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

noboribetsuHokkaido Area
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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

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Covered area by Hokkaido Rail Pass

Hokkaido Rail Pass cover all JR conventional lines in Hokkaido. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is not covered even though a part of the Hokkaido Shinkansen runs in Hokkaido.

Valid trains and bus lines

The rule of Hokkaido Rail Pass is similar to Japan Rail Pass. The only difference is the coverage area. All daytime trains in Hokkaido are covered by this pass. You can book a 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.

Please find the train network in Hokkaido in the link below:

You can find the major train’s timetable in the link below:

Due to COVID-19, it may be operated on a schedule different from the normal timetable. Check the train schedule on Hyperdia.
Hyperdia perfect guide, train timetable and route search engine

Types and prices

Hokkaido Rail Pass have four types, 3-day, 5-day, 7-day and Flex 4-day. I would like to compare these prices and single fare.
*Green pass was terminated on March 31, 2015.

 AdultChild
3-day17,400 yen8,700 yen
Flex 4-day23,480 yen11,740 yen
5-day23,480 yen11,740 yen
7-day25,710 yen12,850 yen

The passes except Flex 4-day must be used in consecutive days. The validity of a rail pass starts from 12 O’clock at night (midnight to midnight).

e.g.
If you start to use 3-day 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-day 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-day and 5-day. It is quite easy to get your money worth of even 7-day 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-day and Hokkaido Rail Pass 7-day is 6,300 yen. Hokkaodo Rail Pass + extra fare is still cheaper than Japan Rail Pass 7-day. But the price difference is not such a big amount.

If you think about purchasing Hokkaido Rail Pass 7-day, you should make sure that you don’t go outside of Hokkaido. Otherwise you should purchase Japan Rail Pass 7-day.

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 Kansai 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-day for both Tokyo/Osaka and Hokkaido as long as you complete travel in 7-day. If you travel Hokkaido for 5 days, you can purchase Hokkaido Rail Pass 5-day and some deals in Tokyo or Osaka. It may be cheaper than Japan Rail Pass 7-day.

I hope you will enjoy your trip in Hokkaido by Hokkaido Rail Pass.

Comments

  1. James To says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Does the Hokkaido rail pass cover the train trip from Sapporo to Abashiri?

    Regards,

    James

  2. Claire says:

    Hi Takeshi San,

    I will be travelling to Hokkaido from 22 Dec to 30 Dec. Appreciate if you could advise which pass / how should I travel within the places that I plan to visit.

    Following is my draft itinerary:

    22 Dec : Sapporo – Hakodate
    24 Dec : Hakodate – Lake Toya
    25 Dec : Lake Toyota – Niseko
    26 Dec : Niseko – Otaru
    27 Dec : Otaru – Sapporo

    Thank you.

  3. Chloe Ong says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Highly appreciated if you could advise me . I planning travel to Tokyo + Hokkaido on 29/4~9/5/2017. Just realised there is golden week in Japan . I read some article talking about JR Hokkaido Pass Flexi-4days not valid during this period.

    Please advise. Thank you

  4. Ifah says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Is it worth it for me to get the JR Pass for 14 days if I’m travelling around the following cities?

    5N in Hokkaido (Mainly in Sapporo, Hakodate and Noboribetsu)
    1N in Nara (arriving from Kansai Airport)
    3N in Kyoto
    4N in Osaka

  5. Jumaliah says:

    Hi…Takeshi
    I planning Dec to go Hokkaido Sapporo Otaru from Osaka. Is JR train cover Hokkaido?

  6. Avery says:

    Hi Takeshi San,

    I am planning a 2 week trip starting with flying into chitose on October 6 evening.
    Oct 6-7 in Sapporo
    8-9 in Asahikawa including trip to Zoo and Day national park
    10 in abashiri
    11 Shari-shiretoko
    12 Kushiro
    13 lake akan
    14 noribetsu
    15/16 Hakodate
    17 niseko or straight to otaru
    18back to Sapporo

    I guess the best thing is to get 2 7day passes? Can’t think of any other way to do it. Thanks so much for your help

  7. Iva says:

    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?

  8. Lie Lie says:

    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

  9. Ella says:

    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

    • 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:
      https://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

      • Ella says:

        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

        • 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

          • Ella says:

            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

            • 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

            • 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

  10. Peter says:

    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.

    • Hi Peter,

      Single ticket is cheaper than Hokkaido Rail Pass. There is no other better deals available than single fare.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • Peter says:

        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

        • 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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