Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Forums Other Destination advice Driving in Japan

  • Alex G 435 posts

    There were some interesting comments about driving in Japan on today’s daily chat thread. I thought it was worth a dedicated thread.

    Top tips from that thread https://www.headforpoints.com/forums/topic/chat-thread-friday-26th-january/

    You must have a valid International Driving Permit. You need the 1949 version. You can get one from many Post Offices. The current fee is £5.50, and the IDP for Japan is valid for one year. The Post Office can post-date the start date for you. You need a passport photo and a full GB/NI driving licence. If you still have a paper licence, then you will also need your passport.

    You can find Post Offices that provide the service at https://www.postoffice.co.uk/identity/international-driving-permit#poi

    Alex G 435 posts

    I will be visiting Japan this year for the third time, but I’ve never driven there before. I would appreciate any observations from people who have.

    I will be renting from Avis – I have President’s Club status through the Barclays Avios Plus card, and this gave me a cheaper quote than I could find from other providers. Although Avis is not big in Japan. And Avis at Haneda are not on site, and don’t even have a desk at the airport. Apparently, if you approach the airport information desk at Haneda, they will call through to Avis for you and get them to send the shuttle.

    I was looking at one way rentals, but found them to be very expensive whatever company I looked at.

    I understand I should rent an ETC pass to pay for tolls, which are ubiquitous and expensive.

    I think I might also need to rent a Sat Nav, but I’m wondering if Google Maps will suffice? We will have two mobiles with eSims, and will download the maps in advance.

    All the hotels I have booked have parking.

    Our itineraries are as follows;

    HND – Yamanouchi – Matsumoto – Kamakura – HND (one week)

    Oita – Kurokawa – Miyazaki – Beppu – Oita (one week)

    Any advice on the itineraries or driving in Japan generally would be most welcome.

    yonasl 954 posts

    Can i just ask how do you get the Avis status with the Barclays Card? Thanks!

    The Streets 41 posts

    You also need an International Driving Permit if you want to scoot around town in one of the Mario Karts

    Alex G 435 posts

    Can i just ask how do you get the Avis status with the Barclays Card? Thanks!

    Assuming you already have an Avis account, fill in the form at: https://www.avis-preferred.com/mastercard/

    derbydave 9 posts

    I rented a car from Avis last August, like you I found that they were by far the best price.

    I called them using Skype to arrange the pick up, then it took ages for me to find the correct meeting place (tip: go down to the ground floor from the main building in HND, don’t go off towards the car parks / bus stops). The service from the staff was of course impeccable, they are probably used to dealing with idiot gaijin 🙂

    They bus you off site, a good 10 minute drive, to an office in Keihinjima and do all the paperwork there. You pay a deposit (on card) for an ETC card then they tot up the balance owed when you return, with an itemised bill. Make sure it is in the car before you drive off (ours was in a card-reader type box in the footwell) – it makes an announcement when you turn on the ignition.

    Our car was relatively old for a rental, it was a Corolla that clicked over 100,000 km while we were there, but it was fine for our c. 800km round trip.

    The car had satnav built in, I think most cars have had for the last 10 years or more, but it will of course be in Japanese. Google maps (or Apple maps) worked very well for me, I downloaded some maps and had an airalo eSIM (that is definitely recommended).

    Good luck!

    yonasl 954 posts

    Can i just ask how do you get the Avis status with the Barclays Card? Thanks!

    Assuming you already have an Avis account, fill in the form at: https://www.avis-preferred.com/mastercard/

    That worked, thank you

    Gavin454 159 posts

    I understand I should rent an ETC pass to pay for tolls, which are ubiquitous and expensive.

    I think I might also need to rent a Sat Nav, but I’m wondering if Google Maps will suffice? We will have two mobiles with eSims, and will download the maps in advance.

    Don’t feel obliged to take the toll roads. They are expensive and sometimes not a huge amount quicker. It can also be much more interesting driving certain routes on normal roads (and perhaps exploring en-route) rather than expressways going through tunnels etc. You also don’t have to use ETC if you don’t want to, picking up a paper ticket and paying per time with cash/card is possible.

    If the car is relatively modern, you can just plug your phone into the car (or pair via Bluetooth) and use Google or your preferred phone navigation app on the car screen. Also useful for playing music etc. Google maps is good in Japan, it even has real-time info about lane closures on the expressways etc and will announce it to you in English. If this is not possible, I would personally use a mount and still use Google maps on my phone, as it’s good and I’m familiar with it.

    The speed limits seem unrealistically low on most roads in Japan but most people seem to drive well above the speed limit. E.g. my recent trip in Hokkaido, the expressways had a variable limit which was set to 50km/h a lot of the time, no matter the weather/road conditions. But most people were easily driving 80-100km/h when the roads were clear of snow.

    Alex G 435 posts

    Thanks for the tips Dave and Gavin.

    I saw on a Google review that the Information Desk at Haneda will call the Avis Shuttle for us. 🫰 I might put some credit on Skype as a backup. We will be staying a few days in Tokyo, and then travelling out to Haneda to collect the car, so will probably try to make our way to the Avis location from Terminal 1. Apparently, to find the shuttle pick up, we need to leave the departure lobby on the 2nd floor. Exit 8 in the North Wing

    We will look at avoiding toll roads once we get up to the Nagano region. Will use Google Maps to check the differences in journey time.

    I think ETC is cheaper than paying cash? Certainly sounds easier.

    This site – https://search.w-nexco.co.jp/en/route.php – shows toll prices.

    Does the ETC card need to be activated, or on display in the windscreen?

    derbydave 9 posts

    We too had a couple of days in Tokyo then headed back to HND to collect the car. I think the international terminal is a little closer to both Tokyo and the rental office though it probably won’t make much difference.

    Out of the cities, it is easy to avoid the toll roads though note that some of the scenic routes are toll only and may not accept ETC card. I wouldn’t try to avoid toll roads in the major cities (Tokyo, Yokohama etc.) except for short journeys, the normal roads are very slow going – sometimes traffic lights every 100m or so.

    ETC is cheaper, especially in Tokyo, for example the cash price on the Shuto is Yen1950 per entry, and 610 with ETC.

    Avis will activate the ETC card (if it needs it) then place it in the reader in the car – ours was in the passenger footwell. It’s a “fit and forget” thing though it will make announcements as you go through gates.

    While you are there, search out a manned petrol station (nowadays not all are, though they used to be 20 years ago), it’s quite an experience!

    derbydave 9 posts

    While you are there, search out a manned petrol station

    Sorry, not sure where “manned” came from, they are all manned – what I meant to say was look out for a full service petrol (gas) station

  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.