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Rental car or JP Rail Pass? 2007/9/10 18:34
Hokkaido
We (2 people) will have about 8 days in Japan in Feb next year and want to sight-see on both Hokkaido and Honshu. We are mostly interested in seeing nature and countryside sights, with some city / cultural sights. We're not sure whether to rent a car or get the Rail Pass (both are about the same price for that amount of time). Can people tell me what their thoughts are on this??? Is it fairly easy to rent and drive a car in Japan? Can the rail / bus system be unreliable if we want to go to quieter/countryside areas of Japan? Thanks!
by Marli  

... 2007/9/10 19:15
First of all, I don't recommend to rent a car in northern Japan during winter unless you are confident with driving in the snow.

A rental car is the recommended means on the countryside and in national parks, where public transportation services are often bad or sometimes even non-existent.

But for long distance travel and city transportation, I recommend public transportation.

Note also that the ferry ride between Hokkaido and Honshu is rather expensive. And so would be the fee for dropping off a Hokkaido car on Honshu or the other way around, assuming that there are car rental outlets that are even willing to let you drop off a Hokkaido on Honshu or the other way round.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Thanks 2007/9/11 08:42
We have experience driving in the snow - depends on whether the rental companies give you snow chains with your car I suppose. We have had some mixed reports - locals to Hokkaido saying the roads are very good in winter and others who say their bad...? It's hard to know what to believe.
by Marli rate this post as useful

... 2007/9/11 09:37
I have driven in Hokkaido in winter and I think the roads are just as good as any other place that gets a lot of snow.

When they're cleared they're fine. If not then you have to drive more carefully. If its snowing, then expect snow to be on the road.

I'm not sure what the people you asked meant by good roads. If they meant the condition of the road itself I'd say the roads were well maintained. If they meant are they regularly cleared of snow then I'd say in my experience they were always well cleared when I was driving on them even early in the morning.

The question I have for you is what is your itinerary and have you factored in toll roads into your calculations? The expressway in Japan is not free, and gas is quite expensive, about 140yen/L (roughly $5/Gallon) where I live.

Lastly, if it makes sense cost wise then I would say go for the driving in Hokkaido as it is some beautiful driving country. Let us know some more info about your trip and we'll try to give you some better advice.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

... 2007/9/11 09:40
btw, any car you rent in Hokkaido will come with snow tires. You don't want to be driving around in chains as it'll take twice as long to get anywhere. If you rent in Honshu you may want to ask if the car comes with snow tires.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Thanks 2007/9/11 11:19
That's great - any info is much appreciated. We still have quite a few months to decide. Sounds like petrol is the same price as we pay at home (Australia), so thats OK. Is there anyone else out there who has done a driving holiday of Japan in winter (with no previuos japanese experience)??
by Marli rate this post as useful

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