Rent a Car for Travel in Sapporo

The largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Sapporo is a great base for exploring snow festivals, hot springs, and stunning natural landscapes. Having your own rental car makes getting around this sprawling city and surrounding region efficient and flexible. Here’s a guide on renting and driving in Sapporo.

Finding Car Rental Companies in Sapporo

As a major tourist destination, Sapporo has branches of all the big Japanese rental chains like:

  • Nippon Rent-A-Car
  • Toyota Rent-A-Car
  • Nissan Rent-A-Car
  • Times Car Rental
  • Mazda Rent-A-Car

There are also international companies like Hertz, Avis, and Budget. Compare rates across multiple agencies. Reserve early for best availability, especially during peak seasons.

Documentation and Requirements

Typical documentation required:

  • Valid driver’s license from your home country
  • Passport
  • International Driving Permit recommended but not always mandatory
  • Major credit card for payment

Some companies have minimum age requirements, typically 20-25 years old. There may be extra fees for young drivers. Clarify policies when booking.

Types of Rental Cars in Sapporo

Car TypeExamplesDescription
EconomyToyota Vitz, Nissan DayzSmall cars for 1-2 passengers
CompactToyota Tank, Honda FitGood balance of size and efficiency
StandardToyota Corolla, Nissan NoteMidsize sedans fitting 3-4 people
SUVToyota RAV4, Honda CR-VFor families and luggage capacity
VanToyota Hiace, Nissan CaravanFor large groups and airport transfers

Automatic transmission is standard for most rentals in Japan. 4WD vehicles may be needed in winter.

Driving in Sapporo – Rules of the Road

Key driving rules and etiquette in Sapporo:

  • Drive on the left side of the road
  • Seatbelts mandatory for all passengers
  • Use hazard lights when stopped on highways
  • Strict drunk driving laws enforced
  • Obey all traffic signals and signs
  • Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks
  • No honking except for emergencies
  • Keep cash/coins for expressway tolls

Drive cautiously as conditions can be snowy and icy in winter.

Useful Rental Car Tips for Sapporo

  • Reserve early, especially for winter snow festivals
  • Inspect vehicle thoroughly for damage
  • Consider extra insurance for added protection
  • Ask about ETC cards for expressway tolls
  • Have offline maps on phone in case low on data
  • Get winter tires or tire insurance for snow seasons
  • Keep coins handy for parking meters
  • Know parking laws to avoid fines or towing

Following these tips will make renting and driving smooth.

Top Day Trip Destinations from Sapporo

Having a rental car makes accessing sights near Sapporo simple. Here are some top day trips:

  • Otaru – Picturesque port town with glassblowing, music boxes, and seafood. 45 min drive.
  • Niseko – World-famous ski resort town in the winter. 2 hr drive.
  • Shikotsu-Toya National Park – Volcanoes, hot springs, hiking, and lakes. 2 hr drive.
  • Asahiyama Zoo – See the famous penguin parade and other exotic wildlife. 1 hr drive.
  • Furano – Stunning countryside known for lavender fields and agriculture. 2 hr drive.
  • Noboribetsu – Iconic hot spring resort town with intense geothermal activity. 1 hr drive.

Double check directions with maps or GPS when driving outside Sapporo. Allow extra time to account for getting lost.

FAQ About Renting a Car in Sapporo

What documents do I need to rent a car in Sapporo?

You’ll need a valid driver’s license, passport, and major credit card. An International Driving Permit is recommended but not always required.

What side of the road do the Japanese drive on?

Traffic in Japan keeps left, unlike most other countries which drive on the right. Be very careful.

What insurance should I purchase when renting?

Get standard third-party liability insurance. Consider supplemental coverage too for maximum protection.


While Hokkaido’s snowy roads demand extra care, having your own wheels is the best way to explore Sapporo’s incredible food scene and surrounding natural beauty. Reserve early, inspect cars thoroughly, and brush up on local driving etiquette. With your international license and a rental car, iconic hot springs, mountains, and stunning snow festivals await!


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