Yay, Hokkaido! Planning a self-driving trip in Hokkaido can be really confusing as there’s so much to explore in Japan’s second largest island.
We went to Hokkaido last year’s February and we immediately fell in love with this beautiful island. This time, we decided to visit in Summer. Since there’s no slippery road, we settled on a self-drive road trip around Hokkaido!
I love road trips! Driving through the places that are less accessible by public transports are usually much more enriching than usual. Apart from having the autonomy to stop anywhere, I appreciate the fact that we can experience something really different in the countryside.
Nuff said, here’s our pre-planning tips and itinerary!
Prepare Your Connectivity
Connectivity is really important when it comes to a road trip. You won’t want to be stranded on the road because you have no idea what route to take to go back to your hotel. It will be even worse if you can’t speak Japanese fluently.
Hence, it is advisable to get yourself connected to the world. There was once when the built-in GPS brought us to loop around a small town when we were finding our hotel. Turned out that the GPS wasn’t updated with the hotel’s location so we had to use our Google Map to bring us to the destination.
You can get a Starhub’s
If you have foreseen that you will be using more than 3.6GB, you can also rent a WiFi device for S$3/day for unlimited data. It happened that our car rental company topped the package with a free WiFi device so it came in really handy during our trip.
Book a Car
Booking a correct car for the trip is a real deal. I mean, if you book a Mazda 2 and expecting the car to sit 5-person and store 5 medium-sized pieces of luggage then you are pretty screwed.
After researching online, we find that ToCoo! offers the most competitive price and package. It’s a car rental curator website where you can find all the reservation deals across all car rental companies. Don’t worry there’s an English version of the website so you don’t have to find a translator.
You should never book your rental car directly from the car rental companies as it will be very expensive.
We rented a medium sedan (but was given an SUV ) for 6 days. Including options like collision damage waiver insurance, ETC card, and Japanese-English call translation assistance, we paid S$591.02 in total.
an ETC Card?
Like most other countries, Hokkaido collects toll fees when you use Hokkaido Expressway to travel from one city to another. An ETC card is equivalent to our NETS cash card. The rental company will tag the ETC card to your credit card so that it will charge to your card directly. You can choose to pay by cash at the toll gate if you do not have an ETC card.
We suggest to rent an ETC card because you will be able to leverage on various discounts (e.g. Weekend discount @ 50% off) that’s definitely more worth it than the card’s rental fee. If you rent an ETC card, do remember to insert the card into the sensor in the car.
Our total toll fees summed up to be around S$171.80 for 5 cities.
What is a collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance?
CDW helps to cover your ass if you accidentally damage your vehicle or any property during the trip. If you purchase CDW, you will be exempted from making deductible payments as long as the damage is below the coverage limit (50,000 yen – 100,000 yen).
There is another insurance by ToCoo that covers non-operational charge (N.O.C). If the car is damaged beyond operational use, there is a penalty payable to the rental company. If you are looking for full coverage insurance (zero-excess), you will need to purchase both to cover N.O.C and collision damage.
International Driving Permit
When I was renting a car in Australia, the rental company did not bother to look at my International Driving Permit (IDP). Yeah, I know.
Japan is a little bit different. When you rent your car online, you will need to provide IDP number upfront. The front desk requested to look at my IDP when we were registering for our rental car.
You need to apply for an IDP before you can rent a car online. IDP expires in a year. If you are planning to go for another road trip, you might want to do it within a year to maximize the cost of an IDP.
Our Hokkaido Itinerary
Our itinerary was planned for 9-days. We drove for only 6-days for the entire trip. The last 3-days were spent in Sapporo and we figured out that we could just take the public transport.
Here’s how our itinerary looks like (Updating soon):
- Day 1: Noboribetsu
- Day 2: Hakodate Day 1
- Day 3: Hakodate Day 2
- Day 4: Lake Toya
- Day 5: Otaru
- Day 6 & 7: Furano and Biei
- Day 8 & 9 & 10: Sapporo
Here’s the map marked with the places that we have visited. I have also marked the places that we have stayed.
Hope our experiences can help you plan your trip better!