What you should know about car renting in Japan

For those ones traveling to Japan car renting companies offer the best possibility to explore the numerous wonderful places located outside the large metropolitan areas. While planning your visit you have for sure found out that the Japanese countryside has a lot of inspiring places to show you and renting a car can sometimes be the best solution to visit most of them. No doubt, Japan is known for its superior public transportation network, so getting anywhere by bus or train won’t be much of a problem. In case you don’t want to depend on fixed schedules (most of which are available only in Japanese) and need a certain level of freedom and comfort, addressing one of the many car rental companies is definitely a good idea in Japan. But keep in mind, there are certain peculiarities to renting a car in this amazing country, so you may want to learn about them first before booking the rent.

What’s so special about driving in Japan?

What you really need to take into consideration is the fact that the traffic is left-handed, which can be a major problem for anyone from a right-hand traffic country who has never tried driving in different circumstances. After some time you’ll get used to it, but if you have no such experience, this can be rather confusing and problematic at first. After all, assuming that all of the signs are in Japanese, you will have an additional stressing factor besides the traffic direction. And now think twice before renting a car if you’re not completely sure of your driving abilities.

It’s also important to note that the central and northern parts of the country get a lot of snow during the winter, with blizzards being rather common in the north. In case you have no winter driving experience it’s better to avoid renting a car, especially if you’re trying to visit the beautiful mountain regions – the roads there can be rather tricky even for experienced drivers.

Don’t forget that you have to carry either Japanese or International Driving License to operate a vehicle in Japan. The best solution is to inquire with your local Japanese embassy regarding the requirements for driving license in your very country, since the regulation may differ depending from where you come from. Of course, Japanese drivers tend to be very well mannered and are rarely seen in aggressive driving situations. Still, large cities are known for very heavy traffic, which can deliver a lot of stress even when dealing with polite and law-abiding drivers. That means, if your primary goal is to stay within large metropolitan areas it’s highly advised that you avoid car rentals and stick to the local public transportation. It won’t only save you a lot money (both in terms of rental and parking fees) but also save you from a lot of hassle.

Which car rental company to choose?

You will find many national car rental companies in Japan, so renting a car won’t be a problem. In general these companies are affiliated or even make part of large car manufacturer holdings, so you are likely to get a selection of a particular car brand when addressing a particular company. There are also several international car rental companies on the local market, but they mostly act as intermediaries between foreign tourists and local car rental companies, providing multilanguage service based on local car rental market that is usually available only in Japanese. It’s quite easy to find any type of car from sub-compact to SUVs and minivans. But the rates can be rather high depending on the car type and the place you’re renting from. The fact is, car rental can be rather pricey in Japan when comparing it to other countries. But at least you will surely find services to rent a car from all around the country.

Mind the extras

Of course the extra features offered by Japanese car rental companies aren’t much different from the ones you’ll get in the USA or Europe. The rules are mostly the same, so some companies will have additional drop-off fees when returning a car to a different spot. At the same time, Hokkaido car rental companies generally do not accept car drop offs anywhere outside Hokkaido and vice versa. What can be really tricky, GPS modules are usually available by default with most cars, but you have to take care since they rarely offer any language other than Japanese, so you may want to bring your navigator with you. In general car rental companies use the 24-hour rate system, though you may find services by the hour or by calendar day as well. Should you return a car without a full tank you have to pay a small fee, but you have to inquire about that with the services. Other extras such as child seats, roof racks and other features are widely available against reasonable fees, so you won’t feel any difference when renting a car in Japan.

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