Last week on Travel Tuesday, I shared the itinerary for our 6 Days Okinawa Self-Drive Trip. This week, I am going to share some driving tips for a self-drive trip in Okinawa, and my review of OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa.
Okinawa Driving Tips
I have driven in many relatively rural areas in Japan. Generally, drivers were courteous in Japan and I have always enjoyed self-driving in Japan. BUT Okinawa was unfortunately very different.
- Okinawa drivers were very aggressive. They speed, they switch lanes dangerously, they cut into your lane if they have an inch of space to do so.
- Okinawa truckers do not give way. They hog the single lane for miles and miles. Even at overtaking lanes, they do not keep left to allow cars to overtake.
- The overtaking lanes were very short. Unlike Hokkaido where overtaking lanes sometimes stretch for kilometres, the overtaking lanes in Okinawa only last a couple of hundred metres. Together with the fact that the slow-moving trucks do not keep to the left and slow down (in fact I sometimes think they deliberately keep right and speed up at overtaking lanes), it does not give you enough time to overtake slow-moving vehicles.
With that said, I still think self-driving is the best way to explore Okinawa. Especially since car rental is so cheap there. My advise is simply to BE PATIENT. If a truck hogs your lane, so be it. If someone cuts into your lane, so be it. Don’t get worked up over it. You’re on vacation!
If you do not wish to be stuck behind road hoggers, or you’re rushing for time (got a plane to catch!), use the Okinawa Expressway. Toll fees are not that expensive. The maximum toll fee from end to end was about 1500 yen.
Okinawa Expressway Toll Fee Chart
Bus Lanes & Alternating Central Lane
Singaporeans should be familiar with the concept of bus lanes. But if you are not from Singapore and have never heard of ‘Bus Lanes’, they are lanes that only buses and other forms of public transportation (e.g. taxis) and motorcycles are allowed to use during peak hours. Private cars are NOT allowed to use bus lanes during these hours.
When the bus lane is in operation, vehicles will be allowed to enter the central lane to keep the traffic flowing. The direction of the central lane alternates, depending on which side of the road is closed for buses.
Closure of Kokusai Dori
Kokusai Dori operates only in one direction during peak hours. From 7-9am, the direction from Asato Junction towards Okinawa Prefecture Office is closed (only buses allowed). From 5.30-7.30pm, the direction from Okinawa Prefecture Office to Asato is closed (only buses allowed).
Tips on Using GPS in Japan
Map Codes for Popular Destinations in Okinawa
OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review
Why OTS Rent-A-Car?
OTS was not my first choice to be honest. I wanted to rent from Sky Car Rental because I had loyalty points with them from my Hokkaido trips. (PS: Sky does not deal well with foreigners who cannot speak Japanese, which is why you don’t see me recommending them on my blog although I am kind of their loyal customer.) We ended up with OTS because we took Peach Airlines which used the LCC Terminal at Naha Airport.
There were only 4 car rental counters at Naha Airport LCC Terminal. Our departure flight from Okinawa was at 8.30am, which meant we had to return the car at 6.30am. I went to the 4 car rental companies’ websites to check their opening hours. The only company that stated upfront that they allowed customers to return the car from 6am onwards was OTS. So I just booked with them.
I was VERY GLAD I went with them, because when we arrived, they were the ONLY counter with staff manning their counter. The remaining 3 counters were empty, with signs telling you to either call them or make your way to their counter at the main terminal of Naha Airport. *roll eyes*
OTS Rent-A-Car and Peach Flight MM921
Since there are currently no direct commercial flights from Singapore to Okinawa, I have written earlier that one of the best way to fly from Singapore to Okinawa is via Taipei.
If you are flying the Taipei-Okinawa route on Peach Airlines, OTS Rent-A-Car has a special protocol in place specifically to ensure passengers on the return flight get to the airport in time. They have a shuttle bus departing their rental car outlet at 6.15am SHARP. So if you are taking flight MM921, let them know when you are making your reservation so that they can book you on the 6.15am shuttle to the airport.
There was an ENEOS petrol kiosk right beside OTS outlet. If the see the sign above, they only open at 8am. However, there was a staff stationed at the petrol kiosk at 6am, specially to cater to the customers returning their car at 6am for the morning shuttle.
Dealing with non-Japanese speaking Travellers
OTS dealt mostly with Chinese-speaking customers (presumably from Taiwan). Many of their staff spoke proficient Chinese. I booked under an English name and the staff who handled my reservation spoke good English. They even conducted a short ‘Basic Theory’ lesson on traffic rules in Okinawa, but I think it was targeted at the Taiwanese who practiced left-hand drive in their country. Singaporeans should have little problems driving in Japan which uses right-hand drive like Singapore.
OTS Rent-A-Car Airport Outlet Location & Amenities
OTS’s car rental outlet was NOT near the airport. It required a 20-min shuttle bus ride from the airport. If you are taking flight MM921, you would need to return the car at 6am. We made a mistake in staying at Naha City Centre, along Kokusai Dori, for our last night. It was a 40 min drive to the car rental outlet in morning 5am traffic (1 hour in normal traffic). We had to wake up at 4.30am to pack up and check out at 5am to make sure we reached there in time to complete the car-return procedure and board the 6.15am shuttle bus.
If you want to catch more Zs, I recommend spending your last night near Okinawa Outlet Mall Ashibinaa. OTS Car rental outlet was located very near the outlet mall and I spotted some hotels in the area. If we had stayed at a hotel there, we could have gotten an hour’s more sleep.
OTS Rent-A-Car Airport Outlet Amenities
At the car rental branch, you can purchase discounted tickets for Okinawa attractions.
You can also rent a WIFI router from them.
There was a driving simulator. It kept the kids entertained while waiting.
And a giant robot… Lol.
Our flight arrived at Naha Airport LCC Terminal punctually at 12.15pm. However, we only got our car at about 2.30pm. Why?
When we first arrived at the terminal, they had to wait for EVERYONE who made a booking to clear their customs and complete the registration at the car rental counter at the airport. Only after everyone has been accounted for did they start loading us onto the shuttle bus.
The shuttle bus ride from the airport to the car rental outlet took about 20 minutes.
The car rental outlet was SUPER CROWDED in the afternoon. On top of the bus load of customers from our flight, there were the customers who had came from the main terminal as well. So we queued for quite long to get our car.
So eventually, the time taken from our flight arrival to driving off was 2 hours. Please factor that into your travel plans.
Although we did not request for one, OTS Rent-A-Car provided us a hybrid car. We drove around quite a bit for 5 days and only used 2000yen of petrol. Also, the car was a keyless car. Yes, call me a ‘mountain turtle’, I have never used a keyless car before. It was super embarrassing when I could not even start the car and had to ask for help.
Like all rental cars in Japan, the car had a built-in GPS system. It was multi-lingual and they offered to help me set it to English. I left it as Japanese simply because I am a creature of habit and much more used to using a Japanese GPS. But just so you know, multi-lingual GPS was available.
Overall Verdict on OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa
I highly recommend them for non-Japanese speaking travellers. They dealt mostly with foreigners. The car we received was very new and fuel-efficient. The price was also very reasonable (about SGD50 per day). They provided us with a very good English road map, complete with map codes of popular destinations in Okinawa.
The only downside was the long waiting time to collect the vehicle and the distance of the car rental outlet from the airport.
OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Booking
To reserve a rental car with OTS, visit their official website.
Posts from the same trip
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