Sapporo has a great public transport system with trams, buses and a subway system, but if you are really tired or carrying a lot of baggage, you may prefer to hail a taxi. Taking a taxi can also be an economical choice if you have two or more people to help pay the fare. In this article we look at where to find taxis, how much they cost, basic taxi etiquette, and recommend some local taxi services.
Where to Find Taxis in Sapporo
Finding a taxi is easy in Sapporo. At Sapporo Station there are taxi ranks outside the north and south exits of the station. You can also find taxis outside large department stores and hotels. In central Sapporo and the main tourist areas, it should be easy to hail a taxi on the street. When you see an oncoming taxi, there will be a light in the passenger’s side window. If the light is green, the taxi is already occupied. If the light is red, then the taxi is available. At night, a light on the roof of the taxi also indicates that the taxi is vacant. Simply raise your hand when you see a vacant taxi as you would in your home country.
At taxi ranks the taxis line up and customers board them as each taxi takes its turn. For this reason, you cannot choose a particular taxi company at a taxi rank. However, most taxi companies are very reliable, so this should not be a problem.
The telephone operators at most taxi companies probably can’t speak English, so if you need to order a taxi, ask the reception staff at your hotel to do it for you.
Fares will differ according to the size of the taxi. There are three standard sizes for Japanese taxis: small (kogata 小型), medium (chugata 中型) and large (ogata 大型). The bigger the taxi, the bigger the fare. A small kogata taxi is the most common size and it is big enough to seat four people. A medium chugata taxi also seats four people, but it is more spacious. If you have more than four people in your group, then you will need to take either a larger ogata taxi or two smaller ones. In Sapporo the standard fare for a small-sized taxi is 670 yen for the first 1,463 meters, and then 80 yen for every 276 meters after that.
However, different taxi companies may charge different rates and most taxi companies in Sapporo charge a 20% evening surcharge between 22.00 and 5.00 am the next morning. For long distance taxi journeys there is usually a 30% discount on fares of over 5,000 yen.
Basic Taxi Etiquette
- Most taxi drivers cannot speak English. Before taking a taxi prepare a map to your destination, or have the address written down in Japanese along with the telephone number. With the address the driver can use the taxi’s GPS system to find your destination, or they can use the telephone number to call the location for directions.
- All Japanese taxis have meters, and taxi drivers are generally honest, so you do not need to worry about being cheated.
- Tipping is not a custom Japan and trying to tip the driver will probably cause confusion. Simply pay the fare that is shown on the meter.
- Not all taxis accept credit cards. Have enough ready cash available just in case. If you would like to use a credit card, show your card to the driver before your journey begins and check that it is acceptable.
- The rear doors of Japanese taxi cabs open and close automatically. You don’t need to open and close them yourself, and your driver will prefer that you don’t.
Sapporo Taxi Companies
Here are some of the main taxi companies in Sapporo that have a good reputation for their service.
The taxis of Suzuran Kotsu can be recognized by their rooftop logo which is shaped like a lily of the valley. This company accepts most major credit cards including VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club International. You can also use the major regional prepaid IC cards to pay your taxi fare such as Kitaca, Suica, Pasmo, and Icoca and payments via Alipay are also accepted.
Daiichi Kotsu taxis have a 24-hour free telephone interpreting service which is available in multiple languages. Passengers who cannot speak Japanese can speak to an interpreter by phone and the interpreter will explain the destination to the driver. Interpreters are available in the following languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, Malaysian, Italian, German, Tagalog and Nepali. Daichi also accept most major credit cards including VISA, Mastercard, Diners Club International and American Express.
SK Hokusei and SK Sanwa
SK Hokusei and SK Sanwa are two companies that are both part of the SK Group. These companies basically offer the same 24-hour taxi service and their taxis can be recognized by the “SK” sign on their roof. SK taxis accept some international credit cards and payment can also be made with major regional IC cards such as Kitaca and Suica.
Heart Taxi have some English-speaking drivers. They also have some “barrier-free” taxis that can be boarded in a wheelchair. This company accepts payments in cash or the following credits cards: VISA, Mastercard, American Express, and Diners Club International.
Hello Taxi is not such a big company, but they do have an English language webpage which includes suggested sightseeing destinations and gourmet recommendations. This company accepts VISA, Mastercard. American Express, Diners Club International and Alipay.
Sapporo Kojin Taxi Cooperative
In Japan “kojin” (個人) taxis are independently owned and not affiliated with any company. The service of kojin taxis can therefore vary from driver to driver, but in Sapporo the independent drivers have teamed up in a cooperative and their website has a lot of useful information in English. This website includes recommendations for a number of possible sightseeing taxi tours with the time required and set price given for each tour. Members of this cooperative accept VISA, Mastercard, and American Express.
Sightseeing Taxi Tours: 011-853-7722
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.