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Hokkaido Transportation Guide

When it comes to a tour of Hokkaido, the most important thing is to familiarize yourself with the Hokkaido transportation system. Luckily, this article discusses the three airports, the other transportation systems available, and even a guide to the JR 7-day pass.

Airports

There are three airports in Hokkaido: Sapporo New Chitose Airport, Asahikawa Airport, and Hakodate Airport. Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido, and so we recommend that you choose New Chitose Airport as your first stop.
Photo by MiNe via Flickr

Sapporo New Chitose Airport to Sapporo City

By Bus: A bus from New Chitose to Sapporo departs every 10 to 15 minutes. One trip takes approximately 80 minutes.
By JR Airport Express Train: The train departs every 15 minutes and takes 36 minutes to get to Sapporo.
By Taxi: A taxi from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo takes roughly 60 minutes and costs around 13,000 yen.

From Asahikawa Airport to Asahikawa City

By Bus: The bus from Asahikawa Airport to Asahikawa City takes 30 to 40 minutes and costs 620 yen.
By Taxi: A taxifrom Asahikawa Airport to Asahikawa City takes 30 to 40 minutes and costs roughly 4,100 yen. 

From Hakodate Airport to JR Hakodate Station

By Bus: The bus from Hakodate Airport to JR Hakodate Station takes 20 minutes and costs about 410 yen. 


Intercity Transportation

Traveling by Rental Car

Hokkaido is a massive region, and so we strongly recommend that tourists eligible for an International Driver license opt to travel by rental car. 

There are many rental car agencies in Japan, such as Toyota Rent a Car, Nissan Rent a Car, Nissan Rent a Car, and the like. You will not only find them in airports and JR stations, as they are also easy to find all over the city. There are various kinds of rental vehicles available, ranging from van and full-sized vehicles to compact-sized vehicles and even electric cars! Reaching your destination is extremely convenient, as you simply need to key in the phone number of your destination in the GPS device.

JR Rail

JR Hokkaido Rail Pass
In Hokkaido, JR is the main form of public transportation as it covers most of its cities and tourist destinations. Tourists can avail of a JR Hokkaido Rail Pass, which is a special coupon for foreigners that entitles them to use it when traveling throughout Hokkaido.

Validity:
With the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can take any of the JR Hokkaido trains and bus liners, except for select routes.
 
Ordinary car: Ride on reserved seats on the rapid train and limited express trains.
First-class car: Ride on limited express trains.
Sleeping car: Surcharges are required for sleeping cars.

Types and Fares:
There are four kinds of JR Hokkaido Rail pass available: The three-day pass at 16,500 yen, four-day pass at 22,000 yen, five-day pass at 22,000 yen, and seven-day pass at 24,000 yen.
 
The three-, five- and seven-day passes must be used continuously on your first ride. The four-day pass, however, is more flexible as it allows you to ride on any four days you choose.
北海道鐵路周遊券
How to purchase

Overseas Purchase
You may purchase a voucher in your home country, and exchange it for your rail pass at Hokkaido JR stations. Note that you must exchange your rail pass within three months.One pass is valid only for one passport. 

Purchasing in Japan
Simply present your passport and purchase your Hokkaido rail pass at Sapporo station, New Chitose Airport, or at the JR information desk.

Bus Service

Sapporo is the main hub of the Hokkaido bus system, and from here it expands to every region in the city. The long-distance bus from Sapporo can reach Furano, Hakodate, Asahikawa, Otaru, Toyako Onsen, Wakkanai, Jozankei, Kushiro, Tomakomai, Noboribetsu, and Nemuro. All bus routes are operated by local bus carriers. The longest route takes approximately eight hours.
Photo by 4563_pic via Flickr
Intercity High-speed bus
Sapporo is the main hub of the Intercity High-speed bus system. There are 17 liners traveling from Sapporo to Hakodate, Asahikawa, Shiretoko, and many other cities. One thing worth highlighting is that they also provide separate seating areas for men and women in the night coach liner, reassuring the safety of women who are traveling alone. There are limited seats available, however, so reserve ahead of time for this service. 

Tour bus
如果想要在有限的時間裡充分轉遍北海道,不如乘坐觀光巴士。特別是到偏遠的地方也有可以直達的車輛,非常便利。另外,從札幌出發沿著小樽等地環遊的路線中,還設有英語、漢語的導遊服務,十分方便。

Tips
Bus service companies such as Chuo Bus, Donan Bus, Akan Bus, and Abashiri Bus are all private companies that travel only to specific areas in Hokkaido. Therefore, traveling by bus in Hokkaido may not be the best option for most tourists as researching for many different bus operating hours and routes can be a daunting and labor-intensive task. 

By Airplane
Local and international airlines are well-connected to the major cities in Hokkaido. If budget is not a concern, traveling by airplane is one option that will certainly save you time. You will only need to pay attention to the flight schedule, flight duration and periods of operation, as they may vary per season.
 
Here is a quick comparison of the different ways to get from Sapporo to Abashiri:
By JR, it takes more than five hours. By bus, it takes even longer! By propeller airplane, the trip is only about 50 minutes from Sapporo New Chitose Airport to The price of flying, however, is as twice as high as traveling by JR and triple the cost of taking a bus.
圖片來源 flickr 由 かがみ~ 提供

札幌市內交通

Photo by かがみ~ via Flickr

By JR Airport Express Train 

The train departs every 15 minutes and takes 36 minutes to get to Sapporo Station. Operation hours are from 6:53 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 

By Bus 

From New Chitose to Sapporo to Sapporo City, the bus departs every 10 to 15 minutes and takes you an hour and 10 minutes.

By Subway 

The subway is probably the most convenient and affordable way to travel to Sapporo city. The Sapporo Subway has the Tozai line, Namboku line and Toho line, and operates from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. With these three subway lines, you can basically access any tourist destination. The Namboku line is a particularly good choice for tourists because you can easily travel to Odori Park, Nakajima Koen, and Susukino. 

北海道路線圖
Namboku Line-Green Line: There are a total of 16 stops from Asabu to Makomanai.
Tozai Line-Orange Line: There are a total of 19 stops from Miyanosawa to Shin Sapporo.
Toho Line-Blue Line: There a total of 14 stops from Sakaemachi to Fukuzumi.

By Bus

The Sapporo city bus service, run by the Chuo Bus company, is known to be convenient, clean, and on-time. Chuo Bus also provides a one-day tour and other packages for tourists.
 
Check out the website for more information: http://teikan.chuo-bus.co.jp/zh/
Photo by 4563_pic via Flickr

By Taxi 

Taxis are everywhere in Sapporo city. Simply raise your hand to hire one when needed. It costs 650 yen within 1.6 kilometers as a baseline, and an additional 80 yen for every 309 meters. Tourists may also opt to use a chartered car. You can call the Sapporo City Tourist Information Center for more details by calling 011-222-4894. Available Languages are Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.
 
Generally, Sapporo taxis are convenient and known for their good service. The price, however, is relatively high compared to the bus and subway. Also, not all drivers speak or understand English.

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