Hokkaido Rail Pass. The best deal for rail trip in Hokkaido for oversea visitors.

World famous Sapporo Snow Festival (C) Yasufumi Nishi / (C) JNTO
World famous Sapporo Snow Festival (C) Yasufumi Nishi / (C) JNTO

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

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

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.

Hamanasu carpet seat is not covered fully by the pass. (C) JP Rail

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.

Adult Child
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
Super Hokuto
Most of Hokkaido Limited Express trains are operating for a long transfer.

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):

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.

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.

92 thoughts on “Hokkaido Rail Pass. The best deal for rail trip in Hokkaido for oversea visitors.”

  1. Hi Takeshi, I ‘ll be travelling to Hakkaido mid of December and I will visit Sapporo (1st stop) – Otaru – Niseko – Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Hakodate (leave Hokkaido after this). I did some train fare calculation, I don’t think I need Hokkaido rail pass. Since I won’t be travelling back to Sapporo after Hakodate, Hokkaido rail pass will not pay off the trip. Right?

  2. Hi Takeshi San,
    we are planning to go to Sapporo on Dec 19, 2016 until Dec 27, 2016. We arrive in New Chitose airport and we will be back from Tokyo. In Sapporo , we want to go to Asahikawa, Tommamu, Otaru,Hakkodate lastly Tokyo. Which one we must choose between JR Rail or Hokaodo Pass? Some peope advise us use buses….is it convenience? pls advise. Thank u

    1. Hi Lie Lie san,

      There is no bus services between Tokyo and Sapporo. Your choice is train or flight. But flight fare is fixed so I cannot compare flight and train. As long as you use the train, your choice is only JR Pass. As long as you use the pass for the trip in Hokkaido and train to Tokyo in 7 days, you can use 7 days JR pass. 14 days is too pricey. So try to put these trips in 7 days period. Once you get in Tokyo, you don’t need JR pass. Subway pass is okay.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi San,

    I will be visiting Hokkaido from Sept 10-20, flying into New Chitose Airport from Canada. Here below is my travel itinery:
    Sept 12 Minami-Chitose to Hakodate
    Sept 15 Hakodate to Tomamu
    Sept 16 Tomamu to Sapporo
    Sept 18 Sapporo to Otaru , same day return
    Sept 20 Sapporo to Chitose Airport

    Wonder if I should use IC card to travel instead of the Hokkaido Pass?
    I have used Herperdia to check the price of tickets but it does not seem to be updated. The JR trip from Sapporo to Chitose was only ¥840 , it should be ¥ 1070. Where can I check the most updated ticket price?
    Many thanks, Ella

    1. Hi Ella san,

      You can use IC card for only New Chitose – Sapporo segment. It costs 1070 yen. Hyperdia shows 1070 yen and it’s right.

      Other areas are outside IC card area. So IC Card cannot replace Hokkaido Rail Pass.

      By the way, huge storm hit Hokkaido area a few days ago. Lots of trains are suspended now. As of today, there is not trains running to Hakodate from Sapporo or New Chitose. This train may be okay in mid September, but not sure.

      Limited Express train running between Sapporo and Kushiro/Obihiro are suspended. JR Hokkaido says these trains will be suspended for at least one month. Actually these trains stop at Tomamu station. At this point, you cannot get there by train. I think you cannot get there in mid September by train. Please see the link below to find the info:
      http://jprail.com/train-operation-status

      I’m sorry to tell you this condition. But you should know this before you go.

      I will update train operation status whenever it changes. Please stick around.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you so much Takeshi San for the heads up! We have decided to cancel our trip to Tomamu and go directly from Hakodate to Sapporo on Sept 15. We are so lucky to get your advice ahead of time and are able reserve hotel night in Sapporo.
        Wonder if JR has resumed its service between Sapporo and Hakodate now?
        As regards the IC card, I am planning to buy the Kitaka and use it for my JR train ride between Sapporo and Hakodate. Can I use Kitaca instead of the Hakkaido Pass?
        Thanks again for your fast and first hand tips!
        Best, Ella

        1. Hi Ella san,

          The segment between Sapporo and Hakodate is now back to normal. You can travel between Hakodate and Sapporo with no problem.
          Kitaca can be used in Sapporo only. You cannot use it for Sapporo-Hakodate. You must have a regular ticket or Hokkaido Rail Pass.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Thanks again Takeshi San:)
            With regards to the JR train ticket, I guess It may not justify a Hokkaido Rail Pass?
            If my guess is right, should/ could I buy the Economic Tickets for Sapporo / Hakodate for my following trips assuming I want reserved seats on Limited Express Hokuto’s ordinary cars:
            Sept 12 Minami Chitose Station to Hakodate, returning Sept 15 Hakodate to Sapporo JR Station.
            Or should I buy separate tickets with reserved seats?
            Also, is Midori-no-madoguchi available at Minami-Chitosi Station In case I need to buy the Economic Tickets?
            If you think I should buy single tickets, can I buy them through the vending machine? I presume it is cash only?
            Sorry, so many questions… Look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks, Ella

          2. Hi Ella san,

            Your choice is only regular ticket. Because even if you have round trip between Hakodate and Sapporo by limited express Hokuto reserved seat, 3 days Hokkaido rail pass is slightly cheaper. But you will stay in Hakodate for 4 days. Flex 4 days pass and 5 days pass is too expensive. Even though you have round trip to Otaru, it’s not enough.

            If you have another long trip, like Sapporo to Asahikawa return, 4 days flex pass is considerable. At this point, only single regular ticket is your choice.

            If you purchase base fare ticket and limited express reserved seat ticket, you have to go to reservation window that is called “Midori no Madoguchi”. You can find this window at most of major JR stations, such as New Chitose Airport, Sapporo, Hakodate in advance.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          3. Hi Ella san,

            JR Hokkaido has announced that the train will start to run between Sapporo and Tomamu on September 9th. So you can access to Tomamu when you come to Japan.
            However the schedule will be different from regular schedule. JR Hokkaido has not released the tentative timetable yet. So if you go there, please get the updated info when you arrive.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Dear Sir/ Madam,

    Is it worth to buy the Hokkaido JR pass if the itinerary is such:-

    Chitose Airport – Noboribetsu
    Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
    Lake Toya – Sapporo
    Sapporo – Chitose airport

    Please advise.

    Thank you.

      1. Hi Takeshi San,

        Even if i require to travel around Sapporo during my three days stay?

        Understand I require to travel by limited train & buses when i’m in all these areas?

        Please advise.

        Thank you

        1. Hi Peter san,

          For sightseeing in and around Sapporo, Hokkaido Rail Pass is not useful. You will take streetcar, subway and city bus. These are not covered by Hokkaido Rail Pass anyway. You need to have city deal.
          https://www.city.sapporo.jp/st/english/fareandticket.html#daycard

          In my rough calculation, your total fares are less than 15000 yen. It’s not enough to use even 3 days Hokkaido Rail Pass. You need one more big trip, like trip to Hakodate or Asahikawa. But if you add these places, you need to have 5 days or flex 4 days pass.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • Please do not ask me about the access to your hotel. You can google your hotel and find it at hotel website or google map easily.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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