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.

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

  1. Dear Takeshi San,

    I will be visiting Hokkaido next year June, I am planing to rent a car for half way till Sapporo. I am not sure what kind of train pass should I purchase for my 3 days in Sapporo. Appreciate your advise for the below itinerary;

    Day 1 – New Chitose airport to Noboribetsu (by car)
    Day 2 – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo (by car)
    Day 3 – Sapporo ( by train)
    Day 4 – Sapporo – Asahikawa – Sapporo(by train)
    Day 5 – Sapporo – New Chitose airport (by train)

    Thanks!

    GC

  2. Hi Takeshi San,

    Can I buy both Hokkaido Rail Pass and JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass under my name but for my brother usage in Japan when he travel there?

    Thank you.
    Ms. Kage

  3. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I’m wondering whether I should get Hokkaido Rail Pass at all. My itinerary is as below:

    09 Jan Arrive at CTS. Will be staying at Sapporo.
    10 Jan Sapporo
    11 Jan Sapporo to Asahiyama Zoo and return to Sapporo
    12 Jan Sapporo to Tomamu and return to Sapporo
    13 Jan Sapporo to Otaru and return to Sapporo
    14 Jan Sapporo to Lake Toya, overnight at Lake Toya
    15 Jan Lake Toya to Hakodate, overnight at Hakodate
    16 Jan Hakodate to Tokyo (domestic flight)

    I’ve read that there is another cheaper ticket (S-Kippu) to get to Asahikawa Station and also there is Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass. I am also concern that trains might get cancelled because of the weather. If I am not using Hokkaido Rail Pass, I would have to purchase another ticket if the train is cancelled? Please advise.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Sherene san,

      I recommend you to use Flex 4 days Hokkaido Rail pass for trip to Asahikawa, Tomamu, Lake Toya and Hakodate.
      It’s very rare that train is suspended between Otaru and Sapporo, and between Sapporo and Asahikawa. So in case of bad weather, you can switch your trip date to Tomamu. You can use any 4 days in 10 days period to use Flex 4 days pass. It is flexible.

      For New Chitose to Sapporo and Sapporo to Otaru, single ticket is okay. You can use Otaru Welcome pass for the trip to Otaru if you have small trips in Sapporo before/after trip to Otaru.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi san,

        Thank you for your reply. Just to confirm, can I purchase the Hokkaido Rail Pass when I arrive in Hokkaido? According to the website, one can purchase the pass from Sapporo Station.

        For the trip to Asahiyama Zoo, will the Hokkaido Rail Pass cover the bus trips as well? If not, I think it will be better to purchase the Asahiyama Zoo Ticket, which covers the train ride, bus ride and the zoo ticket? Then maybe I can purchase 3 days instead of the 4 days flex pass.

        Thanks again.
        Sherene

  4. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I’m going to Hokkaido only, below is my itinerary. Just wondering if getting the hokkaido pass is worth it or single fare. As you mentioned above, the green car is terminated, does the hokkaido pass still allows reserved seats? The period that I’m traveling seems to be peak domestic travel period. Please advise.

    28 Dec: Arrival at CTS, to Sapporo (various hotels)
    29 Dec to 1 Jan: Sapporo *Using Sapporo as base to visit other towns e.g. ski resorts (Tomamu, Niseko, Teine), Nikka whiskey, Sapporo beer hall and etc.
    2 Jan to 3 Jan: Sapporo to Otaru (Grand Park Otaru)
    4 Jan: Otaru to Lake Shikotsu (Tsuruga Resort Spa Mizu no Uta)
    5 Jan: Lake Shikotsu to Noboribetsu (Takinoya)
    6 Jan: Noboribetsu to Lake Toya (Toya Nonokaze)
    7 Jan to 8 Jan: Lake Toya to Hakodate (La Jolie Motamachi)
    9 Jan: Departure from Hakodate airport

    Many thanks for your informative blog.
    Zac

    1. Hi Zac san,

      I think Flex 4 days pass will suit your plan. You may use the pass for Lake Toya to Hakodate, Lake Shikotsu to Noboribetsu and Sapporo to Tomamu return. If you sure to visit Niseko, you may use one day for this. Single fare is okay for other days. Between Noboribetsu and Toya, express bus runs. Only Japanese link is available.
      http://donanbus.co.jp/citybus/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2013/11/%E9%83%BD10%E7%99%BB%E5%88%A5%E6%B4%9E%E7%88%BA.pdf

      It says 9:00 and 15:00 departure. The fare is 1700 yen. I takes 1 hr 13 mins. You may get the detailed info at the hotel in Noboribetsu. Reservation is not required.

      Hokkaido Rail Pass allows you to reserve a seat.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi San,

    I will be visiting Hokkaido from Nov 30 to Dec 8, flying into New Chitose Airport from Osaka. (Nov 21 to Nov 29 will be in Osaka from San Francisco) Here is my plan:

    Nov 30: Osaka to New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
    Dec 1: Sapporo to Lake Toya
    Dec 2: Lake Toya to Noboribetsu
    Dec 3: Noboribetsu to Hakodate
    Dec 4: Hakodate to Sapporo
    Dec 5-7: Sapporo & Otaru
    Dec 8: Sapporo to New Chitose Airport

    I’m thinking to purchase JR Hokkaido Pass, just can’t decide to buy 5 or 7 days, and do not know whether I should start using it on Nov 30 or Dec 1? Do you think it’s worth to purchase the JR Hokkaido Pass? Can I purchase the JR Hokkaido Pass in New Chitose Airport or I need to purchase it in USA? You have mentioned that the Pass will cover JR Hokkaido Bus, how do I know which buses are JR Hokkaido Bus ? I will have a ICOCA card, can I use it in Hokkaido? Any more pass you recommend me to purchase as well? Many thanks.

    Louisa

    1. Hi Louisa,

      5 days Hokkaido rail pass may suit your plan for Nov 30 to Dec 4. But it does not give you a big saving. It’s almost equal to total fares for this 5 days.
      7 days pass is okay but you will travel to Otaru only in 7 days. Single fare is slightly cheaper but if you want to have convenience, you can go for 7 days.

      Regarding bus, please forget this. As far as I know, it covers Sapporo-Otaru bus only. You can take trains on this segment. It does not matter.

      You can purchase Hokkaido rail pass in Hokkaido too. Please see the link below:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail02.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JRPail.com

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