If you will travel in Hokkaido only, Hokkaido Rail Pass is the best choice for you. But if you travel in other cities and areas, even just staying in Tokyo, you may consider about other passes. You should compare and find which one is more suitable for you.
In this post, I show you the details about Hokkaido Rail Pass. And I will compare Hokkaido Rail Pass and Japan Rail Pass
Covered area by Hokkaido Rail Pass
*Hokkaido Shinkansen will open on March 26, 2016. Any trains on Tsugaru Kaikyo line train will be discontinued a few days before Shinkansen open. After Hokkaido Shinkansen will open, Tsugaru Kaikyo line will not be covered by Hokkaido Rail Pass. Hokkaido Rail Pass will NOT COVER Hokkaido Shinkansen and Donan Isaribi Railway between Goryokaku and Kikonai.
Hokkaido Rail Pass cover all JR lines in Hokkaido and Tsuaru Kaikyo line (Seikan Tunnel) to Nakaoguni station. This station is located outside of Hokkaido. But this is the border station of JR Hokkaido and JR East. It is located in Aomori. But it is away from Aomori station. You cannot access to Aomori without any extra charge.
In case that you travel outside of Hokkaido by this pass, the pass cover basic fare from/to Nakaoguni. But you need to pay extra limited express/express fare from/to the first/last stop station in Hokkaido. It is mostly Kikonai station when you take Super Hakucho. If you take overnight express train Hamanasu, it is Hakodate station.
Valid trains and bus lines
The rule of Hokkaido Rail Pass is similar to Japan Rail Pass. The only difference is the coverage area. So all daytime trains in Hokkaido are covered by this pass. You can book reserved seat without any extra charge.
Hokkaido Rail Pass covers the bus lines within Sapporo city too. Other inter-city bus services, like Sapporo-Monbetsu, are not covered by Hokkaido Rail Pass. Sapporo-Otaru express bus service is covered by the pass. But on this bus route, two different companies operate the bus, those are JR Hokkaido Bus and Chuo Bus. Only bus service that is operated by JR Hokkaido Bus is covered by this pass.
When you take overnight trains, basically the pass covers basic fare only. Japan Rail Pass covers both Carpet car and Dream car of Hamanasu. But Hokkaido Rail Pass does not cover Carpet car fully. If you use Carpet car by this pass, you need to pay whole express surcharge (1,820 yen as of Apr, 2015). If you take Dream car, you don’t need to pay any extra. But Hamanasu does not stop at any stations between Aomori and Hakodate. If you get on/off at Hakodate, the pass covers it. But if you get on/off at Aomori, you need to pay basic fare for Nakaoguni – Aomori (580 yen). And you need to pay express surcharge for Hakodate – Aomori (550 yen).
If you take overnight trains to Ueno, such as Hokutosei or Cassiopeia, the pass covers only basic fare. You need to pay all limited express surcharge and accommodation fee. This rule is completely same as Japan Rail Pass.
Types and prices
Hokkaido Rail Pass have four types, 3 days, 5 days, 7 days and Flex 4 days. I would like to compare these prices and single fare.
*Green pass was terminated on March 31, 2015.
|3 days||16,500 yen||8,250 yen|
|Flex 4 days||22,000 yen||11,000 yen|
|5 days||22,000 yen||11,000 yen|
|7 days||24,000 yen||12,000 yen|
The passes except Flex 4 days must be used in consecutive days. The validity of a rail pass starts from 12 O’clock at night (midnight to midnight).
ex) If you start to use 3 days pass on May 1, the pass is expired at 23:59 on May 3. However if you are on board the train, your pass will cover until you get off the train.
Before I compare the prices, I would like to show you some regular fare standards (Limited Express reserved seat surcharge and basic fare):
- One way trip from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo by Rapid Airport or local — 1,070 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Otaru by Rapid Airport or local — 640 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Hakodate by Limited Express Hokuto/Super Hokuto — 8,830 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Asahikawa by Limited Express Super Kamui — 4,810 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Abashiri by Limited Express Okhotsk — 9,910 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Kushiro by Limited Express Super Ozora — 9,370 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Furano by Limited Express Furano Lavender Express — 4,840 yen
- One way trip from Sapporo to Wakkanai by Limited Express Super Soya/Sarobetsu — 10,450 yen
If you have round trip to Hakodate from Sapporo, you can get the money worth of 3 days pass. Especially if you have a trip from Sapporo to Hakodate, Kushiro, Abashiri or Wakkanai, round trip fare is about 19,000 yen and up. It is almost equal to the price of Flex 4 days and 5 days. It is quite easy to get your money worth of even 7 days pass.
Compare Hokkaido Rail Pass and Japan Rail Pass
If you fly in / out Hokkaido and do not go other than Hokkaido, Hokkaido Rail Pass is the best. If you go to Hokkaido and other spots, you need to think about Japan Rail Pass too. I show you some samples.
Extra fare for round trip to Aomori by Hokkaido Rail Pass
Aomori is the closet city outside of Hokkaido. But you need to pay 4,760 yen for round trip by Limited Express Super Hakucho. The price difference between Japan Rail Pass 7 days and Hokkaido Rail Pass 7 days is 6,300 yen. Hokkaodo Rail Pass + extra fare is still cheaper than Japan Rail Pass 7 days. But the price difference is not such a big amount.
If you think about purchasing Hokkaido Rail Pass 7 days, you should make sure that you don’t go outside of Hokkaido. Otherwise you should purchase Japan Rail Pass 7 days.
In case of staying in Tokyo or Osaka and fly to Hokkaido
You have to estimate how much trains you will take in Tokyo or Osaka. First of all, think about the fare for airport access.
- Single fare for one way trip to Tokyo from Narita Airport by Narita Express — 3,220 yen
- N’ex Tokyo round trip ticket — 4,000 yen
- Single fare for one way trip to Shinagawa from Haneda Airport by Keihin Kyuko — 410 yen
- Single fare for one way trip to Hamamatsucho from Haneda Airport by Tokyo Monorail — 490 yen
- Single fare for one way trip to Shin-Osaka from Kansai Airport by Limited Express Haruka — 2,850 yen
- Round trip ICOCA and Haruka — 4,060 yen
If you arrive at Haneda and depart from Haneda for Hokkaido, you don’t spend much for access. But you need to spend at least 1,000 yen. And also you need to think about the fare for sightseeing. If you arrive at Narita and depart from Narita, you may spend about 5,000 to 6,000 yen.
If you arrive at Kandai and depart from Kansai, ICOCA and Haruka includes round trip by Haruka and 1,500 yen preloaded e-money.
These above samples show you about airport access. Even though some deals include e-money, you may spend more. So even if you fly to Hokkaido, you may think about Japan Rail Pass 7 days for both Tokyo/Osaka and Hokkaido as long as you complete travel in 7 days. If you travel Hokkaido for 5 days, you can purchase Hokkaido Rail Pass 5 days and some deals in Tokyo or Osaka. It may be cheaper than Japan Rail Pass 7 days.