Renting car in Korea

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Public transport in Korea is actually very reliable,  inter-city bus or KTX both are fast, on time and reliable.  However, for those who wants to have a little more adventure, planning to explore the countryside, renting a car is recommended.  It took me a quite a while to research about car rental and driving in Korea.  Here are some key points that I have summed up ….For anyone who is planning to rent a car and drive in Korea, here are some key pointers to take note….

1. Bring your International Driving Licence + local driving licence as a supporting document

Do make sure you have your International Driving Licence and your local driving licence before leaving for Korea.  Do not try your luck, because no company will rent you the car if you can’t produce both licences.

2. Korea is on right-hand drive

This means, the driver seat is on the left hand side of vehicle.  For anyone who is from US, Canada, you will have no problem.  If you are from UK, Australia, Singapore, Japan etc, you will have to be a little more careful if you have not tried driving on the other side of the car.

3. Car rental companies

Most of the global car rental companies have presence in Korea.  The common ones are Avis, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Budget.  You can make a reservation online through some of the popular website such as Rentalcars.com, Expedia.com etc. On an average budget of W60,000 – W80,000 a day (include insurance), you can get a very decent automatic seden/saloon car.

3. Request for English GPS 

Korea is one country that do not allow Google map for driving navigation.  As far as we know, this is to protect the local navigation companies that has developed very sophisticated navigation systems for the country.   So when you make your reservation online, make sure you request for English navigation device.  Most cars come with built-in navigation systems, but they are all in Korean language.  Unless you are able to read and type Korean language, if not, you will need an English navigation device.  The device cost an additional charge of appx W11,000.   At the same time, I will advise you get a copy of the country map on standby because sometimes you just want to check on the map what is ahead.  For myself, I armed myself with a map, and get myself connected on the Google map to make sure that the navigation is on the right track.

When using English GPS, we realised the search will be more accurate if you have the destination telephone number rather than search by using the name of the place.

Additional portable English GPS system

Additional portable English GPS system

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Typical toll on motorway / highway

In Korea, the local call these toll gate “IC”.   Most rented car does not come with Hi-Pass for toll fees deduction in the car.  So when you are at the toll gate, just pull up at the ticket station and collect a ticket from the machine and at motorway exit, give the ticket to the toll attendant sitting inside the booth.  In some stations, we realise there was no ticket dispensing machine, just make sure you remember the name of the toll (normally is the name of the town or city), and at the exit toll, tell the toll attendant which toll entrance were you from and they will calculate the amount to pay.  From our experience, toll fees are inexpensive.

5. Rest stops – a must do when driving in Korea

Is common to see free water dispenser in rest stops.

Is common to see free water dispenser in rest stops cafeteria

snack + coffee

snack + coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

typical and common stores found in rest stops

typical and common stores found in rest stops

You can get a pretty decent meal in rest stops

You can get a pretty decent meal in rest stops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typical rest stop sign on motorway

Typical rest stop sign on motorway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a rest at the rest stops is quite an experience.  Korea motorway rest stops offer a wide variety of food selections.  From typical Korean meal, to snacks such as walnut cake, steam buns, coffee etc.. Some rest stops even sell local produce, local souvenirs.   Also, most petrol kioks are located next to these rest stops, which are perfect for filling up your tank and taking a good rest before hitting the road again.

6. Gasoline & LPG

In Korea, it is getting quite common to see LPG cars on the road.  If you ended up with a LPG car, the only problem is there aren’t as many LPG gas station as compared to gasoline.  Most petrol stations do accept credit cards, so not much to worry if you are running short of cash.

7. Blinking amber traffic light = you are allowed to continue 

From where I came from, blinking amber traffic light is to prepare to stop.  However, in Korea, blinking amber traffic light does not means to prepare to stop, in fact, you are allowed to continue.  It took us a while to get use to this rule.

8. U-turn sign at traffic junction

We realise that in Korea, most traffic junction has a big U-turn sign on the road that allows car to make a U-turn.  So if you miss a turn, not to worry, just go to the next junction to make your U-turn because we realised almost every traffic junction has a U-turn.

Typical U-turn sign on the road

Typical U-turn sign on the road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Driving in motorway

When driving in motorway, do keep within the speed limit.  In Korea, speeding is a big offence and as foreign driver, the least that you want is to get the speeding ticket after your holiday.  One big advantage of using local GPS navigation because they will give you warning if you exceed the speed limit and they give warning on speed camera ahead.  Also, keep to the right side of the road for normal speed, overtaking will be on the left.

10. Korean drivers and traffic…

In general, Korean drivers are quite friendly in the city.  If you are driving in the city, be prepared for the traffic especially on weekends.  If you are driving on the motorway, no major issue.  However when you are in countryside, or small towns, be prepared for reckless drivers and lanes that you do not know if you are in the correct or opposite direction…. in our experience, we just wave “sorry” and locals forgive you…

11. Parking..

Parking in the city is a chore because there are limited parking lots.  However, when you are in the countryside, parking is never an issue and most places have free parking in small cities.  There are also chargeable parking lots available in most small cities but the fees are very reasonable.

Happy driving in Korea…

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