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

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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,
    I have the following up coming itinerary and would like you advise on the best mode of travel as i have 2 kids with me.

    21 Dec – Haneda Airport to Nishi-Shinjuku station ( HND Airport Limousine Bus?)
    22 Dec – Free & Easy Tokyo (Tokyo Metro Pass?)
    23 Dec – Free & Easy Tokyo (Tokyo Metro Pass?)
    24 Dec – Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko Train Station
    25 Dec – Free & Easy Hakone ( Hakone Pass?)
    26 Dec – Kawaguchiko Train Station to Niseko (Kutchan)
    27 Dec to 30 Dec Kutchan Free & Easy
    31 Dec Kutchan to New Chitose Airport

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Charlene,

      If you take a train from Kawaguchiko to Kutchan, JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass is required.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/jr-east-south-hokkaido-rail-pass-user-guide-perfect-deal-for-the-travelers-who-visit-tokyo-and-sapporo-by-train.html

      But it is quite far from Kawaguchiko to Kutchan. You need to go back to Tokyo anyway. And then take Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, limited express train to Oshamambe and take a local train to Kutchan. Those following links give you some idea about this trip:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/index.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-get-sapporo.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/trip-report/2017-hokkaido/trip-to-hokkaido-in-2017-winter-part-2-from-sendai-to-oshamanbe.html

      If you don’t want to take a train, you need to take a flight from either Narita or Haneda to New Chitose. In this case, you need Haneda airport access + subway pass deal, Fuji Hakone Pass and single ticket in Hokkaido:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/how-to-access-from-haneda-airport-to-downtown-tokyo.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/fujihakone/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning Hokkaido and Tokyo trip from 13 Dec to 26 Dec, this is my planned itinerary:
    Day 1 – New Chitose Airport to Hakodate
    Day 2 – Hakodate
    Day 3 – Hakodate to Noboribetsu
    Day 4 – Noboribetsu to Sapporo
    Day 5 – Sapporo to Otaru to Sapporo
    Day 6 – Sapporo
    Day 7 – Sapporo to Tokyo (by air)
    Day 8 – Tokyo
    Day 9 – Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchiko to Tokyo
    Day 10 – Tokyo to Yutanaka to Tokyo
    Day 11 – Tokyo to Nikko to Tokyo
    Day 12 to 14 – Tokyo
    Please could you adv. which JR pass should I consider and do you’ve any recommendation on my itinerary? Many thanks and I looking forward receiving your reply.

    1. Hi Angela,

      You may use Hokkaido Rail Pass Flex 4 days pass for day 1, 3, 4 and 5. Single fare is okay for other days before you leave for Tokyo.

      And add JR East Pass Nagano Niigata for day 9, 10 and 11.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/jr-east-pass-niigata-and-nagano-flex-5-days-pass-in-14-days-period-to-cover-kanto-region-nagano-and-niigata.html

      But you need to add extra fare for Otsuki-Kawaguchiko on day 9.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html#Access_to_Lake_Kawaguchi_Kawaguchiko

      You will have two more days of JR East Pass. If you arrive in Narita, you can use it for Narita to Tokyo. Otherwise you can pick up for other date in Tokyo. You may add subway pass in Tokyo.
      https://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’m wondering what type of train is covered under JR Hokkaido Rail Pass. Does it cover Hokuto and Super Hokuto train?

  4. Hi Takeshi san! Should I get a 5 day Hokkaido JR pass? My plan is below.

    Mid January:
    Day 1: Arrive at CTS airport afternoon, train to Hakodate
    Day 2: Travel within Hakodate (bay area, fish market, Goryokaku, Mt. Hakodate)
    Day 3: Hakodate train to Sapporo
    Day 4: Sapporo train to Asahikawa (for Asahiyama Zoo, Asahiyama Station and the surroundings only), train back to Sapporo
    Day 5: Sapporo to Otaru, Otaru train back to Sapporo
    Day 6: Sapporo to CTS, bye bye

    Thank you 🙂

  5. Hi Takeshi,
    I am hoping you would be able to assist us in getting the right pass.
    our itinerary is as follow:
    – 10/10 arrive in Tokyo
    – 12/10 -14/10 Tokyo – Sapporo – Furano
    (we are planning to hire a car to drive to Furano and stay for 2 nights before driving back to Sapporo)
    – 14/10 -17/10 Sapporo (Lake Toya, Otaru, Odori Park, Mount Moiwa)
    – 17/10 – 21/10 Kyoto
    – 21/10 Kyoto – Tokyo
    – 21/10-24/10 Tokyo

    Would we require both JR Pass and JR East South Hokkaido RailPass if we decided to catch the train from Tokyo to Sapporo? We are not planning to stay in Hakodate, and for that reason we are considering if it would be cheaper for us to fly rather than taking train.

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Lii,

      If you use train for both Tokyo to Sapporo and Sapporo to Kyoto, you can use 14 days JR pass. It’s cheaper than JR Pass 7 days and JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass. JR pass covers most part of the coverage area of JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass. In your trip plan, JR Pass is okay.

      However Tokyo to Sapporo is quite far. Sapporo to Kyoto is much more than that. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-get-sapporo.html

      As long as you are okay with this travel time, you can go for JR Pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for your helpful response, I think we are not keen on taking 10 hours train ride from Sapporo to Kyoto or Osaka.
        We decided to fly in from Tokyo to Sapporo and fly out from Sapporo to Osaka. But we will still need to take Shinkansen from Osaka back to Tokyo. Is is still cheaper to purchase a 7 day JR Pass to use from Osaka (from 17-24 Oct).

        Our revised itinerary is as follow:

        – 10/10 arrive in Tokyo
        – 12/10 -14/10 Fly from Tokyo to Sapporo and hire car to drive to Furano and around
        – 14/10 -17/10 Sapporo (driving around Lake Toya, Otaru, Odori Park, Mount Moiwa)
        – 17/10 fly from Sapporo to Osaka
        – 17/10 – 21/10 Osaka – Kyoto
        – 21/10 Kyoto – Tokyo via Shinkansen (need JR pass here?)
        – 21/10-24/10 Tokyo (I assume mostly require subway card within Tokyo?)

        Much appreciated.

        1. Hi Lil,

          JR pass is not required. One way fare plus Shinkansen surcharge is almost half amount of JR Pass 7 days. Single ticket or Platt Kodama is your choice.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

          There are two airports in Osaka. If you arrive at Kansai, you can use ICOCA and Haruka from Kansai to Kyoto. But if you arrive in Itami, you can take a bus and there is no deals.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html
          http://www.okkbus.co.jp/en/timetable/itm/f_kyt.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

        2. I would suggest Li fly direct to Hokkaido then fly out to Osaka and then take bullet train to Kyoto and end his jounery with bullet train to Tokyo.

  6. Hi, hope you can advise if it’s worth to buy Hokkaido JR pass for my family of 4 adults:
    5 Jan: New Chitose Airport to Noboribetsu
    6 Jan: Noboribetsu to Hakodate
    8 Jan: Hakodate to Toyako
    9 Jan: Toyako to Otaru
    11 Jan: Otaru to Sapporo
    14 Jan: Sapporo to New Chitose Airport

  7. Hi Takeshi,
    I have the following up coming itinerary:-
    20th July – Arrive at New chitose airport, travel to Tomamu
    21st July – leave for furano and bei for two nights
    23rd July- leave for sapporo and stay for anite and explore the place
    24rd July – leave for home from new chitose airport.

    In this itinerary, I do expect to travel by trains and occasional taxi when required.
    Do you recommend Hokkaido rail pass. Look forward to your recommendation as I am not sure if I should go for it or not. Thanks

    1. Hi Anand,

      Hokkaido Rail Pass 5 days is okay for your trip. It does not offer a big saving for your trip actually. But there is no deals available other than this.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi Takeshi,
    This is my itinerary:
    June 23: New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
    June 24: Sapporo to Otaru and then Otaru back to Sapporo
    June 25: Sapporo to Noboribetsu
    June 26: Noboribetsu back to Sapporo
    June 27: Sapporo to Furano on Lavender express and then Furano back to Sapporo
    June 28: Sapporo to New Chitose Airport
    Is it more economical to purchase individual JR rail tickets for to purchase a multiple-day pass, and if so, which pass is best?
    Thank you,
    Paul (from Hawaii)

    1. Hi Paul,

      5 days pass may be okay for the first or last 5 days. But total fare is not much different from this pass price. So you get just convenience.
      New Chitose to Sapporo single fare is 1590 yen, so 7 days pass is not better choice than 5 days + single fare.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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