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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m wondering if is it worth to buy the Hokkaido rail pass for my itinerary for 8 days below:

    Day 1 – Chitose > Asahikawa
    Day 2 – Asahikawa> Asahidake > Asahikawa
    Day 3 – Asahikawa >Furano > Lake Toya
    Day 4 – Lake Toya > Hakodate (considering to rent a car)
    Day 5 – Hakodate
    Day 6 – Hakodate > Sapporo
    Day 7 – Sapporo > Otaru > Sapporo
    Day 8 – Sapporo – Chitose

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    1. Hi KY,

      You may use Hokkaido Rail Pass 7 days for the first 7 days of your trip. If you take a train on day 4, it gives you a big saving. Hokkaido Rail Pass is still your choice in case of using rent a car on day 4. But total fare is not much different from total regular fare.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Dear Takeshi San
    I’m planning a trip in early Feb next year. My itinerary is as follows:
    (1) Abashiri for a day
    (2) Kawayu for a day
    (3) Kushiro for 2 days
    (4) Sapporo including Otaru and ski resort for 6 days.
    Trip starts from Abashiri and then proceed to Kawayu by train. Thereafter by train to Kushiro. Can I know if the Hokkaido rail pass is worth it? And are the trains frequent and reliable during the winter period? Is travelling by express buses a more preferred mode of transport at this time due to our luggages and all? Thanks in advance for your valuable advice.
    Cheers
    fUN Goh

    1. Hi Fun Goh san,

      If you take trains for Abashiri – Kawayu Onsen – Kushiro only, single fare is much cheaper. Even if you take a train from Kushiro to Sapporo, single fare is still cheaper than any Hokkaido rail pass.
      JR Hokkaido will revise timetable in this October. There is no timetable for next winter available at this point. You can find the current timetable at the link below. I think it will not be much different.
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/index.html

      Trains do not run very frequently on this segment anyway. I have never taken express bus in Hokkaido, so it’s hard to compare bus and train for me. But in most of cases, train is more reliable than bus in winter condition. But probably bus may run more frequently.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi,

    I plan to travel to Hokkaido in Sep (5-12) and I’m not sure if it is worth it to purchase the Hokkaido Rail pass (4 day flexi or 7 day) or purchase single trip tickets. My itinerary is:

    Day 1: Chitose Airport> Noboribetsu
    Day 2: Noboribetsu
    Day 3: Noboribetsu > Asahikawa
    Day 4: Biei/Furano
    Day 5: Furano> Sapporo
    Day 6: Sapporo > Otaru> Sapporo
    Day 7: Sapporo
    Day 8: Sapporo> Chitose Airport

    Thank you!

          1. Hi Takeshi,

            One more question, do you advise that we purchase reserved seat tickets for our train journeys, in particular the longer jouneys? Thanks!

            Regards,
            Joyce

          2. Hi Joyce,

            Yes. It is recommended. You can book a reserved seat at any major JR stations in advance if you want.
            But if you use Furano Biei Rail Ticket, you cannot book a reserved seat. It includes limited express ticket but you have to take non reserved seat. You cannot take reserved seat by this ticket. If you want to book a reserved seat, you have to use single ticket for Sapporo-Asahlkawa-Furano/Biei-Sapporo too. But it will be more expensive than using Furano Biei ticket. The choice is yours.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi, my bf and I are going to Hokkaido on 1st August 2017 until 7th august.

    My planned itinerary is
    Day 1: Chitose airport -> Hakodate
    Day 2: Hakodate -> Lake Toya -> Noboribetsu
    Day 3: Noboribetsu-> Sapporo
    Day 4: Sapporo -> Otaru -> Sapporo
    Day 5: Sapporo -> Furano & Biei (Overnight at Furano)
    Day 6: Furano -> Asahikawa -> Sapporo
    Day 7: Sapporo -> Chitose Airport

    is it worth to buy a JR Hokkaido pass?

    Please advise. Thank You

  5. Hi,

    i’m planning a trip to Japan in Jul 2017 for approximately 2 weeks. There are no exact plans on where to visit yet but i will be visiting Tokyo and climbing Mount Fuji in the first week, then taking Shinkansen to Hokkaido and spend 2nd week there. Would it be advisable to get the 14 days JR pass?

    Thank you!

  6. I am not sure if the following itinerary can let you plan me the pass, basically i will travel for about 14 days for the following place. I will stay those place which near to the station (if possible) any my place cover the following places:-

    5 days at Sappora
    CTS -Sappora
    Sappora (day trip to Otaru)
    Sapporo (day trip to Asahiyama Zoo)

    3 days at Tamomu
    Sappora – Tomamu

    3 days at Obihiro
    Tomamu – Obihiro

    3 days at Kushiro
    Obihiro – Kushiro

    1. Hi Felicia,

      You may use Flex 4 days Hokkaido Rail Pass for trip to Asahikawa from Sapporo, Sapporo to Tomamu, Tomamu to Obihiro and Obihiro to Kushiro. I think you can do these 4 trips in 10 days. But this pass does not give you a big saving. It will be slightly cheaper than single fare. There is no better deals available other than this pass.

      Single ticket is your choice for the rest of your trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Takeshi,

    For travel from New Chitose Airport to Furano train station, I could just buy a train ticket at the airport right, without having to book a ticket online? Is it a busy period now (3-13 June in Hokkaido)?

    Thank you very much in advance!

  8. Hi Takeshi,

    I will travelling to Hokkaido on 30 Dec to 9 January 2017.
    My itinerary is Sapporo> Otaru> Noboribetsu (1 night)> Hakodate (2nights)> Sappooro (4 nights) – Will be going Arashiyama Zoo, Takino Suzuran Ski Park and Moerenuma park

    Appreciate you can advise as following:
    1) how many days pass I should get?
    2) Is Hokkaido Rail Pass cover all the places above?
    3) Is Limited express super hokuto cover by Hokkaido Rail Pass If I use it from Sapporo to Noboribetsu? and also Noboribetsu to Hakodate?

    Appreciate your help.

    Thanks.
    Esther

    1. Hi Esther,

      You may use Flex 4 days pass for the following segments.
      1) Sapporo to Noboribetsu
      2) Noboribetu to Hakodate
      3) Hakodate to Sapporo
      4) Return trip to Asahikawa from Sapporo

      Hokkaido rail pass covers all JR trains in Hokkaido. So you can take Limited Express Hokuto as many as you want. But this pass does not cover any local transportation, such as bus and subways. So you have to add for these transportation.

      And also you may add Sapporo-Otaru single fare. Flex 4 days + return fare to Otaru is slightly cheaper than 7 days pass. But if you don’t mind to spend a few hundred yen more, go for 7 days pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Hi, may I know how to take train from Noboribetsu to Furano? how much it cost? how about from Furano back to Sapporo?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Ryan,

      There are two ways from Noboribetsu to Furano.
      1. Noboribetsu-Sapporo-Takikawa-Furano
      2. Noboribetsu-Minamichirose-Shintoku-Takikawa]

      Usually 1 is better option but it depends on your departure time. You may find the route map and timetable at the link below:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/index.html

      You can find the fare at hyperdia:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. hi, I am going to Hokkaido on 14 Jul 2016.

    (1) I wondering should I buy the Hokkaido Rail Pass (7 or 5 days?) OR just single fares? My Itinerary as follows: Shin Chitose Airport (reach at 7.40pm) – Sapporo (1 night) – Otaru (1 night) – Lake Toya (1 night) – Noboribetsu (1 night) – Furano (1 night) – Sapporo (3 nights) – Airport. (9 days 8 nights)

    (2) How many hours to take from Shin Chitose Airport to Sapporo by train? Can I buy single tickets at airport?

    Pls advice. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ryan,

      7 days pass is too expensive. If you use 5 days pass for Otaru, Toya, Noboribetsu and Furano, it will be almost same as total single fares. You don’t need the pass for staying in Sapporo. You may take subway, bus and streetcar. Those are not covered by Hokkaido rail pass anyway.

      You can purchase a ticket at vending machine at the airport. Please see the link below to find more info about aiport station and train access to Sapporo:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-access-from-new-chitose-airport-to-sapporo-otaru-asahikawa-and-other-cities-in-hokkaido.html

      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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