How do you get from Sapporo to Furano (or vice versa)?
The Chuo bus!
On a recent snowboarding trip to Japan, this is a question that I didn’t have a good answer for before arriving. Looking at Google showed a few results, including a train ride that required a changeover with JPRail, but nothing that inspired me with confidence. Upon asking the staff (who were locals) at my accommodation, I was informed that the Chuo bus was probably my best option. Upon leaving my accommodation, this is what I decided to do.
Advantages of taking the Chuo Bus from Sapporo to Furano and back
The advantages of taking the Chuo Bus, in from what I was told and what I experienced:
- Direct – the Chuo bus goes from Sapporo to Furano. Whilst it does many many stops along the way, there is no need to change buses or worry about getting off at the right time. I wasn’t really keen on getting off a warm train to wait on a cold platform for another train!
- More reliable – the locals told me that when it snows, the authorities often suspend train services for public safety reasons. The bus, however, was less likely to be stopped due to snow. Obviously I was unable to verify this myself, but it was a nice bit of knowledge to have over simply relying on Google search results.
- Inexpensive – my ride cost me approximately 2,200 Yen, from memory (~$25AUD).
- Timely – whilst the bus does make stops, it appeared that the travel time was approximately the same as the train option.
Are you sold on this option yet? I have no association with Chuo Bus, by the way, but you can probably see why I decided to recommend this option!
Information about the Chuo Bus
I had a lot of difficulty finding any good information (in English) about the Chuo bus. Upon searching now, I can see that the Furano Tourism website shows that that the Chuo bus is the recommended bus to get to Furano from Sapporo. However, you will find that the Chuo Bus timetable is in Japanese and, if you are like me, may not provide you with the confidence in the decision. Meanwhile, it appears that the Official Chuo Bus site lists various sightseeing buses and a Niseko ski bus (from Sapporo or Chitose), but I can’t (easily) find anything to do with getting to Furano from Sapporo.
Where to catch the Chuo Bus
I caught the Chuo Bus from the “Hokkaidō Chūō Bus Charter Bus Office”, which appears to me to be the central station. See the map below:
How to buy tickets for the Chuo bus from Sapporo to Furano
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket vending machines inside the central station/terminal. One thing which I found different about this system was that you provide your ticket to the driver when you exit the bus. I guess this stops people buying a cheaper ticket to board the bus and then getting off later.
How to get to the Chuo Bus central station
I caught the local subway to the Sapporo Station JR then walked the remaining distance. However, I did not have mobile/cell phone data (3G/4G) at the time, but instead used the free wifi at Sapporo JR Tower to orientate myself, then used GPS and the cached map data to walk the remaining distance (approximately 1km, which took 15-20 minutes because of my suitcase and the icy footpaths). Obviously, taking a taxi would be the most convenient option, especially if you are in a group. There are no doubt various local Chuo Bus routes you could take, although at this point in time that might require the desire or ability to navigate Japanese public transport without being able to use English!
Getting from Furano to Sapporo with the Chuo Bus
I did not personally take this option, but I seem to remember you can catch the Chuo Bus back from Furano central bus station back to Sapporo. There is likely to be more information available at the Furano Tourism Association information centre.
Other options for travel from Furano to Sapporo
The main other options that I am aware of include driving, catching a train and changing to another, or catching a train then a connecting bus. You could probably also get a (very) expensive taxi ride, although I have no idea whether Sapporo taxi drivers would accept this fare or not.
Anyway, this was kind of an unplanned post, but I hope it helps and would be happy to answer any questions in the comments below.