HIGHWAY & INTERCITY BUS
Hokkaido has an extensive network of highway (高速: kosoku) and intercity (特急: tokkyu) buses, especially from and to Sapporo. Most buses are slightly slower than trains, however prices are cheaper.
Long-distance buses almost always require advance booking at the bus terminals, ticket offices or local consignment stores.
The Japanese-only telephone reservation is difficult for foreigners, ask your local friend or hotel staff. On-line booking (japanbusonline.com) is also a good idea.
Basically daytime bus fares can be in cash paid on exiting. In that case, don’t forget to take a numbered ticket on board. IC cards (e.g. Suica and Kitaca) are valid on the non-reserved highway buses from and to Sapporo operated by Chuo Bus.
Seats & Services
Long-distance and night buses have three row independent seats, footrests and a toilet. In recent years free wi-fi is available on many buses. Your baggage can be put in the trunk room.
On long journeys there are rest stop at the michi-no-eki (道の駅: roadside station) with a toilet and a souvenir shop. If you get off the bus on the way, press the button when your stop is announced.
There are many local buses (路線バス: rosen basu) in Hokkaido’s all towns.
Ride & Payment
Basically local buses have two doors: entrance at the center of the bus; exit at the front of the bus. There is a ticket dispenser or an IC card reader at the entrance door, take a numbered ticket (整理券: seiri-ken) or touch your IC card. The bus stops and fares are displayed with ticket numbers.
Press the button (except the last stop) when your stop is announced, and pay the fare (or touch your IC card) with your numbered ticket.
A change machine, at the front of the bus, accepts ¥1000 notes. There is no numbered ticket on the some short-distance buses and starting bus stop.
Fares & Services
Fares are usually around ¥210 in the city center, however rural areas are fairy expensive. Some bus passes may be able to save money. Tickets are sold at the bus stations.
Services are frequent in the major cities, but rural areas are infrequent. Check the schedule before boarding. On-demand buses advance reservations are necessary by phone (in Japanese).
BUS TRAVEL TIPS
Children’s fares are the age of 12 and under (half of the adult fares – round up more than 10 yen).
Cause delays to services to weather or road conditions, especially in winter and high-seasons.
Local buses may be cancelled throughout the New Year holiday period (29 Dec-3 Jan), weekend and holiday.
Tickets are always printed in Japanese. Don’t expect English through to a bus driver.