Sapporo to Otaru is about 45 minutes, mostly on tolled expressway and a charge of 1,200 Yen. You can also avoid the toll but the driving time will be doubled. For Otaru itself, you really don't need a car at all. It's an easy train ride from Sapporo (about 40 minutes), and the city is very walkable with most attractions within a 15 to 20 minute radius. If you have a car, you'll have to pay for the car's rental charge as well as parking in the garages or parking lot, with hourly charge of 300 to 500 Yen on average.
Sapporo to Furano is about 2.5 hours. Your in-car GPS unit will likely show the drive as over 3 hours, but it really doesn't take that long. Toll charge is 1,250 Yen. I don't recommend you save the toll money because it'd take at least another hour.
Both routes are very straight forward as long as you follow the GPS instructions. The roads to Furano have some sections of winding hilly roads but they are safe as long as you don't speed. Note that around the National roads of Furano and Biei, there are frequently police speed traps.
You can plan further by going to the Japanese-only site of Navitime. You can enter English city names but then you'll have to select the actual locales in Japanese. If you can read Chinese, you should be able to use the site.
Hey thanks ppl for your very quick replies
Sammyfloyd - for furano - is it possible to take a train and if so, how long will the journey take?
thanking in advance
PS. anyone know the temperate roughly for mid of november
As Hokkaido is quite vast, the temperature range in November depends on where you are going. Your best bet is to look at weather websites for records and averages. I am pasting a couple of links below for your reference (Sapporo and Asahikawa near Furano):
You can of course take a train to Furano. However, if there is a place in Japan where driving is actually the preferred method of travel, it's Hokkaido. Since you are going in November, parts of higher elevation might have seen some snow by then but hopefully, too early for snow accumulation to make driving dangerous. If you drive, be sure to get the International Driver's Permit from HK's Transport Department. The cost is HK$80 and it's good for one year. The rental agency at Japan might refuse your rental otherwise.
Back to the train, for train schedules and prices, please visit http://www.hyperdia.com for information.
Many thanks again sammyfloyd for your very detailed post.
Have you yourself experienced in driving to these places? Theres another place which im quite interested to visit and that is Noboribetsui - is this place worth going to, primarily im just interest in lots of sightseeing nature stuff.
Anyways thanks again for all your help.
um...we keep saying this on these FOrums....Furano in November really isn't going to be so interesting. It's a farming area with flower farms. But in November it is barren and empty...the Daisetsu Mountains are spectacular - and you'd be better to go to Asahidake or Sounkyou and stay. Enjoy hot springs and look at the mountains from inside.
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