Hokkaido is reputed to be one of the best Japanese cities to experience winter, yet most people also tend to think that it is an expensive travel destination.
If you’re looking to spend your vacation in Hokkaido without breaking the bank, we have rounded up some of the best budget tips for an affordable, yet enjoyable time in Hokkaido!😉
1. Affordable flights to Hokkaido
The main airport of Sapporo, New Chitose Airport, serves the bulk of international flights to and from Hokkaido! Plenty of low-cost carriers also operate in New Chitose, making it a center for affordable air travel.
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AirAsia, Jetstar, and Scoot are just some of the cheapest options that operate direct flights to New Chitose Airport from Malaysia or Singapore. There are also plenty of other low-cost alternatives, albeit with stopovers.
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A quick check on Skyscanner reveals that on cheaper months, one-way stopover flights can go as low as 11500 yen (around 137 SGD or 426 MYR)! Anywhere around 20000 yen (around 250 SGD or 750 MYR) is usually affordable for one-way trips back and forth Hokkaido.
#HHWT Tip: Do keep a look out for good flight deals to New Chitose Airport; you may end up saving a whole lot (Read: hundreds!) more per pax by grabbing the cheapest deals!
2. Transport passes
While car rental is the cheapest way to get around in Hokkaido during summer, it may be a pain to be driving around in thick winter snow. An affordable alternative to travel around Hokkaido is via bus.
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Inter City Bus Pass
The Inter City Bus Pass provides you with either a 3-day or 5-day access to popular tourist spots within Hokkaido! Not only is it one of the cheapest modes of transport in Hokkaido, travelling via bus may also be an efficient way to explore the smaller and less crowded towns in Hokkaido.
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Price: 5000 yen for a 3-day pass, 8000 yen for a 5-day pass. Children aged 1-11 years old pay half the price.
Hokkaido Rail Pass
You may also opt for the Hokkaido Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on trains (except for bullet trains) and most buses in Hokkaido for 3, 5 or 7 consecutive days depending on the pass! You may also opt for a flexible 4-day pass that can be used within a 10-day period.
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Price: 16500 yen for a 3-day pass, 22000 yen for a 5-day pass, 24000 yen for a 7-day pass, 22000 yen for a flexible 4-day pass. Children aged 1-11 years old pay half the price.
#HHWT Tip: Do compare the prices of single trip tickets via hyperdia.com first before opting for any transport passes! Single trip tickets may end up being way cheaper, especially if you’re not travelling around a lot.
3. Free things to do
While activities and tours generally take up the bulk of travel expenses, it need not be with these FREE sightseeing that you can do while you’re in Hokkaido 😊
The turquoise waters of Biei Pond are a must-visit if you’re looking for cost-free, yet gorgeous wintry views! During winter nights, the pond gets illuminated with diverse lighting patterns, creating a magical and mysterious scene.
Credit: Yusuke Miyahara on Flickr
You can also stroll along the beautifully restored Otaru Canal, which plays host to Otaru Snow Light Path Festival during the second week of February every year 😍
Credit: Leonard Lin on flickr
During the festival, many glass and snow lanterns adorn the walkways and historical buildings in this port city. Even the canal is lit up with lanterns!
Credit: ruich_whx on flickr
Hokkaido University Campus
While the Hokkaido University Campus is often visited during fall as the lanes, lined with gingko and maple trees, take on a vibrant hue of crimson, this pathway (which is open to public) goes through a snowy transformation that is every bit as pretty as its autumn look 🤗
Credit: Hokkaido University on Facebook
Sapporo White Illumination
If you’re looking to catch some of the famed Sapporo festivals, head out to Odori Park to catch the Sapporo White Illumination, where strings of fairy lights and various installations light up the trees and spaces in the park. Definitely makes for an enchanting sight!
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Sapporo Snow Festival
Another of Hokkaido’s well-known festivals include the Sapporo Snow Festival. This festival is also held at Odori Park!
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A major attraction for both international tourists and locals alike, the festival showcases various famous landmarks, cartoon characters, and mythological figures crafted out of snow and ice. Even the PPAP guy (of pineapple apple pen fame) makes an appearance!
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The best part? All the aforementioned festivals are FREE!!!! 😄
4. Things to do on a budget
If you want to further relish in the wintry atmosphere while still maintaining your budget, you can take part in additional sightseeing with these affordable, yet interesting places of interest.
If you’re looking for spectacular views of the city from a high vantage point without spending much, Mt Hakodate is the place to go! The summit’s facilities, with the sweeping view of the city below, are accessible via a 10-minute ropeway, or bus.
#HHWT Tip: If you’ve rented a car, there is also a toll-free road to the summit, though it is closed from 5pm to 10pm.
Credit: Cid Cho on Flickr
Price: 1280 yen for a round trip on the ropeway; 780 yen for single trip.
Buses to the summit of Mt Hakodate cost 400 yen for a one-way trip. Do note that you may also need to take a bus to reach the lower ropeway station before riding it to the summit, and that the bus passes mentioned earlier covers the cost of bus tickets.
Goryokaku Fort and Goryokaku Tower
Another place of interest with a high vantage point is Goryokaku Tower! 30 minutes away from Mt Hakodate, this tower is also known as one of the best places to catch cherry blossom blooms at the neighbouring Goryokaku Fort.
Credit: かがみ～ on flickr
This fort, built as defense against growing Western military powers, is also as spectacular during winter, where the star perimeter of the fort lights up in what is known as Hoshi No Yume, or the Dream of Star Illumination 😍
Price: 900 yen
5. Affordable accommodation
Finding affordable accommodation in Japan can be a daunting task, however Hokkaido does offer plenty of options if you’re on a budget.
If you’re travelling to Hokkaido alone or in a small group, a backpacker’s inn may be a good way to cut back on spending those yens! One such inn is Otaru Emina Backpackers, with gender-segregated rooms that are spacious enough for you to do your daily prayers and a kitchen for you to cook your own meals.
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Price: From 3000 yen per night
If you’re looking for family rooms that offer privacy, The Stay @ Sapporo is one worth checking out! Located in Sapporo, you can be assured that this budget accommodation allows you to be well-connected to various places of interest in Hokkaido.
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Price: From 9000 yen per night
Another value option within Sapporo includes Untapped Hostel, which offers both private along with dormitory-styled rooms! You may also cook your own meals in the shared kitchen area.
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Price: From 3200 yen per night for shared rooms, 8800 yen per night for private rooms
#HHWT Tip: 8000-9000 yen per night is generally the benchmark in Hokkaido for family lodging. Prices may fluctuate according to availability, especially during festival periods such as late December and early February. Its best to book early if you are looking to stay during such periods!
6. Cheap Halal Food
Sapporo is well-known for their miso-based ramen; one eatery that offers such meals, while being Muslim-friendly at the same time, is Houryu Ramen! The Genghis Khan Ramen; a grilled lamb-based dish served with plenty of vegetables and a special dipping sauce, is reputed to be a must-try when you’re in Hokkaido, especially during winter 😋
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Price: 650 – 1600 yen, depending on the menu item and the portion size.
#HHWT Tip: Not everything in the eatery is halal; ask for the halal menu when you’re there! Separate utensils will also be provided for Muslim customers.
Sapporo Central Wholesale Market
If you prefer to cook your own meals using the freshest seafood, yet not wanting to spend a bomb, be sure to check out the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market! From various kinds of fish, crabs and veggies, you might even find yourself getting some free sushi if you’re lucky, which is surely every budget lovers’ dream come true.
Credit: Sapporo Smiles Tour Guide on Facebook
Farm To Table Terra
If you’re looking for a more decadent halal alternative for food in Hokkaido (c’mon, we can all afford to splurge a little more on food sometimes) you might also want to check out Farm To Table Terra! Do try out their fusion meals, such as the scrumptious Muslim-friendly Japanese beef burgers.
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Price: From 680 yen onwards depending on menu options, with most meals around 1000- 2000 yen.
#HHWT Tip: Be sure to identify if the meals are Muslim-friendly first – the menu is marked with labels to help inform you before ordering.
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P.S. If you’re hungry for more halal food in Hokkaido, you may want to check this out!
7. Shopping on a Budget
If you’re on a shoestring budget for souvenir shopping, the 100 yen stores in Hokkaido are perfect for you! You can probably grasp this concept fairly well if you’re familiar with Daiso, which operates its biggest outlet in Japan within Sapporo; at Daiso Sapporo Central. 5 storeys filled with millions of 100 yen items for you to discover – imagine that 😉
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Other interesting 100 yen shops include Can*Do, Watts, Seria, and 100 Yen Shop (yes, it is really named that way 😂) which are found throughout various malls in Sapporo.
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8. Hokkaido Golden Coupon Book
You can never be fully budget without coupons right? 💁 With the Hokkaido Golden Coupon Book, you get to explore even more of Hokkaido at HEAVILY DISCOUNTED rates, with 10 coupons covering up to 41 attractions; including a hot-air balloon ride, and a relaxing hot spring session!
They also provide you recommended routes if you can’t decide on which coupons to pick for a day trip. You may even win free gifts if you participate in the stamp rally provided with the coupon book!
Credit: Yak Pai Hokkaido
You can purchase one of these books from the tour desk at New Chitose Airport (Hakodate Airport also has these coupon books if you landed there instead of New Chitose), and at Chitose Station. For more information regarding these highly sought-after coupon books, click here!
Price: 3800 yen
9. WiFi Connectivity
If you’re looking to get a portable WiFi router for your family to get connected, there are various WiFi routers that cost as low as 400 yen per day! While Sapporo WiFi Rental delivers the router right to your location after a successful application, there are also various other options found in New Chitose Airport itself.
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If you’re travelling solo instead and are the tech-savvy sort, you might prefer getting a SIM card for yourself! So-Net Prepaid LTE SIM cards offers the best bang for your buck: at 3000 yen for a whopping 30-day 1.2GB worth of internet use.
Bonus! Sapporo Mosque
Located in the town of Kita-Ku, which is conveniently sandwiched between Chitose and Otaru, Sapporo Masjid is where you can go for your prayers and get in touch with the local Muslim community!
Credit: Khairunnisa Hamzah on Facebook
Being the only mosque located in Hokkaido, it is also where the Hokkaido Islamic Society is situated, with a vision to strengthen the Muslim community within Hokkaido, and spread the message of Islam to non-muslims in the country.
So, now you know that travelling to Hokkaido doesn’t need to be expensive. Whether you’re visiting Hokkaido for winter or any other season, these budget tips will make sure you definitely won’t be needing to empty your wallets for the perfect vacation ✌🏼