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8 Tips for Driving in Japan with the All Blacks

Date Published 09.08.2019
Topic Travel Insurance

8 Tips for Driving in Japan with the All Blacks

Driving in Japan is particularly appealing to Irish and British drivers as they also drive on the left-hand side of the road. However, there’s a little more to it. Use our helpful guide and watch our video for some useful tips on driving in Japan and information to keep you safe on the road. (We’ve had a little help from the All Blacks team!)

1. Get familiar with the Japanese road signs

Street signs can seem a little daunting in Japan if you’re not a Japanese speaker, but the signs are still distinguishable by colour and shape. With a little revision, you’ll know what the signs mean. 

Here are some of the main signs you can expect to see:

Stop - marked by a solid, red upside-down triangle

Slow down - sign posted with a white upside-down triangle with a red border 

Road closed - shown by a red circle with a line going through it

No entry - displayed by a solid red circle with a white horizontal line

Motor vehicles only - shown by a blue sign with a white car


Common Japanese Road Signs
Source: Wikipedia Commons

2. What side of the road do they drive on in Japan?

Great news for Irish drivers, in Japan they drive on the left-hand side of the road. Visitors from Ireland, UK, Australia and Hong Kong can drive as normal  on the left side making driving in Japan a lot easier.


3. Respect the speed limits

Nearly all Japanese drivers religiously respect the speed limits on their roads, and so should you.  In urban areas the speed limit is usually between 30km/h and 50km/h and in rural areas the limit is 80km/h. The speed limit is 100km/h on the highway. 


4. Driving on the highway 

The highways in Japan are marked by rectangular green signs and, like most highways, these roads are tolled. When entering the highway, you will collect a ticket from the highway station that you will present at the exit gate pay the fare. 

If you’re driving a rental car in Japan it might be fitted with an ETC - Electronic Toll Collection card. This means you can enter and exit the highway without needing to stop as the ETC will be linked to your credit card and it will automatically pay your toll fares. 

There are many rest stops along the highways with gas stations, shops and restaurants. Take advantage of these - it’s important to take breaks while driving long distances to avoid driver fatigue.


Japanese Highway
A Japanese Highway; keep an eye out for the green signs.

5. Emergency services

In the unlikely occasion that you’ll require emergency services there are several ways of getting help. You can dial 119 for medical assistance or 110 for the police. Rental vehicles usually come with a 24/7 helpline as part of your insurance - always keep this number on hand. The highways are also equipped with emergency stations where you can simply press a button to notify road services of your location. 


6. Refuelling your vehicle 

There are three main types of fuel used in Japan: diesel, regular and high octane. Diesel pumps are green, regular gas pumps are red and high-octane pumps are yellow. 

Gas stations work in a similar manner to most other countries. You select an amount of fuel at the pump, select a payment method, fill your tank and then insert your payment. Japanese pump stations will also prompt you to touch a panel on the pump to avoid receiving a static shock - how thoughtful. 


Japanese Petrol Station
Typically, diesel pumps are green, regular gas pumps are red and high-octane pumps are yellow.

7. Rules of the road to pay attention to

  • No right on red

    In Japan you cannot turn right (or left) on a red traffic light. However, you can drive towards the center of the road in preparation for the turn once the light turns green. You’ll have to wait for a green light to give you way to turn, or else wait for the flow of oncoming traffic from opposite direction to stop.

  • Make a complete stop at railroad crossings

Whether a railroad is signposted with a stop sign or not, drivers are required to come to a full stop at all railroad crossings. 


  • All drivers must hold a valid permit and driving licence

    Driving without these is punishable by a fine of 300,000 yen and up to 1-year imprisonment.


  • It’s illegal to drink and drive 

Although this is a rule in most countries, Japan are particularly strict about drink driving. Consuming just a few sips of light alcohol will bring you over the limit by their standards so it’s best to avoid alcohol at all costs, even light versions. 


8. What documents are needed to drive in Japan?

Depending on where you’re travelling from and where your licence was issued there are different requirements for driving in Japan. For Irish drivers you will need: 

  • An International driver’s licence permit
  • Your passport
  • Your Irish / EU driver’s licence

You can apply for an international driving permit by downloading the form from Citizens Information and follow the form’s instructions. You will need a full Irish/ EU driving licence, a signed passport photo and the appropriate fee to complete the application. 


Irish International Driving Permit

Other tips for driving in Japan

  • Make sure your car has a sat nav for getting around
  • Expect to see robots directing traffic at construction sites - do not pose for selfies with them
  • Flash your hazard lights to thank other drivers
  • Treat yellow lights like orange lights - slow down and stop unless it’s unsafe to do so
  • Watch out for cyclists and motorbikes
  • Never use your phone while driving
  • Parking is limited - always ensure you are parking in the right area and pay when needed
  • Police cars in Japan always have their flashing lights on - don’t panic!


Enjoy your trip to the fullest and make sure you’re protected abroad with a travel insurance policy and if you intend on hiring a car abroad don't forget to take a look at car hire excess insurance from AIG. Choose from single, multi or annual trip options and buy your travel insurance policy online in minutes.


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