Planning to self-drive in Hokkaido? We have prepared a simple Hokkaido car rental guide for you.
1. Should I rent a car or take public transport?
If you are considering whether to self-drive in Hokkaido, here are some questions to ponder. If you are travelling to Sapporo, Otaru & Niseko only, you do not need to rent a car as public transport is more convenient.
However, if you plan to travel to several places in Hokkaido such as Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Furano, Asahikawa, Biei, Kushiro, Abashiri, we Strongly Recommend renting a car. It is much more convenient, especially in winter.
Note: Hokkaido is a region with many cities, not a city itself (eg Peninsular Malaysia)
2. Is it dangerous to drive in Winter?
Yes, it is more dangerous to drive during winter due to black ice which causes a car to skid. However, it should not stop you from driving in the winter as the pros of driving in winter outweighs the cons.
Drive slower and stay alert, we usually drive much slower, especially in remote areas. Do not plan a tight & rush trip. Allow leeway for delays to avoid speeding.
Most car rentals will offer snow tyres in winter to reduce (not eliminate) skid.
What is Black ice? – Black ice is a thin coating of glaze ice on the road when snow from the air freezes rapidly. It is often practically invisible.
3. What are the advantages of driving in winter?
- Most importantly you do not need to shiver in the blizzard cold weather while waiting for public transport.
- Convenient in getting around Hokkaido especially in remote places.
- Time control, you decide when to leave or arrive.
- Park right in front or nearby in most places instead of walking a distance.
- A comfortable heater in the car is always on standby.
4. Is an international driving license needed?
Yes, it is needed. Read: How to Apply International Driving License in Malaysia
How to Rent a Car in Hokkaido with ToCoo
We have been renting our cars from ToCoo for all our trips to Hokkaido.
2. Choose suitable cars and pricing
3. Travelling to a few places? Add on the Hokkaido Expressway Pass Plan
Hokkaido Expressway Pass allows unlimited use of Hokkaido’s expressways, for one fixed price! It is useful for multi-city trips as you will save on toll fees and time by travelling on highways.
It will come with an ETC Card Reader (like our Smartag), so all you need is to drive through the ETC lane.
On ToCoo you can find the package that comes with Hokkaido Expressway Pass inclusion. The HEP fees to be paid separately at the car rental office.
Not all car rental dealers offer HEP. Only Nissan Car Rental, Budget Car Rental, Times Car Rental, Honda Rent a Car Sapporo, World Net Rent a Car, Hokkaido Travel Car Rental and Samurai Car Rental offer HEP.
4. Add on Compensation Coverage
We strongly recommend taking the extra insurance for peace of mind.
5. Upon Arrival, head to the car rental service desk
Head to the car rental service desk and wait for the shuttle bus to respective car rental office nearby the airport.
6. Collect your car & start your journey
We rented Nissan cars for few times and find it comfortable & easy to drive
Nissan Serena – Fit for 5 pax plus 3 large luggage and some hand carry
Nissan Note – Fit for 4 pax with 2 large 28″ Luggage
7. Handy Tips
1. As there’s limited space in the car, we recommend 2 pax to share one large luggage and hand carry.
2. Vacuum storage bags are useful to increase the luggage space. Bring extra in case of spoilage.
3. Japan’s voltage is 100 volt so most 240 volts (Malaysia & Singapore) hairdryer and thong do not work efficiently in Japan. Consider leaving them at home or use the ones with dual voltage.
4. If your flight is early in the morning it is advisable to return the night before and stay in Chitose. Make sure to check the opening time of the car rental office. Opening time on the weekend might be later than weekdays.
5. For returning on flight day, it is advisable to drop off all the passengers and baggage at the airport first before returning the car. This allows the others to queue to check in while the driver returns the car.