Driving in South Korea – what you need to know

What’s your idea of great trip?

Chasing the sunset through charming villages with the wind in your hair? I know that sounds like a motorbike ride, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, but here’s one that no one will not like: a road trip.

Imagine: not having to plan your trip according to train and bus schedules; not having to lug around a 20-kg bag up and down subway stairs; and not standing on the side of the road trying to hail a cab while the rain pours down on you and your tired – and now soggy – feet.

Now imagine being able to visit places like these:

There's much more to see in South Korea outside its major cities. Renting a car and driving is one of the best ways to see offbeat destinations.

While it is possible to go around South Korea using public transportation, driving around is a lot more convenient and fun. It definitely saves you travel time and if you plan your trip right, it can even save you money. Plus: it’s a lot easier to do than you think – even if you don’t speak their language.

Here are my tips for renting a car and driving in South Korea. Don’t forget to pin and bookmark! If you have a question that wasn’t covered in this guide, let me know in the comments or send me an email so I can help you out. And if you know someone who’s planning a trip to South Korea, send them this guide to help them out.

While it is possible to go around South Korea using public transportation, driving around is a lot more convenient and fun. It definitely saves you travel time and if you plan your trip right, it can even save you money. Plus: it’s a lot easier to do than you think – even if you don’t speak their language. Here are my tips for renting a car and driving in South Korea.

Driving in South Korea – here’s what you need to know

Table of contents

  1. What do I need to drive in South Korea?
  2. How can I rent a car?
  3. How do I get around while driving?
  4. How much would it cost?
  5. More tips for driving around South Korea
  6. All set to drive – now where should I go?

I know it’s a bit of a long read, so I also made a PDF guide you can download and save in your phone – get it here.

What do I need to drive in South Korea?

You MUST have a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) or a valid driver’s license issued in Korea. If you are a foreign traveler, you have to get your IDP in the same country that issued your driver’s license. Always bring your driver’s license with you, as the IDP is only valid when accompanied with a valid license. Also, the full name listed on the IDP and your passport must be identical.

Note that IDPs recognized in Korea are only those issued by member states of the Geneva convention or the Vienna convention – click the links to see which one your country is using.

If you don’t have an international driving permit yet, find out how you can get one from your local automobile association BEFORE leaving for your trip. Google “international driving permit + [your country]” and make sure that the website you land on is legitimate.

When you pick up your rental car, make sure to bring your passport for identification purposes. The attendants may make a copy of it, for security reasons. Vehicle rental fees must be paid with the driver’s credit card.

Driver qualifications differ according to the rental company, but generally, for small or medium cars, you must be 21 years old or older with at least one year driving experience.

It’s also smart to pay for insurance. Baseline rates for car rentals usually include basic general insurance, but confirm this when you get your car.  Also, if you plan to drive, you might want to get a travel insurance that covers damages to a rental car as well as damages or bodily harm to a third party caused by an accident while you are driving.

To recap, here’s what you need to drive as a foreigner in South Korea:

  • Check if you’re qualified to rent a car and drive in South Korea – if you’re at least 21 years old, most car rental companies in South Korea will let you get a car.
  • Secure your international driving permit (IDP) from your local automobile association before you go on your trip.
  • Bring your valid license along with you.
  • Bring your passport when you pick up your car.
  • Pay with a credit card that belongs to the driver who will be driving the rental car.

How can I rent a car in South Korea?

It’s best to make a reservation online in advance. This is good practice as this not only assures you that you’ll indeed get a car but also allows the rental company to prepare your car and all paperwork involved in advance, so less waiting time for you.

Major car rental companies in South Korea include: AJ Rent-a-car (affiliated with Avis), Lotte Rent-a-car (affiliated with Hertz), Sixt, and Jeju-do Car Rental Business Association. Here is a list of locations where you can pick up and return your car.

I’ve personally booked cars from AJ Rent-a-Car and Sixt Rent-a-car via the Rental Cars online booking platform and had great experiences so far. The staff in both companies were very helpful – despite the language barrier, they managed to teach me how to use the Korean GPS. The cars I got were all in good condition, and in my experience, the charges were upfront (that is, no hidden fees).

You can reserve a car online from any of the major car rental companies listed above via Rental Cars – the online service gives you options from all the rental companies, which allows you to compare prices, car models, and inclusions easily, plus they give you instant confirmation and free cancellation. Plus, they also give deals and discounts for booking through them.

Personally, I always opt to pay for full protection insurance – but this depends on your personal travel insurance’s coverage. Also, don’t forget to reserve a GPS – an English one if it’s available, but a Korean one will do just fine.

How do I get around South Korea while driving?

Using the Korean GPS

One of the reasons I urge you to book your car rental in advance is so you can reserve your English-language GPS. Even then, this is only available in certain car rental locations (usually the ones at the airport), so you’ll have to learn how to use the Korean GPS.

The really nifty thing is that you can use phone numbers for the Korean GPS. Just input the phone number of the place where you want to go and then start your drive. Here’s a guide to using the Korean GPS using phone numbers.

To find the phone numbers of destinations and establishments, you can check out the Korean Travel Organization’s official website – they usually list contact details at the end of each destination’s information page, including a phone number you can use for your GPS.

You’ll also notice that establishments put up their phone numbers in big print over their store facades. Not sure if it’s their primary intention for doing this, but it definitely helps with using the GPS. Whenever I pass by somewhere I’d like to go back to, I take note of any nearby establishment’s phone number and voila – GPS coordinates. You can also find your hotels this way – check for their phone numbers. If you booked online, usually it’s on your confirmation receipt.

I also compiled a handy resource with the help of other travelers and road trippers in South Korea: Useful phone numbers to input into your GPS while driving in South Korea.

But do remember to check if the destination you entered is correct – zoom out of the map by pressing on the [-] button and compare it with another map (listed on the next section).

I have to be honest with you though – probably the hardest thing about driving in South Korea is using the GPS. But once you get the hang of it (that is, you know how to input your destination using the place’s phone number correctly and how to double check that you are indeed headed towards the correct location), the GPS would be your best friend. Personally, I had a love-hate relationship with every Korean GPS I’ve used (kinda like this…) but out of all the maps I’ve used while driving around South Korea, the GPS has always been the most reliable.

Still, I cannot reiterate how important it is to double check that you are going to the location that you actually want to go to (obviously, I’ve inputted the wrong place far too many times). How to do this exactly? You need back-up maps. Read on.

Other maps and navigation apps you can use

Let’s start with the shocker: You cannot use Google Maps for driving in South Korea. (I know, it’s hard to believe, right? You can find out why here.)

But you can use the following:

  • Waze – This app is great for city driving as it will find the best routes based on traffic reports and can also find you a parking space.
  • Mapquest – This is useful for planning out your routes in advance so you have a general idea of how long a drive will take. You can view it on a web browser or download an app.
  • Maps.me – This is a handy offline map you can download before setting off. This is particularly useful if you don’t plan to rent a mobile Wi-Fi. Currently, there are two maps available for South Korea.
  • Apple Maps – If you’re using an iPhone, this is also handy. Just take note that you need an internet connection to use it. Also, in my experience it sometimes gets lost, especially when driving on an overpass or particularly twisty streets. Be warned also that some establishments are tagged with the wrong coordinates (I once ended up on an empty lot while following directions to my hotel – which was actually 15 KM away) – double check with other maps.
  • A printed map – It’s always good to have a print map. Get one online or pick one up from the local bookstore. It’s a real life-saver, especially when all the apps and technology just fail.

Navigating in South Korea can be a bit tricky for non-native speakers, but the good news is, road signs have English translations. When driving long distances and using expressways, use the maps just to make sure you are going the right general direction.

Information on expressways and tolls

If you are driving long distances, you will likely use the expressways. Expressway tolls can be paid using cash, major credit cards, or a Hi-Pass card.

When approaching a toll gate, there are two types of lanes in the expressways: the blue lane is for cars that come with an On Board Unit (OBU), which is a gadget that automates the toll charging so cars can pass the tolls without having to stop. The other lanes are for cars without this unit.

So far, all my rentals didn’t have the OBU. If yours don’t have it either, remember to not use the blue lane and stop at the toll gates to get your ticket (at the entrance) and pay for it (at the exit).

Here are just a couple of expressway glitches I experienced:

  • I made a mistake in one entry toll gate and went through the blue lane, despite not having the OBU. As such, I didn’t get an entry ticket.
  • One entry toll gate didn’t give me a card – not sure if I pressed the wrong button or they ran out of cards.

In both cases, I just took note of the name of my entry gate and then on exit, I briefly explained my mistake and told the attendant where I entered. They called what I assumed was a control center then told me the amount I had to pay. They didn’t give me any hassle at all. The price I paid was also the same as the price written on my GPS, so I don’t think I was fined for my mistakes.

How much does it cost to drive in South Korea?

One of our most important considerations when thinking about driving in South Korea would be the cost. Here are some estimates you can use.

Notes on some assumptions I made: Car rental cost estimates are based on current rates when booking online for a car to be picked up from Incheon. Costs may vary depending on seasonal demand and pick-up and drop-off points. I assumed you will be driving an average of 200 kilometers per day, using 7.5 liters of gasoline per 100 KM. The estimates may be higher or lower, depending on your gas usage. You also need to consider the cost of tolls in expressways, although this wouldn’t inflate the estimates a lot as tolls are surprisingly affordable.

For a more concrete example, I also included the actual costs of my Busan to Jeju road trip, including car ferries and parking fees.

Sample costs of car rental in South Korea

1 day = USD 90

  • Cost of car rental including basic insurance and a GPS unit for one day = USD 70
  • Cost of gas for 200 kilometers = USD 20

3 days = USD 260

  • Cost of car rental including basic insurance and a GPS unit for 3 days = USD 200
  • Cost of gas for 600 kilometers = USD 60

7 days = USD 560

  • Cost of car rental including basic insurance and a GPS unit for 7 days = USD 420
  • Cost of gas for 1,400 kilometers = USD 140

Actual cost of Busan to Jeju road trip, done May 2016

Total = KRW 862,860 (approximately USD 740)

Quick summary of the trip: For 6 days, I drove a total of 1,200 kilometers from Busan to Jeju and back. We passed by cities and villages along the way, reaching up to Haenam at the southwestern tip of the main land, where we stayed overnight. We then drove back east to Wando, where we took the car ferry to Jeju. In Jeju, we mostly stayed first in Seogwipo then in Jeju City, driving to the different sites. We also took a car ferry to Udo Island for a day trip around the island. We then rode the car ferry back to Wando, drove to Busan and around the city for a day before returning our car.

  • Cost of car rental including basic insurance and a GPS unit for 6 days = KRW 480,400 (USD 410)
  • Toll fees = KRW 20,900 (Busan to Haenam to Wando) + KRW 12,100 (Wando to Busan) = KRW 33,000 (USD 18)
  • Car ferry from Wando to Jeju (cost is just for the car, there’s a separate fee for the passengers) = KRW 104,730 (one-way fare) x 2 (for round-trip) = KRW 209,460 (USD 180)
  • Car ferry from Jeju to Udo (this is the round-trip fare both for the car and 2 passengers – the attendant didn’t break down the cost for us) = KRW 36,000 (USD 30)
  • Parking fees = KRW 2,000 (in Udo Island) + KRW 500 (Jeju port) + KRW 10,500 (Nampo district in Busan) = KRW 13,000 (USD 10)
  • Gas for the whole trip (I returned the car with a full tank of gas as part of the rental agreement) = KRW 91,000 (USD 80)

An alternative to this is to fly from Busan to Jeju, then get your car from Jeju. If you’d like to drive for 3 days just in Jeju (including a day trip to Udo Island), an estimate from our trip above would amount to: KRW 321,700 (approximately USD 280).

Not too bad, right? If you’re a group of 4, this would bring your transportation costs to about USD 25 per person per day – and you don’t need to wait around for hours for the Jeju buses or join a tour group.

Everything sounds great! Anything else I need to know?

Here are a few observations and tips I’ve picked up from driving around South Korea as a foreign traveler.

  1. South Korea drives on the right side of the road.
  2. Hazard lights mean “watch out!” I noticed that whenever there’s something peculiar on the road ahead, like an accident or a car suddenly swerving or even just a truck stopped on the shoulder, the drivers will use their hazard lights. They also do this when they have to make a hard brake, sort of like an extra alert to the driver behind them.
  3. Don’t drink and drive. I was once stopped before entering an expressway for a random breathalyzer test.
  4. CCTVs are everywhere. If you commit a traffic violation, your rental agency will be charged and they in turn will charge your credit card.
  5. Roll down your window when someone’s trying to assist you so they can see you’re not Korean and that you probably can’t understand what they’re saying.
  6. Despite the language barrier, it’s surprisingly easy to find your way around South Korea. From personal experience, 100% of people I’ve had to ask for directions, buy a ticket from, follow instructions from, and basically interact with while driving have been helpful and accommodating beyond expectations.
  7. Downsides to driving in South Korea: Cities like Seoul and Busan can be congested – allot extra time for traffic jams. Parking is also expensive in cities. In touristy areas like Jeju, rental companies run out of cars especially during peak season, so it’s best to reserve it in advance.
  8. Road trip essentials – it’s handy to have a car charger with you as well as a mobile Wi-Fi.

Additional information from Jaehyeok Choi about hazard lights. It can also mean:

1. “Thank you for your concession”
2. “I’m sorry.”
3. “Be careful (in case of a road accident or dangerous situation)”
4. “When strong braking is required”
5. “Fire truck, ambulance is moving”
6. “An emergency patient is on board”

Road trips in South Korea

All set to drive? Here are fun road trips to take around South Korea:

Bottom line: Driving in South Korea is doable, efficient, and fun!

Driving in South Korea is seriously one of the best ways to get around the country. Don’t worry about the language barrier or the infamous Korean GPS – once you get the hang of it, it’s actually easy to communicate with the locals and to use the Korean GPS, even with zero Korean language skills. And if you plan your road trip right, renting a car can even come out cheaper than using the public transportation, especially if you plan to head to lesser known destinations.

Lastly, here’s a handy checklist of everything you need for driving in South Korea:

Checklist – driving in South Korea

Requirements – secure before you travel:

  • Make sure that you are qualified to drive in South Korea. For most rental companies, you must be at least 21 years old and with one year of driving experience
  • Valid driver’s license from your country
  • International driver’s permit obtained from your country’s automobile association
  • Driver’s passport
  • Driver’s credit card

Renting your car:

Driving your rental car:

I hope this gives you all the information you need to venture a road trip in South Korea. If I missed anything, you can ask me in the comments or send me a message and I’ll help you out as best as I can. And if you found this post useful, please bookmark and share with a friend. Happy travels!

68 Replies to “Driving in South Korea – what you need to know”

  1. Hi, Thank you for this! I am planning to drive in South Korea and I am going to be with my sister. I read a couple of articles that Korean GPS is better in terms of navigation versus the English one. What do you think about this?

    1. Hi Angel! I’ve used both Korean and English GPS and I was able to get around just fine. I’m not sure if the Korean one is superior, though, but if I had the choice (choices are limited in car rental branches outside the airports), I would still get the English one.

      Have fun driving in South Korea and let me know how it goes! 🙂

      1. Hi, I drove in south korea… from seoul to busan, then busan to jeonju then back to seoul. I think it was pretty much ok. Not that bad… One thing I am concerned about is that what if I have a traffic violation through the millions of traffic cameras in korea (lol) how would I know if I had one? thanks! I used the WAZE app. the road in itself is difficult to drive just because it splits like a whole lot and in different directions too. But as far as the other drivers nothing too different from here in the US I think. There are good ones and then there are bad ones.

        1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Angel! About the violations, the rental car company told me that they will charge any fines (if ever) to my credit card. So if you didn’t incur any extra charges, safe to say you dodged the cameras. 😉 And yeah, totally get you about the roads splitting and going into different directions. In the expressways especially, if you miss your exit, you’ll get at least a 10-KM detour. But yes bad drivers and good drivers are everywhere so it’s all good. 🙂

        2. Hi Angel, did you make the drive from Seoul to Busan in 1 day or with overnight stops? Mapquest has the drive at 4 hours and i was wondering if it actually takes much longer in reality. I will have 2 kids in the car aged 4 and 7 and would also like to know if it’s quite a pleasant drive with good scenery and suitable spots for short stops? I will be traveling in early April. Any tips you have would be great. My ultimate destination in the southern part is actually Bulguksa Temple and Gyeonghwa Station in Jinhae to catch the cherry blossoms, plus Boseong Green Tea Fields. Would it be silly to miss Busan along the way?

          1. Hey Tara,

            I’m also curious how Angel handled the trip (hopefully she replies), but in my experience, it may take longer than 4 hours – maybe 5-6 hours if you drive the whole distance straight. The express ways in between the two cities are generally fast, but near and within the city, there might be traffic jams. For example, when I drove south from Seoul (to Andong), I spent an hour inside Seoul (coming from Gangnam) before finally making it to the express way. It took another 2.5 hours to get to Andong which is somewhere halfway between Seoul and Busan.

            It may be better to break up your drive. You’ll actually reach Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju before you reach Busan, and Gyeongju is a nice place to visit for a day or two, so you can see if it’s worth staying there for a night. (Here’s my post about Gyeongju.) I’d definitely recommend staying in Busan for a couple of days – it’s a great seaside city and if you’re there for the cherry blossoms, be sure to go to Dalmaji road.

            Hope this helps! 🙂

  2. This is great!
    I am looking forward for a road trip in south korea as well.
    Could you please describe or suggest places for stay while you’re on the road trip? Because what i am concern is about parking space near the hotel. is it relatively easy to find hotel with accesible parking lot in seoul?
    And how about the gas station? How to use them for someone who is unfamilliar with korean language?

    Best Regards.

    1. Hey there, I’m excited for you and your road trip! When looking for an accommodation, always check that the hotel has a parking space for visitors. There are lots of hotels in Seoul with this option. As for the gas station, I always look for one that has an attendant – you’ll know because they’re NOT marked “self.” You can pretty much communicate with them, despite the language barrier. Enjoy!

  3. [Comment from John that I deleted by mistake]
    Hi, thank you very much for this detailed article! Just a quick question, I am planning to rent a car in Busan for about 5 days with Avis.
    Did the “basic insurance” cover both collision/loss damage waiver (covering the damage to the rental car) AND the liability insurance (covering any costs to third parties from an accident)?
    Thanks again!

    [My response]
    Hey John, you’ll have to check with Avis and specifically the rental specifics as insurance coverage vary. When I booked with Avis in Seoul, the basic insurance did not cover liability insurance and there was a cap for the collision/loss damage waiver. But I used a separate travel insurance that had liability coverage. Hope that helps!

  4. Hi, thanks so much for the very detailed information. The problem I’m facing is wondering what the difference is among gas, diesel and LPG. Which stations would be the easiest to find? And which ones would be the most cost effective. Personally i’ve only dealt with Gas. Diesel are cheaper but not very eco-friendly and LPG, i’ve never used before. HOpe to hear from you soon! Cheers!

    1. Hi! I don’t know much about the difference among the three, but I think gas would be the one most used in South Korea. You’ll find plenty of gas stations in express roads and within cities. 🙂

  5. Good morning.
    I am Korean and live in Seoul.
    Your post will be of great help to foreigners who come to Korea.
    I would like to give you additional tips.
    In Korea, Harzard Light is used in many ways.
    1. “Thank you for your concession”
    2. “I’m sorry.”
    3. “Be careful (in case of a road accident or dangerous situation)”
    4. “When strong braking is required”
    5. “Fire truck, ambulance is moving”
    6. “An emergency patient is on board”

    Thank you for posting a good article.

  6. Thank you for the helpful tips. Driven in Jeju. I am going to Seoul and renting a car. I’m still quite confused as to who has the right of way when I am maneuvering a circle. Do we give way to traffic on the right or left?

    Thank you

    1. Hmmm I hope some of the readers will have an answer for you. By circle do you mean roundabout? I would assume that the car already inside the roundabout has right of way as they do in Europe, so you have to check to your left when you’re entering. But South Korea may have different practices, so hopefully someone can help us? 🙂

      1. Thank you. We are now driving through a long tunnel. Occasionally there will be some kind of announcements in Korea which sounded scary to us as we don’t understand what is going on. On other occasions there will be siren sounds but we don’t see any police cars on the two-lane tunnel. Other times, there will be some short music tune being played.

        Is this common?

  7. Good morning, I will be visiting Jeju island from 23/12 to 30/12/17 and decided renting a car.
    May I know where would be best hotel to stay . Would appreciate your suggestion for our itinerary.

    Intend to hike Hallasan mountain . which day should we go ?

    what date and the location for Traditional Five day market ?


    best regards,

  8. Hi
    Driving in Korea is great except in the big cities. I borrowed a friends Hyundai Starex, driving was easy but parking that big long vehicle can be a bit tricky. Parking is a bit expensive. Getting around around is not easy. Traffic is hectic, a 10km trip can take 45mins! My wife is korean, so we used Kakao gps. She’s also drove a bit. Getting around Seoul and other big cities, helps if you drive a bit slower to follow gps. If you missed the turn, don’t worry, plenty places to make u U turn. Korean drivers are forgiving, just watch out for the metered taxi drivers.Many intersections have more 4 roads meeting each other!
    On the Expressway, plenty of rest stops. I drove Seoul, Gwanju, Busan, Daegu, Jeju island and to the DMZ. It was fun driving in South Korea.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Pravesh! Agree – if I can avoid driving in big cities, I would. Traffic and parking fees can be a pain. But outside the cities, it’s amazing to see South Korea through road trips. 🙂

  9. Good day!
    Thank you for your article! I’m curious about parking in Seoul. How are payments usually made? Is the Hi-Pass an option?

  10. Hi
    I’m travelling to Seoul for a few days then heading to winter Olympics. I’m wondering if it’s worth going back to the airport to hire a car the heading to Olympics? Wouldn’t use the car in Seoul.
    Are there other pick up locations in Seoul?
    This feed has been very helpful!

  11. Hi,

    Fantastic article – very informative.

    I plan to travel from Seoul to Jeju (via Songnisan N.P., Andong, Jirisan N.P., Hadong, and Boseong). I will hire a van, as there are 3 adults and 4 children.

    However, the car rental companies I have contacted don’t seem to allow me to drop-off the car in Jeju as our final destination. So I am considering taking the car on the ferry at Wando and use it while on Jeju for 4 days. Then, return on ferry and drop-off at Busan airport. I think this may be easier than: dropping-off car at Busan, flying to Jeju, and re-hiring another car? We eventually need to depart Korea from Seoul airport.

    A few questions:

    1. Are there any issues on taking a car rental onto Jeju? E.g. is insurances still valid?
    2. How long is the drive from Wando to Busan airport?
    3. How regular are the car ferries at Wando?
    4. Is the process at Wando ferry terminal intuitive?
    5. Are there any other places you would recommend as must see on the drive from Seoul to south?

    Kind regards

    1. Hey Greg, responded to your email! 🙂 Have fun! (I will make a write up soon on our drive from Busan to Jeju and back which answers all of this, but in the meantime, I gave a quick summary via email.)

  12. Thanks for the info! Do you know if car chargers like the ones in the US work for rental cars or do I need to get some sort of adapter?

    1. Hi Chrissy, I think the car charger is the same as with everywhere else – the one that plugs into the cigarette lighter outlet. Some rental cars also have USB ports for charging, while most (if not all) of the cars would already come with a charger. Better to bring your own, though! Have fun!

  13. How safe is luggage in the car at attractions? We are renting a car and planning a three week vacation to s. Korea this fall. I was wondering how prevalent theft is?

    1. Hi Helen, South Korea is pretty safe. Once, we just arrived in Busan from Wando and stopped by the shopping district (Nampo) before checking in to our accommodation. We parked somewhere in Nampo with all our luggage there, and when we came back to collect our keys, the attendant told us it was in the car. We were of course surprised to learn that our car was parked there for about 2 hours, with the key in the ignition, and the doors unlocked. But nothing was stolen, and it seemed the car park guys expected the area to be safe. Still, practice caution at all times, and bring your valuables with you. 🙂

  14. Hello! Your article is very helpful. Thank you! We are going at the end of March/beginning of April and are thinking of driving from Incheon to Jeonju and then from Jeonju to Gyeongju. Do you have any tips on that drive and things to see along the way? We then plan to fly to Jeju and rent a car there. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      I actually haven’t driven much on the west side, and I’d be curious to see how your drive goes. 🙂 Maybe try to visit some of the coastal national parks like Taeanhaean and Byeonsanbando – I’m pretty sure you’ll get some really nice views of the sea from there. If you don’t mind a bit of an overshoot, drive further south of Jeonju to reach Damyang, which is one of South Korea’s certified “slow life” towns. There’s a nice bamboo garden there. Then from Gyeongju, you can also try to drive up to Pohang, which is a nice coastal town. 🙂

      I hope you can update us about your drive! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  15. Hi again, after reading your articles, I have decided to take the plunge and rent a car to drive 4 days in Jeju (NSEW) this coming April. I have booked Kia Morning with AJ Rent-a-Car (via Rentalcars). There are only 2 passengers (me included) and we will be carrying 1 piece of 24″, 1 piece of 22″ luggages and 2 handcarry backpacks. I wonder if I should upgrade the car to Kia K3 ? Please advise.

    1. The Kia Morning should be sufficient. 🙂 And many times, the rental car company upgraded me for free to a bigger car when the smaller one I reserved was not available, so maybe you’ll be lucky, too. But if not, two passengers will comfortably fit into the Kia Morning. 🙂

      1. Thanks for your reply. I ‘ll be contented when the car condition and the gps will work PERFECTLY well and safe 😉

  16. Hi i have dowmloaded Maps.me offline map but strangely, Jeju Island is not included in South Korea’s list. Is there any better app for offline maps for Jeju?

    1. Hi, I was actually using maps.me for Jeju. You can maybe try searching for Jeju and when it comes up, it will suggest which regional map you need to download. Other than maps.me, you can try Naver (although it’s in Korean). 🙂

  17. Hi, thank you for sharing the tips and details. I would like to check if it is possible to use our own mobile WAZE as navigation instead of renting a GPS from car rentals?

    1. Hi, yes Waze is possible. I’ve used Waze to drive around South Korea many times, but sometimes my problem with it is it asks me for the Korean name of the destination. What I do is I Google the place, copy the Korean name, and enter it into Waze. 🙂 Good luck!

  18. Hi there,

    First of all, thanks a lot for your informative post! I came across your blog last year when I finally decided to plan for a coastal drive trip this coming September. I need your advise as I am a bit overwhelm with the number of pitstops. I initialy want to visit Tongyeong, Namhae and Yeosu… then Gangneung, Donghae, Pohang and Taean come into the picture. I will skip Busan since I was there last November. Now my base route is : Seoul – Gangneung – Donghae – Pohang – Geoje – Tongyeong – Namhae – Yeosu – Mokpo – Taean – Seoul. Is it feasible in the span of 7 days? I do plan to drop some when me and cousin finalise the route based on our budget and time. Hope to hear from you! And thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Era, hmmm it does sound like a lot for 7 days. I haven’t been to those spots yet so I can’t tell which ones to focus on, but I’d suggest to just limit it to 3-4 cities and explore each for about 2 days. It might also be good to just have 2-3 bases and explore small towns around your bases. 🙂 But a coastal drive sounds super exciting and I’d love to know how your trip goes!

      1. Hi,

        Thanks for your reply. I have completed my draft itinerary. Manage to shorten the trip to Seoul – Geoje – Bijindo – Tongyeong – Namhae – Seoul for 5 days. Going to spend one or two days in each locations. We are using the expressway to and from Seoul, will the total toll rates exceed KRW30,000? Oh ya, for the full insurance coverage, did you buy it from the rental company as well. I am booking the car perhaps in May. Is it ok or a bit late for September trip? Please advise. Thanks again!

        1. Hi Era, the itinerary looks good! I think KRW 30,000 should be enough for the tolls. As for the full insurance coverage, I haven’t found a rental company in South Korea that offers it (not AJ/Avis/Sixt), although policies may have changed so it’s worth checking out. But if they still don’t have it, what I do is I get a travel insurance with a policy on covering damages and third-person liability when driving a rental car. And May is okay to book for a September trip! 🙂 Have fun!

          1. Hi,

            Thank you so much for your reply. Sorry for this late reply. I was a bit caught up with life. I had to cancel my earlier bookings with rental.com and I just finalised my reservation directly with AJ. Issue now is looking for that travel insurance with full coverage on rental cars. You have rented from AJ before right? Can you suggest any specific insurance provider that I could approach for this? This is the only thing pending in my preparation. I am a bit worried now.

            Thank you for the good wish. I hope we won’t have any trouble during the trip! 😉

          2. Hi Era, I’m happy with RentalCars’ comprehensive insurance, but you’d have to book through them to avail it. Other providers you can look into are general travel insurance providers in your country – they might have a policy that allows for comprehensive rental car insurance. Good luck!

  19. Hi
    Thank you so much for your informative post.

    I will be anikng a Seoul trip coming May 2018.

    I intend to drive from Seoul to Busan via the expressway.

    May I know how much is the estimated toll I would have to pay?

    1. Hi
      Thank you so much for your informative post.

      I will be making a Seoul trip coming May 2018.

      I intend to drive from Seoul to Busan via the expressway.

      May I know how much is the estimated toll I would have to pay?

      1. Hi Derek, I don’t have the actual figures, but the tolls in South Korea are on the cheap side. I’d say for Seoul to Busan and back, it won’t be for more than USD 50. Hope that helps!

  20. hi! thank you for the extremely informative post! I’d like to know if driving during winter in Jeju is possible and if there is anything particular to note? Many thanks!

    1. Hi Izzy, I haven’t driven there during the winter, but I checked the weather and it rarely snows, except on top of the Hallasan mountain. I also read some travelers’ experiences driving in Jeju during winter, and there doesn’t seem to be any problems with the road. That said, book your car rental in advance as winter months can be really busy. Have fun!

  21. Hi! I’m planning to drive from Seoul to Busan, it is very far and very difficult to find road to reach there? How long u have spent to reached from Seoul to Busan ? Did u continue drive at Busan ? It is very congested? How much u spent for toll and petrol from Seoul to Busan ?

    Pls advise .

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Jess, I haven’t driven from Seoul to Busan in one go, just some parts of the route in different occasions. But I have from Busan to Jeju and back, which is much farther than Seoul to Busan, and this costed me USD 20 in tolls and USD 80 for gas (traveling for 1,200 kilometers over 6 days).

      It gets a bit congested near Seoul. If you’re flying out from Incheon, make sure to allot more time to reach the airport than your GPS advises you. Hope that helps!

  22. Hi there! Thank you for the informative post. I’m just wondering if anyone happened to know how much the rental company will charge for underage(under 25)? Thanks a lot!

  23. Thanks for the informative post! We’ve learnt alot from what you wrote before our trip to Korea! Hope our guide to driving in South Korea can also help other travelers driving in South Korea in future!

    Happy Travels Everyone!

    Tom & Kate

  24. Great info.
    I understand Google maps won’t work.
    Waze will.
    Will Here-we-go work as well ?

    Why do I need to get a a local GPS device.
    Why not use my phone with Waze/Here-we-go/MapQuest ?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi! I haven’t tried Here-we-go, but Waze definitely works. You can do without the GPS, actually. Just not all would travel with a wifi device / data plan, and for them, GPS would be useful.

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