- 1) Enter via Hakodate with your JR Pass
- 2) Drivers, get the Hokkaido Expressway Pass (HEP)
- 4) If you’re renting a car, travel in 4s
- 5) Get your SIM Card/WiFi device from Singapore
- 6) In cities, save on parking by picking accommodations in convenient locations
- 7) Free alcohol tasting!
- 1) Hakodate
- 2) Biei
- 3) Furano
- 4) Lake Kussharo
- 5) Lake Shikaribetsu
- Food & Shopping
- 9) Plan for pit-stops at convenience stores
- 10) Have restaurant meals during lunch instead of dinner
- 11) Get your snacks at the New Chitose Airport
Promo: Get 5% off your accommodations in Hokkaido using under coupon code!
Planning a trip to Hokkaido? Take on these 11 tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your budget!
1) Enter via Hakodate with your JR Pass
If you’re on a 7, 14 or 21 day Whole Japan JR Pass, reserve the last few days for Hokkaido! From Tokyo station, it’s around 4 – 4.5 hours direct via the Hayabusa Shinkansen. You can take the latest train at 7:20PM and arrive at Shin Hakodate at 11:33PM. The single ticket fare is already ¥22,810 (including seat reservation) and is likely to exceed the value of your pass.
Travelling with a JR Pass? Here are some of our JR Pass inspired itineraries: – Whole Japan JR Pass: 7D Tokyo to Osaka for less than S$1.1k and 8D Japan Winter Itinerary: 8days, under S$1.2k
– Kansai-Hiroshima JR Pass: 8 days, 9 Cities from Osaka to Hiroshima for under S$1.1k
2) Drivers, get the Hokkaido Expressway Pass (HEP)
If you love long drives and aren’t in a rush, there’s always alternative routes with smaller roads to skip the tolls. Though, for us I think a huge perk for getting a HEP was that it gave us a peace of mind when following the GPS. The GPS tends to automatically select the shortest route which will very likely include tolls. But since we were on the HEP, we didn’t have to stress about making a wrong turn and ending up in front of a toll gate unintentionally.
Do note that the HEP is for the entire duration of your car rental even if you don’t plan to take the toll roads on certain days. Despite not using toll roads everyday during our 8-day road trip, we still exceeded the ¥8200 value we paid for our 8-day HEP — we would have otherwise spent ¥22,290 on the ETC card.
Note that unless you own an ETC card, there’s a one-time rental charge of ¥324 on top of the HEP.
4) If you’re renting a car, travel in 4s
While Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are great for solo travellers, driving seems to be the best way to explore this region. Optimise your cost by travelling in a group of 4 since this is the most comfortable number for regular A-Class (mid-range) cars. They fit 4 medium-sized luggages fit perfectly and many accommodations cater for either 2 or 4 (e.g. Japanese-style tatami rooms or couches that open up into a queen-sized bed).
5) Get your SIM Card/WiFi device from Singapore
SIM Cards and WiFi devices in Japan are really expensive! 7-day SIM Cards come in 2GB and unlimited but cost ¥3,800 (~S$46.50) and ¥4,980 (~S$60.80) respectively and WiFi devices cost from ¥814–1,296/day depending on the total duration of rental.
We got collected our WiFi device from Singapore at S$3/day and an 8-day unlimited data SIM card for S$41!
6) In cities, save on parking by picking accommodations in convenient locations
In Otaru, the Otaru Canal is a major tourist attraction but there are limited parking spaces near the canal and are about ¥300/30minutes if you do snag one.Hotel Sonia Otaru is located directly across the road from the canal and some rooms even offer one of the best views of it! The Sankaku fish market as well as famous dessert stores in Otaru like LeTao and Kitakaro are also within walking distance from this hotel.
*Pro-tip: Get 5% off your accommodation at any of the Hotel MYSTAYS outlets mentioned above by using under coupon code! 🙂
7) Free alcohol tasting!
Sake, whiskey, wine or beer lover? There are breweries around the Hokkaido region open to visitors for free and usually end with a few tester cups to taste. The down side is we always end up buying a bottle or 2 anyway because they’re much cheaper for the quality you get here 😛
These make for a great evening pit-stop just before arriving at the next city’s accommodation. Just make sure the driver doesn’t drink too much or is given enough time before you hit the road once again!
Asahi Beer Factory — comes with 3 free beers to taste after the 90-minute tour (Closes at 3PM)
Yoichi Winery (Closes at 5PM, not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
Otokoyama Sake Brewery and Museum (Closes at 5PM)
8) Must-see sights that are free
While ski resorts, major flower parks and certain observatories require entrance fees, there’s also a lot that don’t! Here’s our top 5 places:
Sakura season at the Goryukaku Park
Shirogane Blue Pond
Lavender Ice Cream at Farm Tomita
4) Lake Kussharo
Bihoro Pass Observatory
5) Lake Shikaribetsu
Food & Shopping
9) Plan for pit-stops at convenience stores
Convenience stores like Lawson, Seicomart, 7-eleven and Family mart probably need no introduction. But other than getting affordable and decent meals (some you can even have freshly heated), convenience stores are also great pit-stops whenever you need a toilet break while on the road. To save on time and money while on the road, we’d usually have at least one meal at a convenience store everyday. Unless there’s a must-visit food stop, convenience stores were our go-to breakfast/dinner stops. (Why not lunch? See next point.)
10) Have restaurant meals during lunch instead of dinner
Unagidokoro Takahashi (うなぎ処 高はし) in Hakodate
Whenever possible — especially if the restaurant is famous for a certain dish — plan to visit for lunch simply because the lunch menu is cheaper than dinner. This usually only applies to the cities like Sapporo, Hakodate and Otaru though! Note that they open pretty late (around 11AM) so if you need to leave the town early and can’t make it for lunch, splurging on some dinners ain’t that bad.
11) Get your snacks at the New Chitose Airport
Many observatories and rest stops have shops selling famous Hokkaido snacks but resist buying them as they’re definitely cheaper at the airport! Getting them at the airport also saves you from carrying the load of snacks around on your trip; and potentially finishing them all before they reach home. The airport even sells Kinotoya’s baked cheese tarts and LeTao’s famous Double Fromage cake which you can purchase along with an ice bag so it will last 9-10hours.
And that wraps up the 11 tips we picked up on our 8-Day Budget Road Trip in Hokkaido! Got any personal tips that weren’t in this list? Would love to hear of them in the comments section below! 🙂
This post was brought to you by MYSTAYS Hotel.
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A post shared by The Travel Intern (@thetravelintern) on May 14, 2018 at 9:23pm PDT