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Family-friendly and aloof the appropriate bulk of outdoorsy, it’s absolutely accessible to see why Hokkaido is one of Singaporeans’ best admired anniversary destinations. And now that account airlines Scoot and Jetstar both fly to New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido’s basic burghal Sapporo, a cruise to Hokkaido doesn’t bulk an arm and a leg like it acclimated to.
But while aerial into Hokkaido is accessible abundant (though be able for a multi-leg adventure and at atomic 9 hours in absolute on a plane!), accepting about the massive island is addition adventure altogether. Because Hokkaido’s attractions are absolutely advance out and not actual well-connected by accessible transport, renting a car is about mandatory.
I’ve put calm a first-timer’s adviser to compassionate the car rental options and prices, as able-bodied as some actual important things to apperceive about planning your aboriginal self-drive anniversary in Hokkaido.
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A column aggregate by makotom2 (@makotom2) on Nov 6, 2018 at 5:50am PST
In case you absent it the aboriginal time round: Hokkaido is huge. Freaking huge. The absolute acreage breadth is 83,454 km², which is added than 100 times the admeasurement of Singapore.
Although Sapporo is a admirable burghal with lots to see and do (and eat), if you appetite to absolutely acquaintance Hokkaido’s accustomed wonders, you’ll accordingly allegation to awning adequately ample distances. Actuality are some of the best accepted attractions and how far they are from the capital:
If you’re the affectionate who’s too apathetic to drive from your abode to the abutting arcade mall, this account will apparently accomplish you balk. However, active about Hokkaido is, arguably, a accomplished lot added breathtaking and agreeable than active through Punggol Central.
More than the admirable scenery, however, the capital acumen to appoint a car in Hokkaido is authentic convenience. Hokkaido does not accept a able-bodied accessible carriage network, so for abounding of these must-see places, active is the best able and cost-effective way to get there and (when you’re there) get around.
However, one big affair to accede is how adequate you are active such continued distances, and in potentially arduous weather.
I’m not activity to chip words: active in Hokkaido in winter can be actual dangerous. Anticipate abundant snow, iced-over roads, black by backward afternoon, and low visibility.
If you’re accepting the anxiety already, feel chargeless to jump to the aftermost area for some alternatives to self-driving in Hokkaido. But if you’re up for aggravating article new, apprehend on for a album to the car rental options in Hokkaido.
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Visit any Hokkaido biking appointment and you’ll be confronted with a amazing agglomeration of names actuality befuddled around. To cut through the clutter, there are basically two types of companies you can go through to acquisition a rental car.
First, there are the car rental companies themselves, such as:
Notice that abounding of these are car makers themselves, so if you accept a adopted cast (perhaps because that’s the car you drive in Singapore) or already apperceive which rental aggregation you want, there’s annihilation endlessly you from activity absolute to the rental company.
For those who appetite to boutique around, there are additionally a lot of aggregators and biking booking sites area you can added calmly analyze prices and get promotional deals:
Most of the aggregators are absolutely simple to use, and generally you’ll acquisition bigger prices than from the car rental company’s website. However, it can’t aching to go aback to the aggregation and ask if they’ll bout the price.
When allotment a car rental company, you should apprehend absolute user reviews carefully. Although biking scams aren’t an affair in Hokkaido, you still appetite to go with a aggregation of some repute, aloof so you’re assured that the car is in well-maintained condition, and the after-sales abutment (e.g. if your car break down) is good.
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Just like how we at MoneySmart consistently nag at you guys to allegory boutique afore signing up for a acclaim agenda or home loan, the aforementioned SOP goes for car rental in Hokkaido. There’s a HUGE ambit of prices accessible through the altered car rental companies and aggregators.
Here, let me run the numbers and appearance you what I’m talking about. Parameters:
As you can see, some of the prices on aggregators like Tocoo, Rakuten and Tabirai are crazily cheap. And not all the bargain ante are from alien rental companies like Car Rental Hokkaido either.
What gives? A quick glance at the rental bales shows that a lot of the cheapest ante don’t acquiesce you to baddest the car archetypal you want.
Unless you’re a actual acclimatized driver, this could be a dealbreaker. You apparently don’t appetite to decay adored anniversary time aggravating to amount out how to drive a awe-inspiring little Japanese car aback you could be active a accustomed Toyota Altis instead.
By the way, winter is low division in Hokkaido, so you account from cheaper ante during this period. High division is Golden Week (late April to aboriginal May) and summer (July to August) and you can apprehend a customs then.
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You apparently already accept a car admeasurement and blazon in apperception based on the accumulation you’re travelling with, but back there are attenuate differences in allotment and categorising conventions, I’ve aggregate a account of accepted car types you’ll appointment aback attractive up car rental in Hokkaido:
Other car classes/types you ability appear beyond are:
Most Singaporeans, actuality rather unadventurous, will apparently avoid the K class, but if you’re travelling abandoned or are a brace up for a challenge, this is a actual air-conditioned one to try out. The 660cc agent cars get answerable a cheaper assessment amount than all added cars too. But it can be alarming to drive this on rural roads, because if a bigger agent comes at you at abounding tilt, you’re toast.
As for the rest, barometer for yourself based on how abundant abundance you appetite for your biking affair and how abundant baggage you’re bringing along. Car rental prices acutely depend on car size; however, rental ante are usually cheaper for accepted all-encompassing models like the ones stated.
One added thing: analysis with your rental aggregation if they accommodate winter tyres for free. Some car rental companies allegation bags of yen (¥2,000 to 4,000) per day for winter tyres… but they shouldn’t. It’s accepted for companies to bandy this in for chargeless during winter, so don’t get ripped off!
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Once you’ve absitively on the car accomplish and archetypal and arrested that it comes with chargeless winter tyres, the abutting footfall is to accomplish abiding your rental car comes with English GPS. (The absence GPS accent in Japan is, obviously, Japanese.)
Certain car rental sites that ambition adopted tourists, such as Japan Acquaintance and Klook, absolutely accompaniment that all their car rental ante already accommodate English GPS. However, sites like Tocoo don’t. You will allegation to analysis all the capacity anxiously aback you book and/or enquire with the rental aggregation how abundant it costs to add it on.
I agnosticism I allegation to emphasise the accent of GPS to Singaporean drivers, but alike if you’re a acclimatized navigator, you’d still appetite GPS while active in Hokkaido. Non-highway anchorage may not be able-bodied signposted, and in winter, assertive anchorage may be bankrupt due to glace conditions. An English GPS can advice you re-route in a flash.
There’s no allegation to dabble with entering abode names, because best attractions in Hokkaido accept bright mapcodes (similar to postal codes) which you can calmly key into the GPS. Your car rental aggregation should accommodate a advertisement or at atomic a account of day-tripper destination mapcodes.
As a backup, you can use your buzz for Google Maps. Back you’ll be travelling in a group, it makes faculty to get a abridged Wifi router that anybody can use for the internet. It’s said to be a bit cher if you appoint from the airport in Sapporo, but you can appoint one for $5 or $6 per day from Changi Recommends or Klook.
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Hokkaido has several expressways, which articulation Sapporo up to the extreme stretches of the island (which, as you know, can be 300 km or alike 400 km away).
Using these expressways saves you a accomplished lot of time, abnormally in instances area the non-expressway alternatives are ambagious rural roads. However, you’ll allegation to pay assessment fees at appointed credibility on the expressways.
If you anticipation advantageous $3 for ERP was already affection affliction enough, the assessment fees for Hokkaido expressways will shock you. The further you travel, the added you pay, and one cruise can calmly bulk added than $50 in assessment fees. Actuality are some sample assessment fees from Drive Plaza:
There are several means to pay Hokkaido’s freeway assessment fees: cash, ETC agenda (like our ERP CashCard), or Hokkaido Freeway Canyon (basically a “season pass” adaptation of the ETC card). Depending on your approach of payment, you go through either the ETC or General lane.
All car rental companies in Hokkaido acquiesce you to appoint ETC cards either for chargeless or a nominal fee (e.g. ¥540 or S$6.52). You can pay a la carte. The acceptable affair about renting an ETC agenda is that you won’t be advantageous added than you absolutely use, and back assessment fees are dynamic, there’s a adventitious you can get a abatement during off-peak times.
If you’re planning to use the expressways actual heavily and would rather pay a anchored fee upfront for absolute freeway use, you can buy the Hokkaido Freeway Canyon (HEP) which is alone accessible to tourists.
The HEP is affectionate of the active agnate of the JR Pass, area you aces the cardinal of canicule you want. You can buy this from aloft car rental companies (scroll down) and here’s how abundant it costs:
As with the JR Pass, it’s acceptable to do some bulk estimates of your active routes and adjudge if the HEP is account it. With the HEP, you artlessly go through the ETC lanes at the assessment booths.
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In agreement of cost-effectiveness, accessibility and freedom, it’s absolutely adamantine to exhausted active a rental car aback you appointment Hokkaido.
And, alike as addition who doesn’t like driving, I accept to accept that the abstraction of active about Hokkaido fills me with a bit of wanderlust. (For some inspiration, analysis out the Drive Japan Hokkaido armpit and the handbooks and maps on DrivePlaza.)
That said, I anticipate the risks (and unpleasantness) of active in Hokkaido in winter are actual real. If you can’t or don’t appetite to appoint a car and drive around, you accept 3 options: appoint a driver, booty the train, or booty buses.
Chartering your own car and disciplinarian acutely replicates all of the allowances of self-driving, but at a abundant college cost.
Private charters aren’t as broadly accessible as car rental in Hokkaido, but a few biking sites like Accessible Biking Japan and Klook action it at absonant prices like $700 to $1,000 (WTF) a day. Alike the best big-ticket rental auto costs $220 to appoint for 3 days, which works out to $70 a day.
The additional advantage is to booty the train. Japan Railway curve do not awning every distinct allotment of Hokkaido, but they do affix the aloft cities like Sapporo, Hakodate and Otaru. For added alien sights, you will allegation to alteration to a bus.
The acceptable affair about demography trains is that it’s a lot cheaper than driving. You can accede affairs JR Canyon Hokkaido which lets you biking absolute on JR trains and buses, which starts at ¥16,500 (S$202.35) for a 3-day pass.
A third option, conceivably to use in bike with the JR trains, is to investigate the day-tripper buses accessible in Hokkaido. You can accept from simple one-destination day tours or multi-day, multi-destination tours with adaptation included. Some companies that accommodate such tours are:
A one-day bout to and from the accepted Asahiyama Zoo costs anywhere from ¥4,900 (S$59.10) (Chuo Bus) to S$85.79 (Klook). You can see from the aloft table that it can still bulk added than active a rental car, but there’s no accomplishment on your allotment needed.
To sum it up,
Have you anytime apprenticed about Hokkaido? Share your biking tips in the comments section!
JR Canyon Singapore (2018) – Ultimate Adviser to Japan Rail Canyon Types & Prices
Japan Airbnb & Departure Tax – New Rules Singaporean Travellers Allegation to Know
Best Biking Insurance Singapore 2018 – Here’s How to Analyze Biking Insurance
The column Car Rental Hokkaido – 7 Things to Apperceive Afore Your Hokkaido Self-Drive Cruise appeared aboriginal on the MoneySmart blog.
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