Driving in Hokkaido

This entry was posted a few years ago when we decide to chase down autumn leaves in Hokkaido.  This time round, we went chasing after cherry blossoms, and decided that we wanted the same freedom that driving around Hokkaido would give us.  We booked ourselves with Prime Travel again who settled everything for us.

Our self-drive holiday in Hokkaido was perfect – we stopped whenever we wanted and made little detours to hidden gems.  I thought I’d start by reposting this entry.  As planning a self-drive holiday in Hokkaido can be a little challenging, my subsequent posts on places of interest will have the driving map codes where possible 🙂

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When we first decided to go autumn leaves chasing in Hokkaido, we were very sure of one thing – no organised package tours.  Being stuck on a coach, with a fixed itinerary and a bunch of strangers was not our idea of a vacation.  We wanted the freedom to decide how we wanted to spend our time and to be able to skip off to explore some small, pretty, off-beaten path without having to worry about being back on the coach in 15 minutes time.  Unfortunately, this was Japan and neither of us can manage anything beyond konnichiwa.   So thank god for Prime Travel who helped us make all the arrangements from booking the accomodation to the car rental to providing a proposed itinerary and all the location mapcodes for the GPS in the car.  Although the self-drive trip did cost us more than an organised tour, it was well worth the money – we managed to see a lot more of Hokkaido and the accommodation that Prime booked for us was fantastic in terms of location and service.

Initially, I was a little hesitant about driving around Hokkaido by ourselves but it turned out to be a breeze.  Pick up and drop off of the car was a piece of cake as Toyota provided a free shuttle from the Chitose airport.  We requested for an English-speaking GPS and directions given were clear right down to the exact location to park.  Roads were well maintained and Japanese drivers are an incredibly polite bunch.  Drivers give way to each other ALL THE TIME, no one cuts into your lane and everyone signals when changing lanes.  No wonder we didn’t hear a single honk the entire time we were time and yellow boxes don’t exist.  The only thing to note if you’re also planning a self-drive trip to Hokkaido is that tolls are usually not included in the car rental so remember to set aside about S$100+ for toll fees.  Fuel didn’t really cost us much because we drove a Prius – a hybrid electric car – and we only needed to top up the tank once after driving over 1,000+ km.

The best part about driving around Hokkaido? The freedom.  Our itinerary for each day was only decided the night before.  We picked the interesting bits from the one we prepared ourselves, the one Prime prepared for us and the brochures we picked up en route.  Of course, not to mention the fabulous scenic routes that took us along coastal drives, past beautiful mountains and vast open spaces of farmland.

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