Driving in South Korea is a fun way to discover the country.
The country’s cities are exciting and a great start to your adventures, of course, but to really get a sense of South Korea, you have to venture to its small quaint towns and have a taste of its amazing countryside.
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 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.
How to drive in South Korea
- Requirements for driving in South Korea
- Renting a car
- Road rules and driving safety
- Navigating / using the Korean GPS
- Costs of driving a rental car in South Korea
- Plan your trip – top tips for travel to South Korea
What do I need to drive in South Korea as a tourist?
Checklist – here’s what you need to rent a car and drive in South Korea:
- You must be at least 21 years old
- Valid local driver’s license
- Valid International Driving Permit following the Geneva convention or the Vienna convention
- Passport for identification
- Credit card in driver’s name
Age requirements – To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old and have held your local license for 1 year. If you’re under 25, rental car companies may add a young driver surcharge.
License requirements – If you plan to drive in South Korea for a short time as a tourist (less than one year), a valid International Driving Permit accompanied by your valid local driver’s license is enough. Make sure to apply for an International Driving Permit from your country’s licensing office before your trip. Note that the International Driving Permit is only valid when accompanied by a valid local license (that is, the permit expires when your local license expires). Also note that IDPs recognized in South 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.
Other documents – Most rental car companies in South Korea would require you to present your passport and a credit card under your name when picking up the rental car. They might authorize a deposit on your credit card to cover for any damages.
How do I rent a car in South Korea?
Reserve a car online – It’s best to reserve your rental car online in advance. You can run out of cars especially in busy holiday destinations like Jeju if you don’t reserve a car, and reserving in advance also allows the rental car company to prepare your car and all the paperwork involved so you don’t have to wait for long.
Get a comprehensive car hire insurance – For total peace of mind, get a comprehensive personal car hire insurance that will cover for damages and theft.
Add-ons – Through the online platform, you can also request for add-ons like a GPS unit and child seats, if necessary.
One-way rentals – Some rental car companies allow one-way rentals. This means you can pick-up your car from one city and drop it off in another. This can be a good option if you’re flying in and out of two different cities.
Here is a list of locations where you can pick up and return your car. Click on the city where you plan to go and enter your trip details to get a quotation or reserve a car. You can also plug in your travel destinations and dates below for a quick quote. RentalCars works with South Korea’s leading and most reputable car rental companies, so you’re assured of quality cars and service. Their simple online booking platform also allows you to compare prices, car models, and inclusions easily, plus they give you instant confirmation, free cancellation, and big deals and discounts.
What do I need to know when driving in South Korea?
South Korea drives on the right side of the road.
Speed limits – Here are the normal speed limits for driving in South Korea:
- Expressways – Varies from 100-120 km/hr
- Open roads – 80 km/hr
- City – Varies from 60-80 km/hr
Always follow posted speed limits (which can vary from these normal limits) and watch out for speed cameras especially in motorways.
Priority / right of way – There are no clear rules regarding priority or right of way when approaching an intersection without traffic lights, so approach intersections with caution and assume the other driver wants to go first.
Children – Children under 6 years old must use a car seat.
Seatbelts – All passengers must wear a seatbelt.
In case of car breakdown or accidents – Make sure to note down your rental car or insurance company’s emergency number. In case of an accident involving any kind of injury, you must wait on the site until the police comes. 119 connects you to the fire brigade and ambulance while 112 is the emergency number for the police.
Tolls – If you’re 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.
Parking – In cities, look for car parks near shopping malls and tourist destinations. Do not park anywhere that is not clearly marked as a parking space, as you can receive a fine for parking violations.
Don’t when driving – Don’t drink and drive (police conduct random checks and the maximum legal concentration is 0.05% Blood Alcohol Level), don’t drive on a bus lane, don’t use a mobile phone while driving (a hands-free set is okay).
Other things to note when driving
Here are a few other observations and tips I’ve picked up from driving around South Korea as a foreign traveler.
- 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.
- Don’t drink and drive. I was once stopped before entering an expressway for a random breathalyzer test.
- CCTVs are everywhere. If you commit a traffic violation, your rental agency will be charged and they in turn will charge your credit card.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Additional information from Jaehyeok Choi about hazard lights. It can also mean:
- “Thank you for your concession”
- “I’m sorry.”
- “Be careful (in case of a road accident or dangerous situation
- “When strong braking is required”
- “Fire truck, ambulance is moving”
- “An emergency patient is on board”
Also check the comments below for other readers’ experiences driving in South Korea.
How do I get around South Korea while driving?
Here are useful apps and tools for navigating in South Korea:
- Korean GPS you can get with a rental car – you’ll find instructions on how to use it below
- Naver Maps – Android, iPhone
Also useful to have on your road trip:
When booking your car online, you can reserve a GPS device with your car. You can request for an English-language GPS device (this is available sometimes). Unfortunately, most of the time, the car rental company will only have a Korean GPS. Not to worry! You can easily learn to use it with this guide.
How to use the Korean GPS using phone numbers
First, you’ll need to find the phone numbers of destinations and establishments you want to drive to. You can check the Korean Travel Organization’s official website, where you can find phone numbers of tourist destinations at the end of the information pages. I also compiled a handy list here.
You’ll also notice that shops and restaurants put up their phone numbers in big print over their store facades. You can also find your hotels this way – check for their phone numbers. If you booked online, usually it’s on your confirmation receipt.
Once you have the phone number of the place you want to drive to, follow this guide.
Text on infographic:
Quick guide – How to use the Korean GPS
- On the main interface, click the tab that says: 길찾기 (Translation: Get directions)
- Select the phone icon: 전화번호검색 (Translation: Search phone number)
- Key in the destination phone number
- Confirm your destination by pressing this button: 바로탐색 (Translation: Quick navigation)
- Wait for your route then press the button to begin driving: 안내시작 (Translation: Guide start)
IMPORTANT REMINDER: Before you begin to drive, make sure to check if the destination you entered into the GPS is correct. Zoom out of the map by pressing on the [-] button and compare with another map. Sometimes listed phone numbers can give wrong locations.
How much does it cost to drive in South Korea?
Here’s how much it costs to go on a 3-day road trip in South Korea based on 2020 prices and estimates.
Rental car – Small and medium cars cost USD 200-240 for 3 days. Large cars, luxury cars, and SUVs cost USD 350-500 for 3 days. This already includes unlimited mileage, theft protection, and collision damage waiver, and free cancellation and changes. Check here for real-time quotes for your travel dates.
Gas – Estimating 600 KM over 3 days, gas could cost you up to USD 100.
Tolls – Toll fees are minimal and depend on the road used and distance. Even driving long distances, you won’t spend more than USD 50 for the whole trip. There are no tolled roads in Jeju.
Parking – Parking rates vary from USD 0.50-6.00 in tourist destinations. Parking in cities can be much more expensive, up to USD 6/hour.
Ready to go on a road trip in South Korea? Let’s plan your trip!
Getting there – You can get into South Korea through multiple airports – search for the best flights here. When booking your car, take advantage of one-way rentals and check if dropping off your car to a location different than your pick-up can make your itinerary smoother and more convenient.
Where to stay – Check out our guides for the best hotels and neighborhoods in South Korea’s most exciting cities – Seoul, Busan, and Jeju.
Travel essentials and things to pre-book – Get a mobile internet to easily stay connected while in South Korea. If you’re planning to visit some of the popular sights in the cities, you’d want to get tickets in advance to skip the lines.
Best road trips in South Korea – Ready to plan your trip? Check these out for ideas and inspiration.
One of the best road trip destinations in South Korea, Jeju is a must-visit if you love stunning views, gorgeous countryside, idyllic hikes, white sand beaches, and delicious seafood!
See South Korea’s best fall spots in this road trip itinerary. While cities are good to visit during the fall, the best foliage can be found in the countryside.
We all love to see a burst of pink during spring – here’s where to drive to enjoy South Korea’s beautiful cherry blossoms.
If you’re starting your adventures around South Korea from Seoul, here’s a great road trip itinerary from the capital city to the countryside.
When in Seoul or Busan, don’t miss a road trip to Gyeongju, the country’s ancient capital.
* * *
I hope this gets you fired up to venture a road trip in South Korea. If you need more help or have any questions at all, send me a message and I’ll do my best to help you out!
First published – 31 January 2017
Last updated – 16 January 2020 – updated information on costs and car rentals
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?
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! 🙂
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.
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. 🙂
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?
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! 🙂
Hi, may i know how much is the highway expressway toll costing? I be driving in Jeju. Thank you
Hi Elaine, the cost of the expressways varies based on distance. In Jeju, there are none. Have a great trip!
Deardo Okto Herlambang Damanik
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?
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!
[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)?
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!
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!
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. 🙂
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.
Thanks so much for the additional info! 🙂
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?
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? 🙂
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?
Hi Amanda, yes I actually experienced this, too, but I just ignored it since I don’t know what’s going on. 🙂 Just keep an eye on your surroundings and it should be okay. 🙂 Have fun!
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 ?
Hey Alice, I’d suggest breaking up your stay into two bases: Seogwipo and Jeju City. You can find suggestions here: https://littleholidays.net/blog/jeju-where-to-stay/. 🙂
Hi, do you know where I can rent a car without a credit card as I don’t have one. Thanks!
Hi John, I haven’t come across a car rental company that would accept cash, sorry! If you do find it, please share it with us. 🙂
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.
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. 🙂
Thank you for your article! I’m curious about parking in Seoul. How are payments usually made? Is the Hi-Pass an option?
Hi Afrah, I paid with cash. Hmmm I don’t know if you can pay parking with Hi-Pass. All of the rental cars I’ve used so far didn’t have Hi-Pass. Let us know how it goes!
apparently T-Money cards and credit cards are options too!
Thanks for the update!
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!
Hi Marion, you don’t have to go back to the airport. You can pick up a car from Seoul downtown – you can check the locations here and reserve a car in advance: Rental cars in Seoul.
Thanks and have fun!
You are amazing for posting this! I hope you live a long and prosperous life <3
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?
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.)
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?
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!
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?
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. 🙂
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!
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! 🙂
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.
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. 🙂
Thanks for your reply. I ‘ll be contented when the car condition and the gps will work PERFECTLY well and safe 😉
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?
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). 🙂
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?
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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! 😉
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!
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?
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?
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!
Pls share your driving experience , after you experienced it. I would like to know more.
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!
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!
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 .
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!
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!
Hello, best thing you can do is to go to RentalCars (click here) and ask for an estimate. Enter your dates, pick-up point, and age, and they’ll give you a breakdown of the cost, including underage fee. Hope that helps! 🙂
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
I understand Google maps won’t work.
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 ?
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.
Hi, I am planning to drive from Alpensia Ski Resort to Busan in December during winter. Is it advisable to do so (safety – traffic/roads, distance)? If not, what’s your recommendation to get to Busan from Alpensia?
Hi Jason, I personally don’t have any experience driving this route. A quick search on Mapquest shows this drive could take about 5 hours so you might want to stop over somewhere in the middle, like Andong or Daegu. But if you’re used to winter drives and long drives, it should be manageable. It would be great to know how it goes!
I’m super nervous on this trip to Seoul. Just looking at the map from Icheon airport to our hotel is estimated to be over 1 hour by public transportation. I was thinking of renting a car, but there are 6 of us. Do you think it’s cheaper to take public transportation or get our own car. This will be our first time so we want to go to all the tourist places as we can. We are staying for 14 days. Please let me know as I don’t know how the t money card works as well. Thank you.
Hi! Here are some of my thoughts –
It’s nice to drive around South Korea, and if there’s 6 of you (assuming you’re all going to fit into the car you will get), renting a car might be the most convenient option. Taking the subway is, of course, going to be cheaper, even with 6, but you also have to factor in comfort.
This is what I’d recommend:
From Incheon to Seoul, arrange for a private transfer for your group. That way you won’t have to stress about getting to your hotel. Here’s one option you can check out.
Then for going around the city, you can either get a rental car, go by public transportation, charter a private car with a driver, or join tour groups.
Going by car is the cheapest among the convenient options (except public transportation). But, you’ll have to deal with parking, finding directions, etc., which you can all read about in this guide. This is a great option when driving outside the city.
You can go by public transportation, which is easy and convenient in Seoul. You’ll need to buy a T-money card for all members of your group – you can buy from a convenience store and load it up with money and use it by tapping in and out of the subway stations. This is a good option when going around the city.
You can charter a car (here’s an option) to bring you to the spots you want to visit in the city or join a tour group – you’ll find a nice list here.
For 14 days, you can do a combination of all those options! First get a private transfer from the airport, join a couple of tours, go by public transportation to some spots that are not covered by the tours, then get a rental car to explore outside Seoul. I think you’ll have an enjoyable trip – email me if you have more questions – email@example.com. 🙂
Hi, we went on a road trip from busan to seoul without any problems. Driving is easy (like in europe). We hired the car (one way) via avis. The pretty new car was equiped with english navigation system. But english naver app was much better (more information). So we reached destinations we could never reach by bus/train during a two week holiday. Great experience. Try, if two girls made you’ll make it too.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Carol! Definitely agree that driving in South Korea is so easy and certainly brings you to places you otherwise wouldn’t have reached! 🙂
Thank you so much for your article and so useful information! I’m hopefully
going to korea for two weeks early April 2019. I’ll use public transportation mostly but I am now consider of renting a car in Jeju island. I will go there from Wado and only for 3 days, then fly for Busan. I want to ask you:
1) In Greece, where I’m from, we drive in the right side so there is no problem. But I never used a Gps! Do you think that would be a problem;
2)I’ve already book to stay in Jeju city. It would be difficult to drive from the city to outskirts;
In addition, I’ll travel first time alone. Any recommendations it would be very helpuf. Thank you in advance!
That sounds super exciting! I didn’t have any problems the first time I used a GPS. You just need to take some time to understand how it works (the rental car company should help you with that), and you’ll be good to go. Also save my guide to using the Korean GPS to your phone or print it out so you’ll have a reference.
As for driving around from Jeju City, Jeju Island is actually quite huge and it can take up to 2 hours to get from Jeju City to Seogwipo. The island’s really developed so it’s not hard to get around by car – your main problem would be the distance and traffic jams. I’d suggest you start early each day and on your last day (when you’re scheduled to fly to Busan), don’t take long drives so you don’t have to suddenly deal with traffic.
Let me know if you need any more help! I’d be happy to know how your trip goes. 🙂
Thanks for the informative post! I’ve learnt a lot from what you wrote and I am driving from Seoul to Gangneung and Sokcho for my family (of 6) trip!
Can I ask a few questions?
1. What will be the toll charges like? Where can I check such info?
2. Is it difficult to travel from Seoul station (car rental pick up) to Gangneung and back in Early Dec?
3. What is the best time to leave Seoul Station Cr rental in order to avoid traffic jam?
Hi Tan, that’s super exciting! I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun with your family.
1. Tolls in South Korea are relatively cheap. I’ve yet to find a website (in English at least) where you can check toll charges in advance, but they probably won’t cost more than USD 30.
2. I’m not familiar with this particular route but a quick check of Apple Maps shows you should allot about 3-4 hours drive one way.
3. Seoul traffic can be pretty bad so the earlier, the better. When you’re in South Korea, you can open the Waze app and plan your drive to see what traffic situation to expect.
Hope that helps!
Is there peak hours I should avoid when leaving from Seoul (to Gangneung) ? I am picking up the car on 29 Nov (Fri).
Will leaving (getting out of) Seoul at 12pm better than leaving Seoul at 10am? I know of some cities where there will be traffic congestion getting into the cities especially in the morning peak hours and congestion getting out of the cities at the evening peak hours.
Rush hour is usually until 9 am, so maybe 10 am will be much better already. Although I remember leaving Seoul around noon time and took an hour to get to the expressway. Best to check Waze on the day itself for a better view of the traffic situation.
Hi there! My family is planning a trip together this fall (of 2019) and would ideally like to rent cars in Mokpo- we have to travel to Jindo and be able to get around to small villages where public transportation is not available- is this possible in Mokpo? Or where would the most southern town be to rent a car to foreigners (we would definitely book online if available!)? Thank you so much in advance!!
Hi Renee, that sounds really exciting! I checked out my favorite car rental platform and looks like the nearest city you can pick up your car from is Gwangu, which is a 45-minute drive from Mokpo. Here’s where you can book a car in Gwangju.
Or, depending on your port of entry, you might want to check this list of cities where you can get a rental car in South Korea.
Hope that helps! Fall is a wonderful time to drive around South Korea!
Hi, very late response to this as I just came across your site! But to answer Amanda’s question – tunnels (usually long ones) have those sounds and announcements to alert the driver in case they are driving while being sleep deprived. In short, they play really loud noises (such as sirens) to wake the driver up. I am Korean living abroad, but that’s my understanding from my friends who drive in Korea. Nothing to worry about just like what LittleHolidays said! Hope you guys had nice times in Korea 🙂
Hi there, love your blog. Very helpful indeed. if all goes well , I m planning an autumn trip to Korea. This is my 1st time there and I heard that the cars are left side driving. Is it easy to get use to it given that I hv only driven cars that are right side driving?. Also does this route makes senses Seoul, pyeongchang, jeonju, andong, busan n jeju.
Thanks in advance
Hi Nat, it takes some practice to get used to driving on the other side of the road, but it’s certainly doable! For your itinerary, I’d suggest you break up your drive over several days. Drive from Seoul to Pyeongchang (stay in Pyeongchang), then continue your drive to Andong (stay in Andong), then continue your drive to Busan. I’d suggest staying in Busan for several days and taking road trips around to Gyeongju and other areas that are interesting for you. From Busan to Jeju, I’d suggest that you return your rental car (you can get it from Seoul and return it to Busan) and just fly to Jeju. Jeonju is a bit out of the way from this general itinerary, but you can make a day trip from Seoul.
I hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions. 🙂
greetings! much obliged to you for the very useful post! I’d prefer to know whether driving during winter in Jeju is conceivable and if there would anything say anything is specific to note? Much obliged!
Hi Stefan, yes, you can drive in Jeju during the winter. If you’re used to driving in snowy weather, then usual winter driving precautions would be enough. Have fun!
I am really glad to see this informative article. Thank you very much to share with us.