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 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:

Timetable is not available until further notice due to the train suspenstion due to COVID-19.

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.

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).

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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi-san,
    I will be visiting Hokkaido and will do a 4-day trip, the places we wanted to visit are: Shirogane Blue Pond, Noboribetsu, Niseko, Otaru and Sapporo.
    Here’s the high level itinerary I made:

    Day 1: Day tour at Niseko from Sapporo (can choose bus tour or train)
    Day 2: Shirogane Blue Pond, Shirahige Falls (and/or Furano)
    Day 3: Otaru
    Day 4: Sapporo day tour

    I am not sure if I’ll be staying in 1 hotel (because most of them are day tours). Can you advise if I can stay in 1 hotel/area only? Also, is 3-day Hokkaido JR Pass will be worth the purchase?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,
        Thanks for your reply. So you’re suggesting we do DIY to Shirogane blue pond instead of joining tours? How about Noboribetsu? Can we also include that in our day tour trips and use the Hokkaido rail 3-day pass?

        Thank you.

        1. Hi Kat san,

          If you use Hokkaido Rail Pass, you have to visit Furano and Shirogane by yourself. Because you cannot get the worth of the pass if you join a tour. I don’t hae any info of tour. But it should be easier than visiting by yourself. It’s totally up to you.

          If you include Noboribetsu, you will spend almost one day. So you have to do Otaru and Sapporo in one day. It is not impossible but it’s depends on how much you want to spend the time in Sapporo and Otaru. If you visit many places in Sapporo and Otaru, you need one day each and don’t have enough time to visit Noboribetsu.


          Takeshi /

    1. Hi Tika,

      Yes, you may. There is no restrictions to use the pass in the specific dates. But you will travel in very busy season. Especially a long distance train, such as Sapporo-Hakodate, Sapporo-Kushiro, will be very crowded from 28th to 30th. If you travel in the short distance, such as Sapporo-Otaru, it is okay because you will take a commute train. Otherwise you should book a seat online right away.


      Takeshi /

  2. Hi Mr. Takashi! nice to know u. my name is liemgina. This is my first backpacker with my friends. I havent buy any tickets from tokyo to hokaido, i will go there between 4th-12th of dec for approximately 4 days in hokaido. (do you have any recommendation of which airport that i should take?)
    i already made a list of the place that im interested to go.
    furano = ningle terrace
    noboribetsu = jokigu-dani (hell valey) , date jidaimura
    lake toya = lake toya and illumination tunnel
    otaru = otaru canal for sure, but i havent decided if i want to go to otaru beer; steam clock; formel nihon yusen building (well it depends on the time that we have)
    sapporo = akarenga terrace, odori park, susukino (to try ramen), shiroikoibito park, beer museum, and clock tower.

    do you have any recommendation of the jr pass/bus? maybe if i take the jr pass for 4 days its gonna be worth it, dont u think so? can i go to all of the area with jr pass only? can you help me to arrange the fix itinerary for me? its very hard u know :(, where i should be going in day one, day two, etc.

    thankyou so much for your help.

    1. Hi liemgina,

      You can make this trip in 4 days but you have to visit Noboribetsu and Lake Toya in one day. I will visit these places before. Please find my travel report in the link below:

      You will arrive and depart at New Chitose (Sapporo) airport. There is no other choices.

      You may use 3-day Hokkaido Rail Pass because you will take subway, tram and city bus in Sapporo. These are not covered by Hokkaido Rail Pass. So you will use the pass for Otaru, Noboribetsu/Lake toya and Furano. And also local bus in Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Furano are not covered by JR pass either.

      You can put Sapporo on day 1 or 4. You will use 3-day pass and visit other Sapporo in 3 consecutive days.


      Takeshi /

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    can I activate my Hokkaido Pass 7 days in lake Toya station area?
    I plan to use the pass on my third day on my trip from Lake Toya to Hakodate.
    day 1: I’ll go from chitose airport to noboribetsu by bus
    day 2: noboribetsu to lake toya by bus

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Diana,

      You don’t need to activate at Toya station. When you purchase Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can decide which day you want to start using. So you may choose the day when you travel from Toya station.


      Takeshi /

      1. oh ok, so when I buy the Hokkaido pass from my country, I can say that I want to use it start from 1-7 November. once I arrive at Hokkaido, I don’t need to activate the pass anymore. is it correct?

        Thank you for your help, Takeshi.

        1. Hi Diana,

          Yes. When you exchange the pass, you can tell which day you want to start using it. The date will be stamped on your pass and you can start using it on that day. All you have to do is showing your pass at the station on the day when you start using the pass.

          You can get Asahikawa and Biei by this pass. But the local transportation, such as the local bus are not covered by Hokkaido Rail Pass. If you meant that you want to use the pass to take the bus or other local transportation in Asahikawa and Biei, you cannot. The pass covers only JR train.


          Takeshi /

  4. Hi Takeshi San,
    I plan to purchase Hokkaido Rail Pass and would like to travel on Green Car for Hakodate – Sapporo sector. Do I need to pay full fare for Green Car or just the difference?

  5. Hi,

    I have been researching about trains to Sapporo to Otaru and back but am confused about thr rapid train and the Airport train? Is this the same? This will be my only trip out of Sapporo so i think I shouldnt get the Hokkaido pass. But what ticket should i get for reserved seats for my parents? And where?

    1. Hi Donna,

      Basically the rapid train is same as the airport rapid. Most rapid train run between New Chitose airport, Sapporo and Otaru.

      Hokkaido Rail Pass is way too expensive for your trip. You may buy just a regular ticket. You can purchase a base fare ticket at the vending machine and if you want to reserve the seat, you can purchase it at the ticket window.


      Takeshi /

  6. Hi Mr Takeshi,

    We will be travelling to Hokkaido from 6 to 12 Jun, and would like your advice on this itinerary.

    6 Jun – arrive 12pm in New Chitose
    – Tomamu (2nights stay)
    7 Jun – Tomamu
    8 Jun – Tomamu –> Furano (Farm Tomita) and Biei (Blue Pond)
    Biei –> Sapporo (4nights)
    9 Jun – Sapporo –> Otaru, Shiroikoibito Park, Moerenuma Park
    10 Jun – Sapporo –> Noboribetsu, Lake Toya
    11 Jun – Sapporo –> Hakodate

    Is the plan feasible? And which pass should I get? I understand that I would need to take local buses at Noboribetsu that isn’t covered by the JR Hokkaido passes.
    Also, I read that the buses from Tomamu to furano only starts operation in late Jun. Are there other transport options? If not, would it then make sense for me to head to Sapporo on 8 Jun then do a day trip to Furano/Biei?

    Appreciate your advise pls! Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Yuana,

      Your trip plan is very good. When you go to Furano from Tamamu, you can take Tomamu-Shintoku-Furano route. Please see the link below to find the train route in Hokkaido.

      However you have to change train and bus at Shintoku and Higashi-Shikagoe. And the number of bus and train are very limited between Shintoku and Furano. Please see the link below to find the timetable:

      Even if you take the first train from Tomamu to Shintoku, your choice is 10:49 departure from Shintoku. Actually you can take this bus from the second departure from Tomamu. And you will be Furano in the afternoon.

      If you go to Furano via Sapporo, your arrival time in Furano is almost same time as Shintoku route. So this day may be very tight. If you go to Noboribetsu and Toya from Tomamu, this is easier. You may make a day trip to Furano from Sapporo on 10th instead.

      It takes almost 4 hours from Sapporo to Hakodate. It is possible to make a day trip to Hakodate. But you will spend 7 to 8 hours in the train. Please keep it in your mind.

      You can get the timetable in the link below. You may see the exact time of the train schedule.


      Takeshi /

      1. Thank you for your prompt reply!

        I’ll study the schedules a bit more and adjust my journey to Furano.

        I might go with your suggestion to go Noboribetsu and Lake Toya from Tomamu. Didn’t think of that option earlier! Perhaps I can stay a night at Lake Toya for the fireworks!

        Thanks for highlighting the long journey to Hakodate. Maybe I go Mt Moiwa (from Sapporo) for the nightview instead. That way we don’t end up spending too much time on the journey.

        Do you think I’ll maximise the 7 day Hokkaido JR Pass?

        1. Hi Yuana,

          I think you can use Hokkaido Rail Pass Flex 4-day. You don’t use the pass when you are in Tomamu. And Hokkaido Rail Pass does not help to travel within city of Sapporo. You will take tram, subway and city bus mostly. These are not covered.

          So you can use Flex 4-day for New Chitose to Tomamu, Tomamu to Lake Toya/Noboribetsu, Lake Toya to Sapporo, and round trip to Furano.


          Takeshi /

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