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Why a Regional Pass Is a Good JR Pass Alternative

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Tokyo Station, JR Regional Pass

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A staple of travelling in Japan is to get around by train. From experiencing the shinkansen—Japan’s famous bullet train— to travelling along the country’s many scenic regional lines, train travel in Japan is a classic element of visiting.

Travellers planning to travel by train in Japan tend to immediately go for a Japan Rail Pass to help them get about. While it can work for some trips, sometimes it’s just not worth the cost. However, Japan Rail regional passes can provide a very useful alternative to the JR Pass if you know how to use them.

I speak from experience, as a mistake I made on my trip was not getting the Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass for my trip to Kanazawa and Takayama. Only too late did I realize I could have saved money had I got one. So learn from my oversight and find out whether a JR regional pass will work for your next trip to Japan.

 

Not as Expensive

One of the most meaningful perks of getting a regional pass is that they’re cheaper than the full JR Pass. Obviously, this is because they don’t include everything that the nation-wide one does. You pay less because the pass does less. And since train travel in Japan can be expensive, any money saved is a blessing.

Doing the math for rail passes is a big part of deciding whether they’re worth getting. Usually the cost of the JR Pass makes sense if you’re doing frequent long train trips, particularly when travelling by shinkansen. This is because shinkansen tickets are expensive and their prices quickly add up with frequent trips.

However, if you’re taking slower regional trains, you’ll find that the JR Pass likely won’t be a cost-effective solution. For my trip to Japan, it no longer made sense to get one once I decided not to travel out to Hiroshima. The cost of all my regional trips never came close to the JR Pass.

As regional passes are cheaper, the threshold for saving money with them is much lower. I found that if you do more than a few trips with them, there’s a decent chance it will pay off. This will be even harder to do with JR Pass after the incoming price increase. Check this rail pass calculator to work the math out for yourself.

 

Focused Regional Coverage

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Since they’re called regional passes, I’m sure you have an idea what they cover. But the term “region” here is used a little loosely, so it’s worth digging into.

In some instances, regional passes are designed to cover an entire island, such as the ones for travelling in Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Others are designed for a specific administrative region, like Kansai or Chugoku. But many of the most useful ones ignore government boundaries and instead focus on common collections of train routes and prefectures. It’s these ones that best take into account how tourists are actually likely to travel.

The most likely scenario where these passes are useful is if you’re doing more targeted trips. For instance, you could use a regional pass from Osaka to do several day trips to other regional cities in the Kansai and neighbouring regions.

The tighter coverage of regional passes also makes their short duration much more appropriate. While the JR Pass starts at 7 days duration, regional passes are often between 1 and 7 days long. But since you won’t be travelling as far, it’s easier to make more frequent and cost-effective use of the pass.

 

They Don’t Just Cover Trains

1695347699 258 Why a Regional Pass Is a Good JR Pass Alternative

An understandable assumption with the JR Pass is that it only covers train travel. And while it does cover high speed and regular trains on the JR network, it does work for other things too. The same can be said for regional passes. 

Rail passes in Japan often can cover other means of transport, depending on the region. Passes include travel on the JR bus networks in their respective regions, such as taking the bus to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa or Takayama. You’ll want to reserve a seat on the bus much like with trains, but the ticket itself will be free.

And corresponding regional passes also work for the ferry to Miyajima from Hiroshima, just as the JR Pass does. These added benefits mean that regional passes provide just as much value in a certain geographic region, without including coverage for areas where you won’t be going.

 

Lots of Useful Variations

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While I explained earlier that there are different passes for different regions, regional passes are even more complex than that. Rather than have one pass per “region”, many of the passes actually overlap in where they cover.

The best example of all this, is if we focus on the Kansai region around Kyoto and Osaka. For Kansai, the most basic pass is the Kansai Area Pass that focuses on the most popular parts of the region. I actually used one for my trip to Himeji from Osaka and also to visit Nara from Kyoto.

One level up from the Kansai Area Pass is the Kansai Wide Area Pass. This expands the borders of the pass by including more of the region, such as the Kii Peninsula and Amanohashidate.

But then there are two further passes that let you expand your pass, depending on your itinerary. One is is the Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass, which extends farther to Hiroshima and Miyajima. The other is the Kansai-Hokuriku Area Pass, which stretches over to Kanazawa and Toyama.

All of this customisability isn’t limited to Kansai. There are similar options for the area around Takayama and Hokuriku, as well as over near Hiroshima. These options let you get the most value possible from the pass, by scaling it to include only as much as you need. You just need to do your research to find the best fit for you.

 

Kanazawa Station

Probably the trickiest part of the JR Pass is managing the logistics of getting one. It isn’t that the process is necessarily tricky, you just need to plan ahead.

After you’ve bought the rail pass, you’ll be mailed an Exchange Order which you need to use in Japan to collect your actual rail pass. While the mailing process typically only takes up to a week, it’s still a variable you need to plan for.

However, this is less of a problem with regional passes, as many can be bought in person while already in Japan. It will typically cost more to purchase them in Japan rather than online, but that flexibility can be very useful. This option is perfect for last minute decisions or changes to your itinerary.

The requirements for who can use regional passes are also lighter than those for a JR Pass. With a JR Pass you need to be travelling with a foreign passport and have a certain temporary sightseeing visitor visa.

Regional passes however, don’t always have this visa requirement, meaning many can be used while travelling long term, as a student, or as a permanent resident. Make sure to read the eligibility requirements for any regional pass you plan to use before making your purchase.

 

Why You Still Might Want a JR Pass

JR Pass vs Regional Pass

There’s a reason that the Japan Rail Pass is the go-to solution for some tourists. As a national pass it’s the most comprehensive product, giving you the most flexibility and possibilities for your Japan trip.

It’s also been created solely for the use of tourists. Many visitors to Japan are operating on limited time and want to fit in as much of the country as possible. But places like Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Hokkaido couldn’t be farther apart. If your fitting in several long train journeys like these into a short amount of time, that’s where the JR Pass shines.

Regional passes can also have the same limitations as a JR Pass. A good example is the Tokaido Shinkansen, as the Nozomi service is not included for the JR Pass, while none of the Tokaido Shinkansen services are available for the Osaka-Tokyo Hokuriku Arch Pass.

I say this to make it clear that regional passes aren’t automatically a better or worse transport solution. But they are an alternative to the JR Pass with a lot of potential.

 


Have you ever used a JR regional pass rather than a Japan Rail Pass? What was your experience travelling by train in Japan like? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Emma Catherine grew up on the beautiful Southern California coast. She loves surfing, writing, and hanging out with her adorable dog, Henry. Her debut YA Contemporary, Love Letters, comes July 2017.

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Cultural destinations

These Are The Top 7 Beach Destinations In 2024 According To Travel And Leisure

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mallorca spain coastline

A comprehensive list of the top destinations for 2024 has been put together by the Travel and Leisure experts.

Numerous magazines have released their favorites for the upcoming year, and they all appear very different. While some are fully off the grid, others are popular hotspots.

In the end, you have to determine what interests you enough to plan a fantastic trip. Travel & Leisure divided up their best recommendations by category rather than covering all 50 locations.

Let’s examine the top 7 “beach vibes” for 2024 as listed by Travel & Leisure:
Florida’s Anna Maria Island
There are several locations in Florida that make for the perfect vacation, which is why the state continues to draw enormous numbers of visitors.

Miami and other major American beaches and cultural centers are located in this sunny state. However, a lot of people decide to take the ideal family vacation to Orlando.

Tampa is one place that gets overlooked despite having so many beautiful beaches close by. Travel and Leisure declares Anna Maria Island to be the greatest in Florida because of its friendly locals, breathtaking sunsets, and lack of skyscrapers that obstruct the view.

Your stay will be more enjoyable and accessible with new hotels and more flights to nearby Sarasota.
Italy’s Campania coast
This striking area is experiencing a hotel boom on some of the most picturesque coastline in the nation.

With four destinations to pick from for your European beach getaway—Amalfi, Positano, Capri, and Sorrento—Coastal Campania offers quadruple the pleasure.

Italy’s breathtaking beaches will wow you; many visitors associate the nation with ancient sites and excessive wine and pasta consumption.

You can still indulge in excessive amounts of delectable food and drink locally produced wine, but why not do it against the breathtaking backdrop of azure waters, undulating hills, and classic architecture?
There are several hotel alternatives available to travelers, ranging from luxurious accommodations with cliffside pools to intimate boutique styles.

Soon, American and Delta will begin offering direct service to the neighboring Naples.
There isn’t a single Costa Rican beach that Travel and Leisure recommended visiting in 2024. T and L essentially advise you to “just pick one” beach because they are all so lovely.

Any beach in Costa Rica is a good choice, however some are busier and more well-known than others.
While some may choose for more quiet spots to have a wonderful beach all to themselves, many small towns have a thriving surfing community that gets together to surf the waves.

Travelers adore visiting the land of pura vida, despite the fact that it is usually more expensive than nearby nations.

Travel & Leisure also adore it. Indeed, they have selected Costa Rica as the “Destination of the Year” for 2024. Whether traveling alone, with company, or on a family vacation, everyone will find their place in this stunning nation.

There are plenty of enjoyable excursions to discover the breathtaking beauty and culture of the country, and lodging options ranging from cozy hostels to opulent hotels are easily accessible.
Dominica  Over the past year, Dominica has been increasingly popular. Travel is on the rise, and more people are looking to discover bright new places to visit.

This Caribbean island features picture-perfect waterfalls, verdant jungles, and unspoiled beaches, making it a veritable paradise.

trekking enthusiasts should prepare their trekking shoes, as the breathtaking Waitukubuli National Trail spans more than 100 miles across the island.

More lodging facilities, including upscale establishments like InterContinental, are opening up. A major lure for tourists is sustainability, with charming eco-lodges.
Hawaii Island 🙠
We are all aware of the destruction Hawaii experienced earlier this year. After a wildfire decimated Maui, there has been debate in the travel industry over whether or not it is still safe to visit.

Travel and Leisure claims that Hawaii is prepared for tourists to return. Without requiring a passport, Hawaii offers one of the most unusual environments.

Stunning beaches, breathtaking waterfalls, and cliffside vistas are just a few of the main attractions for tourists.

Travelers are urged by the tourism sector to treat any island as if it were their own home and to be careful of their stay.
Mexico’s Los Cabos
With the cleanest beaches in all of Latin America, Los Cabos is among the most picturesque locations in Mexico.

“Is Cabo worth the price?” is the query that vacationers should be asking themselves. The top hotels, according to reports, are now charging an astounding $1000 a night on average!

With its boujee resorts, immaculate beaches, and exciting entertainment, Cabo is among the most opulent vacation spots that are accessible to most people.

In 2024, more opulent resorts are planned to open, and more flights are leaving from American airports.
Spain’s Mallorca
This gorgeous island in Spain is ideal for a romantic beach vacation. It is the location of the lovely city of Palma, which is overlooked in favor of Spain’s other major towns. Outside of the city are some of the most tranquil beaches the country has to offer, complete with dazzling waters, wide-open areas, and relaxed residents.

In between beach days, explore the amazing downtown streets for an abundance of tapas and mouthwatering wine. From boutique lodging to a Four Seasons resort, the quaint hotels will win your heart.

With United’s new direct route from Newark, getting to Mallorca is now easier than ever.

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These Are 5 Of The Top Destinations In Southeast Asia’s Cheapest Country

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Aerial View Of A Beach Area In Nha Trang, Central Vietnam, Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, sometimes abbreviated as SEA, is the ideal destination for backpackers.

Vietnam is a very diverse subcontinent where foreigners are welcomed and hyperinflated Western prices are not a regular concern. This year, its popularity has increased due to lax visitation laws and less bureaucratic tourist visa processes, but no nation has shown itself to be as fashionable as Vietnam.

This tropical treasure borders the turquoise East Sea and is considered the cheapest destination in the South East Asia region. With extremely low consumer costs and a devalued national currency that enhances the spending power of the typical Westerner, it’s your best choice for an off-the-beaten-path tropical holiday that won’t break the bank.

After spending a lot of time exploring Vietnam, we have selected the top five places to go this winter that are affordable and rich in culture:
Mui Ne
Mui Ne, a tranquil fishing hamlet in South Vietnam, is undoubtedly the most underappreciated coastal location in the nation since it offers culture and wellness all in one place.

It’s got an emerging development strip with new resorts opening every few months, including the delightful boutique hotel The Anam that we featured earlier this year, as well as pristine reserves, sand dunes, family-run eateries, and historic Cham towers that date back hundreds of years.

With nightly rates as low as $114 and a prime location near Mui Ne’s high street rather than in a far-off place away from the activity, The Anam is the perfect starting point for visitors wishing to explore the town and the larger province.

The area is well-known for its seafood, particularly its fish sauce, and there are several authentic restaurants outside the resort complex that serve Vietnamese specialties, like rice noodle soup and sea snails, for as little as $5.
As Hoi An
Hoi An, the crown jewel of Vietnam, is a superbly maintained medieval river port with dwellings that have a yellow tint, winding alleyways, and a history that dates back more than 2,000 years.

A reminder of the successive colonization periods and the multicultural nature of Hoi An, it is situated in Central Vietnam, halfway between the country’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Its eclectic architecture, influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and European styles, is evident throughout its bustling streets, which are home to medieval Sino pagodas, striking displays of colorful, brightly painted paper lanterns, a Japanese temple bridge that spans a picturesque canal, and several French-built civic structures that date back to the French Indochina period.

Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit location if you’re traveling from North to South Vietnam or the other way around. Like other Vietnamese hotspots, it fits your budget—a three-day stay typically costs about $50, not including lodging.

Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and the political and cultural center of the former capitalist state of South Vietnam. Despite no longer serving as the country’s capital, it is still known by this name.

Still the most Westernized and outward-looking city in the nation, HCMC has changed with the times thanks to the support of a strong expat population, making it one of the top investment and business destinations in Southeast Asia.

HCMC, home to 8.4 million people, is a popular destination for digital nomads and young entrepreneurs. With its impressive French colonial architecture, war museums, and exciting nightlife, it’s a vibrant city that visitors shouldn’t miss when exploring Vietnam.

Cu Chi Tunnels, used by Viet combatants during the War, the Independence Palace, the former South Vietnam Government’s headquarters, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, a French Neo-Gothic structure, are just a few of the city’s top attractions.

When compared to other major cities in the subcontinent, HCMC is surprisingly affordable. Budget tourists could anticipate to pay a meager $30 per day, not including lodging.
Ha Trang
With over 500,000 residents, Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s largest cities and the nation’s go-to sunny spot. Holidaymakers tend to flock there during the peak travel season, which runs from November to February when less precipitation is recorded.

Nha Trang is the new favorite digital nomad destination in Southeast Asia. It is another well-liked beach resort and bustling coastal metropolis lining the East Sea, where tall hotel towers and skyscrapers are bounded by a long stretch of white sand.

Not so well-known Nha Trang is fast rising to prominence as one of Southeast Asia’s most sought-after options for a seaside city break, thanks to its array of opulent hotels surrounding the shoreline and its abundance of top-notch restaurants serving traditional seafood from Central Vietnam.

In general, visitors should budget only $41 a day on average in Nha Trang, plus an extra $27 per night for lodging.

In addition to the stunning beaches and commercial malls, tourists may fully immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture by visiting the nearby Po Nagar ruins, an old temple that was established as early as the eighth century by the now-extinct Cham civilization.

Hanoi
A discussion of Vietnam’s most interesting travel locations would be incomplete without discussing Hanoi, which served as the country’s capital after the Reunification War and is now regarded as the country’s second-most important commercial and cultural hub after Ho Chi Minh City in the South.

The main draws of Hanoi are its broad, green boulevards in the European style and its greater degree of social development in comparison to other less developed areas of Vietnam:

Being the government’s capital and a major financial center, it has greater infrastructure than the typical Vietnamese city and is much cleaner, with less hectic traffic.

Not only is Hanoi a popular destination because of this, but visitors also enjoy it because of its high concentration of historic temples, French colonial landmarks, and large, open green spaces that offer a brief respite from the fast-paced city life.

Furthermore, because Hanoi has connections to off-beaten routes in North Vietnam, travelers frequently use it as a base for exploring the region’s wild nature, which includes stunning mountain ranges, the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay, and golden rice fields.

With an average daily cost of $50 for tourists, Hanoi is undoubtedly the most costly option out of the five; yet, even by Western standards, it is extremely affordable and definitely less expensive than other Asian metropolises like Singapore or Hong Kong.

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam soon? Find out more about this Southeast Asian treasure and some of the guidelines for visiting.

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These 5 U.S. Airlines Are Most Likely To Experience Flight Delays Right Now

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Woman Waiting at Airport

The holidays are quickly approaching, resulting in some of the busiest travel weeks of the year. Flight delays are typical this time of year, particularly around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Flying may be a stressful experience in and of itself, but delays can make it even more so.

Booking with an airline that has a high proportion of on-time flights and booking a ticket early in the morning are two of the greatest strategies to avoid flight delays.

According to recent statistics from UpgradedPoints, the following airlines in the United States are most likely to face flight delays right now.

1. Frontier Airlines.

Frontier Airlines is currently the worst airline for flight delays. This low-cost carrier’s flights have a 31.9% risk of being delayed.

Rather of taking a chance and risking a one-in-three possibility of your flight being delayed, it’s best to select a more dependable airline for flights this winter.

Frontier is also dealing with other concerns, including as a class-action lawsuit against the airline’s $599 “unlimited flight” pass, which was introduced earlier this year.

2. Southwest Airlines

Last year, just around Christmas, Southwest Airlines experienced a catastrophic meltdown, resulting in thousands of flight delays and cancellations.

Many tourists questioned if booking with Southwest was safe in light of the complete breakdown of operations. While Southwest is likely to strive extra hard to avoid a similar disaster this winter, you may not want to take any chances.

Furthermore, according to historical statistics, Southwest flights have a 31.8% risk of being delayed, making the airline nearly as unreliable as Frontier.

3. JetBlue Airways

JetBlue is another untrustworthy airline with a significant likelihood of flight delays. When it comes to on-time flights, this New York-based carrier does not have the finest track record.

Although not as awful as Frontier or Southwest, going on JetBlue still means you have a staggering 30.8% probability of experiencing flight delays.

4. Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Air is the next carrier on the list of possible delays. This low-cost airline is not very dependable, so although you may save money by booking your ticket, you may also face unexpected delays.

Allegiant Air flights are delayed 29.2% of the time.

5. Spirit Airlines

Finally, there is Spirit Airlines. Although this low-cost carrier is the brunt of many jokes for being a less-than-ideal mode of transportation, it isn’t as awful as some other US airlines when it comes to delays.

When flying with Spirit, there is a 28.1% risk of a flight delay.

Which Airlines Experience the Fewest Delays?

Now that you know which airlines are most likely to have flight delays right now (and which to avoid! ), here are the airlines with the fewest delays.

Although ultra-low tickets with airlines such as Frontier or Spirit may entice you, it may be worth the additional money to book with a more dependable airline.

The top three airlines with the fewest delays right now are:

  • Alaska Airlines has a 20.3% probability of being delayed.
  • Delta Air Lines has a 19.1% probability of being delayed.
  • Hawaiian Airlines has a 15.6% probability of being delayed.

Flights can be delayed for a variety of reasons, including aircraft faults, personnel concerns, weather, and other factors, but these three airlines have the fewest delays.

There is no foolproof technique to avoid flight delays (as lovely as that would be! ), but you may read this article for further advice on how to avoid the dreaded delay or cancellation.

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