Just hopped off your flight and got your heart set on some of that world famous Kobe beef? You’ll need to get to Kobe first, but how?Here are all your options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Kobe — a must visit foodie destination.

Kansai International Airport (also referred to by its airport code, KIX) is the closest international airport to Kobe, the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture. As the crow flies the two locations are about 30 km apart, but in reality they are on opposite sides of Osaka Bay. To get from one to the one you have a few overland options, or you can even travel over the water.

What are the options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Kobe?

Outside view of Kansai International airport
Kansai International Airport with air traffic control tower in Osaka.

There’s a nice range of transport options for making this trip, but there isn’t an obvious best option. Our top recommendation is to book a discounted Haruka Express ticket online as this is the most convenient option. The discounted ticket makes the journey a similar price to many of the other options, but the transfer at Shin-Osaka Station is easier.

If you don’t want to drag you luggage around while you transfer, the airport bus is a better option. Pricing and travel time are similar, but you don’t have to worry about transfering. Another option is to send your suitcases on ahead with a luggage delivery service.

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ModeApprox CostTravel TimeFrequencyBooking MethodNotes
Train — Most convenient route¥3,030*85 mins1 to 2 per hourIn person/Online1 transfer (Haruka Express to JR Kobe Line Special Rapid)
Train — Cheapest route¥1,34090 mins1 to 3 per hourIn person1 transfer (Nankai Airport Express to Hanshin Line)
Train — Fastest route¥1,860*80 mins1 to 2 per hourIn person/Online1 transfer (Nankai Limited Express Rapi:t and Hanshin Line)
High speed ferry¥2,220*50 minsEvery 1 to 3 hoursIn personOnline1 transfer (ferry terminal to central Kobe)
Airport bus¥2,000*65 mins1 to 2 per hourIn person 
Taxi — Regular¥25,00075 minsOn demandIn personCan transport up to 4 passengers
Taxi — Private prebooked¥29,000 to ¥40,00075 minsOn demandOnlineCan transport up to 9 passengers

*Discounts are available, read on for more details.

Rail options

There are quite a few rail options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Kobe. We’ve rounded up the most convenient, cheapest and fastest routes for you, but to be honest the differences are minimal. Our top recommendation is to grab a discounted ticket for the Haruka Express online. It’s the most hassle free option, and the transfer at Shin-Osaka Station will be easier to navigate than the other options.

Keep in mind that all of these rail routes involve transfers — unfortunately there is no direct train to Kobe. Some of the options below might not be best for you if you’re travelling with a lot of suitcases in tow.

Note: There are three train stations in Kobe to be aware of: Shin-Kobe Station which services the Shinkansen (and a few local lines), Kobe Station which sounds like it should be the main train station but really isn’t, and Sannomiya Station which is the main train station in Kobe. To add to any potential confusion, Sannomiya Station is also sometimes called ‘Kobe-Sannomiya Station’.

Most convenient: Haruka Express and JR Kobe Line Special Rapid

¥3,030 (discounts available)
85 minutes
1 transfer

People waiting the Kansai-Airport Express HARUKA train at Kansai Airport Station in Osaka, Japan. | Photo by winhorse/iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

The Haruka Express is another name for the Kansai Airport Express train. It gets you from the airport to a number of major cities in the Kansai region, including Kobe. This option is speedy, comfortable, and — best of all — there are a fair few ways to get a discount.

If you want to use the Haruka Express to get to Kobe, there a few route options but in our opinion the best one is to transfer at Shin-Osaka Station to the JR Kobe Line Special Rapid. This line stops at a number of stations in the Kobe area including Kobe and Sannomiya Stations. You could opt for the local service instead of the special rapid, but that will take longer and costs the same. Also, while taking the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Kobe might seem faster, when you take transfers into account you won’t save much time at all.

The Haruka Express has free Wi-Fi and luggage storage space, but the JR Kobe Line Special Rapid does not. Similarly, it’s possible to reserve seats on the Haruka Express, but not the JR Kobe Line.

Discounts

Okay, so let’s talk discounts. The easiest option by far, is to buy your ticket online. It will cost you just ¥1,700 one-way for the full journey, and you can buy it ahead of time to save yourself some hassle.

Another option is to pick up a ICOCA and Haruka set for ¥3,700 one-way or ¥5,400 roundtrip. This set includes a Haruka Express ticket, and an ICOCA card (a type of IC card or prepaid transport card). The ICOCA will have ¥1,500 loaded on it and a refundable deposit of ¥500 if you return the card at the end of your trip. A nice bonus with this set is that the ICOCA cards have limited edition designs that you can only get at Kansai Airport.

Alternatively, if you already have an ICOCA card you can just get the discounted Haruka Express ticket. It’s ¥1,700 one-way and will need to show your ICOCA card when collecting the ticket.

The ICOCA and Haruka set or the discount Haruka Express ticket can be purchased at the airport, or online in advance.

NOTE: All three discounts are only available to foreign passport holders with a valid temporary visitor stamp.

Cheapest route: Nankai Airport Express and Hanshin Line

¥1,340
90 minutes
1 transfer

If you’re not eligible for the Haruka Express discounts, this is a good option. You catch the Nankai Airport Express from the airport to Nankai Namba Station and then transfer to the Hanshin Line. However, keep in mind that you will have to walk 5 minutes from Nankai Namba Station to Osaka Namba Station to make the transfer.

Keep in mind that neither of these trains have reserved seating or dedicated luggage storage space. They are essentially just regular trains, so it may not be the most comfortable journey, especially if you are traveling during rush hour.

Fastest route: Nankai Limited Express Rapi:t and Hanshin Line

¥1,860 (discounts available)
80 minutes
1 transfer

Rapi:t train services between Kansai International Airport and Namba Station | Photo by coward_lion/iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

This route is the same as the previous one, but a little faster. The Nankai Limited Express Rapi:t (no, that’s not a typo, that’s really it’s name, it’s pronounced ‘rapido’) saves you about 10 minutes for ¥1,450. However, if you book online in advance you can get a discount ticket for ¥1,100.

The Limited Express Rapi:t is much comfier than its Airport Express counterpart, with reserved seats and dedicated luggage storage space. However as we mentioned above, the Hanshin Line doesn’t have either of these things.

Using a JR Pass to get from Kansai International Airport to Kobe

You can use a JR Pass to travel the Haruka Express and JR Kobe Line Special Rapid route, but not on the Nankai Airport Express or the Limited Express Rapi:t because they are not operated by JR. However, we don’t recommend using your JR Pass for such a short trip anyway. To make the most of your Pass it’s better to use it for longer journeys on the Shinkansen.

High speed ferry from Kansai International Airport to Kobe

¥2,220 (discounts available)
50 minutes
1 transfer

View of Kobe Port
Kobe skyline at the port. | Photo by iStock.com/Sean Pavone

A novel, yet surprisingly easy, way to make the trip is via the high Speed ferry service. The ferry runs from Kansai International Airport to Kaijo Access Terminal — located on the same small island as Kobe Airport — in about 30 minutes. From there, it’s a 20 minute train ride to Sannomiya Station. This makes it the fastest option, and the special tourist ticket rate of ¥500 (available until March 31, 2023) also makes it the cheapest option.

So what’s the downside? Reliability. The ferry services will be canceled in the case of bad weather, and departures are a bit infrequent (up to 3 hours between them). If the ferry service is canceled, a replacement bus service is available. Also, the regular ticket price is ¥1,880, which is actually more expensive than the rail options. If you like ferries

Taking a bus from Kansai International Airport to Kobe

¥2,000
65 minutes
No transfers

People on the Kansai Airport Limousine Bus at Kansai International Airport | Photo by winhorse/iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

There is a direct bus between Kansai International Airport and Kobe. It’s definitely a convenient option because you don’t have to worry about luggage or transfers, but it is on the higher end of the price scale. Buses depart for Kansai International Airport Terminal 1 once or twice per hour and the journey takes around 65 minutes. Unlike some other airport bus services, there aren’t options that will drop you off directly at your hotel.

Unlike some airport buses, there are no charging ports or Wi-FI, but there is usually a toilet.

Taxi options

From ¥25,000 for a four passenger vehicle
65 minutes
No transfers

It’s definitely possible to take a taxi from Kansai International Airport to Kobe, but we don’t recommend it. It’s by far the most expensive option, and is not particularly fast. Depending on traffic conditions it will take at least 75 minutes. Prices will range depending on whether you take a toll road or not, as well as the time of day, but expect to pay around ¥25,000 for a standard size taxi that can fit up to four passengers. If you’re in a group of seven to nine people you could book a private taxi service online. That way you can all travel together, and split the ¥29,000 to ¥40,000 between yourselves. Also, with a taxi you can be dropped off directly at your accommodation.

Frequently asked questions

Should I use my JR Pass to get from Kansai International Airport to Kobe?
In short, no. To get the best value out of your JR Pass, it’s better to use it on the Shinkansen for long journeys.

Can I drive from Kansai International Airport to Kobe?
Yes, you definitely can. There are a few car rental options in the airport. Renting might work out a bit cheaper than a taxi, but once you consider the cost of tolls and parking it could well balance out.

Should I just fly into Kobe Airport instead?
Kobe Airport generally only services domestic flights, so it depends on where you’re flying in from.

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Filed under: Travel

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