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Do I need an ETC / HEP? How can I avoid tolls?
Do I need an ETC / HEP? How can I avoid tolls?

Hi bumblebeemum

How do I use the hokkaido expressway pass? do i need the ETC card?

I intend to travel from
1) sapporo – furano
2) furano – biei
3) biei – furano
4) furano – tomamu
5) tomamu – noboribetsu
6) noboribetsu – toya
7) toya – sapporo

I intend to rent from toyota but i cant rent the ETC card from the sapporo east station

Any advice?

thanks!

By J on May 29, 2015

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75 Comments

  • J says:

    Hi bumblebeemum

    How do I use the hokkaido expressway pass? do i need the ETC card?

    I intend to travel from
    1) sapporo – furano
    2) furano – biei
    3) biei – furano
    4) furano – tomamu
    5) tomamu – noboribetsu
    6) noboribetsu – toya
    7) toya – sapporo

    I intend to rent from toyota but i cant rent the ETC card from the sapporo east station

    Any advice?

    thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      The Hokkaido Expressway Pass comes in the form of the ETC Card. You basically insert the card into the ETC unit in the car and just leave it there. Then you can drive freely through the ETC gantries when entering / exiting the tollways.

      Looking at your itinerary, you do not need the Hokkaido Expressway Pass. If you want to get an ETC card, you can try booking through Tocoo and renting the ETC card from them.
      http://www2.tocoo.jp/en

  • Blessed Mummy says:

    Hi Hi,

    Was wondering if I should get a ETC or HEP ? Below is my itinerary :

    Day 1 & 2 Sapporo
    Day 3 Sapporo – Asahikawa Zoo ( collecting rental car )
    Day 4 Asahikawa – Lake Mashu – Lozan – Lake Kushharo – Lake Akan
    Day 5 Lake Akan – Kushiro
    Day 6 Kushiro – Obihiro
    Day 7 Obihiro – Tomamu
    Day 8 Tomamu – Orofure Pass – Lake Toya
    Day 9 Lake Toya – Rusutsu
    Day 10 Rusutsu – Lake Shikotsu – Sapporo ( return car )
    Day 11 Sapporo to New Chitose Airport

    Looking forward to your reply. 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi, you won’t need an HEP for that itinerary. An ETC card would suffice.

      You are going in December right? Note that Day 3 may be a tad rushed. We did the same thing (collecting car from Sapporo in the morning and driving to the zoo), we only had enough time to cover half the zoo.

      Day 4 also looks a bit difficult to complete within the day. Asahikawa to Lake Akan is a very long drive, especially if it is snowing, you may be spending almost the whole day on the road. You probably need to shift Lake Mashu, Iozan and Lake Kussharo to Day 5.

  • Flynn says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    Kudos to your comprehensive Hokkaido travel write-ups! We’ll be going to Hokkaido on this coming Oct. Our itinerary:

    Day 1 (Oct 19): Arrive CTS by 8:10am. Pick up car from Budget car rental company. New Chitose airport → Jozankei&Houheikyou Dam → Otaru (Overnight in Otaru)
    Day 2: Otaru → Yoichi → Shakotan Peninsula → Niseko (Overnight in Niseko)
    Day 3: Niseko → Hakodate (Overnight in Hakodate)
    Day 4: Hakodate (Overnight in Hakodate)
    Day 5: Hakodate → Onuma Quasi-National Park → Toya-ko (Overnight in Toya-ko)
    Day 6: Toya-ko → Muroran → Noboribetsu → Furano(Overnight in Furano)
    Day 7: Furano → Biei (Overnight in Furano)
    Day 8: Furano/Biei → Obihiro → Sapporo (Overnight in Sapporo). Return car at Budget car rental outlet in Sapporo city by 8pm
    Day 9: Sapporo (Overnight in Sapporo)
    Day 10: Sapporo (Overnight in Sapporo)
    Day 11 (Oct 29): 11:20am morning flight heading to Tokyo via Jetstar

    Based on our itinerary above, really appreciate if you can help to guide us on driving related questions:

    1. HEP or ETC card, which one should we get? FYI, we made our car rental booking via this website: http://car.hokkaidotour.net. Based on the the car rental plan we’ve chosen, does this mean the car is provided with ETC free of charge? (http://car.hokkaidotour.net/car_search/yoyaku/plan.asp?SEARCH_SUB_AREA=&SEARCH_YYYYMM_FROM=201510&SEARCH_DD_FROM=19&SEARCH_YYYYMM_TO=201510&SEARCH_DD_TO=26&SEARCH_TYPE=%92%86%81E%91%E5%8C%5E&SEARCH_AREA=%90V%90%E7%8D%CE%8B%F3%8D%60%8E%FC%95%D3&SEARCH_AREA2=%8ED%96y%8Es%93%E0%92%86%90S%95%94&KINEN=on&ETC=%8A%F3%96%5D%82%B7%82%E9&INBOUND=on&SEARCH_FLAG=ON&SEARCH_TYPE_CODE=11274&PLAN_ROWID=24250)

    2. Any toll-free route we can take? How can we estimate for the toll fees?

    Thanks in advance. Cheers!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Firstly, looking at your itinerary, I would recommend skipping Obihiro. By the time you reach Furano on Day 6, it should be getting dark. (Sun sets pretty early by that time of the year.) On Day 7, you will be driving up to Biei, which may take the whole day if you also visit Shirogane onsen. So I would keep Day 8 for Furano and give Obihiro a miss.

      Regarding ETC card, nope, it is not included in the car rental. The car rental only includes ETC device. Are you from Singapore? If you are, imagine the device to be our in-vehicle unit. ETC card is like the cash card. So rental cars usually come with the device, but customers need to bring their own card to insert into the unit. Only companies that deal largely with foreigners rent out ETC cards, while smaller companies usually don’t have such service, since most of their customers are locals who have their own ETC card (like how Singaporean drivers will have our own cash cards). Budget doesn’t seem like a very big company, not sure if they rent out ETC cards. They are listed as a handling office for the Hokkaido Expressway Pass though.
      http://www.e-nexco.co.jp/news/pass/

      HOWEVER, because you are picking up the car at CTS and returning it to Sapporo, you cannot get a HEP. HEP required the car to be returned to the same outlet where it is picked up.

      So if you proceed with this booking, you are likely going to have to pash cash for tolls.

      2. When you are in Hokkaido itself, you can set your GPS to avoid toll ways. You can see my instructions here:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/07/07/how-to-use-japanese-gps-to-avoid-tollways/

      To estimate toll fee, Tocoo website has a toll simulator.
      http://www2.tocoo.jp/en/contents/highway_sim/main

  • Peng says:

    Hi bumblebee,

    Can you advise on how to set the GPS to drive via Orofure pass? Is that call route 2?
    How long is the drive during winter from Noboribetsu to Toya?
    Is the road 2-way road?

    Should I buy a toll pass if my rental car is for: Airport -> Rera outlet -> Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya -> Mecure Sapporo

    How can I buy the 7-day train pass? Is 7 days the max? Where do I change the the tickets in Sapporo? Change on the 1st day of pass usage?

    Thank you

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For driving along Orofure Pass, set your GPS to avoid tollways and it should choose the route via Orofure Pass. If all else fails, just ignore the GPS and follow road signs to Orofure Pass (オロフレ峠). The GPS will auto-adjust the route as your drive. It is a 2-way road.

      Neh, you don’t need the Hokkaido Exressway Pass for your route.

      Yup, 7 days is the max for Hokkaido Rail Pass, unless you get the Flexi 4-day pass which can be used on any 4 days within a 10-day period. You change your pass on the first day of usage at the JR Information desk in Sapporo station:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail02.html

  • NT says:

    Hi BumblebeeMum, am a bit confused abt HEP pass and ETC card, Can explain the difference of how it helps in payment? Tks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi NT,
      Thanks to BumblebeeMum recommendation I bought HEP to save a lot of tolls fee during
      my Hokkaido self-drive trip in Hokkaido last Dec. I need to pay> 200%(HEP cost) if I used ETC card for my travelling from Sapporo-Hakodate-Sapporo-Asahikawa-Furano-Otaru-Sapporo.

      HEP is Hokkaido Express Pass, is a special rate for non-Japan resident only. HEP is a fixed toll rate for number of day used in Hokkaido express-way.

      You have to pay fixed amount rate(HEP) when you pick-up the car.
      Notes : Only Nippon rent a car and Toyota rent a car selling HEP in Chitose airport.

      ETC charges were base on how much distance you travelled in express-way.
      It will charge to you credit card after you return the car.

      As recommend by BumblebeeMum, you can visit Tocoo website to select your car rental company. You may choose Nippon or Toyota rent a car if you like to use HEP. But is better to confirm with them directly when you make a booking.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The only difference is in the cost. HEP is like a concession pass, you pay based on the number of days you rent the car for, regardless of how much you use the toll roads. ETC will charge you based on the actual toll fees you incur.

  • NT says:

    Tks very much to both of u for the replies. It clears my doubt!

  • May says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    Enjoyed reading your blogs on Hokkaido and it’s very informative. I’m planning for a road trip to Hokkaido in mid-may, not sure if you could advice if an ETC card is needed as I’m unsure of how many expressway will be used? my itinerary is as follows:

    11May- Chitose to Sapporo for cherry blossom viewing
    12May- collect rental car from Sapporo, drive to lake toya
    13May- lake Toya to hakodate
    15May- Hakodate to noboribetsu
    16May- noboribetsu to Asahikawa
    17May- Asahikawa to Yubetsu and Takinoue (day trip)
    18May- Asahikawa to biei and furano
    20May- Furano to Shintoku
    21May- Shintoku to tomamu to see unkai, drive back to Sapporo ( on the way visit mitsui outlet) and drop the car

    Look forward to hearing from you soon!

  • Rachel says:

    Dear bumblebee mum, you’ve been a GREAT help to countless people who intend to travel in Japan ! Thanks so much.

    I’m planning my honeymoon trip this coming July with my fiancé. Below is our itinerary:

    Day 1
    New Chitose Airport to Lake Toya, Toya Sun Palace

    Day 2&3
    Toya to Otaru , stay at Otaru

    Day 4 & 5
    Otaru to Sapporo , stay at Sapporo

    Day 6
    Sapporo to Asahikawa

    Day 7-8
    Asahikawa to Biei, Explore Biei and Furano

    Day 9
    Biei to New Chitose Airport

    Do you advise that we take up the Hokkaido Express Pass or will the ETC card be sufficient for our route?

    Looking forward to your reply!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I don’t think you need the HEP for your route. From CTS to Lake Toya, it is possible to avoid the toll road if you take the route via Lake Shikotsu.
      > Click here for google map route

      You will encounter toll at the following stretches:
      Otaru to Sappporo
      Sapporo to Asahikawa
      Biei to CTS

      I don’t think you need the HEP for the above.

  • Tammy says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,
    Your website was a great help.
    May I know if I need ETC if I am only driving from Sapporo to Rusutsu, then to Lake toya and then to Chitose thats all.
    Is it worth? Am trying to cut cost 🙂

    Thank you in advance!

  • Wei Peng says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    Your blog is very informative and it has helped me a lot in planning for my Hokkaido trip.

    Here is my itinerary, can you help me see if it’s good to go. I’m landing in Chitose on 23 May, 1145am and leaving on 3 June. Will be renting car for the first 9 days

    Day 1 – Chitose – Furano – Biei – stay Asahikawa

    Day 2 – Asahikawa and surrounding area – stay Asahikawa

    Day 3 – Asahikawa – Takinoue – Yubetsu – Lake Saroma – stay Abashiri

    Day 4 – Abashiri – Lake Mashu – Lake Akan – stay Obihiro

    Day 5 – Obihiro – Hell Valley – stay Noboribetsu

    Day 6 – Noboribetsu – Hakodate

    Day 7 – Hakodate

    Day 8 – Hakodate – stay Lake Toya

    Day 9 – lake Toya – Sapporo ( return car )

    Day 10 – Sapporo – Otaru – stay Sapporo

    Day 11 – Sapporo

    Day 12 – Sapporo – Chitose – home

    I have a few questions;
    1. Do we need HEP pass?
    2. I have friends who can help me book the car from Japanese website, which is cheaper comparing to English one. Should I just go ahead with that although I can’t speak English.
    3. Our initial planning includes Shiretoko but decided to ditch it due to time constraint. Do you think we should include Shiretoko?
    4. Is Google map navigation reliable if we decided to use that? I find that easier to use than Gps. Also do you think we can go by the route that avoids the toll altogether?

    Sorry for the lengthy post. Hope you can give your valuable opinions. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary looks good. The only thing I would do differently is to spend the first night at Furano instead of Asahikawa. Reason being it will be afternoon by the time you pick up your rental car and usually after a flight, everyone is tired and nobody is in the mood to spend so much more time in a car. Stopping at Furano instead of Asahikawa will shave off 2 hours driving time on Day 1.

      1. If you pick up your car at CTS and return to Sapporo, you can’t get the HEP. HEP requires the car to be returned to the same outlet it was picked up from.

      2. Yes, I usually book from Japanese websites because it is cheaper. But please ask your friend to inform them that you all do not speak Japanese. Some smaller companies do require someone who knows Japanese around to explain and sign the documents. If you’re booking from the big companies than it should not be an issue.

      3. Between Shiretoko and Hakodate, I would only pick one since they are on extreme ends of Hokkaido. If you want to go Shiretoko, drop Hakodate.

      4. You mean use Google map while you are there? I am not sure how good internet connection will be when you are out in the rural areas of Hokkaido. Google map should be pretty reliable as long as there is internet. While it is technically possible to avoid tolls, it is not advisable. Some stretches are best done by toll roads to save time. E.g. From CTS to Furano, Obihiro to Noboribetsu, and to & fro Hakodate, I would just pay toll and get the drive over and done with.

  • Minghui says:

    Hi there Bumblebee Mum, thanks for your very detailed and helpful comments on travelling through Hokkaido. My family of four will be there in the first week of June this year and am thinking of a renting a car. My basic itinerary for driving should be:

    Day 1 – Sapporo to Furano/Biei (day trip)
    Day 2 – Sapporo to Lake Toya
    Day 3 – Lake Toya
    Day 4 – Lake Toya to Chitose Airport

    Based on the driving routes for these destinations, would you advise renting an ETC card and using it? From japan-guide.com, I see that one-way tolls from Sapporo to Furano should come up to about 1,250 yen.

    Thanks!

  • Connie says:

    Hi! Really enjoyed your beautiful, helpful & informative blog! Thanks so much for d hard work:) Need your help here as we’ll be visiting Hokkaido for d 1st time, we will be staying at Mercure Hotel Sapporo for 1st few days in Sapporo. May I check with you, on Day 5, we plan to drive from Sapporo-Hakodate , then Day 6 Hakodate-Niseko & Day 6 Niseko-Furano.. From d above itinerary, do we need to rent a ETC Card or HEP card? If we only rent an ETC card, which car rental outlet would you suggest that’s near to Mercure Hotel pls? And when we return to Sapporo on Day 8, we will be staying at Hotel Ibis Sapporo, which car rental outlet would you recommend we return d car to? This is bcos we’ll be traveling with a 5yo & an elderly. TIA for your kind attention and help! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      It sounds like getting a HEP may be worthwhile for your trip. HEP requires the car to be returned to the same branch where you picked it up from. Hotel Ibis is some distance from Mercure, so you can only choose an outlet near one of them. Usually what I do if the rental company is some distance from the hotel is that I would drop everyone and the luggage off first and go return the car on my own.

      Referring to the list of car rental outlets that can provide HEP:
      http://www.driveplaza.com/trip/drawari/hokkaido_expass/shoplist_en.html

      The ones near Mercure would be:
      TOYOTA Rent a Car SAPPORO, Susukino Minami 4-jo Office
      Times Car Rental, Susukino

      • Connie says:

        Dear Bumblebeemum,
        Thanks So Much for your kind help! Your reply has eased so many questions swimming in my head. Great! I’ll get a HEP @ TOYOTA Rent a Car SAPPORO, Susukino Minami 4-jo Office as per your kind advice. *Thumbs up**
        Last question, do we need to rent a wifi router or purchase a prepaid data SIM card to access google map or internet while self-driving in d country areas? Million thanks again, your kind answers really help more than words can describe. Cheers.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you feel unsafe without having access to internet on the go and want to have Google map as a back-up, then yes you will need to rent a WIFI router or prepaid data SIM card. But if you are adventurous enough, the car’s GPS works pretty well and if you really do get lost, the good ol’ fashion way of asking for directions should work even if you don’t have internet.

  • 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?

  • iFatfat says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum…

    Need some advise… my itinerary are as follows, wondering if I need the HEP?

    Day 1 – Chitose (Airport) – Otaru
    Day 2 – Otaru – Lake Toya
    Day 3 – Lake Toya – Hakodate
    Day 4 – Hakodate – Noboribetsu
    Day 5 – Noboribetsu – Chitose
    Day 6 – Chitose
    Day 7 – Chitose – Tomamu
    Day 8 – Tomamu – Obihiro (day trip)
    Day 9 – Tomamu – Furano (day trip)
    Day 10 – Tomamu – Furano – Asahikawa
    Day 11 – Asahikawa
    Day 12 – Asahikawa – Sapporo
    Day 13 – Sapporo
    Day 14 – Sapporo – Chitose (Airport)

    Would appreciate it if you could also help to estimate the parking fees. We are still undecided if we should keep the car for the sapporo days since my partner and I have different views. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      In the cities (Otaru, Hakodate, Chitose, Asahikawa, Sapporo), hotels typically charge an average of 1000yen per night for parking. If you drive out and park in the city, parking rates vary roughly anywhere from 100yen to 400yen per 30min block. In onsen towns (Noboribetsu) and resorts (like Hoshino resort Tomamu), parking is usually free at the accommodation.

      It looks like a HEP may be worthwhile for your trip. You are doing quite a bit of long distance drives on the tollways.

  • 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.

  • wawa says:

    hi , im driving from furano to CTS airport. do i have options to avoid toll?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      There is always an option to avoid toll, it is only a matter of whether it is worth the time to do so. Sometimes, I would rather pay the toll fee than the spend hours on the non-toll roads getting stuck behind slow-moving trucks. Most roads in Hokkaido are one-lane and it can be very frustrating getting stuck behind trucks when you have hundred of kilometres to cover. Between Furano and CTS, I would take the toll way between Shimukappu and and CTS.
      > Click here for route on Google map

      If you really want to save on toll fees and you have time to spare, what you can do is to visit Yubari and Yuni Garden. So you only use the tollway between Shimukappu and Yubari. From Yubari to Yuni Garden, you can use the non-toll road and from Yuni Garden to CTS, it is also non-toll. However, I would only do this in Summer. In winter, I wouldn’t bother going to Yubari and Yuni Garden.
      > Click here for route on Google Map

  • 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.

  • baobao says:

    hi Bumblebee mum, i came across your website for hokkaido. i will be arriving at CTS airport on 11 sep 1pm

    Im planning for
    Day 1: CTS passby Lake toya – Hakodate (stay 1 night)
    Day 2: Hakodate passby Otaru/Niseko – Sapporo (stay 2 nights)
    Day 3: Sapporo – airport

    Shld i get the unlimited highway pass?

    Thank you !!
    🙂

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Amanda Hwee says:

    Hi!

    We are planning on doing a day trip by driving from Sapporo to Furano/Biei then back to Sapporo. How much is the toll for this route if we go for the cheapest toll route? And is it necessary to purchase the ETC card for our rental car?

  • Gayle says:

    Hi bumblebee mum, our family of 2 adults and 2 children will be visiting Hokkaido in Dec 2016. The route is as follows
    New Chitose
    Otaru
    Sapporo
    Asahikawa
    Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, Mt, Io, Lake Kussaro, Ito Tancho crane sanctuary
    Kushiro
    Obihiro
    Furano
    Tomamu
    New Chitose
    I am debating whether to get the HEP. From your experience, how is traveling on non-toll roads in winter. Is it doable, or should I just get a HEP to get on the highway when I am travelling between New Chitose, Otaru, Sapporo, Asahikawa and then Tomamu back to New Chitose?

  • ellyn says:

    Dear bumblebeemum,

    Thanks for sharing this post! I’ve been referring to your post throughout my entire planning. I will be visiting by next year end of Feb to beginning of March. We’re travelling in family of 4 and we plan to go for self-drive trip (except for sapporo). Thus, might need your advice on my itinerary.

    D1 CTS > Noboribetsu (Date Jidaimura village)
    D2 Noboribetsu (Hell’s valley) > Hakodate
    D3 Hakodate
    D4 Hakodate (Onuma-koen)
    D5 Hakodate (early in the morning)> Niseko
    D6 Niseko (3pm- 4pm) > Otaru
    D7 Otaru > Asahikawa/ Sounkyo
    D8 Asahikawa/ Sounkyo > Sapporo
    D9 Sapporo
    D10 Sapporo > CTS
    D11 New Chitose (9am flight)

    For D8, I’m not sure whether I should stay in Sounkyo or not as I want to see night lights for Ice waterfall festival. But staying in onsen hotel is expensive, so I also thought of driving back to Asahikawa-shi (since it is just 1 hour drive) so that the next day I can depart from there back to sapporo. Do you think it’s wise to do that in winter?

    Also, based on my itinerary, do you think I would need a HEP or ETC? I plan to drive for most of the days except in Sapporo.

    Would really appreciate for your help/ advice please! Thanks! 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 6: Leaving Niseko at 3-4pm means driving in the dark during winter. I do not advise you do that. I would say to leave Niseko by 2pm latest to try to get to Otaru while there is still daylight.

      It is never wise to drive at night in winter. Though I have to admit I have done it before. But on hindsight, it is really not something I would encourage – driving in the dark when it’s snowing is no joke. I would pay for the accommodation at Sounkyo.

      Unfortunately if you pick up your car at CTS and return it to Sapporo, you cannot get the HEP. An ETC card is good to have if your car rental company only charges you a nominal fee for it.

      • ellyn says:

        Hi thanks for your advice. I think I shall leave at around 2pm then from Niseko.

        Aww. does that means my travel course on the road is gonna be hefty without HEP?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmm.. Yeah.. The toll fees to Hakodate and to Asahikawa are quite expensive. But if you can get a cheap car rental deal, it should balance off. Coz the car rental offices that offer HEP may not be the cheapest when it comes to car rental.. So sometimes I just booking from offices that do not have HEP but cheaper car rental, even though HEP can save me on toll fees.. Coz the savings from HEP is not enough to cover the difference in car rental fee.. know what I mean?

  • 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?

    Thanks.

    • Yenni says:

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

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • CY says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum,

    Planning my self-drive trip in Hokkaido with parents and your website has been so informative!

    Could I get your opinion on whether I should get an ETC card for the following itinerary in Oct?

    Day 1: Arrive in Sapporo. Overnight in Sapporo.
    Day 2: Pick up rental car, drive to Furano. Explore Furano and Biei. Overnight in Furano
    Day 3: Furano to Lake Toya. Explore Mt Usu and fruit farms if there’s time. Overnight at Lake Toya hotel.
    Day 4: Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo. Overnight in Saporo. Return car?
    Day 5: Sapporo to airport and fly to Osaka.

    Still trying to decide whether to return the car late on Day 4 or early in the morning on Day 5. Having one co-driver to take over when the other is tired and I’m also looking for michi-no-ekis to stop by for longer stretches because the parents would need to use the facilities.

    Appreciate your advice on the itinerary, thanks!

    • Queen Bee says:

      I would go Furano straight from CTS at the start of the trip. You don’t have many days and going up to Sapporo first and then back to Sapporo again at the end of the trip is a bit of a waste of time I feel. You can try the following:

      Day 1: CTS – Furano
      Day 2: Furano & Biei
      Day 3: Furano – Lake Toya
      Day 4: Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo
      Day 5: Sapporo (flight back)

      If you return the car on Day 4, you are looking at a 4-days car rental and I think it should be worth it to get the HEP.

      If you use expressways, there are parking areas to pull over if anyone needs a break. I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

  • CY says:

    Thanks for the advice Queen Bee!

  • Christopher Lim says:

    Hi Queen Bee,

    Planning my self-drive trip in Hokkaido with my wife and I can’t imagine how I would be doing it without your blog.

    Could I get your opinion on whether I should get an ETC card for the following itinerary in Sept?

    Day 1: Arrive in Sapporo. Pickup car from CTS and head towards Asahikawa. Overnight in asahikawa
    Day 2: Biei and Furano.
    Day 3: Return to Sapporo. Return car at Sapporo vs CTS. Explore harvest festival.
    Day 4: Day trip to Otaru.
    Day 5: Leisure time around Sapporo
    Day 6: Return to CTS and back to SG

    I am a little confused regarding the rental services. I attempted to check the prices for rental of a car from CTS to be returned back to CTS vs Sapporo. I understand from what you have mentioned that it in order to use the HEP we will have to return the car back to the original shop we rented from? Will it be necessary for our trip. And do you have any other suggestions as to what to do for our itinerary. It is pretty simple for now because we are trying to take it easy and not have to rush during this trip.

    Finally, I was trying to navigate the skyrent page with help of google translate and while I think I understand what it is I am renting I am not sure if I will be able to get the car from the rental company upon arrival since I cannot speak Japanese.

    Appreciate your advice on the itinerary, thanks!

  • James says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    Thank you for sharing so much insightful and valuable travel information to Japan. We enjoy our annual trips to Japan as much as you and this will be our first self drive in Hokkaido.

    I will be travelling to Hokkaido from 13th to 18th Oct and until 21st Oct in Tokyo.

    Need your help to quick check my itinerary if the 5 days HEP (Y$6,700) is worth it. My initial assessment is to go for it as the drive from Chitose Airport to Tomamu (for the Unkai) already costs Y$3000+.

    Thank you in advance. : )

    Day 1: Chitose Airport to Tomamu
    Day 2: Tomamu to Furano/Biei
    Day 3: Biei to Sounkyo
    Day 4: Sounkyo to Asahikawa & Sapporo
    Day 5: Sapporo to Jozankei & Otaru & Sapporo (Day trip)
    Day 6: Sapporo to Chitose Airport

    Btw can check with you if you have any recommendations/referral for affordable 2 way private car/taxi transport from Haneda Airport to Shinjuku and Shinjuku to Narita Airport.

    Our group consists of 4 adults + 1 child and at least 4 pcs of luggage. Experienced enough to know that train transfers in Tokyo might not be worth the hassle so hoping to use private car/taxi transport instead. Best quote on hand is Y$30,000 nett (including all tolls & misc charges).

    Just trying to benchmark and confirm if this is a good deal. Let me know if you are interested for your future trips and I be happy to share the details.

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