The lovely "onsen" (hot springs) town of Hakone is a perfect getaway spot from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city. The locals think so too, so be warned of the crowds during weekends and holidays. If you're a visitor, it would be best for you to plan a trip during a weekday if you prefer a more relaxing getaway without the maddening crowds.
Located around 100 kms West of Tokyo, the best way to experience Hakone is to get the Hakone Free Pass. The Hakone Free Pass provides a round trip return ticket from Shinjuku Station to Hakone as well as unlimited boarding of participating buses, ferries, trains, cable car and ropeway for 5,000 yen (2 days) or 5,500 yen (3 days). If you're not planning to return to Tokyo, consider getting the Hakone Free Pass from Odawara (3,900 yen) and just buying the 1 way ticket from Shinjuku Station to Odawara. I would also highly recommend paying an additional 870 yen one way to upgrade to the Odakyu Ltd. Express Romance Car for a more comfortable ride.
You can book the pass on-line and collect it at the Odakyu Sightseeing Centre in Shinjuku Station. They have a counter for international visitors. Together with your pass, you will get a circuit map which shows you the best way to get around Hakone using the various forms of transportation below:
Hakone Free Pass Transportation:
1. Odakyu Romance Car (pay to upgrade)
- From Shinjuku Station to Odawara/Hakone Yumoto
Hakone Tozan Bus
2. - The most efficient way to travel within Hakone
3. Hakone Tozan Train
A leisurely 40 minute ride from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora.
4. Hakone Sightseeing Cruise (Lake Ashi)
A splendid way to view the beauty of Lake Ashi aboard a pirate ship: Togendai - Motohakone-ko - Hakone-machi
5. Hakone Ropeway
Enjoy the panaromic view of the the mountain and hot springs: Sounzan to Togendai
6. Hakone Tozan Cable car
Take the short ride from Gora to Sounzan on this Swiss made cable car
The Hakone Free Pass is definitely worth getting. When we first arrived in Hakone, it was raining so we did the entire circuit without getting the full benefit of the views. Fortunately, we had blue skies the next morning, so we repeated the entire transport circuit, this time, with full enjoyment of the view. I'll share more about our experiences in the next post.
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