Besides booking plane tickets and hotel rooms, transportation is one of the most important yet difficult thing to figure out when tourists visit Japan. Hokkaido has a lot of secret attractions, making it hard for tourists to get access to those places through public transportation. Many foreigners want to plan their Hokkaido trip but don’t know how. Some even gave up and decided to take the taxi. Instead of wasting your money on taxis, I would recommend a better option: Rent a car! For Hokkaido travel, road trip is the best way to travel around. You also get unpredictable surprises during the trip.
Why do I need to rent a car in Hokkaido?
It saves your money and time.
Self drive road trip around Japan is not as hard as you thought. In fact, it is one of the most popular ways to explore Hokkaido. Driving around Hokkaido is great and getting your own wheels is highly recommended on this wild Japanese island. You get to visit all the popular attractions which are far away from the capital. If you’re traveling with friends, you could save a lot of transportation fees as you could share the rent with them.
If you are looking for an in-depth travel, such as visiting famous sites at central, eastern, and southern suburban area of Hokkaido, road trip would be the best way to explore. These sites are usually far away from the city and have magnificent scenery. If you are more an outdoor person, then a road trip might suite you best!
Renting a car in winter
If you are traveling to Hokkaido in winter, make sure you do your homework in advance because most car rental company will shut down their company temporarily in winter. Thus, I would suggest you to rent your car online instead of in the store so things won’t go wrong.
Generally, rental periods are 6 hours, 12 hours, or 24 hours. Please note that you can only return the car in opening hours.
If you travel Hokkaido in winter, make sure you rent the four-wheel drive car with GPS. The roads get slippery in winter, so a four-wheel drive will keep you save. For insurance, Major Insurance Coverage fee is required and Collision Damage Waiver is suggested.
Hokkaido Road Trip Itinerary
Hokkaido is huge, remember to find out which route you’re taking before you start the road trip. To save your time and money, the best itinerary is to mark the starting and ending point of your day of trip, and add the attractions you want to go to plan your route more efficiently.
Traffic Rules in Japan
Normally, Hokkaido’s highway has a speed limit of minimum 70km/hr to 80km/hr. There are only few photo radars at Hokkaido, and thus nobody seems to keep the limits. However, no one wants to risk a speed ticket. Thus, drive safely and slowly. Please follow local traffic rules during your trip.
*Japan is one of the few countries where people drive on the left. For many people, including myself, driving on the left is the exact opposite of what they are used to. So be careful!
Besides traffic rules, road conditions are another thing that bothers tourists most. Hokkaido’s roads can be very slippery or completely blocked because of the snow. Make sure you look up on the Japan weather forecast one day before.
How to fill up the tank?
Gas stations of all sizes can be found throughout Japan. There are mainly two types of gas stations – full service and self-service style. In Japan, most gas stations are fully serviced. They have friendly and helpful staff working at the stations. As for prices, it depends on where you fill up your tank. You could always google and look for the cheapest price online. Make sure to confirm with the rental company which type of fuel you’ll need to fill up for the car.
*Mantan means full tank in Japanese.
*O-rai means you could drive forward in Japanese.
Service Area/Rest Stop
It would take you hours of time to head from one place to another. Even though you’ve already had your itinerary scheduled, you’ll still need to get some rest and go to the restroom several times a day. Services stops in Japan provides travelers with various kinds of foods and souvenirs. Service stop in Hokkaido Niseko Town was even rated the third in Japan. Don’t miss the chance to visit the place during your road trip!
Road Trip in Hokkaido: Requirements for Your Car Rental
First, you must be over 18 years old to rent a car in Japan, according to Japanese law. If you are over 18 years old, bring your valid passport and international driver’s license with you when visiting the car rental shop.
-An International Driver’s License
-Credit Card (Some rental company would require deposit. Keep some cash with you just in case!)
Car Rental Sites with Reservation in English
Nissan Rent-a-Car, Toyota Rent a Lease, Nippon Rent a Car, and Times Car Rental are some of the options. Make sure to bring your driver’s license and passport to the rental shop.
Don’t forget to rent a Pocket WiFi in Japan for your Hokkaido Trip!