case, if two people are using the pass together, they'll stamp the date twice. One stamp date = one person for that date.

Now, google maps don't allow you to select just JR LOCAL trains. So I use http://www.hyperdia.com/ (note - the mobile version is awful, so use the desktop version)
  • I untick bullet trains and limited express. Then I also untick Private Railway, but sometimes I am willing to pay the additional cost of using private railways particularly when I go to remote places not served by JR. 

I changed my mind. How do I return it?
If it is fully unused and still within the validity period, you can return it and get a full refund, net of handling charges (JPY220). Just go to any sales point and say "Harai-modosu". Just give them your unused pass, and then you're done!

Note: I assume they'll refund using the same method of payment, as they asked for my credit card.

Awesome! Any other similar tips?
I wrote a quick post about navigating Japan, but you can leave a comment as to where you're going (and from where) and I can directly address your question. ;)

Comments

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