5 tips for driving in Hokkaido
When it comes to travel around Hokkaido, I would honestly say most recommended transportation is car. It’s because buses and JR are not very convenient in most country sides and we have to wait for one or more hours depending on the destinations. It seems a waste of time. When you or anyone who accompanies you drive a car in Hokkaido, can move around any place and any time. Read More
Most beautiful places are usually hidden behind major tourist spots which are easily accessible by public transportation. If you have a driving permission in Japan, you could further customize the travel with your favorite planning and enjoy Hokkaido deeply. Let me introduce some tips for driving in Hokkaido.
1. Check your driving licence
In case foreign tourists drive a car in Japan, they need to acquire either following two types of driving permit.
A. Valid International Driving Permit in Japan
Person who has an international driving licence based on the Geneva Convention is able to drive a car in Japan without additional procedure. The car class permitted for driving in Japan follows the licence originally issued in the home country. It is better to get International Driving Permit in your country in advance if you have a plan to visit Japan and you come from one of following countries.
*Countries issuing international driving licence based on the Geneva Convention
Philippines, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and more…
*Please refer to the website of Tokyo Metropolitan Government for more details
B. Valid Foreign Driving License in Japan
Person who has a driving licence issued in following countries is able to drive a car in Japan.
*Countries issuing driving license which is also valid in Japan (As of Nov 2022)
Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco, Taiwan.
Please refer to the website of Tokyo Metropolitan Government for more details.
2, Carefully planning for your itinerary
Hokkaido is a huge area, which is bigger than Scotland. If you want to travel around all over Hokkaido including south part of Hokkaido like Hakodate, central part such as Sapporo and Otaru, north part such as Asahikawa, Furano and Biei, east part such as Kushiro and Lake Akan, at least one week is needed. To stay popular places for foreign tourists including Sapporo, Noboribetsu, Otaru, Asahikawa and Furano, it would also require three to four days. Although good point for traveling by car is flexibility for the schedule, I still recommend to consider putting spare time enough in your itinerary just in case. Vehicle speed in winter in Hokkaido is very slow due to slippy road, so careful driving is necessary to avoid traffic accidents. To enjoy your trip, allowing sufficient time in your schedule is highly recommended at the time of planning.
3. Decide rental car companies
If you rent a car in Hokkaido, there are many options of the rental car provider including group companies of major Japanese car maker like Toyota, Nissan and etc…. Inquiries and booking in advance are recommended though some have reception counters in New Chitose airport.
Major rental car companies
* These are all have reception counters at the 1st floor in New Chitose airport
Toyota Rent A Car
Nissan Rent A Car
Nippon Rent A Car
Times Car Rental
Budget Rent A Car
Comparison search for car rental company
4. Cautions about Gas station in Hokkaido
Hokkaido is a huge area, which tends to be large interval between a gas station and the next gas station. What you pay particular attention on driving in Hokkaido especially eastern area and northern area is the amount of gasoline remaining. It is not a few cases that the next gas station could be located at 50 km away once skip the nearest one, so please remind the earlier refueling is really important. In case driving on highway, the situation is much serious as the spots for refueling is quite limited at a lot of areas in Hokkaido. It is better to keep in your mind to stop by a gas station before getting on the highway.
Another particular caution about gas station in Hokkaido is its business hours at rural areas. Those gas stations are often closed at 6 p.m or 7 p.m. , much earlier than city’s. In addition that, some are closed on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. If you plan to drive around small towns, please be careful about that.
5. Parking lots in Hokkaido
Possession rate of car in Hokkaido is very high, therefore we can find parking lots everywhere and it’s not difficult matter to look for it for foreign travelers as well. Except central areas in Sapporo, Asahikawa or major cities in Hokkaido, most places are providing free parking zone. On the other hand, as mentioned above, some central areas usually offer toll parking lots where we can park cars through payment of the fee. The parking fee is depending on the place and time, but it would be JPY 200 ~ JPY 900 per hour in downtown of Sapporo.
Last but not least, please be aware that a penalty is imposed once the police finds that you are parking at non-parking zone. Fines for illegal parking in Japan is JPY 10,000~25,000…..