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How to choose Rail Pass for trip in Hokkaido. Many choices for both visitors and residents in Japan.


Shiretoko Peninsula

Shiretoko Peninsula is one of most popular destination in Hokkaido. (C) JNTO

Hokkaido is most popular destination during summer time. Some of the travellers may arrive/depart at New Chitose airport and travel only in Hokkaido. I show you rail passes for Hokkaido trip. And also I would like to share the information with the resident in Japan. I will tell you about the pass that anyone can purchase.

Rakuten
Rakuten

Summery of all available passes

All passes do not include the ticket to Hokkaido. These cover the trains and some bus lines in Hokkaido only.

Types 3days Flex
4days
5days 7days Remarks
Hokkaido
Rail
Pass
O:15000
G:21500
O:19500
G:27000
O:19500
G:27000
O:22000
G:30000
Visitor status with Foreign passport only. Child (6-11yrs) half price
Foreign
Student
Pass /
Working
Holiday
Pass
19000 - 22500 - Foreign student or working holiday status
Hokkaido
Free
Pass
(Hokkaido
Round
Tour Pass)
- - 25500 Available for anyone. Non reserved seat only
Kyunto
Hokkaido
Free Pass
17000 - - - Available for anyone until Sep 30, 2012. Non reserved seat only
Kyunto
Minami
Hokkaido
Free Pass
9200 - - - Available for anyone until Sep 30, 2012. Non reserved seat only in southern Hokkaido (Sapporo, Otaru, Muroran, Oshamanbe and Hakodate)

Let’s see the details of all above passes

Hokkaido Rail Pass

If you are a foreign tourist and enter in Japan as “temporary visitor”, you are eligible to purchase this pass. The price range is 3 days ordinary at 15,000 yen to 7 days green at 30,000 yen. The price for child (6 to 11 years old) is half price. It is free for under 5 years old as long as child travel with the adult passenger who have a pass.

Please the details about Hokkaido Rail Pass

JR Hokkaido Foreign Student Pass and Working Holiday Pass

If you are in Japan as “Exchange Student” or “Student”, you are eligible to purchase Foreign Student Pass. And if you are in Japan as Working Holiday, you can purchase Working Holiday Pass. These passes are different names but they are same type of pass. Please see the following links to get the detail about these passes.

3 days pass is sold at 19,000yen and 5 days pass is sold at 22,500 yen. These prices are higher than Hokkaido Rail Pass. But it is cheaper and better validity than Hokkaido Free Pass that anyone can purchase. Range of use is almost same as Hokkaido Rail Pass. JR Hokkaido Bus and Home liner train (express trains for commuter) are not covered. But this is not a big deal. JR Hokkaido Bus is not so much convenient. Home line is express train to Sapporo in early morning and from Sapporo in late evening. This train is completely different from limited express trains. Don’t worry about this.

If you are travel in all Hokkaido, this pass is your choice. But you really care about your budget, you can think about Kyunto Hokkaido Free Pass (available until end of Sep, 2012) at 17,000 yen for 3 days. See the below to get the details.

Hokkaido Round Tour Pass (北海道フリーパス)

Limited express Super Ozora

Limited express Super Ozora and most of express trains are covered by Hokkaido Round Tour Pass.

If you are a resident in Japan and look for unlimited ride pass for trains in Hokkaido, this it the pass that you need to purchase. This pass is sold at 25,500 yen for 7 days. No children rate and other duration are available. This pass is basically for domestic traveller. I understand that overseas traveller have much greater benefit than domestic traveller. But this is a reality.

The condition of this pass is different from other Hokkaido passes. The biggest difference are the following:

  • Reserved seat can be covered by this pass. But it is up to 6 times, not unlimited.
  • This pass cannot be used in Golden week, Obon period and holiday season. In 2012-2013 season, this restriction dates are May 3 to 5, August 11 to 15, and from December 29 to January 6, 2013.

Other conditions are almost same as other Hokkaido passes. Please check the details here.

Kyunto Hokkaido Free Pass (キュンと北海道フリーパス) and Kyunto South Hokkaido Free Ticket (キュンとみなみ北海道フリー乗車券)

This passes will be sold until Sep 28, 2012 and can be used until Sep 30, 2012. Kyunto Hokkaido Free Pass cover all JR trains in Hokkaido. Kyunto South Hokkaido Free Ticket cover only Local and Rapid trains on the following JR lines in south part of Hokkaido.

  • Hakodate line (Hakodate – Oshamanbe – Otaru – Sapporo)
  • Chitose line-Muroran line (Oshamanbe – Date Monbetsu – Higashi Muroran – Tomakomai – Minami Chitose – Sapporo, Higashi Muroran – Muroran, Minami Chitose – New Chitose airport)

You can ride non reserved seat of any trains by Kyunto Hokkaido Free Pass. But you cannot take reserved seat. If you want to take reserved seat, you need to pay all amount of limited express reserved seat surcharge. (not difference between non reserved and reserved) If you have a round trip to Kushiro or Abashiri from Sapporo, total fare is around 18,000 to 19,000 yen. the price of this pass is 17,000 yen. So you can get your money easily if you travel Kushiro or Abashiri from Sapporo.

As I mentioned above, limited express trains and express train are not covered by Kyunto South Hokkaido Free Ticket. If you want to ride Limited Express or Express, you have to pay limited express or express surcharge. But if you travel from Sapporo to Hakodate, basic fare is 5,560 yen for one way. If you have round trip between Hakodate and Sapporo, the price of this pass, 9,200 yen is better deal. If you want to ride express trains, just add surcharge. It is cheaper than single ticket anyway.

There are no English info available. I just put Japanese link just in case.
JR Hokkaido Free Pass and Ticket info page

For resident in Japan, there are so many discount tickets and rail passes that cover small limited area for domestic travellers. It is too many to explain. But I will try to share more information with you.


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20 Comments to “How to choose Rail Pass for trip in Hokkaido. Many choices for both visitors and residents in Japan.”

  1. Avery says:

    Hello Takeshi-san

    I am so happy to find this informative blog. I need advice / tip from you.

    There will be 4 adults traveling to Hokkaido this 5-11 July 2015 and will be staying in Sapporo.We are traveling by public transport.

    Our itinerary as follows :-
    D1 : Sapporo (Odori Park, Clock Tower)

    D2 : Day trip to Otaru via JR Hakodate Line
    Question – should i buy the Sapporo-Otaru 1 day pass?

    D3 : Historical Village of Hokkaido (using TOZAI line to Shin Sapporo and change to bus to village)
    Afternoon use TOZAI line to Miyanosawa Station – Chocolate Factory
    Then Miyanosawa Station to Sapporo Station – Daimaru Mall

    D4 : Day trip to Furano
    Question : Can i buy 2 booklets of S4 tickets to use for this trip (Sapporo – Furano)?
    I will also get the Kururu Bus ticket (Hop On Hop Off) from Sapporo Station. Otherwise is there any tour company in Furano you can recommend that covers Furano and/or Biei ? I see there are so many beautiful farms in Furano, bus this Kururu pass by Tomita Farm only.

    D5 : Shopping at Sapporo and Susukino areas
    Evening head to Mt Moira

    D6 : Last minute Shopping or is there other places you think I should visit? We do not wish to do Hakodate for this trip, visit Onsen (too shy) and also keep changing hotels during our travel

    D7 : Home

    Based on my itinerary, I believe it is not worth getting the 3 day Hokkaido Pass. What do you think?

    Thank you for your help.

    Regards
    Avery

    • Hi Avery san,

      Sapporo-Otaru 1 day pass
      I don’t think so. If you have round trip to Otaru only, single ticket is cheaper.

      Hokkaido Rail Pass
      If you visit Hakodate, this pass will work. But round trip to Furano only is not enough to use this pass. You don’t need to go to Hakodate, but if you have one more long trip, like trip to Asahikawa (visit Asahiyama zoo), total cost (Sapporo-Furano, Sapporo-Asahikawa) will be 20000 yen. Hokkaido Rail Pass is better deal.

      S ticket
      It included non reserved seat and base fare for round trip. Each traveller has this deal. I think you need 4 booklet.
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/pticket/pticket03.html

      Furano Biei bus
      Usually JR operate Twincle Bus to visit the areas surrounding Furano. But they don’t release the info for this coming summer. I think you may find info sometimes in April on JR Hokkaido website.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Yi Shin says:

    Hi Takesan,

    Many thanks for sharing the useful information! My friend and I are planning to travel around Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara & Hokkaido). Therefore I suppose besides JR pass, do we have to purchase any other pass? What will be the cheapest transportation mode?

    Really love to hear your input! :-)

  3. Bernice says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I will be going to Hokkaido on Feb 5-11, and will just be staying in Hokkaido maybe tour around Otaru, Niseko and Hakodate. Kindly advise if 7-day Hokkaido Pass will do. I will be arriving on the evening of the 5th and leaving in the morning of the 11th. Kindly also advise where to buy one, because some travel agencies I have contacted in my country offer of JR Passes. Thank you.

    • Hi Bernice,

      If you visit all three places by train, 7 days pass is still more expensive than total single fares. In my rough calculation, total fare is almost equal to 4 days flex Hokkaido Rail pass. If you can use two days each for Niseko and Hakodate, it will work. Otaru can be drop by on the way to or back from Niseko.

      Please see the link below about purchasing pass:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail02.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Bernice says:

        Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thank you very much for your quick response. Please find below the itinerary I drafted. Will it be cheaper to just buy tickets for the Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station and Sapporo Station to Susukino, etc. than by just buying a 7day Hokkaido Pass?

        Also, our country agencies only offers 4day passes, would you know if this is legitimate: http://www.japan-rail-pass.com/

        Thank you very much!

        Date Plan
        2/5/2015 Thursday MNL-Tokyo
        Tokyo – Sapporo
        Chitose Airport – Mitsui Garden Hotel
        Explore Sapporo Train Station
        Ramen Republic (10th flr ESTA Shopping Center)

        Date Plan
        2/6/2015 Friday Former Hokkaido Gov’t Office Bldg.
        Clock Tower
        Kanihonke – Lunch
        Odori Park

        Date Plan
        2/7/2015 Saturday Historic Village of Hokkaido
        Beer Museum
        Garden Gril – Lunch
        Sapporo Factory
        Susukino
        Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade
        Ramen Yokocho (Alley)

        Date Plan
        2/8/2015 Sunday Nijo Market
        JR Station Observation Deck
        Daimaru,ESTA, Stellar Place (JR Station)
        Underground Pedestrian Shopping

        Date Plan
        2/9/2015 Monday Curb Market
        Shiroi Koibito Park (Chocolate Factory)
        Otaru
        Sakaimachi Street
        Music Box Museum
        Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
        Unga Kaijo
        Temiyasen Kaijo

        Date Plan
        2/10/2015 Tuesday Ski?

        Date Plan
        2/11/2015 Wednesday Sapporo – Tokyo
        Tokyo – MNL

        • Hi Bernice san,

          Hokkaido Rail Pass is not suitable for your trip because Hakodate is not included in your plan. Even if you go to Niseiko, it’s not enough to use any pass.
          You may use subway one day pass for your exploring in Sapporo.
          http://gosapporo.com/living/getting-around/subway/

          For other dates, single ticket is the best choice.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

          • Bernice says:

            Hi Takeshi-san,
            Thank you very much! Then maybe i will add Hakodate to my trip :) also, i just found out that the JR pass office jn chitose airport that exchanges Hokkaido pass vouchers closes at 19:00 but I arrive at Chitose at 20:35, so does it mean that I wont be able to exchange my Hokkaido Pass on the day of my arrival? Or can I have it exchanged at Narita? Thank you!!!!!

          • Hi Bernice,

            No, you can’t exchange it at Narita. But if you purchase it on the spot, you can purchase it at Narita. Please find the info at the bottom in the link below:
            http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail02.html

            JR East service center sell Hokkaido pass but they don’t exchange it.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Kenneth says:

    Hi takeshi san

    I am going to sapporo on 22nd Dec and stay 4 nights in Sapporo.I
    will be going to Hakodate as well .what kind of rail pass do i need?
    Could you recommend? I am travelling alone n my first time in Hokkaido.
    i would prefer a rail pass that has less limitation n can travel freely in and
    around Hokkaido.
    Hope to hear soon.

    Regards

    Kenneth

  5. Nicole says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    We have planned a trip which includes Hokkaido and Tokyo starting from 10 June. We were thinking of trying out the train route for one-way of the trip from Sapporo to Tokyo. Our itinery as follows:

    Day 1: Narita Airport- New Chitose (via flight) – Sapporo
    Day 2: Sapporo – Furano (Most likely self-drive)
    Day 3: Furano
    Day 4: Furano – Sapporo (Most likely self-drive)
    Day 5: Sapporo (Otaru, other parts of sapporo)
    Day 6: Sapporo – Aomori (Train)
    Day 7: Aomori – Tokyo (Shinkansen)
    Day 8: DisneySea
    Day 9: Skytree
    Day 10: Tokyo – Hakone – Tokyo (1 day trip)
    Day 11: Sight seeing around Tokyo – Narita airport

    May I know if it would be worth to take the JR Rail 7-day pass and activate it from Day 5 onwards? Or would it be cheaper to take single trip tickets on the way back to Tokyo.

    Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Nicole,

      JR Pass is better choice. Even if you use the pass for Sapporo to Tokyo, single fare is almost same as 7 days pass price. But you can use the pass to Odawara when you go to Hakone. So JR pass is much better deal.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. K T Lim says:

    Hi Takeshi-san, my family of 4 will travel in Hokkaido beginning Dec14,2012.
    14-16 : from Shin Chitose Airport to Otaru
    16-18 : from Otaru to Hakodate
    18-19 : Sapporo for transfer to Niseko by agent
    19-23 : at Niseko
    23-24 : Sapporo – transfer from Niseko
    24-26 : Ashikawa
    26-28 : Sapporo – for return to Shin Chitose Airport.
    We intend to take the train. Its our first time being in winter and on our own. Since I am travelling within Hokkaido Will it be better to buy the Flexi Pass? I am quite confuse with the train line. Do you think you can give me some suggestions with regard to taking the train like the Zoo train and the twinkle bus and the reserved seats etc.
    Thank you so much for your time.
    ,

    • JPRail says:

      Hi K T Lim,

      Flexible 4 days pass is a good choice. But it is available in 10 days. So if you use this pass, you need to give up using for some part of your trip. I think you cannot use it for both arrival day and departure day. As a result, you can use it for Otaru-Hakodate-Sapporo-Asahikawa-Sapporo. I think total fare will be almost same as flex 4 days pass price. Even if fare is same, flex pass is easy to handle for you.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. R Loh says:

    Hello Takeshi-San.

    my family of 4 will be visiting Hokkaido & we intend to take the train from Furano to Hakodate on 22 Dec 2012. It’s our first time travelling by train in Hokkaido. I checked hyperdia.com for the train timetable. We will leave at 10.04 am. Will it be alright for us to take our 4 luggages for the journey to Hakodate by train?

    Do you have any advice for first time train commuters like ourselves? We can’t speak Japanese at all

    Also, at Sapporo, we have about 1 hour before the train to hakodate comes. Will we be able to exit the station, have our lunch, then enter the jr station again using the same tickets?

    I would really appreciate it if you give me some advice. Thank you very much for your time.

  8. Hayabusa says:

    Hello Takeshi-san
    if you take hamanasu (dream seat) from aomori to sapporo (or viceversa) how much do you have to pay extra with the hokkaido rail pass ordinary type (nakaoguni-aomori fare)?,
    express fee
    + basic fare ?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Hayabusa,

      You need to pay basic fare 570 yen for Aomori to Nakaoguni and express fare 1050 yen for Aomori to Hakodate because Hakodate is the first stop in Hokkiado.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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  • If you need access information to your hotel, please don't ask me but ask your hotel.
  • If you are looking for the information about timetable, please refer Japan Railway's timetables.
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