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How to Travel to Nara From Tokyo: The Fastest and Cheapest Ways
Nara, the cradle of Japanese culture, is located near Osaka and Kyoto and is a popular destination for those interested in history, temples, and architecture. We compared the various ways to access Nara from Tokyo--bullet train, bus, airplane, and rental car--in terms of price and travel time.
Nara: A Must-Visit Destination in Japan
Photo by Pixta
Nara is a city in the Kansai region known for its scenery reminiscent of ancient Japan. It was built before Kyoto, with temples such as Todaiji now popular sightseeing spots.
While there are various ways to reach Nara from Tokyo, the typical methods are trains, buses, airplanes, and cars. The Shinkansen (bullet train) does not stop in Nara, so visitors must switch to local lines in Kyoto.
This article compares the main transportation methods from Tokyo to Nara, along with information about cost-effective tickets for international visitors, such as the Japan Rail Pass and Kintetsu Rail Pass.
Table of Contents
1. Traveling to Nara by Bullet Train
2. Connecting to JR Lines
3. How to Travel to Nara by Bus
4. How to Travel to Nara by Plane
5. Rental Car Recommendations for Those Who Love Driving
6. Great Cost-Effective Tickets
7. Other Tips
Traveling to Nara by Bullet Train
Photo by Pixta
Those riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nara should go to Kyoto and switch to the local lines. There are three types of bullet trains: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama, with Nozomi being the fastest option. Travelers will also have to choose from reserved or non-reserved seats, so look for a ticket that fits your budget and itinerary.
The fare for a Nozomi reserved seat from Tokyo to Kyoto is 14,370 yen (travel time: 2 hours and 10 minutes). A reserved seat ticket on the Hikari costs 14,050 yen (2 hours and 40 minutes) while for the Kodama it's 13,850 yen (3 hours and 40 minutes).
There are two train stations in Nara. The JR Nara Station is served by the JR Nara Line while the Kintestsu Nara Station is served by the Kintetsu Nara Line. Please head to the station that is nearest to your destination.
The standard fare from Kyoto Station to JR Nara Station is 720 yen (the ride takes 44 minutes) while the ticket from Kyoto Station to Kintetsu Nara Station costs 760 yen (50 minutes). Those who wish to reach Nara faster can take the limited express on the Kintetsu Nara Line; please note that in this case an additional express ticket (520 yen) is needed but the ride takes only 35 minutes.
International visitors with a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) can save money on train fares since they can ride the bullet train to Kyoto without purchasing tickets. Please note that pass holders can only take the Hikari or Kodama. The Nozomi service is not included in the package.
Connecting to JR Lines
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It is possible to ride the JR local lines all the way from Tokyo to Nara. The fare starts at 8,300 yen and up. The travel cost will be much cheaper by using the discount ticket Seishun 18 Kippu.
The ticket is sold in spring, summer, and winter, allowing users to ride any JR line for a day. It is marketed as a five-ticket set, priced at 12,050 yen.
Those traveling alone should consider this set if they will use all of the tickets during their trip. With the Seishun 18 Kippu, the ride from Tokyo to Nara on the JR lines will take eight to nine hours, costing 2,410 yen.
Traveling to Nara by Bus
Photo by Pixta
There are highway buses from Tokyo to Nara. Although the travel time takes longer than a Shinkansen, the fare is cheaper.
The price depends on where the bus departs from (i.e., Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station), the vehicle type, and seating configuration. Please look for a ticket that fits your budget and travel needs.
From the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal (SEBT), located near Tokyo's Shinjuku Station, the fare is 4,000 to 8,000 yen and takes about nine hours. Willer, a highway bus operator, runs an overnight bus from SEBT to the Gojo Bus Center in Nara.
For further information, take a look at the Willer website.
Traveling to Nara by Plane
There are no direct flights to Nara from Tokyo, so travelers must either head to Itami (Osaka International Airport) or Kansai Airport.
As of April 2023, the fare from Haneda to Itami Airport starts from 28,460 yen and up (Japan Airlines). The flight from Haneda to Kansai is 26,210 yen and up (All Nippon Airways). Both flights take about an hour. While the fare is expensive compared to other transportation methods, there are various discounts.
Low-cost carriers (LCC) fly from Narita to Kansai Airport, and the flight takes about an hour and a half. Although the fare varies according to the time and date of departure, LCCs are cheaper than JAL or ANA.
From the airport, travelers must head to Nara by bus or train. The ride takes two to three hours.
Rental Cars for Those Who Love Driving
From Tokyo to Nara, the highway fare is 6,290 yen with a discount if you're using the electronic toll collection system. The distance spans 450 kilometers, and the cost of gasoline should be added to the fare.
The overall cost will be more expensive and take longer than other transportation methods. But it is an attractive option for those who have time or are interested in traveling in a camping car with friends.
MATCHA is currently offering a 10% discount coupon for rental cars, so please take advantage of this offer.
Nippon Rent-A-Car has sales offices at Itami and Kansai airports and in Nara as well. Those who want to drive around the area should take a look!
Photo by Pixta
Various railroad companies are offering discount tickets for international visitors.
The Japan Rail Pass allows users to ride all of the JR local lines, express trains, and the Shinkansen. There are three ticket types valid for 7, 14, and 21 days.
The pass enables access to other company transportation routes, although some restrictions exist. For details, please check the JR website.
With the Kintetsu Rail Pass, users can ride the Kintetsu limited express and rapid service trains for a discount, which mainly operates in the Kansai region.
It can be used in major cities such as Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya. The validity period for this all-you-can-ride pass varies from one to five days.
The Kintetsu Rail Pass also offers reserved seat discounts on the Shimakaze and Kuroshio (limited express trains), along with the Urban Liner (rapid service). This is a pass for tourists, so be sure to check the Kintetsu website for details.
Photo by Pixta
Nara, a city with a rich history, boasts several sightseeing spots.
The most convenient route from Tokyo to Nara is the Shinkansen. With the Japan Rail Pass and Kintetsu Rail Pass, travelers can save money, while traveling around comfortably. Those who have time should consider using a highway bus or book a rental car.
Each transportation method has its merits. Please use this article as a guide when searching for a route that best suits your trip. Since it only takes an hour by train to reach Osaka or Kyoto from Nara, it might be fun to tour the area!
This is an updated version of an original article published in August 2016.