8 Things You Should Do When You Plan to Visit Hokkaido
We received a number of messages for our Hokkaido itinerary and before we start blogging about it, maybe you should consider reading this. 8 Things You Should Do before You Visit Hokkaido. We had the same questions like you do before we visited Hokkaido and we hope this will solves some of them.
For Malaysians, we are lucky to have direct flights to Hokkaido. Many of us know that the direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hokkadio with AirAsiaX. It is from KLIA2 to Chitose International Airport. You will reach Chitose International Airport in the morning and you will depart from Chitose International Airport in the morning too. Thus, you will need to plan properly to go to the airport when you leaving Hokkaido.
For those who read our blogs for years, we mentioned so many times that you can get cheap AirAsiaX flight if you have enough AirAsia BIG points. Thus, we paid only RM 99 per pax for return flight ticket (excluding baggage, seats and insurance) using our AirAsia BIG Points. You can read it at https://www.placesandfoods.com/2017/05/travel-hokkaido-rm-99-airasia-big-points.html
- Four seasons in Hokkaido
Most people visit Hokkaido for the snow. It is pretty cold throughout the year and most of the time they are under the snow. There is no snow from April to November depending on weather and cities in Hokkaido.
We went during spring in May for the cherry blossom season or sakura season. Most people visit Hokkaido for summer for the flowers season and winter for the snow.
Know which season you plan to visit so you can book your flight according to the season. The peak of winter in Hokkaido is extremely cold as we were told.
- Transportation in Hokkaido
Depending on which season you plan to go, you need to know how many cities you plan to visit in Hokkaido.
If you are adventurous, you can always rent a car in Hokkaido and you can book it at https://www.klook.com/activity/1415-car-rental-hokkaido/?aid=602. However, you do need to have an International License to drive around Hokkaido and you can get one in JPJ easily. During winter time, it is not advisable to drive as most Malaysians never drove in winter before so it could be challenging for most.
If you plan to visit most of the island by train, you will need a JR Train Pass. You can buy the JR Hokkaido Pass for 3 Days, 5 Days or 7 Days.
3 Day JR Hokkaido Pass: https://www.klook.com/activity/2787-3-day-jr-hokkaido-rail-pass-jr-pass/?aid=602
5 Day JR Hokkaido Pass: https://www.klook.com/activity/3066-5-day-jr-hokkaido-rail-pass-jr-pass/?aid=602
7 Day JR Hokkaido Pass: https://www.klook.com/activity/3067-7-day-jr-hokkaido-rail-pass-jr-pass/?aid=602
Jr Hokkaido Pass is only available for tourists and we usually get it from Klook.com in advance.
For us, we decided to visit two cities in Hokkaido as we went during the Golden Week (which similar to our Hari Raya or Chinese New Year). It is the super peak season of the year and hotel prices jumped few times as most locals travel around the country during the Golden Week.
Thus, we decided to travel in Sapporo and Otaru only and we didn’t get any JR Pass. JR Pass is worth it when you travel far from one city to another.
For those who wants to travel with subways, trains and buses easily, you can get the KITACA card. It is similar to our Touch ‘N Go card. You can get it from the train station or Klook at https://www.klook.com/activity/5512-jr-hokkaido-ic-card-kitaca-hokkaido/?aid=602
If you have ICOCA Card, you can use it like KITACA card in Hokkaido but there are selected machines to reload the card. You can always refer to the train master for questions.
- Book Accommodation
There are two straight forward accommodation you can book in Hokkaido. Airbnb home stay or hotels. The problem now is there are strict regulations on Airbnb in Japan starting middle of this month. Earlier this week, 80% of Japan home listing have been removed by Airbnb. We will update here once there are future update.
Even the apartment we stayed are not welcoming Airbnb or similar home stay style of accommodation. There are signs pasted around the apartment building stating that.
The other option is registered home listing or hotels. We do prefer hotels over Airbnb apartments if the price is similar. Hotels are cleaner and safer in our opinion. We never know whether Airbnb owners did change the bed sheets or clean the apartment whenever a new tenant arrives.
Book early! Always book early to get the best deal. Hokkaido is a hot tourist destination, last minute deals are hard to come by.
- Get Pocket WIFI or SIM Card
Internet is very important when you travel in Japan. We rely a lot on Internet especially Google Map when traveling from one place to another. Some Airbnb accommodation offers FREE Pocket WIFI but we usually get our own.
Pocket WIFI vs SIM Card
If your phone comes with roaming and you are willing to pay the roaming fees then its good. For us, we usually get the Pocket WIFI or SIM Card. The question is which is better? The Pocket WIFI or SIM Card?
For single travellers and ladies who didn’t want to carry the pocket WIFI around, SIM Card is more ideal for you. You can book it at https://www.klook.com/activity/11548-4g-sim-card-my-pick-up-my-delivery-hokkaido/?aid=602
If you are traveling in a small group, we always prefer Pocket WIFI. Two persons or more can share the Pocket WIFI. We usually keep it in my backpack and we do bring a few power banks for the pocket WIFI, our phone and our camera. You can either rent it in KLIA at https://www.klook.com/activity/3533-wifi-device-japan-hokkaido/?aid=602 or in Chitose International Airport at https://www.klook.com/activity/1320-4g-wifi-device-hokkaido/?aid=602
Remember to install Google Map in your phone as it will be your lifesaver. Get the most updated train and bus schedules with Google Map and it is the most accurate app to use in Japan. Read more at https://www.placesandfoods.com/2017/03/google-map-important-traveling-japan.html
- Bring enough Clothing
We believe this is common sense but it is not wrong to put a reminder for this. Check the weather forecast a day before you travel to Hokkaido and please bring enough clothing depending on the weather. Always bring more than less especially during winter times.
- Bring your Medicines
We have like a bag of medicines for our travels. We travel out of country in average of once a month and we have this bag of medicines in our bag.
I had high fever in Australia, food poisoning in China and South Korea, flu in UK so we always bring our medicine when we travel around.
Seeing a doctor is never cheap out of Malaysia so make sure you have your medicine ready or prepare to pay more.
Get the usual medicines such as Panadol, flu medicine, food poisoning medicine, cough medicine and lozenges. For those who has medical conditions, please remember to bring them.
- Buy Travel Insurance
Like we mentioned earlier, I had high fever in Australia and food poisoning in South Korea. I walked into emergency in hospital in Australia and it cost me A$180 on consultancy alone. For South Korea, I paid RM 200 for doctors. For those medical bills, I claimed under my travel insurance.
Please take note those are small issues and what happen if there are bigger problems such as theft, accidents, flight delay, luggage damage or more?
For us, we buy an annual travel insurance and for those who are not frequent flyer, you can buy travel insurance per trip. It won’t cost you a lot of money but you can get the protection you need.
In case you are wondering, we got our annual travel insurance from AXA and you can find out more at https://www.axa.com.my/travel-insurance-malaysia We have claimed twice from them so far for medical bills.