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

noboribetsuHokkaido Area
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 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.

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).

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.


  1. Laura says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you in advance for your willingness to give your readers advice and suggestions about their planned itinerary.

    My family of three will be travelling to Hokkaido and arriving
    on 11 Feb 2018 for a 9 day trip.
    Can you suggest which rail pass I should consider ?
    This is my planned itinerary :
    11-14 feb – Chitose – Asahikawa
    14-17 feb – Asahikawa – Abashiri
    17-18 feb – Abashiri – Kushirogawa
    18-19 feb – Kushirogawa – Chitose
    In between we will be travelling to nearby places.


    • Hi Laura,

      Flex 4 days Hokkaido Rail Pass is your choice. You can use 4 days coverage for these long transfers. You may use a single ticket for small trips.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • Laura says:

        Thank you for your prompt reply and your suggestion.
        I have noted that the difference in cost of the 7 day Hokkaido Rail Pass and the Flex 4 days pass is 2,000 yen. Since we are thinking of doing many short trips, do you think the total amount will cost more than the 2,000 yen that we are ‘saving’ ?


        • Hi Laura,

          I cannot say which one is better. If you use 7 days pass, you have to add single fare for Chitose to Asahikawa in my understanding. You have to pay around 5,000 yen for this segment. If you use more than 5000 yen worth for short trips, 7 days pass is better choice. Please make sure how much you will use for the short trips.


          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Iry says:

    Hello Mr. Takeshi :
    Good day !
    Please guide me & my friends with this itinerary
    Travel time :
    Feb. 17-24,2018.
    Day 1 (2/17) arrival at 3:30pm – Chitose – Sapporo ( overnight stay )
    Day 2 ( 2/18) Sapporo – Otaru ( for the last day of the festival) : 1 day trip – overnight in Sapporo.
    Day 3 ( 2/19 Mon) Sapporo to
    Hakodate ( overnight stay )
    Day 4 ? ( 2/20 Tue) Hakodate to Noboribetsu – ( undecided yet on this as I read it’s too touristy . Should we skip this or is it worth an overnight stay ?)
    can you suggest another place instead for this day before our visit to the zoo the next day .
    Day 5 ( 2/21-Wed) Noboribetsu to
    Asahikawa – ( overnight)
    Day 6 (2/22-Thurs) Asahikawa to
    Abashiri – ( we want to experience the ride on ice breaker Aurora . Overnight stay
    Day 7 (2/23- Fri) Sapporo
    Please advise !
    What kind of pass / passes should I avail for this trip ?

    • Hi Iry,

      You may use 7 days Hokkaido Rail Pass. I like Noboribetsu and it’s worth staying in my opinion. You can find some info from my trip report:


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • iry says:

        Hello Mr. Takeshi
        We really appreciate your quick reply . as you suggested ( read your blog too ) We are considering Noboribetsu on the 4th day . Is it possible that we follow your travel route i.e. explore Noboribetsu
        then take the express bus to Toya ( based on your blog) in the afternoon ? Overnight stay
        from the 5th day is it feasible ? from Toya to Hakodate ? ( overnight stay )
        Can we still make use of the 7 day JR pass when we return to Sapporo for a possible day trip to Jozenkai onset area ?
        Please advise
        Many thanks !

        • Hi Iry,

          You can do it. Or you can drop by Toya on the way to Noboribetsu from Hakodate. Both places are good to stay.
          On 7th day, you will go back to Sapporo from Abashiri. You will spend half day to go back to Sapporo from Sapporo and not enough time to get Jozankei. And Hokkaido Rail Pass does not help the trip to Jozankei. You need to take a bus and it’s not covered.


          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Christine says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I will be traveling to Hokkaido from 22 Jan to 29 Jan 2018. The planned itinerary look like this:

    22/1 Chitose to Sapporo
    23/1 Otaru day trip
    24/1 Sapporo to Hakodate
    26/1 Hakodate to Asahikawa
    28/1 Asahikawa to Sapporo
    29/1 Sapporo to Chitose

    How many days Hokkaido JR Pass would you recommend for the above? Is it necessary to reserve the train ticket in advance?

    Thanks and best regards


  4. Anne says:

    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


  5. Elise Ang says:

    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.

  6. lisan says:

    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

    • Hi Lisan san,

      You may use 7 days Hokkaido Rail Pass.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

    • Elise Ang says:

      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.

  7. Will says:

    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.

    • 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.

      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.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Louise says:

    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.

  9. Sue Wong says:

    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.

  10. Kam Yuen Lan (from Malaysia) says:

    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.

    • 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.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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