BumblebeeMum
11 Days Free & Easy Hokkaido Trip in November
11 Days Free & Easy Hokkaido Trip in November

We are back after our 11 day free & easy Hokkaido trip. would like to share some of our experience on your blog :

1) for hotels, I compared prices using Expedia / Agoda (via Shopback), Rakuten JP, JAPANiCan & Jalan.net. Have booked hotels via each of these sites without issues for hotels/resorts in Abashiri, Akan, Tokachi & Sapporo. Some of the onsen resorts provide complimentary pick-up service (unadvertised) from nearest JR station so do ask about it.

2) for car hire, I compared Toyota, Toocoo, Nippon Car, Rakuten & Jalan.net. I booked with Times Car Rental (Mazda Demio 2) via Jalan.net. Look out for the discount coupons from Jalan.net. There are many ongoing promos for car rentals. We got free 4WD, comprehensive insurance, snow tires & JPY2k discount. Extras were ETC card rental (standard Y324 a day) & NOC insurance (Y1080 a day). All in, our 5 day rental cost around JPY29,000, inclusive of a JPY 7560 1-way return charge.

3) Times Car Rental (previously Mazda Car Rental) has many outlets across Hokkaido close to JR stations. Their service is friendly & very good. The car is in good condition. We arrived 90 mins early on pick-up & the staff allowed us to take the car as goodwill … this allowed us to make the 2 hour drive to Shiretoko 5 Lakes on a beautiful day. Dropping off was a quick 10 min process & they allowed us 15 mins grace to drop off our luggage at JR before returning.

4) Driving in snowing condition for the first time

Besides allowing longer braking distance, other things to note when driving while snowing / in snow that are not apparent in SG :
1) cannot see the snow covered curb – as traffic is light, we kept closer to the middle instead
2) cannot see the bends in the road ahead clearly
3) traffic lights are located after the stop line (unlike SG) – brake early, way ahead of the traffic light
4) interior windscreen tends to fog up – learn to use the warm AC controls to blast WS. Best to ask front seat pax to do it, while u concentrate on the road ahead

We drove 100km in snow for 2 hours 15mins from Akan to Obihiro during daytime. On highway 241, we could still manage 50 kmh to 60 kmh. It was a little undulating with some gentle bends .. not too difficult.

Fortunately there was a car in front of us that was going the same way & driving at a comfortable speed for us to follow.

By BC on November 29, 2015


Buzzes

21 Comments

  • BC says:

    We are back after our 11 day free & easy Hokkaido trip. would like to share some of our experience on your blog :

    1) for hotels, I compared prices using Expedia / Agoda (via Shopback), Rakuten JP, JAPANiCan & Jalan.net. Have booked hotels via each of these sites without issues for hotels/resorts in Abashiri, Akan, Tokachi & Sapporo. Some of the onsen resorts provide complimentary pick-up service (unadvertised) from nearest JR station so do ask about it.

    2) for car hire, I compared Toyota, Toocoo, Nippon Car, Rakuten & Jalan.net. I booked with Times Car Rental (Mazda Demio 2) via Jalan.net. Look out for the discount coupons from Jalan.net. There are many ongoing promos for car rentals. We got free 4WD, comprehensive insurance, snow tires & JPY2k discount. Extras were ETC card rental (standard Y324 a day) & NOC insurance (Y1080 a day). All in, our 5 day rental cost around JPY29,000, inclusive of a JPY 7560 1-way return charge.

    3) Times Car Rental (previously Mazda Car Rental) has many outlets across Hokkaido close to JR stations. Their service is friendly & very good. The car is in good condition. We arrived 90 mins early on pick-up & the staff allowed us to take the car as goodwill … this allowed us to make the 2 hour drive to Shiretoko 5 Lakes on a beautiful day. Dropping off was a quick 10 min process & they allowed us 15 mins grace to drop off our luggage at JR before returning.

    4) Driving in snowing condition for the first time

    Besides allowing longer braking distance, other things to note when driving while snowing / in snow that are not apparent in SG :
    1) cannot see the snow covered curb – as traffic is light, we kept closer to the middle instead
    2) cannot see the bends in the road ahead clearly
    3) traffic lights are located after the stop line (unlike SG) – brake early, way ahead of the traffic light
    4) interior windscreen tends to fog up – learn to use the warm AC controls to blast WS. Best to ask front seat pax to do it, while u concentrate on the road ahead

    We drove 100km in snow for 2 hours 15mins from Akan to Obihiro during daytime. On highway 241, we could still manage 50 kmh to 60 kmh. It was a little undulating with some gentle bends .. not too difficult.

    Fortunately there was a car in front of us that was going the same way & driving at a comfortable speed for us to follow.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Thank you for sharing! I have never used jalan.net before, but I think I should give it a try next time! 🙂

      • BC says:

        A correction about ETC card rental rates.

        ETC card rental by Times Car rental is JPY 324 per rental for up to 7 days. I rented the card directly with Times after booking on Jalan.net. Times responded promptly in English.

        Honda charges JPY 500 per rental for 7 days, JPY 500 per rental for 8 or more days.

        ToCoo charges JPY 324 per day for ETC Card rental if you select this option !

        This makes a big difference for long trips.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Tocoo charges 324yen per day? Wow.. I haven’t rented from Tocoo for quite some time already. Not since the implemented their compulsory roadside support or insurance or something like that. They used to be my default go-to for car rentals but they are going to start losing their competitiveness at this rate.

          • BC says:

            2nd Correction :
            Honda charges JPY 500 per rental for 7 days & JPY 1000 (not 500) per rental for 8 or more days.

  • BC says:

    if i may contribute :
    – for car rental, the Japanese sites (Jalan.net & Rakuten) are much cheaper (than English sites), & always have promo … 1.5k, 5k or 7k discount coupon.
    – If renting ETC toll card, ToCoo charges by the day while others is per rental. Granted ToCoo car rental website is comprehensive & easy to navigate
    – some rental companies charge per 24hr block & some charge by hours. when booking, play around with the return times to see if any difference in cost.
    – try to search 3 months in advance for cars. i notice usual rental promos with 45, 60 days advance booking for example
    – book early & choose to pay on site. Then check back occassionally to see if other deals come up. You can cancel & rebook for a better deal – I have done so on Jalan & Rakuten. I booked with 5k discount, then BBM said there’s 7k coupon, & so I rebooked. Usually no penalty for canceling more than 7days in advance (do check)

    • Annie says:

      Thanks DC!
      Will take note of your comments when I book in December.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Yup, booking through Japanese websites does save a lot of money. But if you don’t know Japanese, best if you find a friend who knows Japanese to look through the website with you when you do your booking. 🙂

  • CG says:

    Hi,

    Really enjoy reading your holidays in Hokkaido. We are planning to visit Hokkaido in December and will like to seek your advice on car rental.

    Do we need to reserve the car online few weeks before our trip or we can just go to the car rental office in Hokkaido and book a car from there?

    Does the car comes with snow tyres or snow chains in December?

    Thank you 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      You should reserve your car online beforehand. Try about 3 months in advance – sometimes there are early bird deals. But not too early because some companies don’t open up for booking until like 2 or 3 months before.

      In December, the cars should come with snow tyres. If there is an option to click to include it during booking, you should include it just in case.

      • BC says:

        My TimesCar Mazda 2 rental came with snow tires in Nov, without charge.
        The condition of the tires were like new.

      • Cheaj says:

        Bumblebeemum,

        Thanks for sharing your trips. It really a great help for we are planning a family from Nov28-Dec8’16. My children are 14-25. We just wonder if we were to get a car, do we need that with snow tyres in early dec. we probably limit ourselves around Sapporo, Lake Toya, Otaru, and perhaps Lake akan, Kushiro. Would snow has come in at this early Dec. I prefer not to drive in the snowing time. But that seem to be more economical than taking a train.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes you would need snow tyres. By default, rental cars in Hokkaido should come with snow tyres in winter. But if there’s an option for you to tick for snow tyres during booking, just tick it.

          There is definitely a chance of snow in early December. Though the regions you mentioned are the ones where the snow fall is much more manageable. When we were there in December, it was snowing in Sapporo and Otaru, but not yet in Lake Toya, Lake Akan and Kushiro. But when it comes to weather, nobody can say for sure and Hokkaido’s weather is mad erratic. You should be prepared to drive in the snow. You can read more about winter driving on this post:
          http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

          Many of our readers have gone, drove and came back to say it wasn’t that bad. Just drive slow and make sure you allow yourself ample driving time to reach your accommodation by 4pm so that you don’t drive in the dark.

    • CG says:

      Thank you for the reply. In the end, we may not choose to drive as my friend is not comfortable with the idea of driving in winter. Do you come to know of any chartered mini bus company for hire? I cannot imagine pushing 3 luggage with 2 elderly, 1 young kid and 1 infant 🙁

      By the way, is it that bad to drive during December? I read your blog on winter driving and I assume that if we drive below 50 km/hr, we should be safe.

      Thank you 🙂

      • bumblebeemum says:

        The pushing luggage with elderly and kids part is exactly why I always end up self-driving. There are private vans for hire in Hokkaido though I have never used them. Just google for ‘Hokkaido Private Driver’ or something like that and ask for quotes. I would expect them to be extremely expensive though.

        Well, I have had many readers gone for winter drives and came back safe and sound. But it really requires a bit of guts and a lot of patience.

  • Chocolat says:

    Hi, I’m planning a self drive trip to eastern Hokkaido from 25 Nov – 3 Dec.
    will you advice if below itinerary is too tight for driving in winter? How is the road terrain, will it be windy mountainous ?
    Is there anything to do at shiretoko in nov ? there’ll be 4 of us with 2 old folks, so hope to have a leisurely trip.
    25 Nov: chitose – Kushiro ( stop over obihiro)
    26 Nov: Kushiro – shiretoko
    27 Nov: Shiretoko
    28 Nov: Kitami
    29 Nov: asahikawa
    30 Nov: asahikawa
    1-2 Dec: sounkyo
    3-5 Dec: Sapporo

  • Christina says:

    Hello Bumblebee mum,
    We are planning a 10 day Hokkaido holiday for my hubby, 8 year old son and myself ( 6 months pregnant then ) during 27 Nov – 6 Dec.
    We land at 18:45hr and was planning to make Niseko our 1st stop but it is too late for bus service , I am afraid that taking a taxi will be very expensive.

    Is there a suggested itinerary that you can recommend ? Would like to cover , ski resort and Asahiyama Zoo for my son, onsen/lakes & shopping for the adults. My departure is at 08:55hr on 6 Dec so I will stay at Airport Terminal on the last night. I am flexible to take train or self-drive if required.

    Thank You for your time and help 🙂

  • Adele Lim says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum

    We are planning a 11 day trip to Hokkaido with my hubby, 2 boys age 10 and 12, my sister-in-law and my 80 year old mother-in-law. We will reach CTS airport at 2:50pm on 4 Dec and will fly home at 4pm on 14 Dec.

    We intend to drive. could you advise if our itinerary is practicable? is not advisable to drive at night like 5pm?
    Date From To
    4-Dec CTS Asahikawa
    5-Dec Asahikawa Sapporo
    6-Dec Sapporo Sapporo
    7-Dec Sapporo Noboribetsu
    8-Dec Noboribetsu Lake Toya
    9-Dec Lake Toya Hakodate
    10-Dec Hakodate Hakodate
    11-Dec Hakodate Niseko
    12-Dec Niseko Niseko
    13-Dec Niseko Niseko
    14-Dec Niseko CTS

    Thanks for your kind advice.
    Best Regards,
    Adele

    • BC says:

      hi Adele
      If I may contribute :
      CTS to Asahikawa can be a long drive, around 3 hours using the Expressway. I did the drive in May, using non-toll road after a red-eye flight & it was tiring.
      You just arrived & may be tired from flight. By the time u get the car, say around 4pm, there will not be much daylight left.
      For this leg, if you keep to expressway, driving at night and inside cities shld be fine. In Dec, there may be snow & slush on the roads which could add to travelling time. Drive safe.

  • Chocolat says:

    Hi, may I know if self drive with below itinerary will be feasible? Will you have any advice on terrain, weather in nov 2017? We plan to return the car In asahikawa n take hotel shuttle to sounkyo,

    24 Nov – arrival and overnight stay at chitose
    25 Nov – drive to obihiro
    26 Nov – drive to teshikaga with below stops:
    A) kushiro washo market
    B) tsurui crane centre
    C) Watanabetaiken farm
    D) overnight stay at teshikaga
    27 Nov – drive to shiretoko with overnight stay
    28 Nov – drive to onneyu Onsen with overnight stay, with stopover in abashiri.
    29-30 Nov – drive to asahikawa as a base for blue pond visit etc
    1-2 Dec – sounkyo
    3-4 Dec – Sapporo

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *