Hokkaido Travels – How to Rent a Car in Hokkaido with ToCoo

Planning to self-drive in Hokkaido? We have prepared a simple Hokkaido car rental guide for you.

1. Should I rent a car or take public transport?

If you are considering whether to self-drive in Hokkaido, here are some questions to ponder. If you are travelling to Sapporo, Otaru & Niseko only, you do not need to rent a car as public transport is more convenient.

However, if you plan to travel to several places in Hokkaido such as Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Furano, Asahikawa, Biei, Kushiro, Abashiri, we Strongly Recommend renting a car. It is much more convenient, especially in winter.

Note: Hokkaido is a region with many cities, not a city itself (eg Peninsular Malaysia)

2. Is it dangerous to drive in Winter?

Yes, it is more dangerous to drive during winter due to black ice which causes a car to skid. However, it should not stop you from driving in the winter as the pros of driving in winter outweighs the cons.

Drive slower and stay alert, we usually drive much slower, especially in remote areas. Do not plan a tight & rush trip. Allow leeway for delays to avoid speeding.

Most car rentals will offer snow tyres in winter to reduce (not eliminate) skid.

What is Black ice? – Black ice is a thin coating of glaze ice on the road when snow from the air freezes rapidly. It is often practically invisible.

3. What are the advantages of driving in winter?

  • Most importantly you do not need to shiver in the blizzard cold weather while waiting for public transport.
  • Convenient in getting around Hokkaido especially in remote places.
  • Time control, you decide when to leave or arrive.
  • Park right in front or nearby in most places instead of walking a distance.
  • A comfortable heater in the car is always on standby.

4. Is an international driving license needed?

Yes, it is needed.

Read: How to Apply International Driving License in Malaysia

How to Rent a Car in Hokkaido with ToCoo

We have been renting our cars from ToCoo for all our trips to Hokkaido.

1. Just key in your pick up and drop off dates.

2. Choose suitable cars and pricing

3. Travelling to a few places? Add on the Hokkaido Expressway Pass Plan

Hokkaido Expressway Pass allows unlimited use of Hokkaido’s expressways, for one fixed price! It is useful for multi-city trips as you will save on toll fees and time by travelling on highways.

It will come with an ETC Card Reader (like our Smartag), so all you need is to drive through the ETC lane.

On ToCoo you can find the package that comes with Hokkaido Expressway Pass inclusion. The HEP fees to be paid separately at the car rental office.

Not all car rental dealers offer HEP. Only Nissan Car Rental, Budget Car Rental, Times Car Rental, Honda Rent a Car Sapporo, World Net Rent a Car, Hokkaido Travel Car Rental and Samurai Car Rental offer HEP.

4. Add on Compensation Coverage

We strongly recommend taking extra insurance for peace of mind.

5. Upon arrival, head to the car rental service desk

Head to the car rental service desk and wait for the shuttle bus to respective car rental office nearby the airport.

6. Collect your car & start your journey

We rented Nissan cars for few times and find it comfortable & easy to drive

Nissan Serena – Fit for 5 pax plus 3 large luggage and some hand carry

Nissan Note – Fit for 4 pax with 2 large 28″ Luggage

7. Handy Tips

1. As there’s limited space in the car, we recommend 2 pax to share one large luggage and hand carry.

2. Vacuum storage bags are useful to increase the luggage space. Bring extra in case of spoilage.

3. Japan’s voltage is 100 volt so most 240 volts (Malaysia & Singapore) hairdryer and thong do not work efficiently in Japan. Consider leaving them at home or use the ones with dual voltage.

4. If your flight is early in the morning it is advisable to return the night before and stay in Chitose. Make sure to check the opening time of the car rental office. Opening time on the weekend might be later than weekdays.

5. For returning on flight day, it is advisable to drop off all the passengers and baggage at the airport first before returning the car. This allows the others to queue to check-in while the driver returns the car.

Our Hokkaido Self Drive Travel Blogs

About Tommy Ooi 509 Articles
Luxury Hotel Reviewer & Destination Blogger. Passionate for travel, exploring new culture & indulging divine food, Tommy has traveled to 42 countries & 140+ destinations.


  1. Hello, am planning to self drive in Hokkaido. Do you mind to share your opinion on the itinerary if i only have 5 days? Lake Toya is a must in my itinerary. Posssible to contact via email? Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your prompt reply. My partner had been to Noboribetsu before so I will skip it. Is it possible to go Hakodate – Lake Toya – Furano/Biei – Otaru – Sapporo?

    Do i need a car in Sapporo as I am planning to go outskirt directly after touch down and back to Sapporo on the last 2 days?

    • Hi, you only have 5 days and planning to stay sapporo 2 nights, so definitely wont be possible.. For short 5 days, might as well not drive and take local tour Lake Toya- Otaru-Sapporo

    • I would recommend having 5 nights min. 2N Hakodate-1N Lake Toya-2N Sapporo or 2N Hakodate- 3N Sapporo. The best 2N Hakodate-1N Lake Toya- 3N Sapporo with 1 full day Otaru day trip from Sapporo

      • yes, I do have 5 nights in Hokkaido. Will go for 2N Hakodate-1N Lake Toya- 2N Sapporo. So can I just rent a car for 4 nights?

        • Yes, you can return it at airport and take public transport back to Sapporo. Since u have not been to Noboribetsu, you can drop by on the way to Hakodate and the main attraction Hell Valley will only take 1-2 hours to visit.

  3. good idea & your comments are so valuable to me. is it worth to go Hakodate? I am traveling with an elderly partner & we do want a rush schedule. That’s why I am thinking to self-drive instead of taking bus.

  4. Oh yes, i will check it out later. will contact you if i have any enquiries & thanks for your patience.

  5. Hi Tommy, i would like to say thank you to you on the useful information of the hokkaido road trip. My partner and I were enjoyed it so much. Keep it up and continue to write more. Thanks.

    • Dear Thy, we are very glad you enjoyed your hokkaido trip. We are even happier to receive your compliments. It does gives us a sense of satisfaction that our guide is useful for other travelers.

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