So you’ve made it to Hokkaido—Japan’s northenmost island. But while your flight destination was Sapporo, you’ll actually be landing a cool 50 km from the city.
Depending on the season and your time of arrival, your journey from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo city center could be smooth sailing or a chilly trek. We aim for the former. The airport has great public transport links, so most flight arrival times are serviced by trains and buses, with car rental offices and chaffeur options available too. The city is a haven for sightseers, foodies and beer lovers, with plenty to do in a day. And don’t forget the famous snow festival. If you find yourself with time to kill in the airport, there’s plenty to do, but if you’re keen to head straight out, read on.
Pro tip: If you don’t mind paying a little bit, a private airport transfer is probably the easiest way of getting to your accommodation.
1. Train | 40 minutes | From ¥1,150
This is probably the simplest and most cost effective transport option as there is a JR train station beneath the Domestic Terminal. On the Basement Floor (B1) you’ll find a direct line to Sapporo, with trains running roughly every 15 minutes. Starting just before 7 am and running until just before 11 pm, it covers a good chunk of the day and all but the first few trains are ‘Express’.
The journey takes 37 minutes and costs ¥1,150. Or you can add ¥530 if you want a reserved seat. The journey is covered on the JR Pass, which you can read up on here.
Traveling with lots of luggage? You can arrange to have it ported from the airport to your accommodation, making the transfer easier. Cheapo readers get an extra bag for free.
2. Bus | 1 hour | From ¥1,100
The regular one-hour bus journey into Sapporo costs ¥1,100 and is divided between by two companies: Hokkaido Chuo and Hokuto Kotsu (tickets are valid on both).
The earliest buses depart at 8:40 am and the latest leaves at 11 pm. Although those are sometimes delayed if the flight has been delayed, which is nice. See the full bus timetables here to check which stop suits your plans best.
Buses from the Domestic Terminal
Outside the 1st floor of the Domestic Terminal, you’ll find a bus departure area with 38 different bus stands to choose from. Not great odds, especially if you’re jetlagged. Luckily they are color coded between services and there are clear maps to help you, plus friendly staff on site. If you’re heading into Sapporo, you’re most likely to need the Intercity and Airport Limousine stands which are red stands 12–14, and 20–22, towards the center of the oval.
The Airport Limousine buses to Downtown Sapporo leave from stands 14 and 22, also heading to the Keio Plaza Hotel. Stands 13 and 20 head to Sapporo Beer Garden (via Kanjo Dori East) while stand 21 has buses headed to Jozankei Onsen, Obihiro and Asahikawa.
Buses from the International Terminal
The International Terminal has a much smaller bus station, with one main stop for those heading into Sapporo: number 65. If you have a chartered bus you will need to head to stands 70–73 or 60–66, but the company will inform you of this in advance.
3. Taxis | 1–1.5 hours | From ¥11,000
Taxis will probably never be the cheapest way to travel. However, depending on your arrival time (and level of fanciness) they may be your only option. At the Domestic Terminal you can find cabs waiting at stands 11 and 17 of the bus area. At the International Terminal, they wait at stand 81.
You can book taxis (including larger ones) at the information desk too. That will probably be much easier than trying to negotiate with a driver if you don’t speak Japanese (and sometimes even if you do). The journey will cost approximately ¥11,000, but depending on the company, the late-night surcharges and your exact location in Sapporo, it can of course vary. It should take bewteen 1–1.5 hours, but again, this can change—especially depending on the weather and road conditions.
Alternatively, you can pre-book a private car like this one with prices starting from ¥7,433. This is a stress-free way to travel, and will take you right to your hotel.
4. Rental cars | For roadtrippers
Since Hokkaido is great for road trips, you may want to get started immediately and pick up a car at the airport. This is all you need to know about renting a car, including what license you’ll need and some idea on costs. There are a choice of rental offices in the Domestic Terminal including Orix, Nippon, Budget, Nissan, Honda, Times Car Rental and OTS as well as the local Hokkaido Bubu Rental-a-car. You can compare car rental prices here.
Most of the offices are open from 8 am (some at 7 am) with closing times varying from 6 pm to 11 pm (the latest are Nippon and Toyota).
Keep in mind that Sapporo is a very walkable city, so you probably won’t need one if you are planning on staying local. There are some easy day trips like Otaru to be reached by train too, so don’t assume you’ll need your own car to make the most of the immediate area!
Planning your journey back to New Chitose Airport
If you’re also heading back to New Chitose Airport, you can pretty much reverse the journey. Ensure you check the times and give yourself plenty of room for mistakes or delays (especially in winter). The buses out of town begin much earlier, with some leaving Sapporo Station as early as 5:15 am and regularly after that until 6 pm.
The trains run from 6 am until just before 10 pm (direct). Although there is a route at 10 pm using the Suzuran Ltd Express to catch the airport express if you miss it (but try not to)!