Generally, traveling in Japan can be quite a hassle-free experience if you do your homework beforehand 🙂 Because of their strict compliance to punctuality, all transport options depart and arrive on the dot and it becomes quite seamless to plan connections from one place to another.
And with websites such as hyperdia.com, you can get the train schedules for any day and can plan ahead with a few backup plans thrown in 🙂 Bus schedules are also easily obtainable from the operators’ websites or a simple Google.
There are quite a few transport passes available in Kyushu, and depending on your itinerary (and planning), they could prove to be money savers 🙂
JR Kyushu Rail Pass
With the options of 3-day or 5-day passes, for All Kyushu Area, Northern Kyushu Area, or Southern Kyushu Area (only 3-day Pass available), with prices ranging from ¥7,000 to ¥18,000, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass can be a huge money saver, if you plan to travel by trains a lot.
- JR Kyushu Rail Passes cannot be used to ride the Sanyo Shinkansen, which includes the portion between Hakata and Kokura.
- Unlike the national Japan Rail Pass which covers the entire Japan, it is possible to reserve for Mizuho Shinkasen with these passes.
- The special sightseeing D&S (Design & Story) trains within Kyushu are covered under these passes, and you should make reservations for these trains as soon as you exchange your voucher for the pass, due to the high popularity and limited availability of such trains, especially SL Hitoyoshi. We really enjoyed this train ride!
Valid for 3 or 4 days, the SunQ Pass is another popular alternative to JR Kyushu Rail Pass and it covers highway buses, most bus routes, and certain boat rides in 下関市 Shimonoseki + Northern Kyushu, or All Kyushu (prices range from ¥8,000 to ¥14,000). As we took trains for cross city trips, we did not use this pass.
Visit Miyazaki Bus Pass
Tourists can purchase the Visit Miyazaki Bus Pass for ¥1,000 with their foreign passport, which allows 1-day unlimited travel on public buses (not express buses) within Miyazaki City and other sightseeing areas in the surrounding region.
It is very worthwhile to get this pass if you are travelling to and fro 延岡 Nobeoka and 高千穂 Takachiho (one-way non-express bus ticket is already ¥1,650), and you can use the same bus pass to take buses within Takachiho (though the bus frequency appeared to be really low, so we mainly walked within 高千穂 Takachiho).
We bought this thrice; once to visit 鵜戸神宮 Udo Jingu, 青島 Aoshima, and 平和台公園 Heiwadai Park; twice for the travel between 延岡 Nobeoka and 高千穂 Takachiho, as we did an overnight stay in 高千穂 Takachiho.
For those wishing to maximise the value of the bus pass, it is possible to visit 高千穂 Takachiho as a day trip, and you can also slot in a few other places of interest along the bus route covering 青島 Aoshima and 鵜戸神宮 Udo Jingu.
Do note that the buses may not be too frequent, and you have to buffer a bit of time to wait for the bus, plus walking between the bus stop and places of interest.
Kagoshima Welcome Cute Pass
Available for 1 or 2 days (¥1,000 or ¥1,500), the Kagoshima Welcome Cute Pass is valid with all Kagoshima City Transport Bureau city bus routes (including the sightseeing City View Buses, but NOT private bus routes), tram lines, and ferry lines, including Sakurajima-bound ferries, and Yorimichi cruise ships in Kinko Bay. You can also take the “Sakurajima Island View” sightseeing buses using this pass.
Tram rides and bus rides are ¥170 and ¥190 respectively, while the ferry to and fro Sakurajima is ¥160 one way per adult, and the 1-day pass for the “Sakurajima Island View” sightseeing buses is ¥500, so the 2-day Kagoshima Welcome Cute Pass is quite worth if you are staying 2 nights in Kagoshima.
Kagoshima City One Day Pass
If you are not planning to visit Sakurajima, then perhaps the ¥600 Kagoshima City One Day Pass is suitable, for you can get unlimited rides on city trams, city buses and City View buses.
Kumamoto Tram Pass, Bus Pass, and Tram+Bus Pass
While we did not purchase any of these passes, since we walked a lot and used the trams at most twice in any given day, you may wish to consider getting
- Kumamoto City Tram 1-Day Pass, if you intend to take at least 3 tram rides within the day, as the tram rides have a flat price of ¥170, as compared to the ¥500 Pass.
- しろめぐりん Shiromegurin 1-Day Pass, if you wish to take the Kumamoto-jo Castle tour bus, which goes from Kumamoto Station to tourist spots around Kumamoto Castle. Do note that due to the earthquake, the Kumamoto Castle itself is not open to visitors, at this point of writing.
- Wakuwaku 1-Day Pass, if you prefer unlimited rides on Kumamoto Prefecture buses and city trams. Price ranges from ¥700 to ¥2,000, depending on the areas covered.