On a recent post, I shared about my relaxing time in Hakone, an area south-east of Tokyo. In it, I talked about the Hakone Free Pass which I used to get around the area. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether or not a pass is worth it so I did the math.
What is the Hakone Free Pass?
The Hakone Free Pass is a transportation ticket that allows you unlimited access to 8 different types of transportation in the Hakone region as well as a return trip on the Odakyu Line. There are 2 or 3-day options. The pass also provides discounts to museums, shops and restaurants.
How much does it cost?
The cost of the pass depends on how many days you’re purchasing and your starting destination. You have the option of starting the pass from three stations: Shinjuku, Machida and Odawara. For the most up to date prices, look on the Hakone Free Pass website. Because I had a JR pass that would cover my journey from Tokyo to Odawara, I opted to just get the two-day pass from Odawara for ¥4000.
Where to purchase?
You can purchase your Hakone Free Pass at Odakyu Sightseeing Service Centers in Shinjuku and Odawara.
Is it worth it?
Who wants to do math when they’re on vacation? Certainly not me! So I’ve done the work for you. Depending on what you do in Hakone and how long you’re there, picking up a pass may or may not be worth it. Let’s break it down.
When I purchased my pass, the map came with a handy suggested route that allows you to see the highlights in the area. Essentially it’s one giant loop and is the basis of how I planned my time in Hakone. You can go this way around the loop, or backwards. It still works out to be about the same.
First, to get to the Hakone-Yumoto train station, you need to take the Hakone Tozan Line train from Odawara. The one-way fare is ¥310.
Based on the suggested route, you should take the Tozan Bus Line H from Hakone-Yumoto to Motohakone-ko. Normally this costs ¥1180 one way for a ride of 40ish minutes and you pay the bus driver on your way out of the bus. When boarding remember to grab a boarding ticket and you can see how much your fare is from the fare chart at the front of the bus above the windshield.
From there you can walk to Hakonemachi via the Ancient Cedar Avenue. You can also visit the Hakone Checkpoint along the way if interested.
At Hakonemachi hop on the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise across Lake Ashi. You can get off at Togendai-ko which is about 40 minutes away. This fare is ¥1000.
Once at Togendai-ko get up on the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani where you can eat volcanic eggs and explore steam vents and pools in the area on foot. The ropeway fare is ¥1050 and takes about 20 minutes. You can read more about this experience in my previous post on Hakone.
Normally to continue the journey, there is another stretch of the ropeway which takes you to Sounzan (¥ 840 and 10 minutes), however, during my visit, it was under repair so we had to take a connecting bus. I don’t know how much the cost of the bus ride would be on its own. You can also purchase a ticket directly from Togendai-ko to Sounzan which allows stops for ¥1370.
Next, from Sounzan you can hop on the Hakone Tozan Cable Car for 10 minutes which takes you to Gora (¥420). There isn’t too much to see along the way here, especially in the winter. I can imagine in the spring and summer that the trees and flowers lining the route would be beautiful though.
From Gora, the Hakone Tozan Train will take you back to Hakone Yumoto (40 minutes, ¥400), or if you’re going all the way back to Odawara from Gora it will be ¥670. Along the journey, there are a couple points where the train comes to a stop to allow for a train going the opposite direction to pass. There are also a couple of switchbacks so the train will change direction which makes for a fun ride! You go through tunnels along the way and I can imagine it being really beautiful when everything is in bloom.
Following the full loop, this will set you back ¥4950. Here is the full breakdown in a handy chart:
A two-day pass from Odawara for ¥4000 offers you a saving of ¥950 which is more than worth it in my books. Even if you go for a day, it still makes sense.
If you’re going from Shinjuku, the cost of a two-day pass is ¥5140. The regular fare for a train trip between Shinjuku and Odawara stations is ¥880 on the Odakyu Line bringing the total to ¥5830. Purchasing the pass will still save you ¥690.
This is just the basic recommended route. If you end up making side trips to the Open Air Museum near Gora or the Venetian Glass Museum, there would be additional transportation costs as well. Both museums also offer discounts on their admission price if you have the Hakone Free Pass.
Any other considerations?
There is another option of getting to Hakone from Shinjuku via the Romancecar. The journey is 85 minutes to Hakone-Yumoto train station which saves you time and you don’t need to transfer in Odawara. The additional cost of taking the Romancecar with your Hakone Free Pass is ¥890.
Make sure you pick up their transportation schedule so you know when your transportation options are coming. Some of the buses don’t run frequently and you don’t want to accidentally miss one. All across Japan, I found times to be extremely accurate so if you show up 30 seconds late, you’re 30 seconds too late and the bus would have left. Also, the schedule tells you when each of the transportation options are open. You don’t want to get stuck anywhere!
In your coupon book, there is a page where you can collect stamps along the way. If you get 4 stamps or more, you can get a mini gift. I didn’t see this in time, but it seems like a fun way of bringing your Hakone experience all together.
Because I was in Hakone for more than just a day, having the pass was even more worth it. I was staying at K’s Hostel which was along the K bus route. While technically in Hakone-Yumoto, I’m glad I didn’t have to walk there from the train station because I could use my pass for the bus.
Should you get the Hakone Free Pass?
Even if the savings are minimal, I love the peace of mind that having an unlimited travel pass gives you. You can hop and off as desired if you see something cool along the way. Or if you accidently get on the wrong bus, you don’t have to pay for your error.