Okinawa Driving Tips & OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review

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

Okinawa Expressway Toll Fee Chart

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.

Okinawa self-drive tips bus lanes

Bus Lanes are indicated as such on the roads.


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.

Example of how an alternating central lane works.

Example of how an alternating central lane works.


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).

Okinawa driving tip Kokusai Dori alternating traffic lane closure

Kokusai Dori operates only in one direction during peak hours.


Tips on Using GPS in Japan

> Read my post on how to use a Japanese GPS
> Read my post on using Map Codes in Japan

Map Codes for Popular Destinations in Okinawa

Okinawa Map Codes 1Okinawa map codes 2

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review

Why OTS Rent-A-Car?

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 05

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.

Peach Airlines Review (Taiwan Taipei to Okinawa) 08

OTS was one of the 4 car rental companies with a desk at the LCC Terminal of 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

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 04

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.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 06

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 Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 02

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.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 07

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.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 01OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 03

You can also rent a WIFI router from them.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 10

There was a driving simulator.  It kept the kids entertained while waiting.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 09

And a giant robot… Lol.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 08

Waiting Time

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 12

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.

The Car

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 14

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.

OTS Rent-A-Car Okinawa Review 13

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.

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  • Great tips about the rude drivers, choosing a counter that will be open when you need it and finding a company who can help be offering bilingual staff.
    Not knowing these finer points can put a real dampener on your trip before it’s begun.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I know right… It was quite silly actually, because I forgot the exact name of the rental company and only remembered it started with ‘O’. I thought it was ORIX and when I saw the the ORIX counter unmanned, I was like, “Oh shucks!! I still need to go to the main terminal with my kids and luggage??? Then why on earth did I need to book with them?” I whipped out my rental confirmation email and was so relieved that it was OTS and not ORIX. Lol…

  • Angie Yeow says:

    Gosh! So Japan’s drivers are similar to us… Do you drive on yr own there??? Need lotsa guts!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It’s not Japan drivers. It’s just Okinawa drivers. The drivers in the rest of Japan that I have encountered were nothing like that. If there is a trail of cars behind them, they would always keep left and slow down to let the cars behind pass.

  • This is very comprehensive, I should have no problems if I drive there now. Great that they had English speaking staff for you too, would have made it a lot easier.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I was actually very surprised when the staff spoke to me in proficient English. I was expecting to be served by a Chinese-speaking staff, because I arrived on a flight from Taiwan together with a bus load of Taiwanese tourists and everyone else was served by Chinese-speaking staff. But I guess they took into account that I had made a booking through their English website and used an English name, so they assigned an English-speaking staff to me.

  • Natalie says:

    Great information and it’s all very important. We hired a car while in Europe and there’s a lot to think about and it can be stressful, but still a great way to get around as a family. We also had a keyless car and my husband couldn’t figure it out initially, was quite funny!

  • AndreaOnVacation says:

    I’m heading to Japan in a month but am not brave enough to rent a car. Great post!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Where are you from? If I am traveling to, say, Europe where I do not speak the language and they drive on a different side of the road, I probably would not be brave enough to rent a car there either! :p

  • choonie71 says:

    Can I check how much u pay for your Peach airfares? Did u monitor their sales? Thanks a lot!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I did not monitor the sales because I did not have much flexibility in terms of my dates. We bought our Scoot SIN-TPE tickets first and had to fit the Peach flight in between. We paid about SGD300 per pax for the return Taipei-Naha flight.

  • Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad says:

    So I have to say – I think I’d find all this really stressful! Particularly understanding road laws, like the closed lane. I’d just get totally freaked out. I think you’re very brave, but it sounds like it was all worth the effort!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Regarding those complicated road laws, at the end of the day, it is all about following what other cars are doing! That’s probably the best advice I can ever give.. Lol.

      And those complicated road rules only apply to the Naha city area, which we spent very little time in. We were out of the city majority of the time and driving in outside the city was pretty straightforward.

  • Fairlie says:

    This is such a great, comprehensive post – really useful if I ever choose to drive there. (Although it seems so complicated, I’m not sure I ever would!)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Lol… I think it is way less complicated than Singapore. We have pretty confusing bus lane hours that even I, a local, cannot figure out. So it’s always… just follow the car in front. Which is actually quite funny, because many times even outside bus lane hours, nobody drives on the bus lanes. Because nobody really knows whether or not it is bus lane hours and we don’t want to get fined!

  • Ruth says:

    Very comprehensive post. I had no idea of all the things that should be taken into consideration when renting a car in Okinawa. Kind of shocking to find out Okinawans are aggressive drivers. I am from Puerto Rico were drivers are aggressive and understand how frustrating dealing with this situation can be.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I was also very surprised. Japanese are generally a very polite bunch of people. I was quite surprised with all the lane-cutting and road hogging going on in Okinawa. But I figure the lane-cutting and road-hogging came hand in hand. Because people got stuck behind road hogger so much, they became impatient and aggressive. Sigh…

  • Hi BumbleBeeMum – I love your attention to detail and all the important tips about travelling to Okinawa. The driving looks a little scary, but you’ve armed us with all the information we need for a successful trip.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Haha… Hope I didn’t scare everyone off from a self-drive trip in Okinawa! It was actually very scenic and pleasant (when we are not rushing for time and patient enough to hang behind those big trucks). And about traffic rules, we didn’t know much before we went and kind of just followed the cars in front.

  • A very good guide! Not going to lie this made me a little anxious though – not sure I would attempt driving in Asia! But perhaps that’s because I don’t speak any of the languages and would fear not understanding anything on the road!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, I can understand the anxiety! Just like I would probably think twice about driving in France or Italy because of lack of understanding of their language and culture. Then again, nothing stopped us from self-driving in Korea few years back. Lol… Guess I’m just adventurous. Or lazy. I love the freedom of driving.

  • These are some great tips!! I had no idea how it might be for driving there.
    Very interesting 😀

    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes

  • PhantomG says:

    Thanks for sharing, I am debating whether to drive or not as I will be travelling with two kids like you, do you need carseat in Okinawa? Did you have to rent from them?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, yes you need car seats in Japan. You can rent from the car rental company. I rented mine from them, but you must request for them during booking because they have limited car seats. (This applies to all car companies in Japan that I have used.)

  • See Hua says:

    Hello. Can I ask if you get unlimited km on the rental from ots? And also how does the insurance works? I can’t find the information on their website. Am deciding btw OTS and hertz. By the way, I’m going Okinawa Coz of your fantastic post on it. Looks very fun. Thanks!!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It IS very fun! hoho…

      Back to your question. I think there’s unlimited km for the rental car. I never checked but I have never had issues with mileage when renting cars in Japan. I think they are unlike countries like USA or Australia that have restrictions on the states / distances you can drive. I have rented cars in Japan numerous time and never came across any mention of restriction on mileage. It seems to be taken for granted that there’s no such thing.

      Basic insurance only covers damages above the deductible (20000 yen or 50000 yen depending on whether the car requires towing). In other words, if you rent the car without any extra insurance coverage, in the event of an accident, you would need to fork out 20,000 yen if the car can still move or 50,000 yen if the car cannot move and needs to be towed back. But if you purchase extra insurance (CDW and safety pack), you pay nothing in the event of any accident or damage to the vehicle. You can read more here:

  • Dew says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum!

    Thank you very much for your very comprehensive guides on the GPS and without you, I would take forever trying to find the right car rental in Okinawa! I am visiting Okinawa soon with my mom but I am quite terrified about getting from city to northen area with the GPS as it is still written in Japanese. So I am somewhat relieved. I checked out the car rental prices but it was higher than I thought.

    The most basic is 5,400 yen for 3 hours. If for 2 days it would cost me a few hundred dollars, right? Am i calculating it correctly? Thanks!

  • Ooi says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    Glad to find your post on Okinawa. Read your post on Hokkaido before my trip too! 🙂
    Do you know which hotels are near the OTS car rental? Coz I will be taking the 830 am Peach flight too. I found a few but not sure if they are near enough..

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The closest hotel I saw to OTS Car Rental outlet was Hotel Gran View Garden Okinawa. Note that it is Hotel Gran View GARDEN Okinawa, not Hotel Gran View Okinawa (which is somewhere else).

  • Gerald says:

    hello! can i just find out whether to rent car in okinawa, do we need to convert to international license or will our singapore class 3 license suffice?

  • Bosco says:

    Hi there,

    Thank you very much for the insights!
    I am contemplating the actual flight route i.e Scoot to Taipei then Peach to Okinawa.
    We have targeted our Okinawa trip in November and are wondering whether we should instead pick up a rental car in the Naha City then to queue for hours to collect the car at LCC? I do hope taxi is available at LCC.
    Is it just that particular day that you are experiencing long queue?
    Also, it seems that there are hidden costs in renting the car there:
    1. You mentioned about extra license, is there a fee?
    2. Do we need to refill to full when returned?
    3. Insurance. Do you pay extra for comprehensive coverage since the mention of rude drivers irks me.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      I’ve only been there once so I’m not sure if the long queue to pick up rental car from OTS was just my bad luck or it’s always so crowded. From LCC, there was a shuttle bus to the main terminal where you can catch the train to Naha city. The LCC is really quite a hassle to get to & fro, that’s why I just went with OTS who could shuttle us between their office and the LCC terminal for both our arrival and departure flights.

      1. For Singaporeans, we need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Japan. It cost SGD20 for 1 year.
      2. Yes, rental cars need to be returned with full tank.
      3. I didn’t buy because my personal travel insurance covers collision damage waiver (CDW).

      • Anonymous says:

        Prior to your reply, I have email OTS and they have given the advice to set provision of about 2 hours.
        The moment you landed at LCC, say 1pm. by the time after those transits, custom clearance and etc, 3pm may be just nice to collect the car.

  • Bosco says:

    Hi there,

    I am about to make advance booking in OTS website to take advantage of the Fall Season discount.

    Just a couple questions prior to booking:
    1. Do they seriously driving at 80Km/h on the E-Way and just 40Km/h on normal roads? I asked because I have this thought that they are going much faster than that since they are lots of aggressive drivers down there?

    2. Is Premium Safety Pack effort the money or just normal Safety Pack should be sufficient?

    3. Are petrol prices expensive there? You drove a Hybrid, how was the fuel consumption like?

    4. Did you go with WIFI and ETC too?

    Kindly advise me and Thank you very much.


    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Some of the locals tend to drive much faster.

      2. It depends on whether you want to take the risk of having to deal with insurance and pay for damages in the event of accidents. The premium package gives you a piece of mind, but at a price. It’s really a personal choice, whether it’s worth paying for the piece of mind.

      3. The fuel consumption was really not much with my hybrid car. So far on all my Japan trips, I have found petrol prices in Japan cheaper than in Singapore. So petrol prices have never really bothered me. They make up a very small portion of my travel expenses. :p

      4. I didn’t use WIFI or ETC card when I was in Okinawa. I just relied on the car GPS for navigation and paid tolls in cash.

      • Bosco says:

        Hi there,

        Thank you very much for your advice.
        Since the petrol is cheaper there then it will also be least of my concern too.

        I will go ahead to book with OTS. By the way, I chanced upon a forum and someone mentioned that it should be OK not to exceed more than 30km/h on top of the speed limit. Anyway. Safety comes first.

        Regards ,

  • Irene says:

    Thanks for the details.It is very helpful.
    Checked the OTS rental car location but was confused as to which one is nearest to the airport. If we were to return the car at the outlet mall as recommended by you, which location is that?
    Please advise. Thanks

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