Traveling to Hokkaido: Essential Tips for Your Adventure

Welcome to the enchanting island of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern gem known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and delectable cuisine. If you’re planning a trip to this winter wonderland, here are some essential tips to make your journey unforgettable:

1. Power Plug & Voltage

Before you jet off, ensure you have the right power plug adapters for Hokkaido’s 100-volt electrical outlets. Japan primarily uses Type A and Type B plugs as shown below, so check your devices and bring appropriate adapters. For those of you with long hair and who are coming from countries that use 220-240 volt electrical outlets, don’t bother bringing your hair dryer along because they wouldn’t work in Japan. The hair dryers provided by hotels may not be as powerful, but you’ll have to make do.

2. Book Everything in Advance

Traveling to Sapporo during peak periods is an exciting experience, but it’s essential to plan ahead due to the high number of visitors and limited availability of establishments. Whether it’s popular restaurants or must-visit attractions, booking in advance is crucial to ensure a seamless and enjoyable trip. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way when we were turned away by multiple restaurants due to our failure to make reservations beforehand. Learn from our experience and avoid the same disappointment by securing your bookings ahead of time.

3. Check the Weather Forecast

Hokkaido’s weather can be quite unpredictable, especially during winter. To make the most of your trip, it’s crucial to stay updated on the weather forecast and adjust your daily activities accordingly. One piece of advice: avoid driving during a snowstorm at all costs. The weather can drastically reduce visibility, creating hazardous road conditions. During our tour from Sapporo to Asahikawa, we experienced firsthand how challenging it can be. Our bus encountered extremely low visibility, and unfortunately, another car lost control and collided with us while trying to stop. Thankfully, no one was injured, but it served as a stark reminder of the dangers of driving in such conditions. A helpful tip shared by our experienced bus driver: if you need to slow down quickly, brush your wheels into the snow curb on the side of the roads to prevent a potential collision. Prioritize safety and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey in Hokkaido’s beautiful yet unpredictable winter weather.

4. Punctuality Matters

In Japan, punctuality holds a paramount significance in their culture. Embrace this value by respecting local norms and ensuring you’re always on time for your appointments, tours, and public transport. Being punctual not only shows your consideration for others but also reflects positively on you as a responsible and courteous traveler. Keep in mind that your actions can impact others as well. For instance, if you’re late, it can cause inconvenience to everyone who is waiting for you. Moreover, tour bus drivers are bound by the law to adhere to strict driving hours, so any delays on your part can affect their schedule too. By honoring the importance of punctuality, you’ll not only make your travel experiences smoother but also contribute to the overall harmony and efficiency of your journey in Japan.

5. Luggage Considerations

If you’re planning to visit during the snowy season, it’s wise to opt for a backpack or a suitcase with wheels. Navigating icy and snowy streets while pulling luggage can be quite challenging. By choosing a backpack or wheeled suitcase, you’ll have an easier time moving around and won’t have to struggle with dragging heavy bags through the snow. Additionally, I recommend selecting accommodation in a convenient location where you can minimize the need for extensive walks, especially in wintry conditions. This way, you can make the most of your time exploring the beautiful sights of Hokkaido without the hassle of dealing with unwieldy luggage.

6. Cash is Still King

While credit cards are generally widely accepted in Hokkaido, it’s essential to be aware that some smaller restaurants or cafes may only accept cash payments. To avoid any inconvenience, it’s a good idea to carry some Japanese Yen with you for such occasions. Most convenience stores have ATM machines where you can easily withdraw cash, but do keep in mind that there might be a small fee associated with each withdrawal. Being prepared with a mix of payment options will ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience as you explore the diverse culinary scene and vibrant attractions in Hokkaido.

7. Dry Winter Weather

Traveling during the winter can be a magical experience, especially in destinations blanketed by glistening snow. However, the cold, dry air can take a toll on our skin (and lips), leaving it parched and in need of extra care. If you’re planning a winter adventure, don’t forget to keep your skin moisturized! If you are coming from a humid country, your lotions and creams might not work as well in dry weather. We suggest that you purchase locally in Japan so that they can last for longer periods. Don’t let dry winter air dampen your spirits – keep your skin nourished and protected, so you can fully enjoy the wonders of the winter wonderland ahead!

8. Tax Refund for Visitors

9. Embrace the King Crab

A journey to Hokkaido would be incomplete without indulging in the delectable delight of king crab. To fully embrace the true King Crab experience in this region, we have some valuable advice: Head to the vibrant markets and opt for the live crabs. These magnificent creatures are cooked fresh right before your eyes, ensuring an unparalleled and mouthwatering culinary experience. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor the finest flavors of Hokkaido’s king crab, as it promises to be a memorable highlight of your trip.

10. Accommodation

When it comes to hotels in Japan, travelers are often enchanted by the unique charm and meticulous attention to detail. While it’s true that Japanese hotel rooms are known for their compact size, they more than make up for it with their cleanliness, efficiency, and thoughtful amenities. Embrace the quintessential Japanese experience as you step into a cozy yet immaculate room, designed to make the most of every inch of space. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ingenious storage solutions and modern conveniences thoughtfully integrated into these compact spaces. From traditional ryokans to modern capsule hotels, the emphasis on cleanliness and orderliness is truly exceptional. So, rest assured that in Japan, your accommodation may be small, but it will undoubtedly be a serene oasis, offering a glimpse into the harmonious balance of Japanese hospitality and architectural ingenuity.

11. Public Transport

When embarking on your adventures in Japan, make sure to embrace the convenience of rechargeable “smart” cards, also known as IC cards. These nifty cards are the perfect companions for hassle-free payments, whether you’re hopping on trains, buses, or monorails. Embrace the ease of traveling around by simply tapping your IC card. Not just limited to transportation, IC cards are widely accepted at vending machines, convenience stores, and popular chain restaurants, making them an essential travel companion. Among the prominent choices are the Suica Card and PASMO, offering you a seamless and efficient way to navigate Japan’s vibrant cities and immerse yourself in the local culture. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the convenience and versatility of these IC cards during your unforgettable journey in Japan.

12. Check Out My Detailed Hokkaido Itinerary!

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