Incredible accommodation? Check! Travel insurance? Check! New snow gear? Double check! With the 19/20 Winter season now less than 6 months away, it’s time to look at how you’re going to get to Niseko. The Niseko United resort area is frequently being ranked as one of the best ski areas in the world and placing even higher on lists of best ski resorts in the country, so naturally more and more travellers are flocking to Hokkaido, and in turn more airlines are seeing Sapporo as an important place to cater for. In this blog, we’ll outline the newest and best options for direct travel to Asia’s powder capital.
The closest international airport to Niseko is New Chitose, just outside Sapporo city. This airport is around 2.5 hours from Niseko by road and a similar length by train and has plenty of transfer options available to and from Niseko in the busy Winter season. For most international visitors to Hokkaido, the usual route is via Narita International Airport in Tokyo, but as you will see below, more carriers are offering flights directly into New Chitose. After arriving, there are a few choices to make your way to Niseko:
The Vacation Niseko Guest Services team can arrange a chartered vehicle with driver to pick you up from your flight arrival gate, meaning there is no waiting around for a bus. The driver will help load your bags into a spacious vehicle for a comfortable trip to your accommodation, and can drop you right to the door of your apartment or house. Splitting a private transfer between your family or group of friends can often be the same value as catching the ski bus, and is our recommended option for getting to Niseko.
There are many different levels and sizes of vehicles to choose from, so you can choose your level of luxury for the perfect start to your trip.
Vacation Niseko can arrange a rental car in advance with the reliable Toyota Rent-a-Car company, so getting to Niseko is as simple as heading to the counter after you get through the gate and picking up the keys. Cars can be then be dropped off at Niseko Landmark View in the village for easy access to your accommodation. If you are travelling with a group and choose a larger vehicle, it can actually work out cheaper than buying individual tickets for the train or bus for each group member, so keep that in mind! Also be sure to have your valid International Driver’s Licence with you as you cannot rent a car without it in Japan.
After renting a car this is the most convenient option to get to Niseko, with multiple companies operating buses to and from New Chitose on a very regular basis in peak season. With tickets sitting around 4,000JPY each way for adults, it’s an affordable yet comfortable way to get to your accommodation after a long flight. Buses will drop you to the Hirafu Welcome Center where a Vacation Niseko driver will meet you to transfer you comfortably to your check-in location free of charge.
If you have a JR Rail Pass this will be the cheapest option for you, however generally we recommend against catching the train from New Chitose to Niseko (despite Japan being known for its world renowned train system!). The reason for this is there is no train station close to Hirafu, Niseko’s central village. Despite there technically being a stop named ‘Hirafu’ on the Hakodate line, it is a 50-60 minute walk in less-than-ideal snow conditions, making it unsafe and uncomfortable with luggage. If you still would like to catch the train, be sure to disembark at Kutchan station and catch the local bus from just outside the train station to the Hirafu Gondola stop; Niseko Landmark View is just down the street.
Here are the newest flight path additions and some choice routes to New Chitose airport in 2019.
In January, Finnair announced they would be expanding their range of direct flights to Japan to include Sapporo, the country’s 5th largest city. Departing from Helsinki, the seasonal service will run twice a week and is due to start in December 2019 and finish up in March. With a travel time of around 9 hours, it’s a substantial reduction for travellers from Europe and is a convenient overnight flight arriving at 9am in New Chitose.
Recognising Australians’ growing desire to discover great ski destinations in Japan, QANTAS has launched a direct flight to New Chitose from Sydney starting this Winter season (December to March). They will offer the flight 3 times a week.
Great news for Perth residents, ANA has also announced they will run the first direct flights to Japan from the western capital starting September 2019. The daily flight will add a substantially more convenient option for Perth-ians, as previously at least one domestic layover was required to get to Japan.
From surfboards to snowboards, it’s no wonder that Hawaiians and West Coasters are keen to experience the famous Japan powder in Winter. Direct flights to New Chitose from Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines run 3 times a week and sometimes 5 times a week if demand is high. Flight duration runs at just under 9 hours so it’s a great option for Hawaiians to go directly to Hokkaido or for West Coast residents to make their way to the islands and have the bulk of their travel time on the tail-end of the journey.
If you’re looking to include Niseko as part of your exploration of Japan on the JR Rail Pass, you may be able to save big bucks by taking the Shinkansen. Despite it not being dominantly popular with local Japanese as it is quite expensive compared to flying, taking the high speed train is definitely the way to go if you have a lot of time to travel and will already be holding a JR Pass. From Tokyo station the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen will take you all the way to Shin-Hakodate, where you can catch the Super Hokuto and Hakodate lines respectively to Kutchan station. Usually the Tokyo to Shin Hakodate trip alone would be around 23,000JPY so the JR Pass is great value if you plan to travel between major cities of Honshu and upwards to Hokkaido.