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.

AdultChild
3 days16,500 yen8,250 yen
Flex 4 days22,000 yen11,000 yen
5 days22,000 yen11,000 yen
7 days24,000 yen12,000 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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi
    JR Hokkaido pass : Looking at the map coverage of this pass, can you please confirm if I can travel from Datemombetsu -Hakodate using JR Hokkaido Pass.

    I wasn’t able to find JR Hokkaido contact details.
    JR East confirmed the above route is covered in JR East South pass but unable to confirm if it’s covered under JR Hokkaido pass

    Thanks

  2. Sapporo to Hokodate take 4hrs by rapid..you should reserve seats at Hokodate station to Noboribetsu when you reach Hokodate. Sapporo to Furano will take you 3hrs by rapid train and transfer to local train in order to reach Furano..Furano is our favourite..At this time Tomita Farm is closed. Sapporo to Otaru travel time is 30mins..you can reserve seat at Otaru station..from Sapporo 8pm no more rapid to Otaru..locat train will take you 1hr to Otaru..my advise is to get hold of your travel schedule and reserve seats for the following day to make your travel easy and not to miss your train.

  3. Hi Takeshi san,
    I am hoping you would be able to assist us in getting the right pass.. below is our itinerary

    4/2 New Chitose -> Sapporo
    5/2 Sapporo -> Hakodate
    6/2 Hakodate -> Noboribetsu
    7/2 Noboribetsu -> Furano
    8/2 Furano -> Asahikawa
    9/2 Asahikawa -> Otaru -> Sapporo
    10/2 Sapporo -> New Chitose

    1. I just got back from Hokkaido..please bear in mind travel time and train schedule..Sapporo to Hokodate take 4hrs by rapid train..at train station you can make your rapid train reservation for your next day schedule to Helly Valley but note on train timing. Sapporo to Furano by rapid train and local train to reach take 3hrs..Sapporo to Otaru by rapid is 30mins but after 8pm you can only travel by local train which take 1hr ride..Otaru and Sapporo station easily access for rapid train reservation and travel information just next counter.

  4. Hi Takeshi, great website! I have a few questions.

    I’m arriving in Sapporo on Wed 7 February 2018 (snow festival week) and I’d like to do the suggested itinerary found on this link: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/pdf/ml/201511_e.pdf

    1. Given that it’s snow festival season, is it likely to be difficult to book reserved tickets for all of those trips? It looks like there are only a few trains travelling every day.
    2. How far in advance can / should I book reserved seats?
    3. Does it cost any extra to reserve seats or to get on certain trains?
    4. We have an extra day in addition to the itinerary (8 days total), where would you recommend to stay an extra day?
    5. What would be the best ticket for me to buy? I was thinking about either the Hokkaido Rail Pass (5-day) or the JR Pass.

    1. Hi Will,

      First of all, this trip plan is made by 2016 schedule. Many of trains/buses timetable may be different. I’m not sure JR Hokkaido will update 2017 version or not.

      1. Yes. Many of trains will be sold out.

      2. You can book at 10:00 am on one month prior to the trip date. You should book right after ticket on sale.
      e.g Travel date Feb 8th, ticket on sale on Jan 8th, 10:00 am (Japan time)

      You can book major trains online.
      https://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/English/wb/common/Menu/Menu.aspx?_ga=1.4778995.1325107855.1421419524

      But you cannot book for seasonal trains, such as SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen train and Asahiyama zoo train. You need to book upon arrival but you may not be able to make it. So I recommend you to exclude these trains. Ryuhyo Norokko train is no longer available. Ordinary train runs instead and no need to book for this.

      You also cannot book Twincle bus online. You need to book it after arrival.

      3,5. I recommend you to use Hokkaido rail pass. No extra cost is paid on top of the pass to take trains. But Hokkaido rail pass covers only trains. You need to pay for taking local bus and even Twincle bus too.

      4. You can add one more day in Sapporo and visit Otaru. And you don’t need to buy Hokkaido rail pass 7 days. Otaru is very closed and single fare is okay.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi-san, I’m planning a trip to Hokkaido for my family and so far, the planned itinerary looks like this:

    Day 1-3 Sapporo
    Day 4 Sapporo to Noboribetsu
    Day 5 Noboribetsu to Furano
    Day 6 Furano to Sapporo, then to Otaru (day trip)
    Day 7 Sapporo to New Chitose for our flight out

    With this, would the JR Hokkaido 3 day rail pass be economical already? I’m still quite confused but does the rail pass cover reserved seating for the Limited Express trains? Thanks.

  6. Hi Takeshi-san,
    I intend to buy a 7 day Hokkaido Rail Pass for my trip in January 2018. I will be using that for my last day of travel from Abashiri to Sapporo on the Ltd Exp. Okhotsk 4 at 1725h. The reserved seating fee is 3,110 yen and for green car is 6,700 yen, do I pay the difference of 3,590 yen if I choose a green car seating or the full 6,700 yen?
    Thank you.

  7. Hi need advised here is our Itinerary .
    Day 1 chitose airport to Sapporo.
    Day 2 Sapporo to asahikawa – zoo back to Sapporo.wants to get zoo pass.
    Day 3 Sapporo to Abashiri back to Sapporo
    Day4 Sapporo to Hokadate back to Sapporo
    Day5 Sapporo to Otaru back to Sapporo
    Day 6&7 not decided yet
    Day 8 Sapporo to chitose airport.
    How many days Hokkaido pass do u suggest we should buy. I was thinking day 1&8 buy single ticket.please advise. We are still holding the Icoca from our Osaka/Kyoto trip.

    1. Hi Kam,

      If you stay in Sapporo or surrounding area, 3 days pass for Asahikawa, Hakodate and Abashiri is okay. You don’t need Hokkaido Rail Pass for New Chitose to/from Sapporo and trip to Otaru.
      By the way, trips to Hakodate and Abashiri are very long trip. Especially it takes 5 hours to get Abashiri from Sapporo. You will spend more than 10 hours and you can stay there for 5 hours only. If you understand it, it’s okay. But if you don’t, please see the link below to find the timetable.
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/index.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

Before you leave your comment, please see the conditions below.
  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve. When you submit your comment, the page will be reloaded but nothing happens. Your comment will be shown when I approve. Please click submit only once and wait for my approval.
  • 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.
  • I cannot recommend any hotels other than which I have stayed. Basically I cannot talk about hotels in this site. The number of hotels are too many to talk about by my experience.
  • 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.
  • Please do not ask me to reply to your inquiry by email. In this website, I would like to share all information with any readers. I do not communicate with you directly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*