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How to Get to and Around Nara on the Cheap


Traveling around Japan is convenient and prices can be pretty reasonable. If you’re on your way to Japan, already here, or a foreign resident, there are plenty of deals to get you to Nara on the cheap. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, that’s great! However, if you don’t or didn’t plan ahead, there are other options. Find out what these are regardless if you’re a tourist or staying in Japan for the longer term.


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Rail Passes for Foreign Tourists Only

The value you can get from a JR Rail Pass (JR Pass) is legendary. Another exclusive option for foreign tourists in Kansai or West Japan, is a Kintetsu Rail Pass. If you’re just visiting Kansai, or coming from Nagoya, a Kintetsu Rail Pass is often a better choice than a Japan Rail Pass. However, these passes are restricted to foreign visitors only. Outside of JR, Kintetsu's railway system is the largest in Japan, connecting Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Nagoya, Tsu, Ise, and Yoshino.



Other Discount Passes for Nara Sightseeing

The JR Lines, apart from its ‘mother of all passes’, doesn’t offer much in terms of discounted tickets. However, for discounted travel to and around Nara, the Kintetsu Railway service and the Nara Kotsu bus service offer great deals for everyone! 


Most of these non-exclusive travel passes don’t have information easily available in English, but we break down the bare essentials for you: 



Nara Kotsu Bus Passes


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Nara Kotsu runs public and tourist buses throughout Nara Prefecture. If you are in Nara, a Nara Kotsu bus pass can get you to most places of interest. If you are coming from outside of Nara from Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto or Nagoya, a Kintetsu Rail Pass that includes Nara Kotsu is probably the better option.


  • Nara Kotsu 1-day pass: If a couple of bus trips or more will help you along, this pass will get you from the Heijo Palace site to Kasuga Shrine, Nishinokyo, the Nara Bus Loop and Nara Machi old town.

  • Nara Kotsu 2-day pass: This pass gets you further out to Horyuji as far as Oji Station, Yata-dera and Jiko-in Temples, and to Joruri-ji Temple in the north.

  • Nara Kotsu 3-day pass: With this pass, you can go to southern areas like Asuka Village, Oka-dera and Tsubosaka-dera temples, Tanzan Jinja Shrine, and Muro-ji Temple in the west.

For more information, you can view the Nara Kotsu homepage in English.



Here is the official Nara Kotsu 1-day pass promo video from Nara Kotsu





 


Kintetsu Trains



Kintetsu Nara/Ikaruga 1-day ticket 

  • (奈良・斑鳩1dayチケット)

This is a great 1-day ticket for residents of Kansai from Kobe to Osaka to Kyoto. The validity and price depends on where you buy it. In Kobe, it will include Hanshin Line stations and the Kobe city metro, or you can purchase similar deals for the Osaka metro area, Kyoto subway area, and a number of other choices. 


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Popular areas included are Horyu-ji Temple, Yata-dera Temple, Nishinokyo, and Heijo Palace ruins. Nara Kotsu buses are not included.



Kintetsu Asuka Ancient Ruins 1-day ticket

  •  (古代ロマン 飛鳥 日帰りきっぷ)

This 1-day Asuka ticket is popular during the spring and early fall. Included are Asuka Village and the surrounding points of Tsubosakayama, Kashiihara Jingumae, Yamato-Yagi, and Sakurai. You also get one free bus ride in the Asuka area and a discount on bicycle rental.

Selected entry points extend from Kousoku-Kobe along the Hanshin-Kintetsu lines to Kyoto. If you purchase a ticket in Kobe, Osaka-Namba, or Kyoto you can’t exit beyond that point on your return. 


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Kintetsu Weekend Free Pass

  •  (近鉄週末フリーパス)

The Weekend Free Pass is a 3-day pass you can use from Friday to Sunday or Saturday to Monday. It includes all Kintetsu Railway areas from Osaka-Namba to Kintetsu Nara and Kyoto, Osaka-Abenobashi to Yoshino, as well as Ise Shima and to Nagoya City. It does not include Nara Kotsu bus services.


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Kintetsu Nara/Ikaruga World Heritage 1 or 2-day Pass 

  • (奈良世界遺産フリーきっぷ)

This ticket is available as a one or two-day pass. It includes Kintetsu trains and Nara Kotsu buses to world heritage sites around Nara city to the Heijo Palace, Nishinokyo and Koriyama, Sakurai, Horyuji, and Oji areas. 


Once your ticket is operative, you have to be careful not to exit anywhere outside the designated free-zone (フリー区間), otherwise your ticket ends.  The price depends on your return boarding zone. However, you can depart from Osaka-Namba, Nihonbashi, Uehonmachi, or Tsuruhashi stations for Nara and exit via Kyoto station or visa versa. The one day ticket is only for boarding in Kansai. This ticket also includes discount coupon entries to selected temples or bicycle rentals.



Kintetsu Nara/Ikaruga/Yoshino 3-day pass

  • (奈良世界遺産フリーきっぷ 奈良・斑鳩・吉野コース)

This 3-day pass is much the same as the 1 or 2-day heritage pass except the free area extends south to not only Yoshino, but also locations west such as Asuka, buses to Tsubosaka-dera Temple, Oka-dera Temple, Tanzan Jinja Shrine and places east side such as Hase-dera and Muro-ji Temples. Similar discount coupons are included.





Kintetsu 1-day Dorogawa Onsen & Mitarai Valley Pass

  • (洞川温泉・みたらい渓谷散策きっぷ)

Dorogawa, in the south Nara’s Tenkawa district, is one of Nara’s most renowned natural hot springs and the Mitarai Valley is famous for its scenic walks. This is a round trip ticket to Shimoichiguchi Station on the Yoshino Line and the bus to Tenkawa and Dorogawa Onsen. An onsen discount ticket is included. Prices vary whether you are coming from Osaka, Nara, or Kyoto.



 


From Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Nara

There are a number of convenient and affordable ways to get to Nara from Kansai International Airport.

 

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By Train: JR and Private Railway Lines

 

Kansai International Airport is served by both the JR and Nankai Railway companies. The JR lines provide the most direct access to Nara, and all train services between the Airport and Nara are covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The fastest connection is via the Limited Express Haruka (2 trains per hour between 8am and 9pm) and the Yamatoji Rapid Service for Kamo.



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Take the Ltd. Express Haruka to Tennoji Station (the first stop after departing Kansai Airport) and then change to the Yamatoji Rapid Service for the final run to Nara (the Limited Express Haruka arrives on track 18 and trains to Nara depart from track 16). There’s also the JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service (3 trains per hour) which follows the same course as the Ltd. Express Haruka, depositing Nara bound riders at track 18 at Tennoji Station with plenty of time to change to a Yamatoji Rapid Service train.


Using the Kansai Airport Rapid and Yamatoji Rapid Services takes about 93 minutes and taking the Haruka Ltd. Express takes as little as 79 minutes. For those traveling without a Japan Rail Pass, the run from Kansai Airport to Nara costs ¥1,740. Riding the Ltd. Express Haruka adds ¥760 for a non-reserved seat, ¥1,290 for a reserved seat, or ¥2,060 for a green car (1st class) seat.

 


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For those not traveling with the JR National Rail Pass (and looking to save their pennies), the Nankai and Kintetsu Lines are the most cost effective option. Get the Nankai Airport Express all the way to the Nankai Namba Terminal, and then switch to the Kintetsu Line at Osaka-Namba Station (Nankai Namba and Kintetsu Osaka-Namba Station, and also the Osaka Subway, are connected via an underground passageway and shopping area). The journey will take around 100 minutes but will cost just ¥1,650, a savings of ¥90. Both the Nankai and Kintetsu Lines offer limited express services (+ ¥520 for a reserved seat on the Nankai Ltd. Express Rapit, and ¥520 for a reserved seat on a Nara bound Kintetsu Ltd. Express train) but utilizing either service does not offer any significant savings on time.

 


By Bus

 

The Nara Kotsu Bus Company operates an “Airport Limousine” bus service between Kansai Airport and 4 major stops in Nara including the Nara Hotel, and Kintetsu Nara and JR Nara Stations. One way tickets are ¥2,400 and a roundtrip ticket with a 14-day validity period is ¥4,500. Tickets can be purchased, on a first come first served basis, at the number 9 ticket window at the Kansai Airport Terminal 1 bus stop, and at the number 1 ticket window at the Kansai Airport Terminal 2 bus stop. Tickets can also be purchased on the bus if there are seats available (please have the exact fare ready). There are 5 departures per day, each way. Depending on the traffic, the bus takes about 90 minutes to complete the run from Kansai Airport to Nara, and with no transfers along the way all you have to do is relax and enjoy the ride.


 

NARA ➡ KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

JR Nara Station

KIX Terminal 1

KIX Terminal 2

05:40

07:23

07:34

06:40

08:23

08:34

11:40

13:23

13:34

13:40

15:23

15:34

17:40

19:05

19:16

The final Airport Limousine bus leaving JR Nara Station at 17:40 also makes pick-up stops at Kintetsu Nara Station at 17:45 and Nara Hotel at 17:48.



KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ➡ NARA

KIX Terminal 2

KIX Terminal 1

JR Nara Station

-

08:45

10:25

10:32

10:45

12:25

14:32

14:45

16:25

17:32

17:45

19:25

20:32

20:45

22:25




 From Tokyo to Nara

While in Japan, you should take the opportunity to ride the Shinkansen Bullet Train and taking it from Tokyo to Kyoto, then transferring for Nara is the perfect opportunity. Holders of the JR Pass will be able to ride it for free, although you need to keep the following in mind: The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the entire Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen and can be used on both the Hikari and Kodama train services. It is not valid for the Nozomi or Mizuho train services.


If you are a Japan Rail Pass holder and would like to ride the faster Nozomi or Mizuho trains, you will need to purchase an additional ticket called the "Only With Japan Pass Nozomi Mizuho Ticket." You will need to the purchase the ticket before boarding one of these trains. Purchases can be made one month prior to the day of boarding the train.


For more on catching the Bullet Train from Tokyo, please check out our comprehensive article Asakusa to Nara on the Bullet Train



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Night Bus

Another way to get to the capital on the cheap is to take a night bus. These services usually depart Nara (or Tokyo) around 11:00PM and arrive at their destination at a little after 6:00AM the following day. These buses are rather spacious with comfortable reclining seats, privacy curtains and a W.C. Prices start at around ¥6,000 one way.


Here's a list of companies that offer the service:

Nara Kotsu (from Tenri, Yamato Yagi or Gose)




*We make every effort to ensure the information we provide is accurate at the time of publishing. All information is subject to change. Please refer to official sources.

 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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