If you are thinking of taking some long distance trips in Hokkaido, going by express bus can be a good way to save money. Buses are generally the cheapest way to travel and for some destinations they are more direct with no need for transfers between trains or other forms of transport. Both daytime and nighttime buses are often available and if you take a night bus you will also save money on one night’s accommodation.
On the other hand, express buses generally take a little bit longer than trains, and they can be slowed down by bad traffic or weather conditions. Particularly during Hokkaido’s winter season you should consider whether you want to take the risk of weather-related delays. In this article we will look at all the express bus services running from the Sapporo Station area, including the Airport Limousine Bus service that runs to New Chitose Airport.
Sapporo Station Bus Terminal
Most of the highway bus services running from Sapporo Station can be boarded in the Sapporo Station Bus Terminal. The bus terminal is located on the 1st floor of the Esta building which is on the south-east side of the Sapporo Station building.
The bus terminal has three lanes. The north lane has bus stops 1-6, the middle lane has bus stops 7-12, and the south lane has bus stops 13-18.
Several companies operate highway bus services from this terminal. Donan Bus have a ticket and information counter by Bus Stop 9. Engan Bus have a ticket office by Bus Stop 12. Hokkaido Chuo Bus have a ticket and information counter by Bus Stop 15.
The bus ticket center for JR Hokkaido Bus is located just outside the bus terminal in the Apia underground shopping center (B1 level). However, there is a JR Hokkaido Bus ticket vending machine inside the bus terminal.
There are several timetables on display in the terminal for each of these companies.
For many express bus services you can buy tickets on the day of travel at the bus terminal, but some routes require an advance reservation. JR Hokkaido Bus, Hokkaido Chuo Bus, and Donan Bus have some information on their English language web pages. For some of the most popular routes you can also look up travel times and fares and make advanced bookings online at the English language websites Kosokubus.com and Japanbusonline.com. Chinese and Korean language options are also available on these websites, and bookings can be made from 1 to 4 months in advance.
Sapporo to Otaru Bus
Both JR Hokkaido Bus and Hokkaido Chuo Bus run express bus services to Otaru from Bus Stop 1 in Sapporo Station Bus Terminal. These buses take between 56 and 68 minutes depending on the route and the season and the fare is just 680 yen for adults and 340 yen for children. There is no need to make a reservation for this bus and tickets can be bought on the day of travel.
Sapporo to Niseko Bus
Hokkaido Chuo Bus run express services to Niseko from Bus Stop 1. In the summer season this bus takes around 2 hours and 58 minutes to reach Niseko and in winter it takes around 3 hours and 6 minutes. The fare is 2,350 yen for adults and 1,180 yen for children. Tickets for Niseko can be bought on the day of travel.
Sapporo to Asahikawa Bus
JR Hokkaido Bus and Hokkaido Chuo Bus run express services to Asahikawa from Bus Stop 14. In the summer this bus takes 2 hours and 5 minutes and in the winter it takes 2 hours and 25 minutes. The fare is 2,300 yen for adults and 1,150 yen for children.
Sapooro to Furano Bus
Hokkaido Chuo Bus run express services to Furano from Bus Stop 16. In the summer this bus takes 2 hours and 28 minutes and in the winter it takes 2 hours and 55 minutes. The fare is 2,500 yen for adults and 1,250 yen for children. Tickets for Furano can be bought on the day of travel.
Sapporo to Hakodate Bus
Express services for Hakodate run from Bus Stop 16 and are operated by the Hokkaido Chuo Bus and Donan Bus companies. Daytime services take around 5 hours and 50 minutes and nighttime services take around 6 hours and 30 minutes. The fare is 4,900 yen for adults and 2,450 yen for children. This service requires an advanced reservation.
Here is a complete list of destinations served by express buses running from Sapporo Station Bus Terminal:
|1||Niseko, Iwanai, Bikuni, Yoichi||Chuo|
|8||Iwamizawa, Kuriyama, Yubari, Mikasa||Chuo|
|10||Muroran, Noboribetsu, Noboribetsu Onsen, Tomakomai, Date, Hidaka, Urakawa, Toyako Onsen, Toyoura||Donan|
|11||Haboro, Toyotomi (via Rumoi)||Engan|
|13||Rumoi, Takikawa, Shintotsukawa, Tomakomai, Muroran||Chuo|
|14||Asahikawa, Mombetsu||Chuo, JR|
|15||Nayoro, Kushiro, Abashiri, Kitami||Chuo|
|16||Furano (via Ashibetsu)||Chuo|
Hokkaido Bus New Star Express Buses for Hakodate, Kushiro and Obihiro
Another bus company, called Hokkaido Bus, runs three “New Star” express bus services for Hakodate, Kushiro and Obihiro from Sapporo. These services do not run from the bus terminal but from Bus Stop 10 which is on the south side of Sapporo Station. Bus Stop 10 is on a street that runs north-to-south between a large parking lot and the Tokyu Hands Department Store. Here is a map of its location. Hokkaido Bus highway express services can also be boarded at a bus stop by the Sapporo Streetcar Susukino Stop and at a bus stop in front of Odori Bus Center. Bus seats can be reserved in advance by telephone at 011-889-0800 (Japanese language only) or booked online via Kosokubus.com.
The New Star Express Bus for Hakodate runs six times a day and takes around 5 hours and 30 minutes to reach Hakodate Station. On Sundays there are also two direct services running between Sapporo Station and Hakodate Station that take just 4 hours and 55 minutes. One of the regular services is an overnight bus which departs from Sapporo Station late at night and arrives at Hakodate Station in the early hours of the following morning. The fare is 4,800 yen for adults and 2,400 yen for children.
The New Star Express Bus for Kushiro runs four times on weekdays with one extra service on Sundays and takes around 5 hours and 27 minutes to reach Kushiro Station. The final service of the day is an overnight bus arriving at Kushiro Station in the early hours of the following morning. The fare is 5,800 yen for adults and 2,900 yen for children.
The New Star Express Bus for Obihiro runs six times a day and takes around 3 hours and 20 minutes to reach Obihiro Station. There are no overnight buses on this route. The fare is 3,600 yen for adults and 1,800 yen for children.
Airport Limousine Bus Services for New Chitose Airport
Limousine bus services for New Chitose Airport are jointly operated by the Hokuto Bus and Chuo Bus companies. A one-way ticket costs 1,100 yen and a round ticket costs 2,100 yen. The bus takes around 80 minutes to reach the airport or 65 minutes if it is a direct bus. There are around 10 direct buses each day.
At Sapporo Station this bus can be boarded at Bus Stop 11 which is on the street on the south side of the station. You can find this bus stop on the south side of the street, opposite Daimaru Department Store and right outside Hokuyo Bank. Here is a map showing its location.
Reservations are not necessary for riding this bus. Passengers can simply board the bus when it arrives and pay the fare when they get off. If the bus is full, then you can simply wait for the next bus to come along. Airport Limousine Buses are very regular, running roughly every 15 minutes from 5:15 to 18:15. Airport Buses can also be boarded from Sapporo’s downtown hotels, and from bus stops at Odori Park, Nakajima Park, Susukino, and Sapporo Dome. For more details about this service and for a PDF timetable check the English webpage of Hokuto Bus.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.