Hokkaido

8-Day Self-Drive Hokkaido Itinerary: Pre-Planning

This 8-day Hokkaido Itinerary was planned with two objectives in mind: first, we wanted to travel leisurely because it is a holiday and we wanted to relax. Second, we will return to Hokkaido to explore the northern part, so this time, we explored the southern part where most of the attractions are.

In 8 days, we visited 5 popular towns, Noboribetsu, Hakodate, Niseko, Otaru, and Sapporo. All these towns have their own tourism websites, which are very useful. I’ll link to them in the individual posts for convenience.

Budget

We managed to get a very cheap deal for air tickets at S$400. We ate moderately well and stayed at mostly 2- or 3-star hotels that are conveniently located at the heart of the city. We drove for 5 days and took public transport for 3 days. All in all, we spent slightly below S$2000 (¥165, 000) per person.

Information on Car Rental in Hokkaido

Before you can drive in Hokkaido, remember to apply for your International Driving Permit in your home country. (We did it online at Automobile Association of Singapore for S$20.) However, if you’re citizen of some countries, you may need a Japanese translation of your driving license or you may have to take a driving test in Japan. Best to check at Japanese Automobile Federation.

Second, rent a car. There are many Japanese car rental websites such as Nippon Rent-A-Car and Toyota Rent-A-Car. But you can also go international car rental companies like Budget or Avis. Initially, we wanted to go for Japanese companies because #supportlocal. But then, we went for the most affordable one, Hertz. We spent S$600 (¥50000) for five days for a comfortable big car including insurance. Good price.

Driving conditions: The roads are pretty smooth and driving is easy. But the mountain roads are winding and may be dangerous. If you’re driving in winter, make sure your car is fitted with snow tyres. Drive slowly.

One of the highlights of our drive was to see a gigantic moose with magnificent antlers on an isolated road. It was ginormous, much bigger than the car, but it scampered up a steep slope when it saw our car. I didn’t know moose can climb slopes. So be careful and drive slowly in case you knock down any wildlife.

It is a left-hand drive, so no problem for Singaporeans. Signs are also clear but in cities, the lane markings are strange, so drive slowly.

Regarding parking, most restaurants and many convenience shops provide free parking in the space in front of the shops. Hotels may require a small token of parking fee, which is really affordable (we paid ¥1000 for two nights of parking at our hotel.). But public parking tends to be expensive.

To top up petrol, you need to insert money first. But don’t worry, there will be attendants to help. In our 5 days of driving, we only topped up the gas tank once. And the gas is so cheap.

Lastly, navigation through gps. Not sure if it’s our car rental or that their gps are the same everywhere. While the GPS system in the car speaks English, the buttons and entering addresses are in Japanese. This means the GPS is completely useless. We used Google Maps to navigate and it was quite accurate. However, one thing to note is since we were using a dongle, and we visited some rural areas, it means that there may not have reception for Google Maps. If that happens, just drive to a more populated area to get reception.

When you’re selecting routes for your GPS, note that there are two kinds: one is a very long route but the other is the expressway with rather high tolls. We took the expressway once and it was ¥3200 (S$40), ouch. If you have the time I suggest a longer route. But if you value time more, the expressway cuts away much time.

Ok, now you’re ready. Go to Day 1 of Itinerary: Noboribetsu.


You may be interested in…
Four Fish Markets in Southern Hokkaido: Hakodate, Otaru, and Sapporo
Tour at Nikka Whisky Distillery Hokkaido: Free Shots of Whisky Here!
What to Eat at Niseko Hokkaido
Matsunomi 松の實, Sapporo Hokkaido: Bib Gourmand Awardee, Famed for Duck Soba, Not a Quack


Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

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