Hakuba Valley is a large area and getting from one place to another can require a bit of research.
Hakuba has an extensive network of Shuttle Bus Stops, and one of the first couple of questions you should ask your accommodation provider or booking agent is “Where is the nearest Ski Shuttle Stop?” and “Which resorts do the shuttles run to?”. Also closer to the date of arrival, get an updated shuttle timetable, so you can plan your day accordingly.
There are 2 main types of shuttle bus.
1.Hakuba Valley Shuttle Buses
2. Individual Ski Resort Shuttle buses
Hakuba Valley Shuttles operate along we main routes, with the most popular being the HV 3 Route which runs from Goryu Ski Resort through to Tsugaike Ski Resort with stops at all the resorts in between plus major transport hubs like Hakuba Base Camp and Happo Information Center. The bus costs 510yen per ride for adults and in many cases offers the most direct route between resorts. For holders of the Hakuba Valley Lift Pass, these shuttles are free of charge.
The other 2 lines run from Happo Information Center to Cortina Ski Resort, and from Happo Information Center via Hakuba Base Camp to Sanosaka, Kashimayari and Jigatake Ski Resorts.
The Hakuba Valley buses operate to a strict time schedule and generally operate on time, except at peak times. These buses are fully licensed with professional drivers who all carry a passenger services certificate (which requires a lot of study and testing in Japan)
In addition to the Hakuba Valley Shuttles, each resort runs a series of bus routes around town to their own resorts. These free shuttles operate to more remote areas than the Hakuba Valley Buses and tend to take a lot longer to get to their destination as they wind around town a fair bit. The drivers of these buses only need to hold a heavy vehicle license and not a passenger services certificate.
One way to tell if a vehicle is licensed to carry fare paying passengers in Japan is the color of the number plate. A white number place is for private vehicles, which are not allowed to charge for carrying passengers, while the dark green number plates you see on most larger buses and taxis etc denote that the vehicle is for fare paying passengers, and both the driver and the vehicle meet the safety standards required.
Night shuttles have an extensive network in Hakuba. The Genki Go Shuttle is 300yen per person, and make getting around at night easy. This shuttle is generally aimed at getting people out for dinner and back. If you want to carry on with a few drinks at a bar, then taxis are a better option for getting home.
Hakuba Valley has several companies, but it is important to remember that they can get extremely busy, so it pays to lock in a transfer the day before you plan to travel.
Taxis are generally quite cheap. Drivers are trustworthy and will not try to take you the “long way”, but if staying at an Air BnB it pays to remember that apart from the Post Office and Courier companies, addresses mean nothing in Japan. It is much easier to give directions to a well-known land mark than to try and quote an address to a taxi driver. Even on apps like google maps, landmarks are better than addresses.
Peak periods for taxis are early in the morning (6-9:00), closing of the ski resorts (16-17:00), and in the evening. Overly intoxicated passengers may be rejected, and making a mess of a taxi will lead to a hefty cleaning bill.