Home >> Japan Travel,Japan Travel Tips >> Hokkaido Expressway Pass vs ETC Card & Hokkaido Toll Fees


Ever since I wrote my post on Money-Saving Tips for Self-Drive in Hokkaido, I have been getting many questions regarding the Hokkaido Expressway Pass (HEP).  In this post, I am going to try to answer all the FAQs on using the HEP.

What is ETC?

ETC is a cashless system in Japan for paying toll fees.  It involves two things:

  • A card reader inside the car called an ETC unit.
  • A card that’s like a credit card called an ETC card.

You need to have BOTH to use the ETC lanes on the expressway.    For a more detailed explanation with cartoons and all, visit > this website <.

The Singapore Analogy:
The ETC system works exactly like our cashcard and in-vehicle unit.  All our cars come with in-vehicle units.  But we still need to have a cashcard to insert into it before we can drive through our ERP gantries.   The ETC unit is basically the IU and the ETC card is basically the cashcard.

My car rental says ETC is included.  Does that mean I can use the ETC lanes?

This is where it gets a bit confusing for first-timers renting a car in Japan.  Many car rental companies will say that they have ETC included in the car rental.  But this usually means they have the ETC unit inside the car.  But NOT necessarily they are able to provide you an ETC card.

So why do they say ETC is included? So misleading!

Japan tourism is largely driven by their own locals.  Bulk of the car rental business comes from domestic travelers.  Who probably own their own ETC cards.  Hence, all they need to know is whether there is an ETC unit in the car where they can insert their own ETC card.

And yes, they do need to state because some of the smaller car rental companies may not even have an ETC unit in their cars.  Most of the big companies have them by default though.

What’s so great about using the ETC lanes?

1. It is cashless.  You just drive straight through without having to fiddle with tickets and money at every toll booth.

2. There are discounts*. For e.g. If you use the ETC lanes on weekends, there is a 30% discount on toll fees.

*Note: There are bunch of different discounts and they change from time to time, so I can’t tell you for sure how much the discount is.  You can refer to the following websites for information regarding ETC discount schemes and try to make sense of them:

What is HEP?

Hokkaido Expressway Pass (HEP) is like a concession pass for expressways.  It comes in the form of an ETC card.

What is the difference between HEP and ETC?

They look and are used exactly the same.  But a standard ETC card would charge you based on per-usage, whereas a HEP would charge based on the number of days, regardless of how much / little you use the expressway.

Again, a Singaporean analogy: You know our EZ link card for public transport? For a normal EZ link card, we pay for each ride we take.  But if we get a monthly concession, we pay for the month, regardless of how much we ride.  But either ways we are using the same EZ link card.  Geddit?

Should I get the HEP or ETC?

Whether to get a HEP or ETC (or none at all) depends on your itinerary and how much you are going to be using toll ways.

In general, if you are not using the toll roads much, it may not be worth the hassle to try to get an ETC card.  Most car rental companies charge for the rental of an ETC card and the fee varies.  Some companies require you to put a hefty deposit from which they will deduct your toll fees from and refund you the balance (if I’m not mistaken, Tocoo does this). If the deposit is charged to your credit card and subsequently refunded, you may lose out on exchange rate.  So unless the car rental company is offering an ETC card for a nominal one-time fee of like 300yen without deposit, I would just pay cash for the few times I pass through the toll gates.

For heavier usage, whether or not to get the HEP, you need to do some Math.  It’s like whether you should get a Hokkaido Rail Pass or buy single trip train tickets, same concept.  Except Hyperdia makes it easy for us to calculate and add up the price of single trip train tickets, but we don’t have a Hyperdia-for-toll-fees, if you know what I mean.  All we have is this confusing toll fee chart  and Tocoo’s not-so-easy-to-use Highway Toll Fee Simulation System.

So I am going to water down it down to the most common routes used by tourists.  It is not going to be super accurate because it depends on exactly which exit / entrance you use.  But as a rough guide, you can use the fees below to do your Math to see if HEP is worth it or not.

Hokkaido Expressway Toll Fees (Cash)

From Sapporo

  • Sapporo to New Chitose Airport = 1410 yen
  • Sapporo to Hakodate = 6010 Yen
  • Sapporo to Lake Toya = 3590 Yen (This toll can be avoided)
  • Sapporo to Noboribetsu = 2590 Yen
  • Sapporo to Otaru = 810 Yen
  • Sapporo to Mikasa (for Furano) = 1270 Yen
  • Sapporo to Asahikawa = 3490 Yen
  • Sapporo to Tomamu 3320 Yen
  • Sapporo to Obihiro = 4360 Yen
  • Sapporo to Kushiro = 5490 Yen

From New Chitose Airport (CTS)

  • CTS to Hakodate = 5430 yen
  • CTS to Lake Toya = 2970 yen
  • CTS to Noboribetsu = 1750 yen
  • CTS to Otaru = 2220 yen
  • CTS to Asahikawa = 4730 yen
  • CTS to Shimukappu (for Furano) = 2440 yen
  • CTS to Tomamu = 3050 yen
  • CTS to Obihiro = 4090 yen
  • CTS to Kushiro = 5220 yen

From Hakodate

  • Hakodate to Niseko = 2670 yen
  • Hakodate to Lake Toya = 3330 yen
  • Hakodate to Noboribetsu = 4280 yen

From Tomamu / Furano

  • Tomamu / Furano to Obihiro = 1340 yen
  • Tomamu / Furano to Kushiro = 2470 yen

And here is the price of the HEP as of date of publication:

Image Source: Hokkaido Expressway Pass Website

Other things to consider for HEP

Which car rental outlets offer HEP?

You need to refer to this list for the participating outlets.

Can I pick up / drop off at different outlets?

No.  HEP requires the car to be returned to the same outlet it was picked up from.

Can I purchase the HEP only for the days I am using the expressway?

No.  You need to purchase the HEP for your whole rental duration from pick up to drop off. And it goes by calendar date, not number of hours.  E.g. if you pick up the car on 1 Jan at 10am and return it on 2 Jan at 9am, it is considered 2 days.

Do I need to make a reservation in advance for the HEP?

Yes.  You need to specify that you would like the HEP when you book your rental car and this should be done in advance.

Have I answered your question?

For more information on Hokkaido Expressway Pass, please visit > the official website <.

If you still have any questions pertaining to the use of ETC card / HEP, feel free to post them under the comments.

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the author

Supposed to be a stay-home mom, but hates staying home. Definition of parenting is bringing the boys out for 'experiential learning' in Singapore, Japan and wherever else in the world her husband can afford to pay for.


  1. samantha says:

    I like to know why the toll fee from Sappora to Toya lake can be avoided? I plan is Sappora –> Toya –>Furano in 3 days 2 nights, should i buy HEP?

  2. Sook Yin says:

    If i am not renting from one of the car rentals company that provides the HEP, can that pass be purchased separately and if so, from where?

  3. eco says:

    Meaning to say that when I rent the car I should address the company I need th ETC Unit and the ETC card. They may require me to top up the value for the ETC card right? What if I use up the credit in the card how do I top up the credit into the card? Where can I do it?

    This is my itinerary:
    Day 01 28/7 Thu: Depart from KL to CTS. Chitose to Sapporo is 1hr by train
    Day 02 29/7 Fri: CTS – Lake Shikotsu – Noboribetsu (Noboribetsu, 1 night)
    Day 03 30/7 Sat: Noboribetsu – Lake Toya (Lake Toya, 1 night)
    Day 04 31/7 Sun: Lake Toya – Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
    Day 05 01/8 Mon: Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru) (Sapporo, 1 night)
    Day 06 02/8 Tue: Sapporo (Sapporo, 1 night)
    Day 07 03/8 Wed: Sapporo – Asahikawa (Asahikawa, 1 night)
    Day 08 04/8 Thu: Asahikawa – Abashiri (Abashiri, 1 night)
    Day 09 05/8 Fri: Abashiri – Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
    Day 10 06/8 Sat: Shiretoko (Shiretoko, 1 night)
    Day 11 07/8 Sun: Shiretoko – Lake Akan (Lake Akan, 1 night)
    Day 12 08/8 Mon: Lake Akan – Furano (Furano, 1 night)
    Day 13 09/8 Tue: Furano (Furano, 1 night)
    Day 14 10/8 Wed: Furano (Day trip to Biei) (Furano, 1 night)
    Day 15 11/8 Thu: Furano – CTS (Chitose, 1 night)
    Day 16 12/8 Fri: CTS back to KL

    For going to such places, do you think worth to get HEP? By looking at the Applicable Sections for the HEP from their website http://www.driveplaza.com/trip/drawari/hokkaido_expass/en.html it doesn’t cover my Day 09 onwards (7 days), just could like to double confirm with you base on my understanding.

    How about your previous experience? Did you pay cash, use normal ETC Card with credit or the pass HEP?

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The ETC card procedure differs from company to company. Ideally, the company will not ask for a deposit beforehand and only ask you to pay the toll fees you incurred at the end of the trip when you return the car. Usually, there is a rental fee (on top of the toll fees) involved which fluctuates between companies, so you need to ask the car company how much their rental fee is. If the rental fee is a lot, the savings that the ETC gives you may not justify paying for the rental of the ETC card, especially when you don’t use the toll road a lot.

      For your case, I don’t think the HEP is necessary. The bulk of your drives is going to be toll free. The drive from CTS to Lake Shikotsu to Noboribetsu to Lake Toya to Sapporo can be done without tolls if you know how to set your GPS to avoid the toll roads:

      From Lake Akan to Furano, it is also possible to avoid the toll road by using the route I have marked out on Google map below:

      The only tolls you won’t avoid are from Sapporo to Otaru and back, Sapporo to Asahikawa and Furano to CTS. The whole area further Northeast from Asahikawa to Shiretoko to Akan National Park is toll free.

      • eco says:

        You are such a wonderful advisor, appreciated and thank you very much expert Bumble Bee Mum!

        I think I will pay CASH 😛

      • eco says:

        When filling up ToCoo car rental online form, I notice there is a column to be filled which is “Drivers License”. Shall we apply our international license to be enabled for the car renting procedure? May I know how did you do that when booking with ToCoo?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Is it a compulsory field? If it is then you need to apply for your International Driving License first.

          • eco says:

            I read it from the captured screenshot, will have to check it out. When was your last book it from Tocoo? Do you still remember if you need that when book a car via their website?

          • eco says:

            Hello BBM, for Tocoo car rental, i read from here http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/faq#G to pick up the car we shall take the shuttle to the outlet, base from your experience how far the outlet from Chitose Airport?

            Flight will be landed at 8:20am. We plan to eat some food before take the shuttle to the outlet, our pick up time is 12noon. Is it sufficient time? Where was the exact location in the airport you wait for their shuttle bus? How long it takes to get there? Thanks

            • bumblebeemum says:

              For all car rentals from New Chitose Airport, you will be required to take a shuttle from the airport to the car rental outlet. Different car rental companies have different frequencies for their shuttle services, but I would say to allocate 30min to get from the airport to the car rental outlet. Which company are you using and do they have a desk at New Chitose Airport? If they have a desk, I suggest you go to the desk at 11.30am to request for the shuttle and you should arrive at about 12noon.

              • eco says:

                Rented from Tocoo

                Pick up Outlet:Nissan Car Rental New-Chitose Airport
                     〒066-0013 Hokkaido2-2-5 Kashiwadai Minami, Chitose-shi

          • eco says:

            on the last day we plan to return the car at 9pm. But the website no information on the outlet business hour, how can we check this information?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              You need to check with the car rental company whether they are open till so late. Many car rental offices near CTS close by 8pm, with their last shuttle leaving for CTS at maybe 7.45pm. The reason being there are hardly any flights out of CTS at night. The bigger companies may open later, but you need to check with the company you are renting from.

  4. A.S. says:

    Your articles about driving in Hokkaido are invaluable even for people who live in Japan! Thank you for the information!
    I find the HEP restriction to drop off the car at the same location a real bummer and rather illogical, since a trip around Hokkaido is not necessarily a circle – especially when the island has that long “tail” leading to Hakodate, and there are more than one international airports. HEP would have been a great deal from my planned trip, but sadly I can’t use it because of this restriction.

    Anyway, I’d like to ask you for advice about some possible tollway avoiding routes. I’ve been to Hokkaido many times (including on the Hokkaido Rail Pass), but in this August for the first time me and my wife will explore it by car. She is the driver and because her driving experience is only from the flatness of Australia, she is a bit worried about driving through the curvy mountainous roads that Japan is known for. Therefore, while we’d be happy to avoid tollways, we much more want to avoid mountain passes and narrow roads. Here is our itinerary:

    Day 1: Chitose Airport – Tokachi Plains (possibly the Millenium Forest or some other garden) – Kushiro
    Day 2: Kushiro – Lakes Akan, Masshuko, Kussharo – Shari/Abashiri
    Day 3: Shiretoko visit
    Day 4: Abashiri – Asahikawa (possibly Asahidake Ropeway)
    Day 5: Asahikawa – Furano/Biei – Sapporo
    Day 6: Sapporo – Shiraoi – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
    Day 7: Lake Toya – Hakodate (drop off the car)

    I’m wondering if the the alternative roads on this itinerary are safe for drivers inexperienced on mountain driving, or we should stick to the highways whenever possible.
    Also, we prefer to pay in cash for the rental car (as we live in Japan), and wonder if ETC card rental is possible without a credit card deposit.


    • bumblebeemum says:


      Apologies for the late reply as we have been overseas.

      I do agree with you that the requirement to return the car to the same outlet is a real bummer! It’s probably a logistical issue on the car rental companies’ ends but hopefully we will see changes in future. Since I first used the HEP in 2013, the number of car rental companies that offer HEP has increased tremendously, so that is a sign of the popularity of the HEP. Hopefully with more people using, they will seek ways to improve the service to make it more competive, like offering it one-way in future. *staying optimistic*

      Most of the time when you avoid tollways, you will end up driving along mountainous routes. So I guess if you want to avoid mountainous routes, you should stick to the tollways whenever possible.

      I believe you can place a cash deposit instead of a credit card deposit for ETC card rentals if you rent direct from the car rental companies. But if you go through companies like Tocoo, they usually requires credit card deposits.

      Your itinerary looks very rushed imo. You are going to be spending many hours on the road and not quite enough time in Furano and Biei where the flower and lavender fields are I feel.

      • A.S. says:

        Hi again and thanks for the advice! We actually booked a car through Rakuten as per your advice, and that was quite a deal: there was a 68% off campaign to an already budget rental car company!
        We decided to stick to the highways and go without an ETC card. I hope there aren’t queues at the manned toll gates.

        I know the itinerary is rushed; I did it alone a couple of years ago by train/buses and I thought even traveling on a vehicle in Hokkaido is pleasant because the views are great everywhere. We’ll be having many stops along the way, so it shouldn’t be only driving.

  5. Bebe Ooi says:

    Hi bumble bee mom,
    I am planning for these routes.
    Can you guide me which I need to use toll/ which I can avoid tolls?
    Trip 1 – Sapporo – Furano – Biei – Asahikawa – Otaru
    Trip 2 – Otaru – Yoichi – Hakodate
    Trip 3 – Hakodate to Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – Chitose

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Trip 1 – You will need to use toll between Sapporo and Furano and between Asahikawa and Otaru.
      Trip 2 – You can drive toll free from Otaru till Lake Toya and enter the tollway from there to Hakodate.
      Trip 3 – You will need to toll way between Hakodate and Lake Toya. But it is possible to avoid toll between Lake Toya and Noboribetsu by using the Orofure Pass. From Noboribetsu to Chitose, you will need to use the tollway again.

  6. Ling says:

    Thanks for the detailed write up! May I know if I can do without HEP if my places are new chitose-shintoku-furano-biei-asahikawa-Sapporo?
    I m hoping to rent my car from airport and return at Sapporo.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you pick up the car at the airport and return it to Sapporo, you cannot get the HEP. You will only be using the toll way twice: From CTS to Shintoku and from Asahikawa to Sapporo.

      • Avelyn Lew says:

        Really enjoyed your write-up on your Hokkaido driving adventures. We made 2 trips this year for the snow festival & sakura viewing end April. Both times we rented a car and we were able to return them to different places (1st – Hakodate, 2nd time in Susukino) from where we picked them up which was New Chitose Airport. May I know have they changed the policy whereby we can only get the HEP if pick up drop off must be of same place? Thanks !

        • bumblebeemum says:

          One-way rentals are really convenient for Hokkaido travel I must say. As far as I know, HEP requires the car to be returned to the same office it was picked up from. I went to read the terms and conditions on the HEP website again:

          Under ‘Usage Instructions’ point (5), it says “At the end of the trip, the customer shall return the Designated Rentacar and Designated ETC Card to the Designated Car Rental Company”.

          Real bummer, I know. 🙁

          • Avelyn Lew says:

            Hi again,

            Yes…it would be much convenient. Perhaps you can try check out Nippon rent-a-car Hokkaido. I rented with them and had no problem with different drop offs.
            Hope this will help you when you go Hokkaido again which I’m pretty sure you will. 😉

            • bumblebeemum says:

              It’s always a trade-off between price and service I feel. Generally the bigger companies like Toyota and Nippon deal better with foreigners and give non-Japanese speaking travellers a greater piece of mind. Also, the bigger companies have more branches throughout Hokkaido and are hence able to offer more flexibility in terms drop-off options. But they will cost more than the smaller companies.

              The smaller companies can be crazy cheap, but they may only be able to converse in Japanese and unable to understand special requests or explain terms & conditions clearly. And they may not have the capacity to offer drop-off at different locations because they don’t have that many locations to begin with. Oh well.. Can’t have the best of both worlds.

  7. alyssa says:

    hi, may i know which website i can rent mini van for 9people and also can fit all our luaggages? Because the websites i went to maximum is for 8people. thank you

  8. Confused says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum,

    I intend to go on the following route:
    Day 1: Sapporo -> Hakodate
    Day 2: Hakodate -> Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya
    Day 3: Noboribetsu -> Asahikawa -> Daisetsuzan National Park
    Day 4: Asahikawa -> Furano
    Day 5: Furano -> Sapporo -> Otaru

    Could you advise if we should buy the HEP card/ETC card?

    Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Where are you picking up the car and returning it to? It does look like you will be on the expressway a lot so a HEP will probably be worthwhile. But HEP requires the car to be returned to the same branch it is picked up from.

      Btw when are you travelling? Your itinerary looks extremely rushed. For Day 2, you should go in the order Hakodate -> Lake Toya -> Noboribetsu. For Day 3, it is really very rushed, but if you really want to do this, I suggest you spend the night at Sounkyo onsen instead of Asahikawa. Then on Day 4, go to Furano from Sounkyo.

      • Confused says:

        We will be picking up and returning the car in Sapporo. We are travelling in end July and early August! Unfortunately due to last minute bookings we have limited reasonably priced accommodation. We might leave out Daisetsuzan national Park then – is it worth going? Thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you are picking up and returning the car in Sapporo, then a 5-days HEP will probably serve you well. From Sapporo to Hakodate alone, the toll fee in cash would already be about 6000yen. The 5-days HEP only costs 6700yen. So HEP will definitely be good for your case.

          I will probably leave out Daisetsuzan National Park if I were you. I would spend more time at Furano and Biei for your dates.

  9. Daphne says:

    Hi, thank you for such an informative post!

    I recently just learned about the HEP and bcos I’m travelling around Hokkaido from 14th to 24th July, the HEP will be a better saver for me.

    However, the car company I rented my car from (world net rent-a-car) does not provide HEP purchase. As such, I’m unsure how can I get the HEP in this way. Is it possible to obtain HEP from anothe car company and then use it on the car I have rented from world net?

    Appreciate your assistance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      That’s really one of the downside of HEP: You must rent the car from one of the handling companies. So if you are renting the car from World Net and World Net is not a HEP handling company, then you CANNOT get a HEP.

  10. Adeline says:

    I would like to seek you advise too BBM, I have been emailing Toocoo! rental but I still cannot understand their rental policy where I select option with HEP and ETC card that cost more than ones without, yet it does not cover the rental of these items.

    I also like to ask if my journey below would be advisable without HEP and should I rent a ETC card? P.S I am returning car in Sapporo and renting in CTS.

    Day 1: CTS -> Tomito Farm Furano -> Biei Hotel Park Hills
    Day 2: Biei -> Daisetsuzan National Park -> Furano Flowerland -> Tomamu
    Day 3: Tomamu -> Noboribetsu Hells’ Valley
    Day 4: Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya
    Day 5: Lake toya -> Otaru Grand Canal -> Sapporo

    Would you think a ETC card is necessary as well for the above journey?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oh dear.. it does sound very confusing to me!! Tocoo is known to be very very confusing when it comes to pricing.. My general take on Tocoo is, if you are okay with the overall price they are offering, then just take it as a whole and don’t try to figure out the details because it can drive you insane. But if you find the overall pricing too expensive after adding in all their funny fees, then go direct to the car companies or try finding someone who knows Japanese to help you out on Rakuten.

      Your Day 2 itinerary looks very rushed btw.

      You will be using the toll roads 3 times:
      1) CTS – Furano
      2) Tomamu – Noboribetsu
      3) Otaru – Sapporo

      Note that between Noboribetsu and Lake Toya, the GPS may recommend you the toll road but you can use Orofure Pass which is non-toll.

      I don’t think an ETC card is absolutely necessary for your case since you are not using the toll roads that often.

      • Adeline says:

        HI BBM, thank you for the great advise! I believe Tabirai is currently considered cheaper for Honda car with all CDW and NOC coverage.

        Las thing, based on your suggestion, I can pay cash for toll?

        Can’t thank you enough for all these great blog of advises! Kudos!

  11. Albert Onizuka Lam says:

    Hi There,

    Thanks for the well written article.

    Just wanted to drop a note that I have shared your post in the Japan Travel, Friendly Discussion Group.



  12. AJ says:

    Nice article. Customers who are foreigner can also obtain an ETC here in Japan.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      You know.. I’ve always wanted to have an ETC card of my own because of how much I drive in Japan so I am very interested to find out more about this.

      I have taken a look at your website and, correct me if I’m wrong, it seems to be more for foreigners living in Japan rather than leisure travellers like me who visit Japan like once or twice a year? But if I understood the point on ‘not being billed if I do not use the ETC card’, does it mean this:

      Let’s say I visit Japan in June and I decide to get a card from japanETCcard.com. I need to pay a set-up fee of 2750 yen and a refundable deposit of 40,000yen. The ETC card will then be mailed to me here in Singapore? I bring the card to Japan during my trip in June. I use the card then. And I will pay 1200yen under the ‘Pay as You Go’ plan together with all toll fees incurred and these will be charged to my credit card on file. From July to November, I am back in Singapore so I don’t pay anything right? And let’s say in December I decide to go Japan again. So I bring my ETC card there, use it for my trip there, and I will be charged 1200yen plus toll fees with my credit card on file again. Then I won’t be charged anything until the next time I go Japan again… Is that how it works?

  13. Claudia says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,
    It’s amazing how much you know and truly informative! Thank you!
    Would like to enquire, if I am making a trip, do you reckon it’s worthwhile to get either a HEP or rent an ETC from the car rental? Thanks in advance!
    Day 1: Sapporo to Ikutora
    Day 2: Ikutora to Furano
    Day 3: Furano to Tenninkyo onsen
    Day 5: Tenninkyo Onsen to Saporo

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. THe price of the HEP would probably be a wee bit pretty cheaper than invidual toll fees for your case. You are only using the toll road from Sapporo to Ikutora (exit Tomamu) and from Tenninkyo (from entering the expressway at Asahikawa) back to Sapporo.

  14. Mable says:

    Hi BBM,

    I would like to check for the HEP u mention if we wanna rent we can only lend and return the car to the same location right?

    Meaning if i were to pick up at CTS airport i cant return at Sapporo brand?


  15. JW says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum! I’m really glad I chanced upon your blog! It is extremely helpful 😀 I have planned the following itinerary and based on the indicative toll fees you provided, it seems like I should get the HEP? If it’s not too much trouble, would appreciate your advice please:
    Day 1:
    Chitose – Sapporo
    Day 2:
    Sapporo – Furano – Biei – Asahikawa
    Day 3:
    Tour around Asahikawa
    Day 4:
    Asahikawa – Sounkyo – Abashiri
    Day 5:
    Abashiri – Shiretoko National Park – Abashiri
    Day 6:
    Abashiri – Obihiro
    Day 7:
    Tour around Tokachigawa region
    Day 8:
    Obihiro – Sapporo
    Day 9:
    Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 10:
    Sapporo – Jozankei – Sapporo
    Day 11:
    Sapporo – Chitose

    Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      In general, if I am spending a lot of days off the toll roads, I won’t get the HEP. Getting the HEP restricts my car rental options, so sometimes I don’t just look at how much the HEP saves me in terms of toll fees, I also look at the actual car rental price. Coz maybe a car company that doesn’t offer HEP can rent me a car for much cheaper.

      Looking at your route, it seems that HEP is not going to be very significantly cheaper than paying tolls individually. So what I would do is, I would surf around for my car rental options. If the company offering the cheapest deal happens to be one of HEP’s handling office, then no harm getting the HEP. But if the company offering the cheapest deal is like 10,000yen cheaper than a company that offers HEP, I would go for the company with the cheap car rental and forego HEP. Know what I mean?

  16. aud says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!
    Thanks for the detailed write up, your blog has really helped me alot in planning my itinerary.
    Hope you can help me a little with this. I’m intending to rent a car to drive from lake toya to cape kamui (because i read ur blog!!! 😀 ) and back to lake toya.

    And i’ll use the JR pass to travel about to sapporo.
    I’ll rent a car again at sapporo to drive to furano/biei (likely spending one entire day, not sure if its going to be very packed. might stay one night in either furano or biei) then back to sapporo to return the car.
    Do you think I should go for the ETC or the HEP?

    Thanks alot in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Lake Toya / Cape Kamui, that area is toll free so you won’t need the ETC / HEP.

      As for Sapporo to Furano & Biei, I do recommend spending a night there. A day trip is possible but very rushed. If you rent a car for two days and drive Sapporo – Furano – Biei – Asahikawa – Sapporo, the two-days HEP would be cheaper than paying toll by cash.

      • aud says:

        Thanks for the reply!! 😀
        After much thoughts, I decided likely not to stay at furano/biei. Do u still think i should go with the 2 days HEP?
        Trying to budget and save on an extra day of car rental and hotels in that area are slightly more pricey.
        My planned itinerary will be:

        Leave sapporo at 6/7am (if car rental company has already operated)
        Arrive at Furano/Biei, visit
        – Farm Tomita
        – Melon House
        – Flowerland kamifurano
        – Lunch at Kumagera
        – Hokuseino-Oka Observatory Park (if time allows)
        – Shikisai no oka
        – Chiyoda farm restaurant (if time allows)
        – Blue Pond
        – Shirahige Waterfalls

        What are your thoughts, do u think its doable?
        Also, may i know how do you check if the roads are toll free?

        Appreciate if you can help me on this 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you want to leave Sapporo at 6/7am, you need to pick up the car the previous night and park it at the hotel first.

          If you are doing a day trip from Sapporo, I don’t think there is enough time to cover all the places you listed, especially if you want to return the car in time to make it a 1-day rental. (For e.g. if you pick up the car at 8pm the previous night, you have to return it by 8pm which means you need to leave Biei by 5pm to be safe.) I would give it 2 days to cover the area at a comfortable pace.

          To check if roads are toll free, you can use Google map. Google map will say “this route has tolls” if the route involves using toll roads.

  17. Bryan says:

    Fascinated by your blogs so far. It really gave me a lot of useful info 🙂

    I would appreciate if you could advise me of some concerns. Planning a self-drive trip 7th Nov – 14th Nov. Tentatively, Chitose -> Noboribetsu(1n) -> Lake Toya(1n) -> Hakodate(1n) -> Otaru(1n) -> Sapporo(3n) -> Chitose

    1) Plan to rent a car thru Tocoo by picking up and returning at CTS. Do they provide shutter between airport and car rental office there?
    2) Seeing that I will be doing some long drivings, is it worth getting HEP and can I pickup both the car and the card at CTS branch?
    3) Because my flight is too early on final day (9AM), should I return the car early on 13th and stay near Chitose on my last night? Because I noticed if I choose early return (before 7AM) will be much lesser choices of car
    4) Any recommendations of places to go other than spending all 3 nights at Sapporo?

    Sorry for asking so many, am travelling to Japan for the first time just want to make sure we are well prepared 🙂

    • eco says:

      Hi Bryan, I just back from Hokkaido two weeks ago and rented my car from Tocoo Nissan. Yeap, they provide shutter CTS – Nissan centre about 10mins ride.

      Collect the car at afternoon and return at night 9pm. Stay in the airport for the early flight next day.

      • Bryan says:

        Thanks Eco! I was thinking that is the better choice, so no rush on the final day. Any recommended hotel near airport and place of interest to visit around Chitose (without car)?

        • eco says:

          There is a hotel inside the airport itself, BBM stayed there before.

          We just spent few hours inside the airport onsen till next morning flight. Both connected to the departure, by walking.

          In Sapporo we stayed at Mercure Hotel, good location at Susukino area.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) Yup, the car rental companies provide shuttle between the airport and their offices.

      2) You can estimate the toll fees and see if it is worth getting the HEP. The HEP will be given to you by the car rental company when you pick up the car if you had reserved one.

      3) Usually when I have an early flight out, I will spend my last night at Air Terminal Hotel within CTS. The car rental offices usually don’t open that early.

      4) It is possible to fit in Niseko between Hakodate and Otaru. Helps to break up the long drive.

      • Bryan says:

        Thanks B/Eco again for your advices! I think I will skip HEP this time but will rent an ETC card along either from Tabirai or Tocoo. Just to confirm, the ETC card is charged to my credit card and only need to pay at the end of my journey upon returning it?

        Generally this is the plan, kindly help to comment/amend as needed:

        1) 7th Nov, Arrive CTS 8AM. Explore around the airport and pickup car at 11AM. Drive to Noboribetsu (~87KM). Plan to visit Jigokudani and Shiraoi Ainu Museum. Spend the night at Dormy Inn Higashi Muroran Natural Hot Spring (tentative)

        2) 8th Nov, drive to Lake Toya (~36KM). Spend the night at a lakeside apartment I found from airbnb (tentative)

        3) 9th Nov, drive to Hakodate (~166KM). Spend the night at either Hakodate Kokusai or Hakodate Grand. Plan to visit Mt. Hakodate at night, Fort Goryokaku, Red Brick Warehouses and Asaichi morning market. I think can just park at hotel and walk to these places

        4) 10th Nov, drive to Otaru (~245KM). Spend the night at Grand Park Otaru. Plan to visit Otaru Canal, Citi Museum, Railway Museum, Sakaimachi Street

        5) 11th Nov, drive to Sapporo (~35KM). Undecided on hotels to stay or places to visit

        6) 13th Nov, drive back to Chitose to return vehicle and spend the night at airport hotel (undecided)

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Not sure about Tabirai, but Tocoo (if I’m not mistaken – never tried it out myself, just what I heard from my friends) will deduct a certain deposit from your credit card. From there, they deduct the toll fees and refund you the remaining balance. On the other hand when I rented an ETC card from the car rental company (TIMES), they didn’t require any deposit whatsoever. Only when I returned the car, they checked how much toll fees I incurred and I just paid them that amount.

          • Bryan says:

            Thanks B. I was also thinking to cut short rental time by returning the car early, as my last 2/3 days at Sapporo only. How easy is it to go around Sapporo by foot or bus? How about from Sapporo to CTS?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Oh, it’s pretty easy. You don’t really need a car in Sapporo, so it makes sense to return the car early and save on car rental for the last few days. From Sapporo to CTS, if you are staying near Sapporo station, there is a direct train. If you are staying in Susukino, the airport limousine bus would be more direct.

  18. Bryan says:

    Had to revise the route of my plan as much lesser hotel options during weekend at Sapporo (especially the highly recommended Mercure). Could you help to take a look and comment as needed?

    7th Nov – Arrive CTS 8AM. Explore around the airport and pickup car at 11AM. Drive to Sapporo (~49KM) and spend 2 nights at Mercure Hotel (tentative)

    8th Nov – Stay at Sapporo

    9th Nov – Drive to Otaru (~38KM). Spend the night at Grand Park Otaru. Plan to visit Otaru Canal, Citi Museum, Railway Museum, Sakaimachi Street

    10th Nov – Drive to Lake Toya (~115KM). Spend the night at Granvillage Toya Daiwa Ryokan Annex (tentative)

    11th Nov – Drive to Hakodate (~164KM). Spend the night at either Hakodate Kokusai or Hakodate Grand. Plan to visit Mt. Hakodate at night, Fort Goryokaku, Red Brick Warehouses and Asaichi morning market. I think can just park at hotel and walk to these places

    12th Nov – Drive to Muroran/Noboribetsu (~213KM). Plan to visit Jigokudani and Shiraoi Ainu Museum. Spend the night at Dormy Inn Higashi Muroran Natural Hot Spring or Hotel Route Inn Higashimuroran Ekimae (tentative)

    13th Nov – Drive back to Chitose to return car and spend the night at airport hotel

    14th Nov – 9AM flight home. Free shuttle from hotel to airport

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yup, this route works too. 🙂 If you don’t need the car in Sapporo, you can pick up the car when you are leaving Sapporo and return it to CTS. This way you can save on the first few days’ car rental.

  19. ST says:

    Hi BBM, my family of 3 will be arriving chitose on 8 Oct ard noon and leaving on 15 oct. We plan to rent a car and set for:
    8/10 – Chitose to Noboribetsu (1 night)
    9/10 – Noboribetsu to Hakodate (1 night)
    10/10 – Hakodate to Lake Toya (1 night)
    11/10 – Lake Toya to Otaru (1 night)
    12/10 – Otaru to Jozankei to Sapporo (return car & stay 3 nights)
    15/10 – Sapporo to Chitose by train or limousine bus

    Would like to seek your advice on our itinerary and routes that we can avoid the toll, plse? Cud you recommend reasonably good accommodation?

    Since it is autumn mth and daylight will be short, what wud be the ideal time to set off from each place of stay to next destination?

    Wud v much appreciate yr advice. Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When you go down to Hakodate, it is a bit hard to avoid the toll. Your itinerary looks pretty packed, so I would use the toll road to save time actually. You will encounter toll roads on the first 3 days.

      The place to set off depends on your itinerary and what are the places you want to visit in each town? You need to work out what are the places you want to visit. For e.g. on 10/10, let’s say you want to visit Hakodate Morning Market in the morning, so you will leave Hakodate a bit later and reach Lake Toya a bit later. Which means you will have to push some of Lake Toya’s sightseeing to the next day and hence arrive at Otaru later. But on 12/10, you need to leave Otaru early because you also want to visit Jozankei. So you realise you don’t have much time in Otaru. You may have to tweak your itinerary to maybe spend one more night in Otaru. But if let’s say you don’t have many places you want to visit in Lake Toya and you can leave Lake Toya right after breakfast on 11th, then you can do Otaru sightseeing on 11th and leave Otaru early on 12th to visit Jozankei and Sapporo.

      In Noboribetsu, I like Hotel Mahoroba. In Lake Toya, I like Toya Sunpalace. In Hakodate, I like the location of Hakodate Kokusai Hotel and La Vista Hakodate Bay. In Otaru, I like the location of Hotel Vibrant Otaru. And in Sapporo, I usually stay at Mercure.

  20. Aaron Sim says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    First off… HUGE fan of your blog! Please keep up the good work and continue educating us Gaijins :p

    Anyway, we will be visiting Hokkaido from 7th to 15th Feb 2016.

    Our plan in Hokkaido currently looks like this:-
    7th Tokyo – Chitose – Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    8th Sapporo – Hakodate **RENT CAR FROM SAPPORO** (Stay Hakodate)
    9th Stay Hakodate
    10th Stay Hakodate
    11th Hakodate – Otaru (Stay Otaru)
    12th Otaru – Kourakuen Onsen (Stay Asarigawa)
    13th Otaru – Sapporo **RETURN CAR AT SAPPORO** (Stay Sapporo)
    14th Stay Sapporo
    15th Return to Tokyo

    We have pretty much firmed up the itinerary and booked most of our accommodations, including Car Rental from Times Car Rental Company through Tocoo.

    My main question would be concerning whether the itinerary makes sense. Also, regarding the tolls, ETC card, Hokkaido Express Pass.
    1. I know i’ve already booked most things, but based on your expertise, does it make sense?
    2. Should I get a HEP judging from my itinerary?
    3. Also, they said ETC unit is provided but the ETC card is not provided. Where can I buy one?
    4. Are you able to recommend any routes for our drive? (I’m mainly concerned with the drive from Sapporo to Hakodate, and the drive back from Hakodate to Yoichi/Otaru)

    Really appreciate your reply and help on our queries above. I can be contactable via email/whatsapp as well (below).

    Thank you so much for taking time to help newbie travellers like us find our way around Japan!

    Love Japan so much we want to go every year.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. It looks okay. Just that the drive to and from Hakodate is very long. I usually plan stops at Noboribetsu / Lake Toya to break up drives to and from Hakodate. E.g. I will stop at Noboribetsu on the way to Hakodate, and stop and Lake Toya on the way back from Hakodate.

      2. Getting a HEP would make sense for you. The drive to and fro Hakodate would incur toll fees more than the price of the HEP already.

      3. If you want to get the HEP, you will need to inform Times Car Rental that you need the HEP and confirm the availability with them. The HEP comes in the form of an ETC card.

      4. The drive from Sapporo to Hakodate is pretty straightforward – just use the toll way:

      From Hakodate back to Otaru, you will take the toll way halfway then cut through inland straight towards Otaru.

      (PS: I have edited your comment to remove your contact details for your privacy.)

      • Aaron Sim says:

        Dear BBM,

        Would like to check with you in the following:
        1. How the driving conditions are like in February 2017, a little worried about the drive.

        2. What’s the speed limit on the expressway from Sapporo to Hakodate?

        3. How fast can I drive on the expressway with snow chains on? Will it be dangerous?

        4. It costs slightly more to drive considering the HEP compared to taking the train. Do you suggest for us to drive or take the train instead?

        Appreciate your advice as this will help a lot in our decision on transportation.

        Thank you so much and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1. The ground will be all covered with snow by Feb and there will be chances of getting caught in heavy snow. You can check out this video of what it’s like driving in Hokkaido in not-so-good weather:

          You can expect some of the days to be like the above, while other days may be bright and sunny with clear skies, though the ground will still be covered with snow and due caution will be required. You can read this post on my tips for driving in winter:

          2. The speed limit on expressways is 100km/h in Summer and iirc 60km/h in Winter. But the locals drive at 100km/h anyway in winter. I personally drive at 50km/h max in winter.

          3. I have never used snow chains – only snow tyres. And I keep to 50km/h, regardless of expressway or not. Whether or not you have snow chains on, if you speed, it will definitely be very dangerous.

          4. From Sapporo to Hakodate, I would actually recommend using the train. It’s faster and safer. And you don’t really need a car for either Sapporo nor Hakodate. You also won’t need a car for Otaru. For Korakuen Onsen, maybe you can just take a taxi there from Otaru. So yeah, for your itinerary, I don’t think you need to drive.

  21. Wai Yee says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,

    First off… thank you for such detailed info sharing on your blog regarding independent travel in Hokkaido.
    I used a lot of your information in planning my upcoming trip.

    Our plan in Hokkaido:-
    14th KL – Chitose – Sapporo (arriving 820am) – Lake Shikotsu – Rankoshi(Airbnb)
    15th Rankoshi – Hakodate (Stay Hakodate)
    16th Stay Hakodate
    17th Hakodate – Onuma Park – Rankoshi
    18th Rankoshi – Lake Toya – Nooribetsu – Rankoshi
    19th Check out Rankoshi Return car to CTS (Stay Sapporo)
    20th Sapporo – Otaru (via train) Stay Sapporo
    21-22th Explore Sapporo

    For this trip, we are predominantly staying at a airbnb place in Rankoshi *which also includes a rental car (but it doesnt come with any ETC or GPS, but we had rented a wifi device to use with our phones, waze or google map)

    Can you help me to look at our itinerary and let me know what are your thoughts?
    Also, i am currently mapping out the drive, so looking up on Google Maps…
    i understand there is something called a map code thingy http://japanmapcode.com/en/
    But what i dont get is, when i put in the map code, the website doesnt seem to recognise the code that was given…
    For example: according to my host, his house map code is GPS Mapcode is 521 895 804
    But when i input this numbers (521 895 804) nothing seems to work
    even when i took away the blank space, it still doesnt seem to work
    Anyway, i noticed that on Google Map (GM), there is an option to avoid Tolls & Highway (on the computer version)
    So for eg: from Rankoshi to Hakodate, GM suggested to use Yotei National Highway (all the way, for the no toll option) and crossover to Hokkaido Expressway (half way thro) for the toll option
    Question: National Highway = no tolls? so only the Expressway is the one which charges toll?
    Is it worth it to use the National Highway all the way from Rankoshi to Hakodate?
    The following day after returning fr Hakodate, we will be going to Lake Toya & Nooribetsu (shd we also consider using the Expressway or just normal Highway & thro Rusutsu)

    For our 3d2n, detour to Hakodate, is it easy or better to drive around in Hakodate? or just easier to take public transport ?i.e. tram or bus or trains?
    we are currently thinking to just take the public transport to go around

    We returned the car after we checked out of Rankoshi, so our Sapporo & Otaru (day trip) will be mainly with public transport.. we figured its probably doable.
    Thank you in advance for your help

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If your car does not come with GPS, I don’t think map codes will be very useful to you.

      The website http://japanmapcode.com/en is to generate mapcode rather than for you to key mapcodes into. So e.g. If I want to go to Hakodate morning market, I search ‘Hakodate Morning Market’ on japanmapcode.com and it will give me the mapcode for the market. Then when I’m in Japan, I key the mapcode into the car’s GPS and the GPS will guide me to the market.

      If you have a map code and you want to see exactly where on the map it is, you can use Mapion instead:
      Just above the search bar, click on the right-most option that says “マップコード”. After that, copy and paste your map code into the search bar and click the blue button to the right of the search bar to search. It will bring you to a map with a green arrow pointing to the location corresponding to the map code.

      Yup, National Highways are usually non-toll. The expressways are the toll roads.

      I usually use the tollway when I’m going to Hakodate. The drive down South to Hakodate is pretty long and boring, so I will just pay toll and use the tollway to get the drive over and done with quickly. :p

      If you have the car in Hakodate, just use it. Places like Goryokaku and Mount Hakodate Ropeway still require a bit of walk from the nearest street car stops. I rmb getting a bit lost trying to find Goryokaku, because I thought it was a very tall tower and I could see it once I alighted from the streetcar and I could just walk towards it. But turned out I couldn’t see the tower at all from the streetcar stop and I had to ask people for directions. And the ropeway – it required quite a steep walk uphill to the station. If I have a car, I would just drive.

  22. Yenni says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    I’m going to Hokkaido on a self drive basis with my family.
    My plan itinerary as below:
    17/10: CTS-Hell Valley-Shinnoboribetsu Hot Spring, Mt Usu- Lake Toya (overnight)
    18/10: Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo (Overnight)
    19/10: Sapporo City Tour (Overnight)
    20/10: Sapporo – Furano (Overnight)
    21/10: Furano – CTS Airport hotel (Overnight)
    22/10: Morning flight back to KL

    Do u think that i need to go for HEP?


    • Yenni says:

      To add on, or i just need to pay by Cash for toll way or i get a ETC Card?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      17/10: What time are you arriving? Looks like a very packed plan for a day where you just arrive. Don’t forget you still need to clear immigration, collect luggage, collect rental car and all before you can set off.

      18/10: If you follow your plan for Day 1, I don’t think you have much time for sightseeing around Lake Toya on Day 1, so you should spend some time on Day 2 for sightseeing around Lake Toya. But that would mean there wouldn’t be enough time for Otaru.

      On the whole, I find your itinerary very rushed. If you only have such a short time in Hokkaido and want to pack in these places, perhaps you can do day trips from Sapporo to save yourself the trouble of packing and unpacking everyday.

      Day 1: CTS – Noboribetsu / Hell Valley – Sapporo
      Day 2: Sapporo
      Day 3: Sapporo – Jozankei / Houheikyou dam – Otaru – Sapporo
      Day 4: Sapporo – Lake Toya – Sapporo
      Day 5: Sapporo – Furano – CTS
      Day 6: Flight back

      I would get the HEP for the above itinerary.

  23. CC says:

    Hi BBM,

    Thanks for your blog, it has been very helpful! Would like to get your advice on whether there is a toll-free road from CTS to Furano/Asahikawa? I have been using Google Maps but they keep plotting toll roads 🙁

    Planning to pick up the rental car and drive to Asahikawa, possibly dropping by Furano along the way.

    I am also thinking of doing Kushiro/Obihiro to Sapporo but the tolls are killing my tight budget, any chance I can avoid the tolls?

    Many thanks in advance!

  24. Jin says:


    I’m looking at Tabirai website.
    I couldn’t find option to select HEP? Orix, times are participating outlet. But in tabirai website no option to select.

    Would like to get advise.
    Any attraction I shld add on
    Here is the itinery:
    15th Jan – 11.30pm flight to new chitose airport
    16 Jan – Asahikawa (zoo)
    17 Jan – Asahikawa
    18 Jan – Sapporo (clock tower, odori park)
    19 Jan – otaru
    20 Jan – niseko
    21 Jan – niseko
    22 Jan – lake toya
    23 Jan – am flight back

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. I’ve never used Tabirai before.. Is there any comment box on the booking page where you can try leaving a comment to ask if you can get the HEP?

      Your itinerary looks okay. 🙂

      • Jin says:


        Thanks for ur reply
        I ended up using tocoo. For the HEP I just need to Email them right

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Usually I put in the request for HEP when I’m doing the booking (under the comments field if there is one). But if you have already done the booking, then just drop the car rental company an email to request for the HEP.

  25. Xue ting says:

    Hi! Thank you for this post! It really helped a lot in planning for driving in Hokkaido! I have a Qns, I’ll be visiting Hokkaido from 27Dec to 2nd Jan, will be going to Sapporo, Otaru, Niseko, Hakodate. Would you recommend to get HEP? And any nice ryokan to recommend at Niseko area or Hakodate? Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I think if you are driving all the way down to Hakodate, the HEP should be worthwhile. In Hakodate, you can try La Vista Hakodate Bay. I like its location and it has an onsen. As for Niseko… It really depends on your budget. Ryokans in Niseko are going to be terribly expensive for your dates.

  26. Alex says:


    We are planning to pick up our rental car from Abashiri Station, and then driving to Utoro. We plan to spend 2 nights in Utoro, and then return the car at Abashiri Station. Should I buy the HEP?

  27. ShiYing says:

    Hello! I checked about the HEP rental on toyota’s website, and it seems to suggest that one way rental (with HEP) is possible: http://www.toyotarentacar.net/english/guide/option/hep/

    Just want to know your thoughts on this? I’m still waiting for their reply to my email to confirm.

    And also on the same website, I saw that the “service period” for HEP is until 31 March 2017. Is this an expiry date for the HEP campaign? I thought it’s something that should never expire? My travel is actually in Aprill/may 2017 ):

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Maybe they have decided to relax the one-way rental rule at last! If it’s possible, that’s great news for travellers really. But yeah, we need to wait for Toyota to confirm this. Let me know what they say, I’m pretty curious whether one-way rental is now possible for HEP.

      I think they renew the HEP terms from time to time. The current terms of use was published on 1 April 2016 and valid till 13 April 2017. But HEP has been around way before 1 April 2016. I first used it in 2013. So I’m guessing they will review the demands and road usage from time to time to determine whether to continue with the campaign and whether or not they need to make changes to the terms of use.

    • ShiYing says:

      Toyota customer service replied that it is possible for the one way HEP rental. I gave the example of renting from New Chitose and returning at Sapporo outlets, and they said “sure!” 🙂

  28. Michelle Kuak says:

    Hello there, thanks for being so informative! Especially in your comments.

    We will be renting our car from New Chitose -> Furano -> Biei -> Sapporo -> New Chitose to return our car.

    In this case, is HEP necessary?

    Thank you for your reply!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm.. depends on how many days you are renting? If it’s 4 days or more, I probably won’t get the HEP. When going back from Biei to Sapporo, the default GPS route will probably ask you to go up to Asahikawa and come back down to Sapporo:

      But without using the HEP, what I would do is to base myself in Furano and visit Biei from there. Then from Furano, I would drive back to Sapporo by entering the expressway at Mikasa. That way, the toll would be much cheaper:

  29. Peggy says:

    Hi, if I am getting HEP then I don’t to get ETC right?


  30. Lyssa says:


    I’m planning to pick up the rental car from New Chitose Airport to the following locations:

    New Chitose Airport > Furano > Asahikawa > Otaru > Niseko > Noboribetsu > Sapporo

    Should I buy the HEP? or ETC?

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It does look like you will be on the toll road quite a bit. But it also depends on how many days you are spending in total. Based on a very rough estimation, I think for 10 days you would break even. Anything more than 10 days, I don’t think you need the HEP.

      I suggest you rearrange the itinerary this way:
      New Chitose Airport > Furano > Asahikawa > Sapporo > Otaru > Niseko > Noboribetsu > New Chitose Airport

  31. Karen says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, like your blog so much.
    We will be travelling to Hokkaido next week, hope to seek your advice on this.

    Day 1 arrive Chitose airport at 9 am, take shuttle bus to Niseko resort
    Day 2, 3 two full day skiing at Niseko
    Day 4 (Saturday) Pick up car at Niseko and head to Hakodate
    Day 5 full day at Hakodate
    Day 6 Hakodate to Lake Toya
    Day 7 Lake Toya, pass by Rusutsu to Otaru
    Day 8 Otaru to Sapporo
    Day 9 Sapporo to chitose airport (return car and stay in airport hotel)
    Day 10 morning flight back home

    We can’t get the HEP as our car pickup and drop off locations are different, right ?
    Driving from Niseko to Hakodate, better to use the expressway ?
    Then from Hakodate to Lake Toya > Rusutsu > Otaru > Sapporo > Chitose, any expressway that you think we could skip ?
    Do you think it’s worth getting the ETC card at 1,800 yen (300 yen per day for 5 days), read that with ETC card, you get certain discount on expressway toll only on weekends. Does it mean that no discount on weekdays ? Our drive from Niseko to Hakodate will be on Saturday, does it mean it will be cheaper, like by 30% ?
    Thank you in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Regarding one-way HEP rental, recently a reader told me that Toyota’s website seems to suggest that one-way HEP rental is now possible, but I haven’t been able to verify this:

      From Niseko to Hakodate, I would use the expressway.

      In winter, I suggest you don’t skip expressways and stick to them for your route.

      ETC discounts are pretty confusing and I’m not entirely sure and what times and how much they discount. But I remembered on my Dec 2015 trip when I used the expressway extensively, when I used the expressway on weekends, I received a 30% discount. But on weekdays I didn’t get any discount. Then back in 2013, I was using the expressway on weekdays and still I remembered getting some discount with the ETC card. I think it’s got to do with timing as well. You can refer to this guide for an idea of how confusing it is:
      So I can’t tell you for sure how much discount you are going to get.

      Personally, I wouldn’t pay 1800yen for an ETC card rental if it’s just the Niseko to Hakodate drive that you’ll be doing on weekends. It sounds pricey.

  32. Rick says:


    Had been reading your blog for a while, really informative, thank you very much.

    Just for sharing, now World Net is on HEP participating list.
    (Had been monitoring car rental fee and HEP for a while, and discover this just now when checking the HEP website)

    But the location of this car rental is a bit far from Sapporo station (~1km), and not sure how is the service.
    I actually saw quite a good deal, ~34k Yen for 12 days, included insurance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Cool! I like World Net Car Rental coz they are cheap and good. So happy to hear that they also offer HEP now! The problem with World Net is that they don’t really speak English. The service I received from them was good with my super limited knowledge of Japanese, but if you totally don’t speak Japanese at all, it may be a struggle. But they will try their best.

      Hmm.. Their car rental office is quite a walk from Sapporo station. It looks easier to walk from Kitajusanjo-Higashi Station. World Net Car Rental actually has a pick-up service from Sapporo Station North Exit according to their website:

      But you need to call them when you reach Sapporo station and they will send a car over to pick you up. Not sure how well they are able to converse over the phone in English though.

  33. Stephanie says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum,
    Thanks so much for your blog!
    I will be travelling to Hokkaido with 3 yr old toddler and hubby on self-drive trip for 7 nights.
    Day 1: Noboribetsu
    Day 2: Lake Toya
    Day 3 & 4: Hakodate
    Day 5: Otaru
    Day 6 & 7: Sapporo
    Day 8 morning: Airport
    Will I need a HEP? I’ve tried booking via tocoo, it seems like there are unavailable vehicles if do my selections using https://www2.tocoo.jp/en/campaign/index?campaign_id=900
    Can I select ETC only and email them to apply for HEP? Sorry as I’m very confused by the car rental website…

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are driving to Hakodate, HEP would probably be worthwhile. Tocoo always confuses me frankly. Is there a comment box on Tocoo’s reservation page? If there is, maybe you can put in a comment to request for HEP when you’re doing the booking.

  34. KA TAN says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    Do I need any ETC card or Hep if I plan self drive as below
    Day 1: New Chitose to Noboribetsu
    Day 2: Noboribetsu to Sapporo
    Day 3: Sapporo to Furano and Biei
    Day 4: Biei to Sappporo
    Day 5: Sapporo city tour
    Day 6: Sapporo to Otaru
    Day 7: Otaru to Kiroro and stay overnight in Otaru
    Day 8: Otaru to New Chitose


  35. iamme says:

    dear BBM,

    We will be driving Sapporo-Lake Toya-Noboribetsu(stay one night) and back to Sapporo the next day. Do we still need HEP or ETC? Would like to avoid tollway if possible since it’s quite costly.

    As for Lake Toya-Noboribetsu, I’m looking forward to drive through the Orofure pass that you mentioned ‘Narnia’ like..

    Thanks a lot!

  36. Janie says:

    Hi BBM,

    Your blogs has been a source of really good information for my trip to Hokkaido next week! I have a quick question, I have reserved a car via ToCoo! from Nippon Rent a Car. I dind’t pick the ETC card because I remember reading it from your blog that they deduct a 10000Yen deposit. I was thinking to apply for ETC card from Nippon when I collect the car. Now I’m wondering how can I apply to Nippon for the HEP as well? Or must I go through ToCoo! for this?

    Appreciate your advise! Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, so sorry for the late reply as I have been overseas. Not sure if I’m still in time to reply. :p

      I think you can contact Nippon directly with your HEP / ETC requests? If my car rental company can provide ETC / HEP, I would try to get from them directly rather than go through Tocoo.

      • Janie says:

        That’s OK, it worked out well in the end! I went to Nippon and they offered ETC card for a fee of 324Yen but when I asked for HEP they straight away did it for me without question and without a need to book it in advance!

  37. Tiffany says:

    Hi! I would like to seek your advice for my itinerary. I’ve done my own calculations and it seems that whether I get or the pass or not, it differs by only 130 yen!

    Day 2- Niseko to Hakodate (2670yen)
    Day 4- Hakodate to Lake Toya (2330yen off peak)
    Lake Toya to Noboribetsu (530yen off peak)- this can be easily avoided with not much time difference
    Day 5- Noboribetsu to Shizunai (Exit Tamokokai-Higashi) (1080yen off peak)
    (From here to East side, I wont pass by any tolls until Day 10)
    Day 10- Asahikawa to Sapporo (3320yen)

    Total will be 9400yen or 9930yen (if include highway from Toya to Noboribetsu)
    Total for 11 days HEP is 9800yen!

    In this case, would you still recommend getting the HEP? Are there any advantages? Or should i just get the ETC?

    Thanks much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When the price is very close, I personally would still opt for HEP for the convenience and peace of mind. Coz sometimes I do deviate from my planned route which may chalk up toll fees that I didn’t earlier account for. And with the HEP, I can just use the expressway when I feel like it without having to stress myself over whether to use the non-toll option to save money.

  38. WK says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    12 of us are going for self drive in Hokkaido. We need your advise on car rental. The itinerary is as below:

    Day 1 – Chitose Airport – Asahikawa
    Day 2 – Asahikawa – Abashiri
    Day 3 – Abashiri – Lake Akan
    Day 4 – Lake Akan – Furano
    Day 5 – Furano – Noboribetsu
    Day 6 – Noboribetsu – Lake Toya
    Day 7 – Lake Toya – Otaru
    Day 8 – Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 9 – Sapporo
    Day 10 – Sapporo – SG

    We are thinking to get 3 cars as the main concern is the luggage space and comfort level since most of the time we are on the road. Any recommendation?

    Besides that, do you think we need HEP for our itinerary?

    Does it necessary to drive inside Sapporo as we are planning to visit Beer Museum, Sapporo Central Wholesale Marke (Crab Market) and Ishiya chocolate factory?


    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm… I would get the HEP for your route.

      Neh, it is not necessary to drive within Sapporo if you are visiting the beer museum, wholesale market (make use of Kita No Gourmet’s free shuttle service) and Shiroi Koibito Park.

  39. Michelle says:

    Hello! Can I just check with you if i need HEP if I will be travelling around for 10days covering / passing by places as follows:
    1) Obihiro
    2) Shiranuka
    3) Kushiro
    4) Lake Akan
    5) Shiretoko
    6) Engaru
    7) Sounkyo
    8) Asahikawa
    9) Higashikawa
    10) Biel
    11) Furano
    12) Taikikawa
    13) Otaru
    14) Lake Toya
    16) Sapporo

    Appreciate your help! Thanks.

  40. J.T.L says:

    Hi BBM,
    I will be traveling to Hokkaido on early February and would like to seek your advice on our itinerary and routes:
    Day 1 – 06/07: Depart from KUL to CTS. Sapporo.
    Day 2 – 07/07: Rent car from Sapporo. Drive from Sapporo to Hakodate. Drop by Lake Toya for sight-seeing.
    Day 3 – 08/07: Hakodate.
    Day 4 – 09/07: Otaru.
    Day 5 – 10/07: Furano.
    Day 6 – 11/07: Sapporo. Return car.
    Day 7 – 12/07: Sapporo.
    Day 8 – 13/07: Depart from CTS to KUL.

    1. Fyi, i’ve already booked all my accomodations based on the dates above. Based on your view, does the itinenary make sense?
    2. Is driving the most economical way compared to taking other mode of transportation based on my itinenary? I would
    like to reach my destination as fast as possible considering daylight is short during winter.
    3. Which one do you reckon based on my driving days? HEP or ETC?
    4. I have read about the one way HEP rental in the comments in your blog. Can you confirm on that?
    5. Should i drive on my days within Hakodate & Otaru?

    Appreciate your help! Thanks.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I’m a bit confused over your dates. You’re travelling in Feb yah? So 06/07 means… 6 Feb?

      1. You itinerary looks way too rushed for a winter trip.
      2. I don’t think you will be able to keep to this itinerary if you drive. The fastest way to get around in winter is by train. Even then, you will be spending a lot of time on the trains.
      3/4. I suggest you train in winter.
      5. There is no need to drive in Hakodate and Otaru.

      I am not sure if your accommodation is cancellable. If it is, I strongly suggest you take out Furano. And skip Lake Toya as well.

      Also, if I understood your dates correctly and you’re travelling from 6 to 13 February, I would recommend visiting the snow festivals. You can check out Sapporo snow festival, Otaru Snow Light Path and Asahikawa Winter Festival – all easily reached by train.

      Making minimal changes to your accommodation, I recommend you just change the night in Furano to one more night in Sapporo. And this is what I would suggest:

      Day 1 (6th): KUL – CTS
      Day 2 (7th): CTS – Hakodate (use the train)
      Day 3 (8th): Hakodate
      Day 4 (9th): Hakodate – Otaru (train). Visit Otaru Snow Light Path at night.
      Day 5 (10th): Otaru – Sapporo. Visit Sapporo Snow Festival.
      Day 6 (11th): Sapporo. Do a day trip to Asahikawa by train, visiting Asahiyama Zoo in the day and Asahikawa Winter Festival in the evening.
      Day 7 (12th): Sapporo. Continue with visit Sapporo Snow Festival.
      Day 8 (13th): Flight back

  41. LoveHokkaido says:

    Hi BBM,

    Love your blog! Can you kindly help me with my queries below?
    Here’s my itinerary in May.

    day 1 : CTS to kamiyubetsu tulip
    day 2 : furano/biei
    day 3 : otaru
    day 4 : otaru -> noboribetsu -> hakodate
    day 5 : hakodate
    day 6 : hakodate -> lake toya
    day 7 : lake shikotsu -> (sapporo return car at sapporo)
    day 8 : sapporo
    day 9 : Home

    For this itinearary, do you think I need to get the HEP pass or ETC?
    Which days should I use the toll roads?

    For their GPS, can language be chosen, eg English GPS is 1 model and Jap GPS is 1 model?
    Or the same GPS can choose by language?

    And if I use the Jap GPS to choose non-toll, then will the instructions
    be spoken in Jap later to turn left and right etc?


    • bumblebeemum says:

      CTS – Kamiyubetsu looks like a terribly long drive. I suggest you swap Day 1 and Day 2 to break up the drives.

      I also suggest you swap Lake Toya and Noboribetsu. The drives would be smoother that way. Also, you should finish up Sapporo and go back to CTS from Lake Shikotsu to cut down on some to and fro driving.

      So I would rearrange the itinerary this way:

      day 1 : CTS to Furano / Biei
      day 2 : Furano / Biei – Kamiyubetsu – Asahikawa
      day 3 : Asahikawa – Sapporo
      day 4 : Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      day 5 : Sapporo – Noboribetsu – Hakodate
      day 6 : Hakodate
      day 7 : Hakodate – Lake Toya
      day 8 : Lake Toya – Lake Shikotsu – CTS
      day 9 : Flight home

      You have quite a bit of long-distance driving on the toll ways for this. You would need the toll road for:
      > CTS – Furano
      > Asahikawa – Sapporo
      > Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
      > Sapporo – Noboribetsu – Hakodate
      > Hakodate – Lake Toya
      So I would suggest you get the HEP.

      You need to request for an English GPS to be able to select English. Otherwise some car rental companies may give you a Japanese-only GPS.

      Yes, if you are using a Japanese GPS, all the instructions will be spoken in Japanese. I have used English GPS that also had the 5-route options that allowed me to choose non-toll roads before. It really depends on the model.

      • LoveHokkaido says:

        Hi BBM,

        Thanks for your time in answering to my queries. ^^
        The reason I put Sapporo towards the end of my trip is I would like
        to visit the Yosakoi Soran Festival.
        Can you help to re-arrange again?

        If I would like to visit the Unkai terrace but can only
        stay 1N at Hoshino resort tomamu, do you think it is advisable (since it really depends on luck and weather) ?
        If I really want to try my luck, which day should I stay?

        Thanks and wishing you a happy lunar new year in advance!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm… If you need to be at Sapporo at the end of the trip, you can try this:

          day 1 : CTS to Furano / Biei
          day 2 : Furano / Biei – Kamiyubetsu – Asahikawa
          day 3 : Asahikawa – Noboribetsu
          day 4 : Noboribetsu – Hakodate
          day 5 : Hakodate
          day 6 : Hakodate – Lake Toya
          day 7 : Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo
          day 8 : Sapporo
          day 9 : Flight home

          In general, any trip to Hokkaido that covers both North (Takinoue / Kamiyubetsu) and Hakodate will involve quite a bit of driving and will be quite rushed. So I don’t really recommend you try to squeeze in Tomamu. But if you really want to visit Tomamu, I suggest you take out the one day in Hakodate and slot in Tomamu right at the start (since Tomamu is along the way from CTS to Furano).

          day 1 : CTS to Tomamu
          day 2 : Tomamu – Furano / Biei
          day 3 : Furano / Biei – Kamiyubetsu – Asahikawa
          day 4 : Asahikawa – Noboribetsu
          day 5 : Noboribetsu – Hakodate
          day 6 : Hakodate – Lake Toya
          day 7 : Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo
          day 8 : Sapporo
          day 9 : Flight home

  42. Mary Joan Lee says:

    Hi Thanks for all the information about HEP and ETC We are quite sure we want to get the HEP as per advice by BBM after going through and revise our itinerary( a very big thank you BBM)But the problem now is when we want to book the car( medium/large category)through Tabirai there is no place i can state that i want to get HEP. Tabirai even state that we need to bring our own ETC card. There is no indication in Tabirai website that we can contact them before confirm our booking. Can anyone give us some idea how to contact the car rental companies before confirm booking? (for the same category Tabirai much cheaper than Toyota rent a car)
    BBM do you think we should book the car now (feb) or wait as our trip is in end of May. Will there be any sales for car rental in the laater month ? Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I haven’t tried this out personally, but this is what I think you need to do for Tabirai.

      Firstly, ensure that the office you are booking from is one of the HEP handling offices.
      Next, book from the handling office through Tabirai.
      After you have a reservation number and reservation password, use the information box in the link below to send a request for the HEP:

      I think it’s fine to make a reservation now. If you come across a really good sale later on, you can cancel and rebook since cancellation is usually free if done more than 7 days before pick-up (please double check your booking terms for the exact free cancellation period though as it may differ by company or plan).

  43. Mary Joan Lee says:

    Your blog is of SUPER help to our self drive trip to Hokkaido. Thanks

  44. Eve says:

    Hi, Your advices were all superb and did learnt some good tips.

    Need advice on whether HEP is needed for my 7 days trip in May as below:-
    1. From Sapporo to Tokachigaoka area [stay the night at Obihiro, some 3 hrs, but having 2 drivers. Any interesting places to recommend along the way?
    2. From Obihiro to Lake Onneto, Lake Akan [overnight at Lake Akan]
    3. Lake Kussharo, Lake Mashu before bedding down at Tokoro-cho
    4. From Tokoro-cho, to Higashimokoto Park and Tai-no-oka Engaru Park [overnight Mombetsu]
    5. From Mombetsu to Kamiyubetsu and then to Takinoue Park [overnight Asahikawa]
    6. From Asahikawa zoo to Biei and cover a little part of Furano [stay the night Furano]
    7. Cover more of Furano area before heading back to Sapporo. Return car.

    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The drive from CTS to Obihiro is rather boring. There is Yubari along the way, but May is not exactly melon season.

      Is there any reason you want to shift from Tokoro-cho to Monbetsu on Day 4? These two areas look very close, I would stay in the same hotel for Day 3 and 4.

      I don’t think you need the HEP for your route. The whole region from days 3 to 6 is toll free.

    • Evelyn says:

      Hi, reason to leave from Tokoro cho the next day to go higashimokoto and tai you no oka engaru park to Mombetsu for the night is becos of shorter to get to kamiyubetsu tulip park and takinoue park from Mombetsu.

      Since there s no toll road driving fr Tokachi to lake onneto, lake akan, to lake mashu, lake kussharo, will it be a winding roads throughout difficult to manage? There r two ladies drivers and living in Hk, we do not drive often. A little skeptical whether we cud handle the winding roads? Any roads that need more cautious driving?

      Is it right that without HEP, reckon the tolls will be lesser than 7 days HEP cost of JPY 7700?

      Thank you

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Yes, there are winding roads around the region. The difficulty of driving really depends on weather. When we were there last June, the weather was pretty bad and the roads totally fogged up with very little visibility. But generally the roads in Japan are reasonably wide with proper barricades by the side, so it’s still easier and safer than other countries I have driven in. Just have to drive slowly when there are curves coming up or when visibility is poor.

        I can only roughly estimate the toll fee, because sometimes your GPS may ask you to take a different route with more expensive toll fee. For e.g. from Furano back to Sapporo, I usually use the toll entrance at Mikasa, but sometimes GPS will ask drivers to use the toll entrance at Takikawa which will be more expensive. But if I were to estimate, the toll fee from Sapporo to Obihiro and subsquently to Lake Akan may come up to about 5000yen (again, depending on whether the GPS puts you on the toll road between Obihiro & Lake Akan – if you take the non-toll road from Obihiro to Lake Akan it should be less than 5000yen), and the toll fee from Furano back to Sapporo should be less than 2000yen if you enter the tollway at Mikasa. That’s why I won’t get the HEP for your route.

        • Evelyn says:

          Need help.on routes on behalf of a friend.
          In mid May, they will be driving fr.Sapporo to Asahikawa, Biei.and Furano.
          Fr Sapporo to Takikawa to Asahikawa Zoo. Overnight Asahikawa.
          Next day, drive to Blue Pond, Panorama Road ~Shikisai No Oka,.Shinnei No Oka, Sanai No Oka then down to Furano Tomita, Melon House, Cheese Factory, Wind Factory, Ningle Terrace, Furano Delice and Furano Marche.

          Are the routes in good order or needs swapping?

          Thank you

          • bumblebeemum says:

            Yes, the order of the route makes sense. I do feel it’s a bit rushed though. For e.g. if they leave Sapporo in the morning and visit Takikawa first before going to Asahikawa Zoo, that’s not a lot of time left for Asahikawa zoo. And to visit all the places listed in Biei and Furano, I would think they need two days. If they only have one day, rather than follow a strict order, I suggest they prioritise the places they want to go in Furano, hitting the ‘higher priority’ spots first and leaving the rest for ‘if got time then go’.

  45. Felicia says:


    For driving in Hokkiado, may I know if the steering wheel is on the right which is same as Singapore?


  46. Sky says:


    Just booked our flight tickets. Travelling to Hokkaido in mid May… itinerary as follows

    Day 1 KL – Chitose
    Day 2 Chitose – Sapporo
    Day 3 Sapporo – Asahikawa
    Day 4 Asahikawa – Sounkyo – ?
    If we intend to go to Takinoue n Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park… where best to overnight?
    Day 5 ? – Takinoue – Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park – Asahikawa
    Day 6 Asahikawa – Biei
    Day 7 Biei – Furano – Sapporo
    Day 8 Sapporo – Otaru – Sapporo
    Day 9 Sapporo
    Day 10 Sapporo
    Day 11 Sapporo to Chitose

    Intend to use public transport in Sapporo n Otaru.. elsewhere drive.. 5 days car rental. Base on abov itinerary..what plan should we get? ETC or HEP?

    For the days at Sapporo..what type of JR pass or ticket should we buy? Might over to shop at Chitose airport n Rera outlet on the last day.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For Day 4, you can consider spending the night a Sounkyo. It’s quite a nice little onsen town. I heard the hiking from the top of the ropeway is pretty good if you’re wondering what you can do there.

      Looking at your route, you will only be using the toll road twice: Sapporo to Asahikawa, and Furano to Sapporo. I would just pay cash for the tolls. But from Furano to Sapporo, be sure to set the GPS or use Google map to take the route that enters the toll way at Mikasa rather than Takikawa. (The Japan GPS has a habit of choosing the route that goes by Takikawa by default which would incur higher toll fee.)

      If you are visiting Otaru by rail, you can consider getting the Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass. It includes return train tickets between Sapporo and Otaru and a 1-day Sapporo subway card.

  47. Sky says:

    Thanks for the tip.

    FYI..sales of Sapporo – Otaru welcome pass will be discontinued after 31st March 2017…as per Jrhokkaido official website. Pass can be purchased in advance up to a month from date of use. Since we will on be travelling in May..can’t buy it.

    For days spent within Sapporo…just buy single tickets right?

  48. Sky says:

    Oh..btw..if we do not overnight at Sounkyo..intend to move nearer to Takinoue or Kamiyubetsu Tulip Park, so that we go straight to these places first thing in the morning..where best to overnight…affordable lodging..with lots of eating place ?

    Thanks again!

  49. Ric says:

    Hi, nice and helpful site you have.

    I travelling to Hokaiddo next week. Please advise and feedback.

    Self-driving for 4 people.

    Day 1 :Arrive Chitose Airport around 4pm. Schedule to clear custom and pickup rental car at 5pm. Drive to Noboribetsu.

    Day 2 : Drive to Lake Toya

    Day 3 & 4 : Drive to Hakodate and spent 2 nights

    Day 5 : Drive to Hirafu (day trip) and then Otaru (spent a night here)

    Day 6 : Drive to Sapporo and spent 2 nights.

    What is your advise on driving on these destination and car parking around these areas for sight-seeing?

    Is it recommended to get ETC card since weekend there is 30% off since I travel from Toya to Hakodate on Saturday?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmmm… If you’re visiting next week, it looks like you’ll be driving in the dark on Day 1 and they may still be snow on the roads. Personally I would spend the first night at Air Terminal Hotel and start the drive on Day 2 morning. But if it’s too late to change anything, just drive slowly and safely.

      Day 5 looks very rushed. I suggest you spend the night at Niseko before continuing on to Sapporo on Day 6. You can visit Otaru as a day trip from Sapporo by train.

      When you are there, daylight hours are still very short and you will probably encounter some snow on the road. So give yourself more time for driving and try not to drive after dark (i.e. plan to reach your accommodation by 4pm). Parking shouldn’t be an issue, outside of cities parking is generally free or flat rate at popular attractions. Within the city there are plenty of hourly coin parking.

      In general for a return drive to Hakodate, it will be good to have an ETC card if it just cost a few hundred yen to rent one.

      • Ric says:

        Thanks. Its tomorrow as the post was written on Sunday.

        Too late to change.

        We decide to stay a night at Otaru as its cheaper than Niseko and its not far from Niseko, right? less than an hour 30 minutes with slow and safe driving.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Haha.. Different people have different definition of ‘far’. Personally I think 1.5 hours drive can be pretty far in winter, it really depends on the weather condition. It may not be bad if it’s a bright and sunny day. But if you encounter heavy snow, well, just drive slow and safe and be prepared that a 1.5 hours drive may take 3 hours.

          No point worrying about it. Just be sure to leave Hakodate as early as you can. And check the weather forecast for the day. If it’s expected to snow, then I suggest you leave Hirafu by 1pm latest to start making your way to Otaru. If it’s a bright and sunny day, you can drag it till 2pm latest. But I wouldn’t recommend you leave Hirafu any later than 2pm. So if you work backwards, you really need to leave Hakodate quite early.

          Anyway you should be in Hokkaido by now! Sorry it takes me a while to get round to replying the comments. Hope you’re having a great time there!

  50. nichole says:

    Hi, nice & helpful site you have. Thanks very much.
    I will travel to Hokkaido on end of Sept 2017. This is the first time we visit this beautiful country. Self drive with my hubby and with 5 years old boy.

    Day 1 & 2 at Sapporo -stay at Mercure Hotel spent 2 nights
    Day 3 – ( need rent car ) Sapporo to Otaru, stay at Hotel Nord Otaru.
    Day 4 – Otaru to Biei , stay at Auberge Adagio
    Day 5 – Biei to Sapporo , stay at Hotel Ana Crowne Plazza Chitose.

    Should i need to rent a car before going Hokkaido ? What is your advise on driving on these destination. Is it recommended to get ETC or HEP .

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, you should reserve your rental car before your trip. Be sure to get your International Driving Permit as well.

      For your itinerary, I think it makes sense to get HEP. The toll fee between Sapporo / Otaru and Biei if you go via Asahikawa is quite pricey.

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