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Driving in Sapporo

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Sapporo.

1. Understanding the Driving Rules

Driving in Sapporo, is on the left side of the road, and the driver’s seat is on the right side of the car. The traffic rules are strictly enforced, and the roads are well-maintained. However, the road signs are mostly in Japanese, so it’s recommended to learn some basic Japanese road signs or use a GPS with English language support.

2. Recommended Car Type

Compact cars are recommended for driving in Sapporo due to the narrow roads and limited parking spaces. During winter, the roads can be slippery due to snow, so a 4-wheel drive car with winter tires is advisable.

3. Parking Situation

Finding parking in Sapporo can be challenging, especially in the city center. Most parking lots are paid, and the cost can vary depending on the location and duration. It’s advisable to check the parking situation of your destination before you go.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in Japan with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for up to one year. However, the IDP must be issued under the 1949 Geneva Convention. After one year, you will need to obtain a Japanese driver’s license.

5. Obtaining a Japanese Driver’s License

To get a Japanese driver’s license, you will need to pass a written test and a practical driving test. The written test is available in English, but the practical test can be challenging as it’s conducted on a closed course and the examiners are strict. It’s recommended to take a few driving lessons to familiarize yourself with the Japanese driving rules and test procedures.

6. Winter Driving

Winters in Sapporo can be harsh with heavy snowfall. It’s important to be prepared for winter driving conditions. Make sure your car is equipped with winter tires, and always keep a snow shovel, brush, and de-icer in your car. Be aware that roads can be slippery and visibility can be poor during snowstorms.

7. Avoid Rush Hour

Like any city, Sapporo has rush hours, typically from 7:30-9:00 in the morning and 17:30-19:00 in the evening. Traffic can be heavy during these times, so it’s best to avoid driving if possible.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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